By Joel Hall
As local unemployment levels continue to hover above the national average, more people have turned to the county's libraries, in order to search for job opportunities, according to library officials.
The Clayton County Library System has become one of the first public library systems in the country to offer Job and Career Accelerator, a new, online resource that helps people find a suitable career, craft a convincing resume, and fill in gaps in their skills.
According to Ted Bazemore, assistant director of information and technology for the library system, the system recently purchased Job and Career Accelerator as an add-on to LearningExpress Library, an existing tool offering online access to standardized-test preparation and skills-improvement training.
Bazemore said the Job and Career Accelerator program takes interested job seekers through a "step-by-step" process of assessing their skills, selecting a career field, creating a resume to fit a certain job, and applying for jobs that are available.
"We only started this in December, and this is a brand-new product through LearningExpress, so we are one of the first libraries in the country to have it," he said. "If you are thinking about a certain career, you can see what kind of education and skill sets are required. There are also personality tests to see if you fit into a certain job. There are resume wizards for people who don't have experience creating resumes. There are also current job listings through Indeed.com. You can keep everything in one particular place.
"We deal with a lot of people who are out of work, and are looking for jobs and are really struggling with the job-searching process," Bazemore added. "This takes a lot out of that. Once you start a profile with them [Job and Career Accelerator], they can chart their own career path."
Bazemore said people can access Job and Career Accelerator from any computer, via the www.claytonpl.org, the library system's web site. Once registered, the user can access a number of career resources for a variety of fields.
Clayton County Director of Library Services Carol Stewart said the system's subscription to Job and Career Accelerator did not come without cost. In order to afford the program, the library system discontinued its subscriptions to CultureGrams -- an online database of news, history, culture, and customs for more than 200 counties -- as well as NewsBank -- an online archive of Atlanta Journal-Constitution articles dating back to 1985.
Stewart said the new program will cost the system "at least several thousand dollars" a year, and that she believes the online resource is worth the sacrifice, given the public's increasing need to find work.
"CultureGrams, we had already decided not to renew, because the students already have access to it through the school system," she said. "The students were the ones using it, so we were really duplicating resources. NewsBank ... the use was not very high. Given our budget cuts and what our patrons need ... we thought it was a good idea to have things that a lot of people could use.
"It's [Job and Career Accelerator is] the full package," Stewart continued. "It lets you find out your education level, what kind of job you like, and it guides you through the process of creating a resume and applying for a job. It seems very comprehensive and it hooks you up with skill-building, if what you want to do requires skills you don't already have.
"I would use it if I was looking for another job, because it really holds your hand and walks you through the process."
Bazemore said the new program is a "sacrifice," but believes the purchase will help address "one of the areas of greatest need."
"We feel like it is our responsibility to help the citizens of Clayton County, any way we can ... We think it [Job and Career Accelerator] is a really useful tool."
On the web: www.claytonpl.org