Thanks to a pilot program funded by Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, every library in Pacific County now has a pair of Chromebook laptops for job seekers.
It’s a project that was set in motion over three years ago when PacMtn Executive Director Cheryl Fambles and Timberland Regional Library Director Cheryl Heywood met to discuss how their organizations could work together.
“This is such a massive game changer, “says TRL Director Cheryl Heywood. “These are tools that can completely change lives. It’s an incredible opportunity for people to embrace their futures.” The partnership between the two agencies is a natural fit, she observes. “TRL has been helping people trying to find jobs with resume writing and job interview skills since 1968.”
Recently, a team from PacMtn asked the country’s library staffers about what services would help patrons economically.
“Across the board, all of us said ‘access,’” says Jenny Penoyar, Library Manager in South Bend. “That’s the biggest challenge for people looking for jobs. We have two Worksource offices in Raymond and Long Beach but they’re not open all the time and their locations are not the easiest to get to. They don’t always have staff available for people who need help.”
The libraries offer Internet access on their regular computers, but such access comes with time limits.
“The system shuts down every couple of hours,” says Raymond Library Manager Emily Popovich. “We had a recent example of someone who needed to get her food handler’s permit. The machine gave her a first warning, but then it shut off and she lost all the work she’d been doing.”
Patrons can use the Chromebooks for as long as it takes to complete the work they need. And with the recent closure of Pacific Hardwoods in the area, the need for job-seeking resources is ongoing. In fact, that’s one of the reasons PacMtn chose Pacific County to launch the pilot.
“There are a lot of displaced and unemployed people in this area,” Popovich says. “We have a changing logging industry and one that definitely offers fewer jobs.”
Penoyar hopes that patrons, especially those looking for work, help spread the word about the Chromebooks.
“This program,” she said, “has the potential to be incredibly helpful to communities like ours.”