[Editor’s note: Chris Gaynor shares another example of how the team in Mowbray Gardens library are at the heart of their community - this time, how a resident was helped back into work]
Rotherham MBC’s HR Department approached the library about hosting a work experience placement. It was for a man who had been out of the labour market for four years due to acute anxiety and the Jobcentre had asked HR if they could find him a few hours a week in a supportive environment to help build his confidence.
We agreed to meet Stephen and, with him, decided he would work with us for a couple of hours on Mondays and Fridays, helping out as a volunteer and getting to know how the library worked.
Stephen missed his planned (December) start date due to a panic attack and the first few weeks were a bit hit and miss attendance-wise. Rather than end the placement, we were sensitive to his particular issues and offered him reassurance and encouragement. Over the weeks, Stephen’s attendance steadied and his confidence gradually grew as he became more settled with the idea of attending and meeting new people.
As he became more confident and chatty, we learned he had a background in IT, having worked as a tutor for a number of years. Stephen’s passion for IT and for sharing his knowledge remained, so we asked if he would like to help customers with little or no knowledge and he was happy to. At this point he agreed we should increase his working week by another two hours (on Wednesdays).
“I never thought I would get back in to work. I am so grateful for the library believing in me and helping me to believe in myself again”
The feedback from customers was positive. Stephen’s patient approach and his ability to explain processes clearly was giving a range of people an understanding of IT and helping them learn how to produce spreadsheets, book holidays and keep in touch with family overseas. The anxious, shy man who had started with us four months previously, requiring sensitive handling and a fair degree of supervision, was now a reliable and very useful member of the team.
Back into work
Keen to help Stephen cement his achievements and to build on them as the end of his six months with us loomed, we approached the local college with whom we have a good working relationship. We asked if they would consider seeing Stephen with a view to giving him some part time hours teaching IT (Jobcentre Plus were happy for us to do this but did point out it would affect the amount of benefit he received from them.)
Stephen was eager to give it a try. The placement had got him used to being in a workplace environment on three days of the week now, and he was happy to have a chance at earning something and to move away from being benefit-dependent.
But there was a snag.
He did not have any shoes, or a smart enough shirt to wear to his interview. And as this was only five days away his anxiety showed signs of resurfacing.
An urgent appeal was made to council employees for gents size 7 shoes, black, either for loan or as a donation. This resulted in two pairs of brand new black shoes and one pair of brown ones being provided within two days. The black ones fit perfectly (the brown ones are waiting in the library for their new owner to be found).
As for the shirt, the community group based at the library agreed they would buy him one. A quick trip to the supermarket later and Stephen was all set. He just had to remain calm and focused ready for his big day.
He got the job!
Happily, the college are arranging for Stephen to do some outreach work here at Mowbray Gardens so we will still see and be able to support him. Classes will also be set up for him at other libraries around the borough, meaning he should soon earn sufficient income to come off benefits altogether.
Keep in touch
And to read more examples of how libraries help everyone to achieve their potential (Outcome 4 in in Libraries Deliver: Ambition), and help achieve greater prosperity (Outcome 6), select the relevant category in this blog or read [link to new brochure…..]
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce