Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Public Libraries and Workforce Development

Guest post by Shawn Brommer Youth Services & Outreach Coordinator, with assistance from Mark Jochem, SCLS Consultant Services Intern

The South Central Library System recently held three planning meetings to connect public library staff and staff from community agencies that provide direct services to job seekers. Hosted by the Sun Prairie, Monroe, and McMillan Memorial Public Libraries, these planning sessions provided opportunities for public library and workforce development staff to meet each other, learn about organizational services to job seekers, and identify ways to deepen partnerships and work together to reach shared goals.

Project background:

In the Spring of 2016 The U.S. Employment and Training Administration sent a memorandum to state and local workforce development boards, workforce agencies, and American Job Centers asking them to collaborate with public libraries to complement and extend the career and employment services available to job seekers and unemployed workers. While direct federal funding is not available for public libraries, the Department of Workforce Development and its Workforce Development Boards are encouraged to collaborate with public libraries in the regions they serve. Collaboration examples include:
  • Including public libraries as stops on routes of mobile American Job Centers.
  • Using space available at public libraries to provide career assistance and employment services to library patrons, host job fairs, familiarize patrons with career resources that are available electronically or in-person at American Job Centers.
  • Informing and training public library and Department of Workforce Development staff members about the resources, services, and programs of each organization.

We saw this as an opportunity to help libraries in the South Central Library System connect with regional Workforce Development Boards and last fall we created a survey in which library staff identified: 1) their questions about serving job seekers, and, 2) questions about services provided by workforce development agencies. The survey input provided discussion outlines for the planning sessions, which were held in March and April 2017.

What we’re learning:

Public library staff, workforce development staff, and community agency partners gathered together in March and April and our discussions were lively, engaging, and productive. Staff from all agencies determined shared goals and began to identify ways to work together to meet the needs of job seekers in their communities. Examples include:

  • Sharing resource recommendations for technology training, job announcements, resume and cover letter templates, and regional workforce assistance programs.
  • Sharing information about organizational services and programs.
  • Sharing information about regional job fairs.
  • Sharing information about transportation services.
  • Sharing information about resources that help job seekers strengthen their interpersonal skills and learn ways to engage with employers and stay employed.

We recognized that job seekers often require additional help and that social service agencies that support children, families, transportation needs, and healthy lifestyles are crucial partners in serving community members who are un- and underemployed. Based on our discussions, we determined that job seekers deserve dignified point-of-need service and connections to local and trusted agencies and programs.

Next steps:

The face-to-face time is invaluable and we will continue to host planning sessions for public libraries and community agency partners. At the system-level, we are creating regional resource guides that connect job seekers and library staff with trusted resources (see the Green County guide). At SCLS we are reaching out to agency staff who will give brief presentations about their organizations and the services they provide and we are looking at ways to publicize existing library resources, such as Learning Express (provided by BadgerLink), print collections, and library technology classes to community agency staff. In order to move forward, public libraries and systems need to continually connect with social service agencies and meaningfully engage with communities to discern a holistic view of community life and to learn about the daily barriers faced by many community members.

The planning sessions were supported in part by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, awarded to the DPI by Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Written by:
Shawn Brommer Youth Services & Outreach Coordinator
Mark Jochem, SCLS Consultant Services Intern