An Upper West Side branch of the New York Public Library has initiated a new program to help New Yorkers on their job searches by providing ties, briefcases, and handbags that can be rented from the library for three weeks at a time.
After teaching a free class about job searching, résumé building, and “adulting,” Michelle Lee, a librarian at the Riverside branch of the New York Public Library, realized just how underinformed and unprepared some high school students were about entering the job market — and was determined to repair it. While most libraries offer computers and printers (and at some, surprisingly, artwork), Lee realized the glaring need for workwear among many of the students, who were surprised when she advised them against donning casual wear or bringing backpacks to their interviews.
The librarian says the teens she encountered used library services to print and write their résumés, and many would ask for folders to carry the materials home with them. While the library didn’t have many folders, she thought of a more useful alternative.
Lee proposed the idea as part of the library’s Innovation Project, which allows library employees to address problems they come across with a budget of up to $3,000. She received a grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation and donations from Career Gear to launch the pilot program, “NYPL Grow Up: Dress Up Lending Library.”
Thanks to Lee, NYPL cardholders are able to visit the Riverside branch (located at Amsterdam Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets), to check out accessories for job interviews, auditions, graduations, or other events. She says she chose items that don’t require sizing to allow for more diverse use.
“I had a teen who came in and said he didn’t have any professional attire for job interviews, so I wanted to help him,” she explained to Hyperallergic. “And if they need other career assistance, we also offer referrals,” she added. Lee created an informational sheet to help job seekers prepare for interviews, including websites and books offering fashion tips. She says she and other librarians help review résumés.
Lee says her most helpful referral includes a program at the Grand Central Library, called “Single Stop,” which offers free cell phones and eyeglasses, food stamp enrollment and immigration assistance, and other suggested services. They also give referrals to organizations that give professional attire clothing for work or a job interview. “I have also referred job hunters to go to the NYPL Science, Industry and Business Library, too, for more job-hunting resources and events,” Lee says.