By Kelly Medinger
Enoch Pratt Free Library uses human services grant to support its Mobile Job Center, helping Baltimore residents find employment
“One great thing about the library is that it’s a place people trust,” comments Meghan McCorkell, Marketing Director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, “so they feel comfortable coming to us for help.”
Mr. McQueen was one of those people. Through the Social Worker in the Library program, he was introduced to the Pratt’s Mobile Job Center for employment counseling. There, he got help writing a resume and applying for jobs. He’s now a Peer to Peer Recovery Coach with one of Baltimore’s major hospitals.
About Enoch Pratt Library
Founded in 1882, the Enoch Pratt Free Library is one of the oldest free public library systems in the United States. It serves Baltimore City residents at its Central location and 21 branches across Baltimore. Their mission is “to empower, enrich, and enhance the quality of life for all through equitable access to information, services, and opportunity.”
The Pratt’s programs extend far beyond books. They offer free legal assistance, career services, and access to social workers, both inside the Library and through outreach programs in the community. “For the longest time the Library has been bordered by its walls, but that has changed,” notes Marlyn Norton, a Librarian with the Mobile Job Center. “We now go to the community that needs us and give them the services they want.”
The Mobile Job Center
The Mobile Job Center opened in 2017 and takes skilled employment specialists on the road to neighborhoods with high unemployment, and where access to an existing Pratt location may be challenging. The Center visits laundromats, barber shops, and even stops when people hail them along the road.
Once inside, people have access to one dozen computers, printers, and the Library’s experienced staff. Approximately ten people cycle through the Center every hour. “We help people no matter what stage they are at in the job search process,” says Ryan O’Grady, Mobile Job Center Director. He and his staff teach small classes and offer one-on-one assistance with resume writing, job searches, interviewing skills, and application submissions.
When the Knott Foundation supported the Mobile Job Center with a grant, the Center reached its goal of serving 15,000 people in the first 6 months of the yearlong award period. In the nine months preceding the closures due to COVID-19, the Center had helped 19,500 customers, answered 11,000 questions, and assisted with 687 resumes and 428 job searches.
A Welcome Surprise
“I love the people who don’t know what the Mobile Job Center is, who walk by, get invited inside, and 30 minutes later walk out with a resume on a flash drive and having applied for a few jobs,” reflects McCorkell. “It’s wonderful to see the smile on their face and their surprise to find out the service is available, and that it’s available for free, in their neighborhood.”