Rogelio Juarez spent his Thursday morning using the Mesa Public Library’s free computers and internet to search for jobs.
The Mesa 35-year-old was laid off in November from his warehouse shipping and receiving job, and he doesn’t have a computer at home.
He said it’s nice the library offers these services. He’s also interested in taking the library’s job help search classes.
Juarez joins an increasing number of adults who are flocking to libraries to use the free computers, Internet, printers, faxes, job databases and computer training and job search classes.
In this economy, many unemployed Americans have gotten rid of their Internet services or don’t have working printers to complete the online applications which most companies now require. As a result, the free resources public libraries offer have become vital to job seekers.
A recent national report, “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries,” shows how public libraries have emerged during the recession as a critical safety net for Americans looking for a job or to further their education.
The report is based on 50,000 surveys of library patrons at more than 400 libraries across the country.
According to the report’s findings, 40 percent of library computer users, an estimated 30 million people nationwide, used library resources for career help in 2009. Three-quarters of these people said they searched for a job online.
Eighty-four percent of the survey respondents called the local library an important asset to their community.
The three Mesa libraries had a combined 1.2 million visitors between July 2009 and April, a six-percent increase in use, said Kate Havris, the assistant library director.
“We’re an inexpensive form of entertainment and a resource that people don’t have any other place,” Havris said. “You know you’ll get help. We’ve heard a lot of people who can’t afford Internet, but they can come to the public library for a cost of nothing.”
The Mesa Public Library had a 10 percent increase in people accessing its website in the past year. The website has job database links, career databases and links to business information, Havris said.
The Mesa libraries offer free computer training and a Job Lab throughout the month. Besides Internet services, computers also have resume software, and free Wi-Fi is available. There are 170 computers available at the three Mesa libraries, Havris said.
“We started the job search class in the past year because it’s a way to reach more people,” Havris said. “A lot of people were coming up and asking for help.”
The main Mesa library will also have a Career Center opening, possibly in July, as another site for the Maricopa County Workforce Connection.
The center will have employees and volunteers to offer help with resumes, software and job searches.
The library will open the center after receiving a $50,000 grant from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. A periodical room is being converted into the new Career Center, Havris said.
The Tempe Public Library is almost finished with an $8 million renovation which added computers, a computer lab, study rooms and the largest children’s library in the country, said Anna-Marie O’Brien, the adult services supervisor.
The renovation is expected to be complete in three weeks. The patrons to the Tempe Library are up 13 percent — about 150,000 extra people a year, O’Brien said.
The Tempe library has 110 computers with free Internet, printers and fax machines.
Every Wednesday morning, one-on-one workshops are offered with librarians helping with resume writing, uploading and attaching resumes and filling out online job applications. Internet and basic computer skill classes are offered, as well as print and online career guides and directories.
In September, more job search offerings are planned, O’Brien said.
“It’s a safe haven,” O’Brien said. “It’s free. Libraries are always in demand during recessions. It’s just a great way for people who are not able to pay.”
Nine libraries in Pinal County, including the Apache Junction Public Library, will be getting 165 computers and wireless laptops after receiving a $158,400 grant by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, along with the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records.
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors authorized a matching contribution of $39,600, plus $1,333 in administrative support, according to a statement.
The federal grant is part of “Broadband USA: Connecting America’s Communities,” which will put more than 1,000 new public access computers at 84 libraries throughout Arizona.