For Employment Training and Assistance, Look to Your Local Library
By Susan H. Hildreth, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Every day, in communities across the county, libraries are helping people with the skills training, career information, and job searching they need to get working. Ninety-six percent of libraries offer online job and employment resources, and 78 percent offer programs to help people apply for jobs. Libraries receive federal funding and grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help their customers—including people with disabilities—find and keep a job.
Libraries offer Internet access, welcoming spaces, convenient hours and locations, and most importantly librarians, to serve as information navigators to help job seekers. Some public libraries have "One-Stop Career Centers" that bring together a wide variety of community resources and provide many employment services. Libraries also provide learning opportunities for adults who are no longer in school, including adults who face economic challenges or have disabilities. Services may include reading and literacy classes, computer labs, and self-paced tutorials.
Many people have used their local library to help them find information about the Social Security Ticket to Work program, which provides employment support services to persons, age 18 through 64, who receive Social Security disability benefits.
Across the country, you can find federal dollars supporting these services at libraries. The Providence (Rhode Island) Public Library, for instance, used an IMLS grant to set up model programs at two of the state’s leading public libraries to increase access to digital literacy skills training, adult education, and workforce services for individuals with low English literacy, disabilities, or low digital literacy. The programs helped libraries work with statewide partners to integrate library, adult education, and workforce services for underserved populations.
Other groups are experimenting with new technologies to help people with disabilities join the workforce. A librarian at Oakstone Academy in Westerville, Ohio, for example, used funding from IMLS and the State Library of Ohio for a project to help young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use iPads to better communicate with others while at work. People with ASD can sometimes have difficulty reading and comprehending text.
Ten students, aged 16 through 22, used the devices to communicate with employers, fellow employees and community members. Nine of ten reported being understood every time by the person in the community, and the tenth reported being understood 50 percent of the time.
At IMLS, we are proud of the many ways libraries provide employment assistance to special populations. We have interagency partnerships with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor to promote the libraries’ employment and workforce assistance. A new law passed by Congress, the Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act, recognizes libraries’ work in this area. As you explore your work options, we encourage you to check out the resources at your local public library.
Photo 1 Caption: A customer works with a Cuyahoga County Public Library “Cuyahoga Works” Career Counselor on polishing his resume. Credit: Roger Mastroianni
Photo 2 Caption: Providence Public Library computer lab promotes the use of Microsoft’s Ease of Access tools. The ALL Access Exploration Station will be debuting in November 2014. See www.allaccessri.org for more information. Credit: Providence Public Library