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Library director shares frustrations with city council

Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 11:45 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 11:46 a.m. CST

Newton Public Library Director Sue Padilla addressed the Newton City Council Monday night about the inoperability of software provided by Iowa Works.

The software, which was updated in June, aided job seekers that visited the library by offering step by step assistance, live chat and a direct telephone number for immediate assistance. After the update, several of the features stopped working. Padilla said that as of that night, the software was being uninstalled.

“We contacted Iowa Works to report the problems, but no one from Iowa Works responded or came to resolve them,” Padilla said.

According to Padilla, the live chat feature stopped working, and the volunteer who assisted unemployed workers at the library found the Iowa Works website more helpful than the software installed on the computers. When Padilla reached out to other libraries, she discovered that many others had the same problem.

“We were explicitly told by the [Iowa Works] person who came, that we were not to feel like we have to help job-seekers and to encourage them to travel 40 or more miles to the nearest office for assistance,” one unidentified employee at another library said. “When we mentioned this to one person, they said, ‘I did go there, and they didn’t help me.’ They pointed at their computers and that’s all the help they would give. It’s a sad state of affairs all around.”

“I haven’t quite reached the point of pitching the whole works out, but I’m close,” said another employee at a different library.

Additionally, Padilla recommended to the public library board that Newton’s Public Library no longer be an Iowa Works Access Point. The board agreed, even though the program has attracted 15-20 people per month over the last two years, they believed that in it’s current iteration, it wasn’t working.

No funding was ever given to the Newton Public Library for this program, but Padilla said she still feels the library has a duty to help unemployed workers who are seeking assistance with finding a job. Public Services Librarian Nicole Lindstrom will continue to offer classes on the basics of computer use and how to write a résumé and cover letter.

The council also approved a second reading of a new stop sign ordinance that would put stop signs at the intersection of West Third Street North and North Second Avenue West. There currently aren’t any stops signs for northbound and southbound traffic. These stop signs would make the intersection a four-way stop.

Councilor Jeff Price raised concerns that the stop signs wouldn’t be enough to deter accidents at the intersection. The rest of the council agreed, but approved the second reading of the ordinance and plan to explore the option of removing parking spaces near the intersection to increase the field of vision.

Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at dhon@newtondailynews.com.