Dickman, managing librarian at the Sparks Library, recently returned from a two-day conference in Arlington, Va. where she met with hundreds of librarians from around the nation to discuss workforce recovery. The Project Compass Workforce Recovery event, sponsored by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, was designed to increase collaboration and stimulate ideas among the nation’s librarians on how to help boost local jobs.
Dickman returned home with example bookmarks, flyers and promotional materials that other states have used to notify people of individual services. Dickman said spreading the word about Sparks Library’s services will encourage more use of the library, which inevitably keeps cash flow inside the community.
“It was really great to network with other librarians who have the same vision,” Dickman said. “As a public library, our job is to connect people with resources, computers and help them find what they need. We don’t do it for them. We help them learn how to do it. You run sort of a fine line between filling out applications and academic help when they really desire to be independent.”
The public library system is a partner with the Regional Job Network, a task force created by County Commissioner Kitty Jung in 2008. The group focuses on job creation and economic development in Washoe County and Jung said the library system is an important component to such growth.
“When people are facing economic hardship one of the first things that goes is the ability to use the internet,” Jung said. “That is a luxury more than it is a necessity. The library has also helped people retool in the search for new jobs and it is imperative that they are nimble enough to fill that resource and many of the other questions that come their way.”
Jung described county librarians as “real heroes” in their ability to be multifaceted and well trained in several areas. She said many of the new additions to the Sparks Library will not only improve service, but job growth as well.
The Sparks Library has instituted programs such as Brainfuse HelpNow, an academic tutoring program that allows students to get one-on-one tutoring until 10 p.m. in various subjects. Another software addition is WinWay Resume which is designed to help build job-specific resumes for those who may be entering new careers or updating resumes.
“The programs are a huge resource,” Jung said, “Which is why I encouraged Corinne to present the information to the Washoe County School District, Sierra Nevada Job Corp and TMCC because one-on-one tutoring should be utilized by as many people as possible.”
Dickman said that some of the library services that seem unneeded on the surface actually serve to benefit the local economy. She said the library offers motion picture DVDs and other various forms of electronic media that was subject to criticism.
“There was a hint of backlash about why do we carry DVDs when people don’t ‘need’ DVDs. That was my point (during her presentation to the Board of County Commissioners). They don’t need them but would you rather them spend their money at Redbox, where the money goes who knows where, or use the resources that we have and spend your money in the community to support the tax base that we rely on?”
Jung agreed offering services to people that keeps tax money flowing in the local economy is a vital support the county needs to continue managing the economic tide.
“The more people that can avoid foreclosure and retool to find better jobs and buy houses in our area, the more government sales tax we can keep right here,” Jung said. “It may sound a little harsh but that is a fact of life we live with. We have been suffering in this down economy and we can’t get the taxes that we need to give the people what they really need."