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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Libraries offer help in rough economy

BY TONY COOK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Pairing up to discuss their spending priorities and values are Petronella Holmes, of north Toledo, left, and Candy Huner, of Maumee. The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library presents a seminar "Living Well on Less!!" to help area resident during these tough economic times, in Toledo, Saturday. The event, hosted by the Heatherdowns Branch, was available via video conference at the Locke Branch. Pairing up to discuss their spending priorities and values are Petronella Holmes, of north Toledo, left, and Candy Huner, of Maumee. The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library presents a seminar "Living Well on Less!!" to help area resident during these tough economic times, in Toledo, Saturday. The event, hosted by the Heatherdowns Branch, was available via video conference at the Locke Branch.
BLADE PHOTO/JETTA FRASER Enlarge

When times get tough, the tough ... go to the library.

With an unfriendly economy bearing down on them, Toledo area residents are increasingly turning to the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library as a source for free job and financial help. Library officials say they have seen a big spike recently in inquiries about resume writing, applying for jobs online, personal finances, and home ownership issues.

In response, the library is holding a pair of informational series intended to assist those trying to save money and keep or buy homes.

Saturday, the Heatherdowns Branch Library kicked off it’s “Living Well on Less” series. About 15 people attended, including Terrence Moore, 43, of South Toledo.

“It’s caused me to pull in the reigns,” he said of the economy. “It’s important I get a grip on my finances.”

That seemed to be the consensus among participants, who made a list of priorities and then listened to a presentation about how to budget from Eunice Glover, a money management counselor with the Northwest Ohio Development Agency.

The other series, “Stay a Homeowner or Become a Homebuyer,” began last Tuesday and will continue this week at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at the main library downtown.

In addition to the new programming, the library has also seen an increase in those using its job search center at the main library, where computers are available for resume writing and job searches. Patrons can also sign-up for one-on-one sessions with a library staffer who can walk them through setting up an email, creating a resume, searching for jobs, and submitting applications online.

When it comes to the amount of technology involved in applying for a job, “a lot of people have had the rules change on them,” said Linda Koss, a specialist in the library’s business technology department. “For job seeking purposes, you’re pretty much an orphan if you don’t have an email account.”

The economic conditions of the past three years are also likely a factor in the big increase in the number of visitors to the library. In 2010, an unprecedented 3 million people walked through the doors, despite cuts in hours. Through August this year, circulation is up 9 percent over the same time last year.

Linda Close, 58, of South Toledo, said that when a friend recommends a book, she used to go to Barnes and Noble. “Now I come straight to the library,” she said, a copy of Jodi Picoult’s novel, “My Sister’s Keeper,” in hand to prove it.

Mr. Moore said he, too, has come to depend more on the library. He canceled his cable and internet service and now depends on the Heatherdowns Branch for much of his computer use.

The increased demand puts the library in a difficult position. With the Toledo area’s unemployment rate stalled at 10.9 percent and with the number of people living in poverty nationally at a record high, people are increasingly turning to free resources such as the library. But for the same reasons, the library is facing steep budget cuts. Reductions in state library funding, coupled with a drop in property tax valuations, caused a $5.9 million shortfall in 2010 compared to 2008. To survive, the library had to reduce hours, staff and materials.

Still, library officials are determined to provide services, not simply in spite of the challenging economic times, but because of them.

“Equity of access to our resources is of vital concern,” said Clyde Scoles, the library’s director. “In tough economic times, our library provides free access to programs, computers, homework help, assistance with resumes and job searches, accurate financial information, adult education courses, and so much more.”

Here is some additional information about upcoming programs and services, all of which are free:

• The next session in the library’s series on how to become a homebuyer will take place Tuesday, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m., at the McMaster Center in the Main Library downtown.

• The next session in the library’s series on how to live well with less will take place Oct. 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Heatherdowns Branch Library.

• One-on-one sessions at the library’s Job Search Center are available Mondays and Tuesdays from 6 to 6:45 p.m. and from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m.; and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 2:45 p.m. and 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. at the Business Technology Department in the Main Library. Registration is necessary.

Contact Tony Cook at: acook@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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