Déjà vu is a forever buzzword and this year it keeps buzzing for me. The public library is a cross section of the community, and better than most pundits the librarians can spot trends before they happen. The sad trend that I began to spot in January is the increase in the number of men and women in business dress sitting in the reading room in mid-afternoon. It was 1989 when I last saw this phenomenon.
Recession murmurs were in the air in 1989, and the murmurs became a roar which lasted until 1993. By 1990 the number of business persons investigating job opportunities, career changes or doing pick-up consulting work had grown to the point where numbers had to be assigned for seating. We are not at that point yet, but getting there at SIBL.
Public libraries assume their role as havens in tough times. On September 12, 2001 when I arrived at work at 8:00 AM there were 300, or so, folks lined up outside the building. Grateful for a safe place with e-mail connection to let their folks know they were OK, the crowd kept repeating “Thank God for the library!”
The growing legions of the laid-off are finding comfort and help here at SIBL. In anticipation of the needs of mid-career job seekers, I have added the Vault Career Library and Universum’s New Career databases. Resume guides and cover letter models are represented in both the circulating collection and the research resources. E-Books describing career change options have been acquired. The Lap Top Docking area has been expanded and the Electronic Information Center has new computers put in place to serve the folks doing pick up consulting.
Recession is a sad time, and it is difficult to think of good coming from it. However, during the 1989-1993 trouble many library users became aware of CD-ROM technology for the first time, and now an awareness of new technologies also is being noticed. When we hear the mantra that libraries are no longer relevant we can be happy that we are here when needed.
About the Author
John Ganly is Assistant Director for Collections at The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library.