You Can Take Out More Than Just Books at This Library

The Riverside branch of the New York City Public Library system now lends ties, purses, and other essential job interview supplies.

Oct 17, 2019

 (Lonely Walker /

While most libraries have added movies, computers and even toys. A library in New York City has taken it one step further and made room for a few new accessories at its Riverside branch; job interview accessories, that is.

Michelle Lee,  a young adult librarian, came up with the idea to offer library goers interview accessories such as ties, purses, and briefcases for those who can’t afford to purchase them according to The Washington Post

The idea came to her in 2016 when she gave a talk to high school students about resumes and job seeking. After explaining to the teens that they would be expected to come in business attire and that backpacks were off-limits, several participants said that they didn’t have nice things to use.

She quickly put one and one together and realized that the Riverside library branch – which is filled with about 200 students every day – could be part of the solution by lending out the much-needed interview supplies.

Lee explained that libraries are places where young people gather after school to do homework or hang out. “There’s not a lot of places in the city where kids can gather in a free spot indoors and just be,” Lee told The Washington Post.

Many of the students also use the computers to write their resumes and search for jobs, so it would be a convenient place to offer that type of service.

With the idea at hand, Lee submitted a proposal to Innovation Project, an initiative that enables library staff to pitch solutions – that cost $3,000 or less – to problems that they encounter at the library. Her submission won; and she used the funding from the Charles H. Revson Foundation (they fund the project) to purchase 12 handbags and briefcases. Ties and pocket squares were donated, in part by an employee at Bloomingdale’s.

The first accessories were put out at the library in August 2018. People can borrow them for up to three weeks at a time for job interviews, proms, or any other event that requires dressing up as long as he or she has less than $15 in library fines. The library refers people who need business attire to organizations that lend clothing.

Lee advertises the service at local high schools and colleges, but word of mouth goes along way.

Many people have used the service including Panarat Imcharoen, a Thailand-native who took out a Kenneth Cole purse for her sister who was searching for a job. She said that her 50-year old sister was having trouble carrying interview necessities, including resumes, formal shoes, a wallet, because she couldn’t afford a bag large enough to carry them in 

“I was surprised, I didn’t know before you can borrow men’s and women’s bags,” Imcharoen said. “That’s a good idea if someone needs it.”

Hopefully, many other libraries will open their doors to this incredible service, helping young and old job seekers receive interview essentials.

Dallas Library Project Offers Free Prom Dresses to Teens
The Human Library Where You Borrow People Instead of Books
At The Library Of Things, You Can Borrow Almost Anything

Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.