Adrienne Miles Holderbaum (producer): Welcome to Library Matters, the Montgomery County Public Libraries’ podcast.
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m Lauren Martino.
Julie Dina: And I’m Julie Dina.
Lauren Martino: The American Library Association has referred to libraries as first responders in times of economic crisis. Montgomery Country Public Libraries has stepped up to the plate by including a focus on providing a strong and vibrant workforce in our strategic plan. And by hiring Adrienne Van Lare last year as Montgomery Country Public Libraries’ Workforce and Business Development Coordinator to accomplish this goal.
Ms. Van Lare came to us from Montgomery Country’s Department of Economic Development where she provided business and workforce assistance to local companies. Thank you for joining us, Adrienne.
Julie Dina: So, Adrienne, can you define workforce and economic development in the context of what we do at MCPL and what does that term mean in relation to the work that you actually do.
Adrienne Van Lare: Certainly. So in terms of what we are doing at MCPL, it is all of the programs and resources that promote positive change that are improving lives, programs that ultimately better our residents and our customers and ultimately our communities. It is the high school – Career Online High School Program for example that we offer whereby students can finally complete their high school education and get a diploma. It can be the STEM Festival Programs that we have coming up for young children through teens. You know, maybe that will inspire the next wave of coders or IT developers. So it is those programs.
It is the programs for job seekers. It is how to start a business workshop to empower businesses with knowledge that will help them grow. So these – all of these programs strengthen the community. They strengthen our residence and it is a way to help contribute to the economic prosperity ultimately of our diverse community.
Lauren Martino: That is really broad and very – did it ever feel overwhelming like –
Adrienne Van Lare: All the time, all the time. And it does. It is a lot. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Wow. But it sounds –.
Adrienne Van Lare: But it is a lot of good stuff.
Lauren Martino: It sounds like you’re doing something right though because you have received – our library has received the award from the Urban Libraries Council. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Adrienne Van Lare: Certainly. We received an Honorable Mention Award for the ULC’s Innovation Initiative Awards. These are awards that show or demonstrate the value and impact public library service in the 21st century. And they award or they give awards in 10 different categories. The category that we won in was Workforce and Economic Development. So it is very exciting.
Lauren Martino: It is.
Adrienne Van Lare: We are excited.
Lauren Martino: And what did we do to get this award? What – do you know what they were focusing on?
Adrienne Van Lare: Good question. I think that they were looking for innovations in the area of digital training. They were looking for programs for individuals to help, you know, with job skills. They were also looking for innovations in creating partnerships to roll out, you know, programs and services gear toward job seekers and small business owners. And I think we’re doing a lot in all of those areas and serving a diverse group of customers. And so hopefully that is what got us noticed by them.
Julie Dina: Great. Well, actually, tell us, well, how did you – how was it for the whole team when you first got the news?
Adrienne Van Lare: Yeah. We were very pleasantly surprised. It is – it was a big deal for us because we’ve only been at this for a year. It was about a little over a year ago that MCPL leadership decided to make workforce and economic development serve a central pillar of, you know, the strategic plan. So we thought we were doing something positive. We thought we were implementing programs to impact workforce and economic development. And this really is validation that we are moving in the right direction.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Adrienne Van Lare: So we were thrilled.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Tell us more about your role as workforce and business development program specialist for MCPL, and how you actually became involved with MCPL.
Adrienne Van Lare: Well, I’ve been here for about a year and a half in this role as workforce and business development specialist. I come from the world of economic development. I actually have worked in the economic development field almost my entire professional career. I’ve worked in international development at the international level and then also at state and local – at the state and local economic development level.
Most recently, I was with the county’s Department of Economic Development. Many of you may know that it recently dissolved and privatized. And around the time that it was preparing to dissolve and privatize, MCPL was getting ready to roll out their strategic plan that included a significant focus on workforce and business development. And I was then offered the opportunity to transfer from the county’s Department of Economic Development to MCPL and stay in county government.
Lauren Martino: We’re really happy to have you.
Adrienne Van Lare: Yeah. Well, I am thrilled to be here. It has been wonderful. It has been a great experience so far.
Lauren Martino: What are the main differences between what you’re doing now and what you did before?
Adrienne Van Lare: There are so many differences. It really is very different. I’m used to working directly with companies and 90% of that job involved interacting on a daily basis with local county companies, also with foreign companies looking to establish a North American presence or some sort of a presence here in Montgomery County.
But there are also similarities. I did a lot of rolling out programs for companies that wanted to work internationally, you know, doing business in Africa or doing business in India, those types of programs. So that is very similar.
Julie Dina: So it seems like you’ve basically been around the business for all the economic world. Has anything surprised you most about the library world?
Adrienne Van Lare: I think I was very surprised about the breadth of services that, you know, involved in here.
Lauren Martino: And so are we everyday.
Julie Dina: That is MCPL.
Adrienne Van Lare: So true. Everyday still even though I’ve been here a little over a year, you know, every now and then I’ll learn about some new wonderful service that you offer here that is free. Yeah. It is –.
Julie Dina: And I’m sure in the business world, you weren’t used to free.
Adrienne Van Lare: Well, that is true. That is true. But it is just amazing all of the services that you provide. I think after I had been here a week or so, someone gave me a list of like two pages long sort of spelled out, you know, of all the, you know, all the benefits that you can get with a library card and I remember being floored. And I still am continue to be surprised by just how many services, you know, we offer for free.
Lauren Martino: I like to think about best kept secrets, anything that you offer, that you think is amazing that is not – the word hasn’t quite gotten out yet and you just want to make sure everybody knows about it.
Adrienne Van Lare: I think the fact that we offer programs and services for businesses, business owners and job seekers, entrepreneurs, there is a lot in the library that they can benefit from. And I once worked with a gentleman who was setting up for example a – the US branch of a German company and he had been in Montgomery County for about five months working out of the Rockville Library.
At the time, he connected with me he was looking for a commercial space. But he did everything including Skyping, you know, from a collaboration room with his German counterparts in Germany to using the computers as his office before he was ready to actually set up and take commercial space. And not only that, he said, “You know, my wife takes English classes at the library also and my child benefits from all of the great programs and services that you offer as well.”
Julie Dina: Talking about job seekers, now why do you think the library would be a good place to offer job seekers classes and workshops?
Adrienne Van Lare: Public libraries are an important and dynamic part of the community’s learning ecosystem. And I think that we have job seekers coming to us to use our computers to do online job applications. And so while they’re here, while they’re in the library system, they may as well take advantage of the workshops that we’re offering and the programs for job seekers. So I think people are turning to libraries more and more for help with the job searches and career assistance. So I think it makes a lot of sense for us to be offering these types of programs and services.
Julie Dina: It does. Especially when they remember it is free.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Adrienne Van Lare: Right, right.
Julie Dina: I meant you can’t forget that.
Lauren Martino: We see a lot of these customers in our branches day after day. I know you’re talking about people that basically run their business out of the library. Yeah, that is like Silver Spring all over the place. They’re spilling out, you know, any place they can find sometimes. I see people in the children section because every place is so full that, you know, there is so many people using the library sometimes you’ll see them like kind of sitting on the floor, on the little bench with their computer like a desk and they’re just, you know, I guess they just need the space.
Adrienne Van Lare: Right.
Lauren Martino: They just need the room. So I’m thinking of specific patrons I’ve had. What do you say to somebody who basically comes to you and they’re like, “I need a job? I need a job. I need any job. It doesn’t matter what job.”
Adrienne Van Lare: Okay. If I’m someone who is desperately looking for a job, any job, there are so many resources that we offer to help with that. In terms of programs, there are so many programs that we’re offering right now. We’re doing a career reentry seminar series at the Rockville Library. This is a seminar series for women who are reentering the workforce after being away for a while.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that is interesting.
Adrienne Van Lare: Yup. That is a – it is a great series. And so that is one of the great programs that we’re doing now. We’re doing a LinkedIn boot camp at the Davis Library on October 21st. We also on October 24th, this is a very popular program that we’ve been running, How to Apply for Jobs with Montgomery County. This is great because it is actually presented or done by Montgomery County HR specialists. So you can get these sort of insider tips on what to do and not to do if you want to get your application noticed.
Lauren Martino: That is nice. When is that again? Tell me.
Adrienne Van Lare: That is on October 24th at the Twinbrook Library.
Lauren Martino: Okay. So the next person who comes in and says, “Are you hiring at Silver Spring,” that is where I’m going to send them.
Julie Dina: Send them to Twinbrook.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. I’m sending them to Twinbrook October 24th.
Adrienne Van Lare: Yup. There are also a number of online courses that we offer. These are six-week courses that are instructor-led and there are online courses such as12 steps to a successful job search. And there is also a resume writing workshop that will walk you through the steps to a powerful resume. So those are some good programs that we offer.
In terms of resources, right from our website, there is a wealth of information on jobs and careers. There are links directly to local and national job listings. You can link to the Maryland Workforce Exchange which is a job board, an online job board with a lot of good opportunities listed. There is the Maryland State Jobs Board, USA Jobs of course which is the federal government job site. There are resume builders, online resume builders. So if you need help creating a resume or a cover letter, you can use these resume builders that you can access from our website to create a resume. Of course books, tons of job hunting books.
And then we also have Worksource Montgomery who is a great partner of ours. They are the Montgomery County workforce body and they run two American job centers, one in Germantown and the other in Wheaton.
Also if you’re job hunting, take advantage of the computers that are available for public use at all of the MCPL locations. And of course there is Wi-Fi access also at all of our locations. And a few locations are now offering laptops that can be borrowed in the branch. This is only at select locations so check the website. Those are just some resources.
Julie Dina: Some, that sounds like a lot.
Adrienne Van Lare: Just a few.
Julie Dina: Just to mention a few. Now tell me, how do you determine the location, time, type of services, programs or, you know, how do you decide which workshop to offer the community?
Adrienne Van Lare: One thing we try to do at MCPL is to tailor programs and services for, you know, the communities where we have 21 different branches in the communities and for each branch differ. So we try to work closely with the branch staff and usually they’ll let us know what programs would appeal to their community and their demographic and we work with information that we’re given from, you know, by the branch staff.
Lauren Martino: Can you tell us a little bit more about we have a recent program that just started up that – oh, actually, awards high school diplomas. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? I had a lot of people interested in the branch and I just really like to know some more –.
Adrienne Van Lare: Yeah. It is a great program. It is the Career Online High School Program that we launched last June. It is a combination career and certificate course so that students graduate not only with a high school diploma but also with a career certificate in one of eight different career areas. And they get to choose which career area.
Lauren Martino: Can you – like what are some examples of some of the career areas?
Adrienne Van Lare: Sure. So there is a retail and customer service option, homeland security which would be ideal for someone who is interested in pursuing a job as a baggage screener let’s say. There is a certified protection officer option, good for someone who wants to work in security. Child care and education is another one –
Lauren Martino: Oh, that is a good one.
Adrienne Van Lare: – that prepares folks for the child development associate certification. Food and customer service skills ideal for someone in the hospitality field. Office management, transportation services. And if none of these specific areas appeal to individuals, they can go with the general career preparation option.
So it is a wonderful program that is completely free. It is – there is no cost to the student. They don’t even have to pay for books, and they work at their own pace. So they can – if they have a full-time job, they can come home and, you know, if midnight is the only time that they have to, you know, devout to studies, well, that is – you know, that is fine with this type of program because they can log in from anywhere anytime to do their studies. And it is exciting. We’ve already had four students graduate in the program.
Lauren Martino: Really?
Adrienne Van Lare: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Adrienne Van Lare: Very exciting. Three of the four graduates have gone on or have reached out to Montgomery College to continue their education at Montgomery College.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Adrienne Van Lare: Yes. So that is great.
Lauren Martino: That is awesome.
Adrienne Van Lare: It is a great program.
Julie Dina: Just so you know, word got out that we would have you as a guest today and I actually got a question that someone would like me to ask you. If I’m a recent immigrant and can’t get work in my field of expertise, what advice do you have for me? You’re the only one who can answer this, Adrienne.
Adrienne Van Lare: Well, I don’t know that I’m in a position to give advice but we do work very closely with a wonderful organization called Upwardly Global. They help work authorized immigrants to find work in the fields that they we were working in before they came to the US, so. And they have a good track record. They actually have helped thousands of foreign trained professionals find work in their fields in the US.
Lauren Martino: So can you tell us a little bit about what is coming down the pipe? What are you excited about what else that we haven’t talked about in the future that you’re working on?
Adrienne Van Lare: In terms of sort of where we’re going in the future, we’re going to be rolling out a lot more of these programs and expanding them to a lot more branches. So we’re excited about that. We are working on a partnership now with Worksource Montgomery to do job clinics –
Lauren Martino: Really?
Adrienne Van Lare: – at some of the branch locations. Yes.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Adrienne Van Lare: So we’re excited about. At the Rockville Library, we have two workforce programs that I’d like to mention, Networking 101 for a Successful Job Search. That is on November 7th. And then on November 14th, Creating Your Own Personal Board of Directors. And that should be –.
Lauren Martino: What? How does that work?
Adrienne Van Lare: Yeah. That is a fun topic. So we’re no longer talking about, you know, having a mentor these days. Now we talk about having a whole network to help with your job search. So yeah.
Lauren Martino: So one is not enough. You need –.
Adrienne Van Lare: One is not enough. Exactly. Now, you need a network or your own personal board of directors. And so this workshop will tell us all how to go about recruiting people to join our network and help us as we look to change careers or find jobs, so.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Think about everything I’ve had to look for a job and it is always like, “Okay, I need this many references.” And preferably they’re not from my current job because I don’t necessarily want to let them know.
Adrienne Van Lare: You don’t want to let them to know. Right.
Lauren Martino: So I’ve got to, you know, reach way, way back and then it is always tough. I wonder if that – does your board of directors help with that do you think?
Adrienne Van Lare: Probably, probably. You know, you have a ready-made team or network that you can, you know, approach in situations like this.
Lauren Martino: Are you on anyone’s board of directors?
Adrienne Van Lare: I’m not.
Lauren Martino: No?
Adrienne Van Lare: I’m not.
Julie Dina: You mean you’re not yet.
Lauren Martino: You’re not yet.
Adrienne Van Lare: I’m not yet.
Lauren Martino: You can be a part of mine.
Julie Dina: I know.
Adrienne Van Lare: You know, I’ll have to go this workshop and figure out and learn all about that.
Lauren Martino: Let’s see. I’m thinking of patrons I’ve had in the past. I know there was one guy like long time ago, not in Montgomery County, but he came day after day and he brought his three-year-old and he let his three-year-old run rampant around the library while he look at Facebook and I hope he is not listening. But, you know, this went on. It went on and went on and went on for like six months. And then one day he stopped coming. And he came back like three months later and he is like, “Oh, yeah, I got a job.”
Adrienne Van Lare: Right.
Lauren Martino: It is amazing just the difference that – I mean, you know, we see them at certain point, you know, certain point in their life.
Adrienne Van Lare: Right.
Lauren Martino: But it is amazing the difference that you can be making to people with what you’re doing.
Adrienne Van Lare: Right, right. It is – you know, it improves their quality of life, their standard of living, and strengthens communities. So we want people to be employed.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Adrienne Van Lare: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Is there any like success stories you can think of that you’re particularly proud of?
Adrienne Van Lare: We get a lot of positive feedback from folks who attend our workshops. We have had someone who attended the How to Apply for Jobs with Montgomery County Government tell us that he had applied for several jobs and after the workshop, he said, “Now, I know why none of my applications were accepted.”
Lauren Martino: Really.
Adrienne Van Lare: “Thank you so much. I know the mistake that I’ve been making.” Exactly.
Julie Dina: Sounds great, Adrienne. All the information you’ve given us today, we really appreciate it. But –.
Lauren Martino: We have one more question.
Julie Dina: Yes. Before you leave, before we wrap this up, we want to know, could you tell us a book you’ve enjoyed recently?
Adrienne Van Lare: Sure. I can tell you about the two books that I’m reading presently. One is Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. And that is by Susan Cain. And it is an interesting book. She challenges the extrovert ideal in the context of business leadership in today’s workplace, and the bias that she feels western culture has toward extroverts and how we consider it a virtue to be gregarious and comfortable in the spotlight. So that is one of the books that I’m reading.
The other is Chimamanda Adichie’s book, Americanah. And that – I’m enjoying that also immensely. I enjoy books about people that are straddling two cultures because I’m always drawn to books where, you know, you have people having to adapt to different cultural environments.
Julie Dina: Well, we definitely want to thank you. You were such a – you were full of information. And as much as I work with you daily, you’ve even given me new information today and I’m sure our audience are grateful for it.
Lauren Martino: I’m happy to take a lot of these back to the branch.
Julie Dina: Oh, yeah, I can’t wait.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Adrienne Van Lare: Yeah. Well, great. That is good to know that there is – I’ve given you – I’ve armed with you new information so.
Lauren Martino: And now, a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Febe Huezo: Hey, did you know a library card is a must have in your wallet? With the library card, you can download books, learn a new language and my favorite, download music. Visit a nearby branch and get your library card today so the next time someone ask you what is in your wallet, you can show them your MCPL card.
Lauren Martino: Now, back to your program.
Julie Dina: Thank you so much Adrienne for joining us today. Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on iTunes. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you again next time.