Ibrahim Tamba, 45, of Southeast Portland hurriedly scrolls through job listings on a career-search Web site at the Midland branch.
Like many library computer users, he’s looking for work. It’s been three weeks since he lost his job driving a truck, and the library offers his only connection to the Internet.
"Most jobs won’t let you call," Tamba says. "They want you to go online."But he’s got to be fast. Because of demand, the library allows users only one hour a day systemwide. After waiting sometimes two hours just to get online, Tamba says he must then try to search job sites, fill out applications and check e-mail in case an employer contacts him. All within 60 minutes. If he needs to update his unemployment paperwork, that means he won’t have time to apply for jobs that day.
Sometime, his time runs out midway through an application and the computer bumps him off. “The applications ask lots of questions,” Tamba says. “It’s not enough time, and I have to start all over the next day.”
The disadvantages are stark, Gibbon says.
"I have a computer at home and at work — we just take Internet access for granted," she says. "This has been a revelation for me personally to see how disenfranchised people are in this society if they don’t have one."
Internet access has long passed the stage of luxury. Many jobs will only accept inquiries online. As the government seeks to cut costs, it’s moving more of its forms, services and information to the Web.