Budget cuts and job seekers strain public library resources

Public libraries are packed with job seekers waiting to use the Internet to search for job postings, update resumes, and fill out online forms.

According to the American Library Association, seven out of ten libraries say they are the only public source of Internet access in their community - and job searching without the Internet is becoming increasingly difficult. USA Today reports on the situation in Greenville, South Carolina:

When Leona Thompson's job as a housekeeper dwindled to just a few clients earlier this year, she had to pull the plug on her home Internet service, just when she needed it to search for a new job.

The Greenville County Library, which has a branch near her home, offered a solution. But with so many job seekers in the same situation, Thompson, 53, found she usually had to wait 20 minutes or more to get a seat in front of a computer at the Greenville West Branch.

Once she did, she had to work fast, because she knew she might get cut off after an hour if someone was waiting behind her.

As of earlier this year, 37 percent of American households had no Internet connection, and due to the economic downturn many families are cutting back on their home Internet service or delaying the purchase of a computer. To make matters worse, twenty-two states have cut library funding this year.

The result? Both librarians and job seekers are feeling the strain:

Reginald Ellison of Greenville, a 41-year-old father of a University of South Carolina student and a high school junior, has been out of work since last September. He says he goes to the library three or four times a week to use the computers to look for work.

"If you don't have a computer at home, you're pretty much stuck," he says.

The demand is stretching some libraries' resources to the limits. Susan Moser, Greenville West branch manager, says she has had up to 16 people waiting to use one of the library's 13 computers.

The Greenville West branch is not alone. Nationally, 80 percent of libraries have to resort to putting patrons on a computer waiting list at some point during the day.

More than ever before, libraries must be equipped with sufficient bandwidth or their communities are put at a disadvantage.

Job seekers flocking to libraries (Benton Foundation)

Job seekers flocking to libraries (USA Today)

Benefits - Libraries (Speed Matters)