Since February, visitors to the public library in the small, southwestern Alabama town of Thomasville can check out a book and check out the latest job openings. They also can create a resume, fill out an employment application and search for continuing-education opportunities, all with the assistance of library staff.
The library’s new career-readiness help desk was created partly to assist the residents of Thomasville and the surrounding Black Belt region overcome the lack of easy internet access and general computer skills in the rural community, says Martha Gramelspacher, the library’s adult services coordinator.
“People are coming here because we are offering a service that most rural libraries don’t have, ” Gramelspacher says. “A lot of the people who come here don’t have access to the internet at home, or a way to print or scan things. So people can use our Wi-Fi and printer. They can have someone teach them how to download their resume and then upload it on an employer site. This is a tremendous service for them.”
The library is connected with the official Alabama JobLink network. A list of job openings within a 50-mile radius of Thomasville constantly scrolls on a television monitor in the library and is updated weekly. That same list is available on jump drives that visitors can look at on one of the library’s computers.
The career-readiness service has proven to be so popular that even though Thomasville has a population of approximately 5, 000, the library is expected to have more than 50, 000 visitors this year, according to Mayor Sheldon Day.
“About 75 percent of people are coming to the library for career readiness, and more than 60 percent of the visitors are from outside Clarke County, ” Day says. “So we’re reaching far and away more people than we ever dreamed we would when we started this. And there’s been no marketing, just word-of-mouth.”
Day says the value of the service became evident when Georgia Pacific held a job fair in Thomasville earlier this year. Applicants were required to have a resume. Those who didn’t were directed to the library, where staff members helped create 97 resumes by the end of the job fair.
With financial assistance through grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Delta Regional Authority, the city plans to relocate the library from its current location off U.S. Highway 43 into a renovated two-story building downtown. Day says the move will quadruple the facility’s space and allow for the creation of a dedicated career-readiness department with more than 30 computers.
“We don’t have a job shortage around here. We have a training shortage, ” Day says. “We’re trying to help people with what they need to do to prepare for these good-paying jobs.”
Text by Cary Estes