Middletown’s Free Public Library Offers Job Skills and Guidance

Our Library has been pro-active in providing for the needs of families and individuals experiencing hardship.

One of the things that is truly special about Middletown is our Public Library. It has an excellent collection and friendly & knowledgeable employees, and it has been reinventing itself steadily over the past few years to respond to the recession and its effect on the residents of Middletown. This I know because I’m a frequent visitor to the library, and I have attended Library Board meetings steadily for over a year and a half.

There are many reasons to be proud of our Library, but the one I want to focus on here is the Job Help Center. The Library received a state grant to set up this service two years ago, and the non-profit Library Foundation has contributed to its ongoing needs.

What’s ironic is that while local politicians on our Township Committee have lost no opportunity to make statements about the difficult economy – at the same time they have cut financial support for the Library – the Library has been pro-active in stepping up to the plate and helping people get jobs.

The librarians have classes on how to write resumes, practice job interviews, learn new skills, fill out online applications and search for job listings. Our Library has held seminars for families on budgeting and the effect of stress on the family where there is unemployment or underemployment. And our Library has the practice tests in almost every field that requires a qualifying exam.

People regularly volunteer to share their skills as resume reviewers or interview coaches, either by finding the opportunities listed in the Volunteer Match national registry or by contacting the Library directly. Resources on writing business plans and starting your own business are plentiful, including the ability to have your business plan reviewed by one of the SCORE volunteers (Service Corps of Retired Executives). A database called “Career Accelerator” helps people decide on what career might be the best for them. Another specialized business forecasting tool useful for business owners which can be accessed for free by residents is the Frost & Sullivan reports.

I believe that our Library is on the cutting edge of helping people turn their lives around. And, to its credit, the Library treats everyone in need with dignity and confidentiality.

Last month, one of the people who got a job after attending Library workshops wrote to tell the Library of her success in finding a job in the field in which she most wanted to work and to thank the Library staff for their help. Her letter was shared with the members of the Library Board at its monthly meeting. I’m told that this kind of letter, or a return visit from a program attendee who has been helped, is more and more common. How uplifting this is!

Everything that the Library can do to actually impact the local economy by helping people find jobs is being done. And when the needs are greater than its resources, the Library constantly connects with and refers people to local assistance agencies and services that are needed when a person or family is in economic crisis.

If you didn’t know about these Library services, now you do, and it is another reason to be proud of and to support our local Library for the wonderful work it does — really meaningful work — to help people get back on their feet.

It’s very disappointing that $500,000 of the Library’s savings was raided last year and that the Township was back again a few months ago, demanding $338,000 more. That’s well over $800,000 in savings that the library could be using now in community needs-based programs like the Job Center.

The effect of the raids is that Library reserves have been substantially depleted. Because the Library’s 2013 projected revenue is down due to lower assessments, without reserves to fall back on our Library is now in trouble and cannot maintain its services to the level we have come to appreciate. As a result, you will soon be hearing about Library programs or hours of operation being cut, or more likely, that branches will close.

I believe that more transparency in the relationship of the Library to the Township Committee & Township officials is warranted. I will continue to press for accountability, and if elected, will make this a priority. The Library deserves more respect, support, and fairness than it has received recently.

There is a saying: “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” It is important that we protect this jewel of our community from political interference to allow for its proper management and the maintenance of its valuable services for all residents.

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