As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to necessitate changes in the services communities need and the real unemployment rate remains at about 10%, there is an urgent call for wide-ranging and far-reaching support for unemployed workers. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development researchers believe community-wide responses will be needed to adequately serve the needs of the unemployed population. As such, researchers recognize the central role that libraries play in community life and service provision.
In a new brief, Strategically Virtual: A Review of New Jersey Public Libraries’ Virtual Services, Liana Volpe and Amanda Bombino look at the 293 New Jersey public library websites and how they have pivoted to virtual services, with a particular focus on the resources available to support the unemployed and their physical, social, emotional, and job search needs. From this review and three roundtable discussions with librarians and library staff, researchers were able to identify key themes on how libraries have adapted to operating in the virtual world and highlight emerging promising practices in how libraries are responding to the needs of their customers.
Overall, the review of library websites and discussions with library staff shows an expansive network of public libraries and hardworking librarians and library staff trying to adapt to a changing environment as effectively as possible. While progress has been made to transition to virtual programming and service delivery, there is still room for growth in creating a robust ecosystem of services and service continuity to assist the many unemployed, especially long-term unemployed, individuals in the community. Moving forward, libraries could consider the ways in which they can continue to use their unique positioning within their communities to serve local needs and identify targeted opportunities for assistance.
Liana Volpe is Research Project Coordinator and Amanda Bombino is a Research Intern at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.
In the Suddenly Virtual series, the Heldrich Center examined how the public workforce system had adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing case management, training, and job search services in an online environment. The Strategically Virtual series builds on this work, outlining how the public workforce system can use technology and community partnerships more effectively to expand services, address job seeker mental and emotional well-being, and ensure that a broader range of the public is able to access supports during a time of social distancing and massive job loss. The Strategically Virtual series is producing issue briefs, Medium blog posts, practical guides, and more. View all of the Strategically Virtual blog posts.