The “Quiet Desperation” in Our Libraries as the Great Recession Settles In

Henry David Thoreau

Though plenty of pundits and politicians have recently echoed the refrain that “the Great Recession” has hit bottom, hopes for a strong recovery — especially for employment — hit another snag last week when the Labor Department reported higher than expected job losses for September (263,000) and a national unemployment rate of 9.8%.

Another article I came across predicted national unemployment could reach as high as 10.5% before peaking next year.  

More than 15 million Americans are jobless now, and if those who have given up looking or settled for part-time employment are counted, the national unemployment rate has actually reached the stunningly high figure of 17%.

Closer to home, the Triad was shocked this week by the announcement that Forsyth County’s much heralded Dell plant will be closing next year.  Over 900 jobs will be lost.  

The grim jobs outlook is one of the reasons why many economists — Meredith Whitney, Nouriel Roubini, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and others — continue to voice so much pessimism.  Spending is necessary for our consumer-driven economy to recover, but high unemployment means less spending, and, without jobs, the bad times will string out for years to come.

We see the effects of the hard times at Greensboro Public Library too, for every day I work with anxious folks who are searching for jobs, but who lack the information literacy skills to fill out their own on-line applications or search for jobs on computers.

Even when folks know how to use a computer to fill out an application, they can face tremendous challenges.  The other day, for instance, an unemployed lady waiting for a computer here at the Library confessed to me she just had $3.43 left in her bank account.  Stuff like this just breaks your heart sometimes.   

Public libraries are of course supposed to be quiet places for study and research, but it seems more and more they are becoming places of “quiet desperation” (to borrow from Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote), a sort of final refuge for people desperate to restart a stalled career or simply find any job to carry them through.

This by no means circumscribes all of the public library’s mission, but the longer America’s economy continues to downshift or remains stuck in neutral, the more folks will depend upon us.  And with an estimated six job seekers out there competing for each available job these days, just finding anything can be a tall order.

As we’ve indicated repeatedly in our posts, Greensboro Public Library wants to do all it can to help.  If you’re looking for work, please check out our links on the Job & Career Information page

The Library has all kinds of resources to help you find a job:  resume tools, a large collection of books on job-seeking and careers, a full-time Career Counselor (Ms. Doris Jessup), a collection of useful web links, and lots, lots more.  Please let us know if we can help you.

Greensboro Public Library wants to do all it can to help turn economic desperation into hope.


2 Responses

  1. Even people fortunate enough to currently maintain their jobs would be well served by visiting your library. I think libraries are one of the most overlooked treasures we have today, and every one of them contains an infinite number of things to explore and peruse. You can research subjects you’re interested in, learn how to do things, trace your family tree, read novels, and so much more. I make visiting the local public libraries a part of every vacation I take — it gives me a different perspective on the place.

  2. Thanks for your comment Chris.

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