Message from Montie

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Chicago Public Library offers computer courses, improve unemployment and computer illiteracy

Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at


Message from Montie's home office

I'm starting to see the differences in the way Chicago Public Libraries are going to operate in 2010. By now you probably know the library hours will be cut short in January 2010. Within the past couple months, Rogers Park library now puts books on shelves that are being held for library patrons instead of waiting in lines to decrease checkout times.


We already have the perks of reserving our own library books online instead of being on hold for a ridiculously long time. For those who want to reserve Internet computers, you can put in your own library card, check for availability and disappear until your reservation time. But oftentimes, while picking up books, I see those who are not computer savvy struggling to use computers and overworked librarians who don't have time to walk each person through the steps of reserving books and Internet time.


This is yet another advantage of the library--computer courses. The unemployment rate in November 2009 was down 10 percent with 15.4 million unemployed people in the U.S. And while manufacturing employment is down by 41,000 and construction by 27,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in professional and business services through temporary help agencies has increased by 86,000.


During my college years and after graduation, I've worked with three different temp companies, and every last one of them wanted to test me on my computer skills--Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, typing and editing. As a Web Editor, then the requirements became more sophisticated with HTML editing and coding, Web 2.0, e-blast creations and content management systems.


I remember working for a claims company during grad school, and a new hire was dismissed the very first day because he didn't know how to use a computer. He'd had decades of experience in claims, but he couldn't check his email. My first reaction was, "Wow, how in the world did he manage to not learn how to learn the computer basics?" However, after I met this guy, I met more and more people who simply do not know how to use computers and it's unfortunate.


If you know someone who isn't computer savvy, please urge them to check out the free computer courses at Harold Washington Library or Roosevelt library. For more information, click here.


And for those of you who already know the basics of computers, why not help out? There are companies that are charging people hundreds of dollars per course when they could be learning the same things for free at the library? Without being computer savvy, how could a temp company help someone find a job and why would a company want to hire someone who's computer illiterate? Why not help someone change that glitch in their resume? Volunteer to work with a company that needs people who understand the Internet, web design or social networking sites. Help a student with internship credit by teaching them computer techniques. Apply to be a computer tutor, and make some extra cash.


If you're unemployed and own a computer, use your downtime to learn more computer courses at home. Or, contact the library and volunteer to help with a computer course. May as well do something constructive with your computer literacy skills.



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