July 26, 2019
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Steal this Idea: At this public library, card holders can borrow business attire

This branch of the New York public library is helping residents ace job interviews, one necktie at a time.

New York Public Library card holders can check out neckties and other accessories that will help them feel confident on a job interview. Photo by Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images

Editor’s note: The Renewal Project knows that good ideas start at the local level. From time to time, we will share some of our favorite ideas from across the country that you can explore in your own communities. Have an idea you want us to share? Let us know at info@therenewalproject.com.


Books aren’t the only reason to head to your public library. Now you can use your library card to check out business attire. Several public libraries are helping teens dress for success by allowing them to check out business accessories the same way they’d check out library books.

The idea began when Melissa Lee, a New York Public Library employee, saw a need for this type of program when she taught a workshop to young adults looking for jobs and internships. She realized that many of the teens in the workshop didn’t know they should wear professional attire and some of them also lacked access to those kinds of clothes and accessories. Thus NYPL Grow Up was born.

Lee’s program allows library cardholders, who owe less than $15 in fines, to check out neckties, handbags, and briefcases at the Riverside Library branch in Manhattan. The program has a one-time, three-week rental period. Lee also hosts “adulting” classes that includes lessons on budgeting, job hunting and other workplace skills.

The library also hosts “adulting” classes that includes lessons on budgeting, job hunting and other workplace skills.

Lee said it’s been rewarding to help teens access work clothes that make them feel confident during their job search. “It’s been extremely heartening to be able to offer this service to adults and teens, and help them feel more confident and in control of their job hunt,” she told NationSwell

Other libraries have followed Lee’s idea and launched similar programs, including the Queens Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia. It’s a great way to make sure that teens and adults not only feel well-prepared for job interview questions, but also look the part.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.