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Role of Libraries and Workforce Development Highlighted in Washington D.C. Briefing

September 20, 2012 ET
Left to right: Linda Carlisle, Kevin Perez , Amanda Ahlstrand, Mary Ellen Firestone, Susan Hildreth, and Jane Brady

Left to right: Linda Carlisle, Kevin Perez , Amanda Ahlstrand, Mary Ellen Firestone, Susan Hildreth, and Jane Brady. Click image for a larger view.

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Last week we had a great opportunity to brief Washington policymakers about our partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA). We had a terrific panel of state and local library and workforce officials who had powerful stories to tell about how they meet the needs of job seekers (including the unemployed and individuals who want better jobs) by working together.

Amanda Ahlstrand, the acting administrator of ETA’s Office of Workforce Investment, underscored that DOL is a strong and committed partner. She said that with 12.7 million people out of work, DOL is seeking every opportunity to deliver their services and the library partnership just makes sense. She described the great resources that the workforce system has developed to help people identify and build their skills and to find work.

Secretary Linda Carlisle of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources talked about how the light went on for her when the workforce services agency in a rural county did not have enough workstations to meet public demand and started to send people to the library. Secretary Carlisle spearheaded a program to train library staff to help job seekers, which became a model for the nation. The State Library of North Carolina and Web Junction used an IMLS grant to train 2,000 library staff nationwide in hard hit areas of the country.

Mary Ellen Firestone, director of Library Services at the East Brunswick Public Library and Jane Brady, director of the Middlesex County Office of Workforce Development and Workforce Investment Board, are a dynamic duo in New Jersey. Their partnership is strong and long-lived, and with the depth of services they provide, they exemplify local collaboration at its best. The library’s Business Resource Center supports the growth of Middlesex County businesses and entrepreneurs by identifying opportunities, delivering services and providing market research so that established businesses can grow and new businesses can flourish.

Kevin Perez, who manages the federally funded Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) for the Mid-York Library System in Utica, NY, talked about talked about how libraries in New York are redefining their service models with 96% providing workforce development programs. The BTOP grant, from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, helped establish new ways of working that Mid-York hopes to sustain once the funding ends. He noted that libraries and American Jobs Centers (career one stops) share important values and can team up effectively to reach diverse populations in many geographical locations.

In each presentation it was clear that we need digital literacy skills, not just to succeed in the work place, but to succeed in the job search as well.

If you would like information about how to make a public library workforce development partnership successful in your area, please contact us.

Resources:

Analysis of Public Library and One Stop Locations

Project Compass Lights a Path to Workforce Recovery

Top Ten Tips for Library and America's Job Center Partnerships

IMLS and the U.S. Department of Labor, ETA Partnership
IMLS investments in workforce development