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Philadelphia Library Lets Job Seekers Borrow Ties for Their Interview

Just as a library responds to the reading needs of a community, a ‘tiebrary’ caters to people who are in dire need of a tie but can’t afford to buy one. Housed by the Paschalville Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the tiebrary stocks 48 pieces of neckwear in various colors and patterns, ranging from traditional ties to bright and trendy cravats. Anyone with a library card is welcome to checkout a tie for up to three weeks at a time.

The tie-lending initiative was started mainly to help out the vast population of unemployed men, particularly in southwest Philadelphia, where the Paschalville Branch is located. The neighborhood is marked by its high rates of poverty and unemployment, and is home to several immigrants and former inmates in dire need of a job. So this local library is trying to do its bit to help the community.

“It’s an illustration of libraries really responding to the needs of their communities,” said Nate Eddy, librarian and strategy coordinator for the Free Library of Philadelphia. “People still associate libraries with quiet places to check out a book, but we’re so much more than that.”

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Photo: Free Library of Philadelphia/Facebook

Speaking on the dire need for such a service in south Philly, branch manager Jennifer Walker added: ““The unemployment rate is 18.5 percent. As for education attainment, 25 percent of the working-age population has less than a high school diploma, and another 39 percent has not progressed past a high school diploma. The poverty level is 34 percent.”

The idea for the tiebrary came about when Eddy happened to visit the Queens Public Library in New York City last year, and came across a similar initiative there. “I reached out to Queens to see if they wouldn’t mind us replicating the idea,” he said. “They said, ‘Go for it.’” So Eddy and his team purchased around 12 ties and sent them to the Paschalville branch for people to borrow.

It started off as a simple idea, but it was library assistant Omelio Alexander who turned it into an ambitious project complete with a display case for the ties and a systematic checkout process. He started by gathering unused clear VHS cases and converting them into display boxes for the ties. He also set up a system where members are allowed to checkout ties for three weeks at a time, to use them for multiple interviews. “Sometimes you have part of the interview outfit but not the whole outfit, and this is an easy way to doctor up whatever you have and make it more professional,” Alexander explained.

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Photo: Free Library of Philadelphia/Facebook

The Tiebrary was a success and it caught the attention of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kennedy, who paid the branch a visit and even tweeted a photo in late March. Since then, the Tiebrary has been receiving generous donations, like 36 ties from Menzfit, a local nonprofit that hands out suits for low-income men to wear to interviews. But the idea is still pretty new, so there have only been a handful of borrowers at the Tiebrary so far. “We are still trying to figure out the best way to promote it and trying to get people to understand [the ties’] value,” Alexander said.

“The ties are so pretty, maybe people don’t know that they can borrow them,” Walker added. “And it’s a new idea. People are used to seeing books and movies on display. They’re not accustomed to seeing other things they can borrow.”

Last year, we wrote about a similar initiative called ‘Sharp Dressed Man’, based in Baltimore, that hooks men up with gently worn suits for job interviews. Run by a local high-end suit making business, the charity has so far been able to help several men who were either homeless or just out of prison. Some of their ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures prove that a simple suit can really make a remarkable difference.

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Photo: Sharp Dressed Man

via Take Part