How to Change a Life

I’ve been pretty quiet about my work regarding adult programs and computer classes. I average one adult program per week between my two branches and right now, I’m also responsible for providing two computer/technology classes each week. Adult programming is not my strong suit, so I’m still very much trying to figure out what works in these communities. So far, I’ve gathered that my patrons love gardening, crafts, and local history. I’m also noticing that most of our adults are in and out during the day, not after school or after work. This has me wondering if I should be gearing programs toward the middle of the day crowd instead of the parents and professionals who only come in long enough to get what they need and leave. It’ll be worth testing in the future.

So maybe I haven’t had many big success stories of programs with great attendance just yet, but I am proud of the work I’ve done one-on-one with people through my computer classes. Not every computer class has had attendees (in fact, maybe only half have), but the times when I’ve had one or two people come have been great. I love that I typically only have one or two people, because then I have more time to get personal in what I teach and build a relationship with these people. This month has been a particularly good month for this, as I’ve had one person come to each class so far. I’ve been focusing on job-related skills all month, so this has been a month of enriching these patrons in a really tangible way.

I began by meeting Bespectacled Lady at my primary branch, chatting with her about how she’s doing, and getting her interested in this month’s classes. She signed up for three and thrilled me when she actually started coming. BL is hoping to transition to a new career field, so when she joined me the first week for Job Searching Online, I helped her pick out a few search engines that might be most helpful for the job she wants. We explored them together until she was comfortable navigating on her own. The next week, she showed me what she has in terms of a resume and I helped her edit it down and format it. Since she came prepared and we had time, I also helped her write her first cover letter. BL is a fast learner so when I asked her if she felt she might be able to do this on her own in the future, she said she felt she had learned quite a bit and might only need a little bit of help. Yay! Our final week together, I taught her about the library’s resources for building job skills online, including some occupational guides, computer courses, job databases, and resume and cover letter builders. She was most interested in the new place to search for jobs, but I’m glad I was able to make her aware of what else we have for her too.

I also helped two other gentlemen at my secondary branch in completing their first resumes. Both were being laid off from local companies, and helping them taught me a lot about what’s happening with the local economy in that town. Hearing about how companies are failing in the community has helped me understand that families are trying to get out of the area and also helped me account for continual decreases in circulation and program attendance in the library. In a way, it’s a scary position for a small library, but I have some hope that we can also do a world of good by continuing to offer more job-related training in this branch. It gave me the feeling that outreach is going to become more and more important here. As economies fail and more families are working harder and longer hours to get by, people tend to lose interest in enriching activities like going to parks or libraries. They just don’t have the time. That means that libraries in these areas need to meet people where they are. This is a difficult possibility for me to consider because I have another, more demanding branch to run and I know that launching outreach initiatives takes a lot of time and heart. I’m going to have to rely strongly on my branch manager there to alert me to new possibilities and help me brainstorm ways to make it work, at least until I learn more about that community myself.

Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot, but when I think about teaching a few kind-hearted people about how to better their chances at a good job and giving them the tools to learn more on their own, I have every hope that this can be a life-changing lesson. Even though I feel like I’m still struggling a little with adult programs over all, I’m so happy and humbled to help every day people find some power to keep moving forward.

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