Recession's Victims Overwhelm Libraries

Surge in jobseekers, homeless, and crime stresses out library staff
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2009 7:22 AM CDT
Cheryl Fellows, 47, of Germantown, Md., center, searches for jobs on a computer with her daughter Brittney Capps, 19, at the Germantown Public Library in on Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. "I'm looking for electrical...   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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(Newser) – Libraries that once worried about staying relevant are finding themselves on the front line of the recession, the New York Times reports. Attendance has surged as the newly unemployed—some of whom can't read or write or navigate the Internet—use facilities to write resumés and search for jobs, often with the assistance of staff. But theft and violence are up as well, and many librarians are feeling overwhelmed by the job's new demands.

"I guess I’m not really used to people with tears in their eyes,” a librarian in a well-off Chicago suburb said. “It has been unexpectedly stressful. We feel so anxious to help these people." Her library—which beefed up security after one homeless man stabbed another on its front steps—is doing its best to cope with the new pressures. A job-search desk has been created and employees are being given advice on how to deal with distraught patrons.