Hi, everyone. Many thanks to those of you who have asked after me. I appreciate being missed. Nothing dire is happening, but there is a lot of chaos both at home and at work. My son will be graduating high school a year early, and there are a lot of preparations toward that end going on. I also had another cancer treatment. A fairly common but definitely not hoped for result of thyroid cancer is recurrence. The body scan after last treatment was clear; bloodwork in six months and another scan next fall.
The Midwest is not unlike other regions and has been affected by the current economic crisis. We lost a major manufacturer here due to a direct hit from a tornado, then two others closed up shop. Literally thousands of people are out of work in our tri-county area. The unemployment offices are swamped and people are being sent to the library with little or no guidance.
These former factory workers, some with limited English language skills, and very few computer skills, must use the internet to file for unemployment, get entered in our state’s required database and post a resume. I consider myself fairly computer savvy and this is a cranky, confusing and unfriendly interface.
Many of our patrons do not know how to type and do not understand why they need an email address, much less how to establish one. Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, as well as the larger employers in our area, all require applications to be filled out online. People who can’t even speak English well are required to make resumes without knowing how to say the word (“my rezoom” is how one patron referred to it), much less fill in the form with properly capitalized names. One man did not know what a capital letter was.
They must locate employer websites, make a user name and password, find a job opening and find the application. They must fill it in, make an email address and resume, and learn to upload, attach or cut and paste it.
Our computer facilities are maxed out. Before this summer, a five or ten minute wait was the most patrons could expect. There are now often 25 people in line with a 30-40 minute wait.
Most of our patrons have no other resources and are rising to the occasion. There is some impatience, especially with children who play games and use MySpace and other social networking sites. So far, for us, a user is a user, and everyone is entitled to their first hour uninterrupted, and their second hour if they get back in the wait list.
Meanwhile, because of state tax issues, the library has had a hiring freeze since May. No one has been laid off, but because of staff losses due to attrition and no replacements hired, most departments are down to bare bones. We are still offering our most popular public computer classes, but most programming has ceased. Our main priorities are staffing the desks, giving great customer service and maintaining our excellent collection. Public opinion of the library remains high.
The true reference question is ever more rare, and so are the stories that I used to tell here. Most of my transactions are now just that: tech oriented and business related. There is no doubt they are important and valued, but there is not the emotional content attached to them. People’s priorities and energies are focused on survival: getting a job in order to eat and have a place to live.
So that’s the news from Lake Woebegone, as Garrison Keillor says, where the women are strong and the men are good-looking. The librarians? They’re still feeling pretty good.