Recently, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) sponsored a Congressional briefing titled “How Libraries Support Workforce Development.” The briefing featured several speakers from a variety of libraries and agencies that have seen firsthand the important role libraries have been playing in helping patrons find work and offering training to small businesses.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) was in attendance and remarked on the many needs libraries serve in communities across the country including workforce development. Rep. Holt re-iterated his hope that the principles laid out in the Workforce Investment through Libraries (WILL) Act, which he sponsored, will be included in the authorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) when it is brought to the House floor.
MaryEllen Firestone, Director of Library Services at the East Brunswick Public Library in New Jersey spoke about the success they’ve had by opening a business resource center. After offering classes like “Facebook Marketing for Your Business,” the library saw an explosion of interest. One woman who had been laid off after more than 30 years on the job and had never operated a computer used the business resource center to take classes in basic computer skills. After learning skills like operating word processors and navigating the internet she was able to obtain a new job, putting her training to use.
Kevin Perez, Project Manager for the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, provided data on workforce development supported by libraries in New York state and nationally. He stated 96 percent of New York libraries offer workforce development services and 92 percent offer job databases and other online resources. Mr. Perez emphasized that libraries offer unintimidating access and carry few social stigmas. And with more public libraries than McDonald’s restaurants nationally, libraries are a key access point in so many communities.
Jane Brady, Director of the Middlesex County Office of Workforce Development in Middlesex, NJ and Linda Carlisle, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources both spoke to the importance of government offices partnering with libraries on job-searching and training programs.