I’m happy to announce the expansion of our book machine programs using the Brodart Lending Library. This post will describe our latest venture and also update our Cutler machine.
Through a new California State Library Program called Pitch an idea, we pitched placing a book machine in two Workforce Investment Board One Stops. These One Stops are places where the unemployed can get job assistance that includes anything including job searching, computer time, job coaching, training, and even job placement. I am currently on their Employment Connection board for about six months and we have been searching for a way to collaborate to help the unemployed. Tulare County has a 19% unemployment, one of the worst in California, and is one of the most stressed counties in the nation. Any way in which we could collaborate can only help our citizens.
Each machine will carry 300 books with multiple copies focusing on workforce materials, GED Testing, ASVAB, Resume Writing, Cover letter, and career searching. All the materials included in the machines were selected by a group of WIB staff, library staff, and library circulation statistics. There are about 11 different books in the machine and we will receive advice from job coaches on how to adjust the collection to meet their customer’s needs. We have also held cross training with both WIB and Library staff to make both sides more aware of available options for job seekers in the community. Overall, the program implementation cost about $60,000 for two book machines, two book drops, 600 books, and a paid motivational speaker.
One of the interesting quirks is that job seekers that do not have a library card can get one from WIB staff. Those interested can get an application and a card, with those applications being sent into the local branch, checked for duplication, and entered into the system. A person can walk in and check-out those books even though they haven’t had a card with us before. We also conducted a pre-survey on library usage by WIB customers and found that many did not realize the library's job resources. Only 18% of participants found that the library was place to receive job assistance, whereas 73% saw us as a place for books, and 21% for computers. Part of this program will work to change that perception and work hand in hand with WIB to integrate the library into the job searching process.
We also hosted a nationally recognized motivational speaker Paul Clayton speak to WIB customers in Visalia and Dinuba and unveiled the job in a box program.
I would say overall, that the Cutler book machine is getting more usage and will probably continue to do so since it is a less targeted market. Providing picture books to kids just getting out of school is just as easy as if we had an ice cream truck out there. Providing assistance to job seekers who may be frustrated and not sure what to do is a bit harder.
So far, the Cutler machine averages between 350 and 750 check-out per month. The machine made it through frost, heavy storms and wind, and a variety of other weather and still works. It actually out circs about three of our smaller rural branches and it may be the start of a new level of service to complement our bookmobile services. We plan to investigate more targeted book collections like this in the future and hope to see what that will bring in new library services.