Thomas Edison State College

New Jersey Libraries: Anchor Institutions as Instruments of Recovery

Thomas Edison State College’s New Jersey Libraries project proposes to add computers at 47 libraries, upgrade connectivity at 79 libraries, and provide job search assistance, employment skills, workforce development programs, and other online resources at 365 libraries across the state. Many of New Jersey’s unemployed residents are seeking to adapt to a job market in which access to computers and broadband are requirements for most job searches, employment applications, and workforce skills training. In many New Jersey communities, the public library is the only place that offers the public free use of computers and Internet access. Many libraries, however, are unable to keep pace with the demand for broadband access. A consortium led by New Jersey's community colleges will deliver training using its existing curriculum for library staff and job seekers.

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BTOP In Action
Henry Garcia teaches students computer basics at South Brunswick Public Library

The New Jersey State Library (NJSL), an affiliate of Thomas Edison State College, enrolled more than 6,500 students in more than 2,800 hours of job-readiness computer skills workshops in public libraries across New Jersey. This initiative is designed to help unemployed and underemployed residents acquire the skills needed to find and retain a job. The libraries are providing free access to broadband, workforce development classes, and career advancement tools.

NJSL used BTOP funds to deploy more than 845 new computers at 125 public libraries and upgrade broadband connectivity at 86 public libraries. Along with free access to these workstations, the libraries offer workforce development classes on topics such as computer fundamentals, resume and cover letter techniques, job search fundamentals, and email basics. The libraries also provide free access to career databases and applications that help users explore careers, find and apply for jobs, improve interviewing skills, and track job search progress.

NJSL also provides resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs to foster entrepreneurship, and help existing businesses make lasting and substantial improvements in their performance. At the libraries, community residents can access online business and marketing tools and in-depth market research reports.

In addition to job training classes for residents, NJSL is partnering with the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development to provide professional development workshops and specialized training for library staff members seeking to advance their careers. Librarians learn techniques for managing computer resources, allowing them to better meet their patrons’ technology requests. NJSL has conducted 221 hours of training for its library staff and more than 20 hours of in-person workshops for approximately 100 librarians on how to use career tools and applications that can help library patrons.

Local librarians have seen many of their patrons acquire jobs after taking career building and digital literacy courses. For example, a visitor to the Mount Laurel Public Library lost his job in 2008. He enrolled in the library’s workforce development workshops in 2010 and, using skills he learned in the workshops, was able to find a new job online. A resident of Garfield, N.J., also took a computer course at the Garfield Public Library, acquiring computer skills that she needed to obtain a part-time position as a Product Demonstrator. Libraries across the state are seeing similar successes of how broadband can improve a person’s economic situation.

Last updated: April 17, 2012.

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