Librarian Deborah Carter serves as SMPL’s Workforce Specialist. Photo submitted by the San Marcos Public Library
Community Focus: Workforce Librarian guides people in pursuit of new paths in life, learning, and employment
Right now it seems that every person, regardless of circumstance, shares the common denominator of COVID-19. In some way or another, we all have been affected by the coronavirus. From simple tasks such as walking our dogs or shopping for groceries, to more complex ones like safeguarding our health and searching for jobs, the current situation has left its lasting mark.
As our time in quarantine steamrolls steadily toward autumn, people have begun to examine how to address the issues looming in our future. With online meeting technology reshaping nearly every aspect of our economy, many people are using this time to reassess their paths in life.
Even with this opportunity for self-reflection, the idea can be quite daunting without assistance. Fortunately for us, San Marcos has Deborah Carter, a workforce specialist who is ready to guide people through the process.
Carter, who also has a background in social work, started as a workforce specialist at the San Antonio Public Library, where she worked as an adult literacy specialist.
“I set spaces in four branches where the local communities had education and employment needs,” Carter said. “This aided local area residents with any specific barrier to employment, offering free classes, events, job fairs, and even hosted a social worker for referral and financial empowerment services. So, this gave me a better understanding of the holistic elements involved in what might at first sound simple – finding a new job.”
Flash forward to the present day, where Carter applies these skills to help Hays County residents who are now facing an unemployment rate of 12.8%, more than double what it was a year ago.
“Library patrons are worried about employment,” Carter said. “Many people are waiting for their old jobs to reopen. Small businesses are struggling. People are looking for work, trying to get a handle on unemployment.”
In order to meet these needs, Carter combines technology with existing library services to link prospective job applicants with potential employers. She maintains the San Marcos Public Library Jobs and Resources page on Facebook, where she posts local job listings as well as helpful articles and books centered on the search for employment.
However, with many people in corona-crisis-mode, Carter’s able to take her assistance even further.
“Finding your new path is the opportunity people have right now,” Carter explained. “Take a break and think about job satisfaction. Just about everybody is rethinking their life right now.”
Carter specializes in career coach guidance, specifically resume services tailored to the job for which they are applying by highlighting areas of education and life experiences.
“People are able to think in a more strategic way about their job search,” Carter said. “It’s more effective to find one or two positions that you’re excited about. It may take a full day of preparation, but in the end, you find more of what you’re looking for. Not only jobs but graduate programs or certifications, too.”
Through the Library’s Jobs and Resources page, Carter has begun to host Workforce Wednesday, where she meets people in a Zoom Room online to give private, one-on-one job coaching.
“I always have time for conversations about what you wanted to be when you grew up. What things made you excited?” Carter said. “Coronavirus has forced us into some self-reflection. People are wondering, Is there going to be a new normal? And how do we make that intentional for us?”
Though many businesses in San Marcos are hiring – especially in essential worker fields like food service, delivery, technology and information, call centers, and schools – many employers and administrators don’t know yet what the workplace will look like going forward.
“We’re relying a lot on gig economy,” Carter explained. “It’s causing a shift in the way we look for work, which can be kind of challenging.”
To help soothe this uncertainty, Carter also maintains boards for continuing education and professional certifications, to help job seekers who might be ready for a career change. This includes graduate programs and certification courses through partnerships with local organizations, churches, and Austin Community College. The library also has a YouTube channel full of informative videos to help in all aspects of the job search, including workforce related books.
“A lot of them are about people transitioning careers or taking education opportunities,” Carter said.
The library continues to be a resource hub in other ways as well. Though patrons are unable to browse the stacks or access meeting rooms, the library staff continues to fill online reading lists for Front Porch Pickup. The librarians will even curate a list of titles based on a reader’s preferences, even if they don’t have specific titles in mind.
“If you’re not sure what you’re looking for,” Carter said, “we can pull some books for you.”
SMPL also continues to offer free printing services as well. Simply email your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the staff will print it out and place it in an envelope for pickup.
“The library has always been a community resource center,” Carter said. “One of the nice things about San Marcos is that we are a community-based town. The library is definitely a great library because we’re a reflection of the community. We want the people of San Marcos to know we’re here for them.”
The library’s collection of books can help job seekers get back on their feet.
Front Porch Pickup is available Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Sunday, it is available from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Call 512-393-8200 or visit sanmarcostx.gov/Library to confirm days and times.
“Just about everybody is rethinking their life right now.”
– Deborah Carter,
San Marcos Public Library