30 August 2005 

Not too long ago, I had a female patron break down into tears while I helped her with her job search. Whilst co-workers insisted on taking the micky out of me, I was unable to console the woman, who complained about how her career was going nowhere.

I am sure we have all been to the depths of "job search despair" at one time or the other. It only makes it worse when you hear or read in the media about "fewer jobs being created this month". It really does not paint a pretty picture at all.

The key with the "fewer jobs created" comment is to realize that it refers to THIS MONTH. As illustrated in "What color is my parachute?", the figure does not include the number of Americans that have switched jobs within the last month. Some have retired, passed away, been promoted, quit, fired and so forth - there is constant movement. One must see through the negative press and, as a workforce librarian, it is important to ensure that patrons know this fact. I guess I learnt my lesson the hard way!

24 August 2005 

People come up with really creative ways to get their resume out. Recently, I came across an animated resume done in Macromedia Flash (now Adobe Flash?), where the main character walked about and spoke about his job credentials. Now, I have not invested much time in Flash and, even though the animation was interesting, I wondered if it would be considered "professional" (Perhaps if you were into graphic art, it would be a great idea).

Ofcourse, as the saying goes - "where there is a will, there is a way". At, you can create you own professional looking Flash resume (no random character mucking about) and have them burn it to mini CDs that you could give out at a job fair, interview, etc.

I would suggest trying a free "preview" on their site, where you can create your very own Flash resume and see what it is like. The next step would be to pick up a book about Flash and create your own animated resume. This way you learn Flash and have something else to add on your resume!

21 August 2005 

I had the good fortune to attend a presentation by a ReferenceUSA representative the other day at my library. From the workforce librarian standpoint, the highlight from the talk for me was the statistics about U.S. Businesses.

When I was still an undergraduate in computer science, the buzz was always about working for Microsoft, IBM, NSA, Google, etc. However, when the tech bubble burst and the bigger companies began having layoffs, the "end is nigh" signs went up and the spirits of aspiring computer scientists plummeted down.

Now, according to ReferenceUSA's handout about "Total Business Counts By Employee Size", there are 202,389 companies with 100+ employees in the United States. That is equivalent to 2% of all U.S. Businesses; approximately 6000 were publicly traded companies.

That meant that CS students were applying to 2% of all companies (if we did apply to all in the first place!). Instead, 7,219,689 companies with 1-4 employees made up 63%. If you decided to include companies with 5-9 employees, you were staring at an additional 2,279,139 companies or 18%. Between those two groups, you would be applying to 81% of the companies in the U.S!

Moral of the story: Remind job seekers to look at the little guys because they hire too!

18 August 2005 

I've heard that an academic library and a public library are worlds apart; "different clientele" calls for different services. I would argue that it is important for a public library to make a small attempt to coax those students from the "academic world" to use the public library. To me, they are the future workforce, so why not get to know them sooner?

Your public library might already have programs to prepare kids to go to college (If not, that might be a good program to start up). The problem that arises is how to get the word out about these programs? Do you put up flyers? Put it in the newsletter? Post it on your website? All three are good things to do, but I would suggest tapping into an already existing network that heavily interacts with the kids who they are applying to college - the career counselors.

Now, there are ways of getting in touch with career counselors. You could call individual schools and ask to speak with them. Or, you could get in touch with "Outreach Counselors" at your financial aid government agency. Outreach Counselors spend most of their time visiting schools, speaking about paying for college, talking to individual students, etc. You could have one of them come in and give a monthly or bi-monthly workshop. In addition to their benefits as a program, the Outreach counselors should also maintain a listing of the high school career counselors within the area.

By getting in touch with the career counselors, you have a means to disseminate information about your library's services to college-bound kids. This should help bolster attendance at the program and provide a means to advertise other relevant programs. This can be arduous task to get together, but completely worth it .

By the way, as far as when to contact the high school counselors, it might be a good idea to get in touch with them early in the school year (when they are less stressed!).

15 August 2005 

To everyone that has come to ReferenceWork via Greg Schwartz's Open Stacks - Welcome! Thanks to Greg for posting my submission to the Carnival of the Infosciences #2.

In today's post, I want to suggest a program for your library that I feel is important to the workforce - namely, financial literacy. An odd choice, but considering your job provides you with your income, it is important for your well-being to be in control of your finances. Many people believe a better job will mean more money and a better quality of life. However, if you earn $100,000 and spend $120,000, you are still going to be in debt. Interestingly enough, more companies are beginning to check your credit score when considering your application for a position. Apparently, your financial situation is an indication of how responsible a worker you are. I am not sure if anyone has been turned down from a job because of a bad credit score.

The good news is that with topics like "credit", "bankruptcy" and "identity theft" getting so much press, many banks and credit unions are providing free workshops that are funded by the federal government to improve financial literacy. Amongst the groups I have spoken to, they have used the "Money Smart" program that is put together by the FDIC. Check with your local bank or credit union for more details.

Authors like Dave Ramsey, Robert T. Kiyosaki and so on have made their fortunes instructing others on how to become financial independent. If that is an indication that such information is deemed desirable, why not have financial workshops at your library - especially since they are free and taught by financial counselors.

Note: Talk to the counselors ahead of time to ensure that they are only giving out information about financial literacy and not taking personal information to sign up people for their own banks/credit unions services. I have not had this problem with the groups I work with, but better safe than sorry!

13 August 2005 

At work, we love using the "ReferenceUSA" database for information relating to a particular business or businesses within the US. You can get contact information, estimated sales, the line of business, etc. It even has a nice feature that lets you search Google News to see if the company has been in the headlines lately. Most of the time, we use it to retrieve a specific detail (maybe a toll-free number) for a patron.

So how can one use this tool to aid their job search? Let us suppose a patron is seeking an accounting job in Austin, TX. You could begin by performing a keyword search for the "Standard Industrial Classification" (SIC) number for "accounting" using the SIC Search tool. My results were:

3578 Calculating and Accounting Machines, Except Electronic Computers
5044 Office Equipment
5311 Department Stores
5943 Stationery Stores
7291 Tax Return Preparation Services
8721 Accounting, Auditing, and Bookkeeping Services
9199 General Government, Not Elsewhere Classified

So we know "8721" is the SIC number we want. We can now hop over and perform a "Custom Search" in ReferenceUSA, which enables us to search by SIC, Yellow Page heading, NAICS, City, Metro Area, etc. I selected "Primary SIC" and "City" as my criteria for the search. In goes "8721" and "Austin, TX" - out comes 584 results. From a job seekers perspective, that means 584 possible employers.
The search could be refined and limited to specific zip codes, number of employees, sales volume, foreign parent, public companies, etc.

Hopefully this gets you thinking about how to use your databases in more creative ways.

12 August 2005 

ReferenceWork has undergone a facelift and I am rather pleased at the new look. I now hope to get to work on my submission for the "Carnival of the Information Sciences #2" at "Open Stacks". #1 was a success so I hope I can contribute something useful. Thanks.

08 August 2005 

Outreach is demanding! Especially when your outreach activity involves individuals who have been unemployed for a while. I find it extremely difficult to motivate them at times - depending on the group that I am speaking to. It helps to keep the session interactive and keep asking the group questions to force them to answer. Asking a random person "what do YOU think about _____?" is one possible way of opening up the group.

Not being an expert, I am interested in hearing about how you get your groups to join in on conversations. Please post comments!

04 August 2005 

Having graduated from library school not too long ago, I often have to remind myself that not just college grads are seeking employment. One group that have their own set of job woes are those over 50. Luckily, there are employers that do not look down upon applicants that are 50+. AARP puts out a yearly list of the "Best Employers for Workers over 50". The only problem I have with the list is that some states do not seem to have a "Best Employer" (e.g. Kentucky). In that scenario, it might just be a good idea to contact your local AARP at 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277) or online here.

01 August 2005 

During one-on-one sessions with high school kids, career changers, or patrons who want to know more about a specific career, I turn to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Using their "Search OOH", I was curious to see what information they had about "Librarians". Put together by the US Dept. of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics, I can now walk patrons through the nature of the work, working conditions, training required, job outlook and (very important!) related occupations. A great place to get started before leaping into any occupation.


I am not a master networker, but I am well-aware of the need to strive to become one. The underrated skill of networking is crucial for job seekers. Frankly, it is a pretty crucial skill for those workforce librarians that are looking to connect with groups within the community. Networking will open you up to the world of unadvertised jobs and other rewarding activities. Unfortunately, where does one even begin to acquire such a skills? Ebay, perhaps?

While Ebay had no listings, I found solace in Harvey Mackay's book, "Dig your well before you're Thirsty". It is not a new book and you should be able to find a copy on your library shelves. Highly recommended! I tried out some of the concepts that I learnt from this book to work and was able to get free financial workshops at my library. Rather than listening to a review from just me, click on the image to hop over to and look at the reviews. Let me know what you think!