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Department of Labor Provides Guidance to Workforce Agencies

Image Caption: 
Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates and IMLS Acting Director Marsha L. Semmel. Click image for a larger view.
June 30, 2010


IMLS Press Contacts
Natasha Marstiller,
Mamie Bittner,

Department of Labor Press Contact
Lina Garcia,

Washington, DC—On June 29, 2010, the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA) officially encouraged its state and local workforce investment boards, state workforce agencies, and One-Stop Career Centers to partner with public libraries to extend their career and employment services to job seekers and unemployed workers. The ETA’s Training and Employment Notice (TEN) cements a partnership between the ETA and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) that was announced on June 25, 2010, at the American Library Association annual meeting.

"Thirty million people used library computers in 2009 to meet their workforce needs. Libraries offer Internet access, welcoming spaces, convenient hours and locations, and, most importantly, librarians to serve as information navigators," said IMLS Acting Director Marsha L. Semmel. "The public workforce system offers a strong network of dedicated professionals with the resources and expertise to help job seekers. Our partnership at the federal level is an important catalyst to partnerships at the state and local level." Read Marsha L. Semmel's full remarks.

ETA Assistant Secretary Jane Oates said, "Permanent partnerships between public libraries and One-Stops are a long overdue effort at the federal level, although we are delighted that this is something that has been taking place informally across the country. These partnerships have been extremely useful and we hope they continue to strengthen and grow."  

The TEN provides examples of partnership activities including co-locating One-Stop Career Centers and libraries; collaborating to train library staff about in-person and virtual employment and training resources available through the public workforce system; and training public workforce system staff about the value of partnering with libraries.

While the IMLS-ETA partnership encourages library/One-Stop Center collaborations in states that haven’t yet made these connections, it seeks to strengthen alliances that already exist. Linda Strong, JobLink Unit manager with the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Workforce Development, and Mary Boone, the State Librarian of North Carolina, have worked closely to address employment issues. For example, they held nine, one-day workshops to connect public library staffs and people from the local job link centers to explore how they could work together to help people find jobs.

"People may not have heard about One-Stops, which breaks my heart, but they do know about libraries," Strong said. "Some of the benefits that One-Stops derive from this partnership include longer library hours that allow access beyond One-Stop office hours, better and more technological access, and the fact that parents can work on their job search while children are engaging in productive activities. We consider libraries to be extensions of One-Stops in North Carolina."

Sari Feldman, president of the Public Library Association, a division of ALA, and executive director of Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio, also has ample experience in partnering with a workforce agency. Since 2007, her library has offered Cuyahoga Works, a Web site with direct access to resources and assistance available to job seekers within Cuyahoga County that was developed in partnership with local Employment Connection Centers run by the City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board.

"This year, we’ve seen extraordinary growth in our career center counseling, programs, and job club offerings. As one customer put it, ‘The library was always my trusted friend and was there for me when I lost my job,’" Feldman said.

An estimated 3.7 million Americans have found work with support from their public libraries, said Semmel, citing a March 2010 study conducted by the University of Washington and sponsored by IMLS and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report also found that:

  • More than 77 million people over the age of 14 used a library computer last year.
  • 30 million people used library computers to help address career and employment needs in the last 12 months.
  • Among these users, 76 percent reported they searched for jobs online.
  • Among job seekers, 68 percent went on to apply for a job or submit a resume.
  • 23 percent used library computers to receive job-related training.

Other IMLS/ETA activities include sharing of career and training information and tools of the two systems and dissemination of information about workforce-library partnerships via webinars. ETA will host a webinar on July 19 to talk about the IMLS-ETA partnership at Workforce3One. On August 11 at 2 p.m., ETA staff will also participate in a webinar hosted by Project Compass, an initiative made possible by and IMLS grant to WebJunction. The webinar will provide an overview of the public workforce system and present the electronic tools most helpful to library staff that assist unemployed workers. For more information, please go to Helping Job Seekers: Using Electronic Tools and Federal Resources. For more about the IMLS grant, click here. Visit the Public Libraries and the Workforce page on the IMLS Web site for additional resources.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration
The Employment and Training Administration funds and supports a network of nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers that address the employment needs of job seekers and businesses in every community across America.  One-Stop Career Centers draw from a vast array of community resources to make a multitude of services available to address employment challenges including job search and placement assistance; skills assessments; career assistance and counseling; free training services for eligible individuals; English as a second language; and assistance with Pell grants and student loans. To learn more, please visit