If it's been a decade or two since the last time you applied for a job, finding yourself out of work today may be a bit of a shock, Washington County Free Library Director Mary Baykan said.
"Now you have to search online, you have to fill out that application online, you have to know how to write, attach and upload a resume, and you have to give your e-mail address to be contacted," she said.
Providing free Internet access and one-on-one help with the computer skills needed for that process is just one of the ways the county's library system is stepping up to help local residents through tough economic times, Baykan told the Washington County Commissioners as part of a "Your Library 101" presentation during a luncheon Tuesday.
"In the last three years, we have been deluged by citizens looking for work and not knowing where to begin," she said.
Last year, more than 50 people a month got help with job hunting at the library, Baykan said.
The library also offers free exam monitoring for students in distance-education programs and computer classes, as well as providing free access to high-quality online resources for students and job seekers, she said.
Those resources include practice material for tests such as the General Educational Development exam, SAT and Graduate Record Examination, and language education resources, she said.
"If you've got some free time between 2 and 3 in the morning, and you want to learn Urdu, come on in to Mango," Baykan said.
Mango is a language learning program, according to an Internet website.
The library also offers free Wi-Fi Internet access for patrons who want to bring laptops into the library and downloadable e-books, Baykan said.
Reference assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the form of live, online chats with reference librarians through the "Ask us now!" service, accessible from the library website at www.washcolibrary.org.
And for students in grades K-12, certified tutors are available online to provide homework help through the HelpNow! service from Brainfuse, also accessible from the library website.
"In this 21st century, with downloadable audiobooks, e-books, subscriptions, data services online, online tutors 24-7, the library is wherever you are and wherever you need it," Baykan said.
Baykan said library officials are especially proud of WHILBR, an online collection of Western Maryland history resources.
"WHILBR has been nationally recognized as one of the best historical data sources in the United States," she said.
Meanwhile, free programs at the library for children, teens and adults have remained very popular, Baykan said.
"Believe me if your discretionary income has shrunk for some reason, and you can't afford the movie tickets or the going-out-to-dinner tickets, or everything else costs money, the library provides great value," she said.
Baykan told the Washington County Commissioners that the library would be satisfied to receive the same amount of county funding for fiscal 2012 that it received in fiscal 2011, unless the state passes down a portion of the cost of funding library employee pensions.
If that cost shifting occurs, the library would request an additional $100,000 from the county to help cover the added expense, Baykan said.
She said it was looking as if that cost shifting would not occur this year.
"At this point, we're kind of shakily breathing a sigh of relief for a year," Baykan said.
Asked about the next library projects on the horizon after the central library expansion is complete, Baykan said library improvements for Hancock and Williamsport would be next on the list.
The Williamsport library needs modernizing, and the Hancock library has been flooded multiple times, she said.
"We're gonna get central built, and then I'm gonna allow the board of trustees to exhale for about five minutes" before tackling the next project, Baykan said.
In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Washington County Free Library had:
- 63,868 registered borrowers
- 354,825 visits to the central branch
- 1,189,453 materials circulated
- 95,690 reference questions answered
- 2,101 programs
- 647 meetings held in libraries by nonprofit organizations
- $3,942,975 in expenditures
Source: Library 2009-2010 Annual Report