If you’ve visited London for business or leisure, you’ve probably walked past Westminster Reference Library. It’s situated in the heart of the West End, just off Leicester Square and just a few steps from the National Gallery.
I visited the Library last week as part of their Adult Learner’s Week activity. My visit got me thinking about the role of libraries within the community and in particular how they make information and resources to help people develop their career so accessible.
Westminster Reference Library makes a range of subscription resources freely available to its members. This includes careers information and guidance tools including Adult Directions. The Library also has an extensive careers information reference section.
There are huge benefits to having these types of resources available in public libraries. You don’t need to be from a particular ‘target group’, anyone can use the resources and services on offer. An individual may not see themselves as the right audience for any of the various employment support initiatives and this may become a barrier to them seeking and engaging in career information, advice and guidance. Libraries are accessible to anyone and usually have extensive open times with many permitting access to online resources from home via previous enrolment.
In the past some libraries have been reluctant to offer IAG resources pointing to a lack of adviser expertise. However, with effective signposting to follow up opportunities with advisers from nextstep and other organisations, the outcome for library users can be very successful.
Last week I met people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some had been made redundant, others were looking at options after studying, some wanted to look at alternative careers to their own. All of them had a common interesting in exploring their future options and moving their career forward.
I believe that libraries like Westminster are doing a really valuable job by ensuring that these people and many more like them are able to easily access resources to help them plan their future and develop their social mobility.