This Library Lets People Borrow Ties, Briefcases, And Handbags For Job Interviews

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It’s a common piece of advice given to job seekers, but what if you don’t have the money to dress up?

A New York public library now offers patrons the option to check out formal clothes for job interviews. The library’s collection includes neckties, bow ties, briefcases, and purses, which adults and teens can check out for a three-week lending period. As long as borrowers have less than $15 in library fines, they’re free to borrow any of the items.

People searching for jobs have long turned to libraries for help, often using the library’s computers.

“A lot of them will ask for envelopes or folders to carry into the interview,” librarian Michelle Lee said. “We didn’t really have them. But now we have something nicer they can check out.”

The collection isn’t just for job seekers, either. It’s also available for anyone who needs to dress up for a formal event, like prom, graduation, or an audition.

This initiative shows just how important libraries are for our communities.

Librarian Michelle Lee founded the “NYPL Grow Up Work Fashion Library,” the Washington Post reports. She came up with the idea back in 2016, when she was teaching a class for high schoolers about employment and résumé writing.

Michelle told the high schoolers to make sure to dress appropriately for interviews.

But the students told her they didn’t have professional clothes at home.

“It got me thinking if the library could help,” Michelle said.

That’s when she had her light bulb moment.

Michelle drafted a proposal for the Riverside branch of the NYPL to start loaning out ties, briefcases, and purses to people who need them.

Her proposal was a success, and Michelle was given funding to buy 12 items from Amazon. An employee at Bloomingdale’s donated a few more items.

Now patrons can check out any of the items for three weeks. Both adults and teens can borrow from the collection, as long as they don’t have more than $15 in fines.

Patrons can use the items for other formal events, too.

“They can use it for a school performance, or prom if they want a tie,” Michelle told the Washington Post.

“It doesn’t matter what size you are; anybody could use them.”

Having professional apparel is a huge boost, Kimberly Spring, network manager of the Riverside-area branches, told NPR.

“You know, you look good, you feel good,” Kimberly said. “You feel more confident, you know, when you’re going out.”

Almost 10 patrons have used the collection so far, including Nongyao Imcharoen, a 50-year-old Thailand native who’s looking for a job in New York. Nongyao’s sister, Panarat, checked out a purse from the library and gave it to her. It was large enough to carry résumés, comfy shoes, and other necessities during her job search.

“You can put a lot of stuff in there,” Panarat told the Washington Post.

“She was using a not professional purse. This one looks nice.”

News of the library’s new collection has spread on social media, where people are responding really positively.

Many folks are pointing out how underappreciated libraries often are.

And people think this idea should spread to other library branches.

Also, the idea is inspiring folks to donate other items to the library’s collection. People would love to see it expanded to other types of apparel, like clothing and shoes.

If you’re interested in donating to the NYPL collection, check out the library’s website for more info.