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‘At the library, I learned how to advertise my skills on the internet and to create a website. I sent out resumes and looked for a job online. Fortune smiled on me!’
- Kuanysh Dyusupov, trainee of East Kazakhstan Oblast Pushkin Public Library’s youth employment service.
The World Development Report (World Bank, 2013) puts global unemployment at 200 million – including 75 million young people aged under 25. At the same time, information and communication technologies (ICT) have revolutionized the workplace, presenting exciting opportunities – but needing skills. According to European Commission research, by 2015, 90% of jobs in Europe will need e-skills. In developing countries, companies and institutions are also increasingly digitizing their operations, but the vast majority of people cannot afford computers, connections or training.
As queues at government employment agencies lengthen, anxious job-seekers are turning to their public libraries for help. A 2010 study in the US found that 40% of library visitors used library computers for career purposes, including searching for jobs, writing CVs and filling in application forms. A six-country study in Africa (2011) found that 12% of library users visited the library to look for jobs or work on their CVs and 10% looked for information on starting or running a business.
EIFL’s Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) supports public libraries in developing and transition countries to improve lives by using ICT to implement innovative services. Several EIFL-PLIP partner libraries are now offering employment training and information services – and are making a critical contribution to reducing local unemployment.
Over 50 young people who signed up for East Kazakhstan Oblast Pushkin Public Library’s Youth-IT Yurt training and employment service have found jobs or are using their new ICT skills to improve their positions at work. This remarkable success rate came in just a year, in which the service trained 200 people.
‘The job search workshop helped me figure out exactly what I wanted to do,’ said Dinara Romanova, who enrolled for training after six months of fruitless job-seeking, and who now has a job as an accountant.
The Youth-IT Yurt service reaches out to rural youth who come to the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, capital of East Kazakhstan Province, to find work. Training takes place in a yurt, a traditional round tent used by Kazakh nomads. It combines learning about Kazakh culture with internet and media skills, career guidance and job hunting.
Librarians report that their trainees now understand the value of ICT: several have bought computers and are practicing their ICT skills at home. ‘But they regularly come back to us for new training,’ said Ms Bibigul Shagiyeva, deputy director of the library
On the other side of the globe, in Africa, National Library of Uganda (NLU) is heading up a pioneering three-library youth employment service that takes advantage of two features of the national context. Firstly, the arrival of high-speed broadband is transforming the way Ugandans do business. Secondly, over a third of Ugandans – some 12 million people, mostly youth – have mobile phones.
NLU’s Electronic Information for Youth Empowerment (EIYE) service is tackling alarmingly high youth unemployment, which according to the World Bank (2008) could be as high as 83%. In addition to providing free ICT training to over 500 youth in less than a year, the three libraries have built a database detailing trainees’ skills, talents and career dreams, and send them customized SMS opportunity alerts (mobile phone text messages).
The three libraries are working in partnership with local government agencies, and there is great potential for scaling up the service. NLU is part of a network of 32 public libraries and 93 community libraries. ‘Imagine our impact if we could extend this free service to other libraries. Our librarians have skills and youth need is great – we must bring them together,' said Ms Stella Nekusa, EIYE manager.
In less than two years, Public Library Braka Miladinovci in Radovis in south-eastern Macedonia, helped 64 jobseekers find work – an impressive record in an area where one in five people is unemployed. Their Creative Minds Create Job Opportunities targets women, and includes motivation and confidence-building, career counselling and ICT skills. It has now been included in Radovis municipality’s 2011-2016 strategic plan for reducing unemployment and poverty.
A popular feature of the service is a jobs website where employers can advertise vacant positions and jobseekers can market their skills.
‘I am delighted by everything I have learned. I should have attended this kind of training a long time ago, but in Radovis there are not many opportunities like this. Many thanks to our library!’ said one service user.
Known and trusted in their communities, public libraries have definite advantages when it comes to reaching out to marginalized and complex groups. Zagreb City Libraries in Croatia is reaching out to homeless people. The service builds self-esteem, confidence and trust, combining ICT skills with employment training and psychosocial support. ‘I come here to learn how to use internet to look for a job, to socialize and to exchange useful information. It gives me the will to live,’ a trainee told the library.
Lyuben Karavelov Regional Library in Bulgaria has also chosen to work with an especially at-risk group: long-term unemployed people aged over 40. Out of 68 trainees in just a year, 29 have found jobs. ‘I sent my CV out many times – unfortunately without success. But during the course, the right things happened!’ said Ms Albena Klisurska.
The Public Library Innovation Programme (PLIP) is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.