As part of their Building Libraries Together initiative the Internet Archive is testing a new socially-responsible jobs model with Bay Area Rescue Mission (BARM) of Richmond, California.
The Internet Archive has been digitizing books for nearly 10 years, but needed help reaching a goal of 10 million eBooks. “We had so much high value content that needed to be digitized, but not enough staff to do the work”, explains Robert Miller, Director of Digital Books and Media. “We wondered how we could make our problem someone else’s solution.” BARM offers a ‘Healthy Living’ addiction recovery program, where over 350 men and women work in a residential setting designed to move them towards self-sufficiency and independent living. The challenge for the staff at BARM is that most of their graduating clients lacked the job skills and professional résumé required for securing a job. Internet Archive can offer job skills and a work history. A conversation between Miller and Tim Hammock, Vice-President of the Bay Area Rescue Mission ensued and the Work Transition Program was born.
Candidates for the Internet Archive Work Transition Program are men and women from BARM who have completed a 12-month sober living, drug counseling or domestic abuse crisis program and are ready to re-enter the job market. This group often lacks relevant job skills, recent work experience, interpersonal and work relationship skills, self-confidence and, a résumé that a national or local employer would find compelling enough to grant an interview. The curriculum for the Internet Archive Work Transition Program lasts 9 months and focuses on ‘Learning-to-Work’. This three-phase program was based on lessons learned from the 600+ staff that the Archive has hired over the past 8 years. From these lessons, a program of progressive responsibility, constant feedback and a merit badging system was built to meet this challenge. Miller notes that this is not a make-work program. The work is substantive and needs to be completed to help get content online to share with the global community. “The Internet Archive Texts collections have over 20 million downloads each month and the material digitized by the team maintains our high standard of quality.”
To ‘grease the skids’ for the Work Transition Program graduates, Hammack and Miller contacted local companies, explaining that the program was not a handout and they weren’t looking for charity. They simply asked for a commitment from employers to grant the graduate an interview. Upon reviewing the program goals and expectations, local businesses including UPS, San Francisco Public library, Costco and others signed on. The first class graduates in February 2015, but already two of the candidates have secured part-time employment.
Hammack is thrilled with the program, adding that “We take people on the worst day of their lives and help them achieve dignity, learn healthy living habits, while getting clean and sober. The Work Transition Program continues this path to recovery by helping them earn a job; a huge accomplishment!”
Special thanks to the teams at Internet Archive: Jesse Bell Digitization Coordinator, and Antoine McGrath, Work Transition Supervisor, and at Bay Area Rescue Mission, headed by Tim Hammack ,Vice- President of Operations. For more information about the program, contact Robert Miller.