Bulgaria’s 2008 UN Millennium Development Goals report found there were ‘significant numbers’ of discouraged people who believed it was impossible to get hired.
‘Lyuben Karavelov’ Regional Library in Bulgaria motivates long-term unemployed people to seek work
The 2008 global economic crisis led to long queues at government employment agencies everywhere. By 2012, the Labour Office Directorate in Ruse, Bulgaria’s fifth largest city (population 149,000) estimate that unemployment had risen to 10% and that of this number a third were aged over 40.
Between 2009 and 2011, librarians at ‘Lyuben Karavelov’ Regional Library, which serves Ruse, recorded a 70% increase in the number of people using the library’s computers - most of them, to write CVs or look for jobs. Librarians also received many requests from older people for help.
To deepen their understanding of library user’s needs, the librarians conducted a survey. One finding was that most unemployed people aged between 40 and 60 believed they were unemployed because they did not have computer skills and could not afford training.
The librarians put this information to good use. In consultation with the Ruse Labour Office directorate and other employment experts, they began to develop a service targeting long-term unemployed job-seekers aged over 40 - an at-risk group who often suffer feelings of failure, shame and despair.
Anatolij Parishkov was the manager of a small family company selling office materials - until 2010, when the economic crisis drove him out of business.
“In the playground one day while I was looking after my son, who is seven years old, I heard two women saying that they were trained in basic computer skills in the library. That same evening, I told my wife about the conversation, and together we filled an application form so that I could enrol.
“I am a 50 year old man, and to be honest, I was ashamed of sitting behind the desk and learning again. I thought it was going to be boring, but it was not - and I found I had no fear of asking questions. I created my first e-mail and computer file.
“After the course, I opened my office again, and whenever I needed help, I knew I could always ask the library,” he said.
The firm where Albena Klisurska worked as an accountant for 30 years went bankrupt. Suddenly, Albena was jobless. After over a year’s job hunting, she could not even afford a newspaper to look for a job. Then, one day, in a borrowed newspaper, she saw the library’s announcement. She immediately enrolled for training.
“Our teacher (Snejana Todorova) advised us to come in the library early in the morning before the beginning of the classes and to apply for jobs. I was always first, sometimes switching all the computers on, and so I was the first to read the free job adverts online.
“I applied for several jobs - and eventually, I chose one with a printing company. I have already been working with them for two years!
“For some people, the things that I managed to do may not be something incredible. But for me, it was very important to believe in myself and my abilities again,” she said.
Since the library’s training, things have changed for me. I do not know whether the library, or the people I met there, or I am the reason for this, but I no longer feel alone in my work. I had no idea that a library could be such a lively place with such great activities!
In just one year, Public Library ‘Lyuben Karavelov’ helped 44 long-term unemployed people aged over 40 to find work