Libraries: A Key Resource for Job Seekers in North Carolina

Secretary Linda Carlisle today spoke at a Congressional briefing for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) on how libraries support the workforce. State Librarian Cal Shepard was also in attendance. Carlisle was introduced by Sen. Kay Hagan.

Here are few excerpts from Carlisle's remarks:

In January of 2009, I was appointed Secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources by Gov. Bev Perdue.  Her number one priority, given the state of the economy, was of course, jobs.  She encouraged all of her Cabinet to “think jobs” and to look for meaningful ways to collaborate.

 

Secretary Linda Carlisle with Senator Kay Hagan at today’s IMLS Congressional briefing.

In one of my first meetings with our State Librarian of North Carolina, I heard reports of increased demand from job seekers at public libraries across our state.  One of the best examples is rural Duplin County in eastern North Carolina.

 

The local employment security commission in Duplin County did not have enough workstations to accommodate the demand so they turned to the public libraries and encouraged people to use their resources. As a result, patron computer use increased dramatically from October 2008 to February 2009 compared to the previous year, with an average increase across the five system libraries of 117.4%. The main branch in Kenansville saw a 409% increase in computer usage over that same time period.

 

Those numbers, and others like them around the state and indeed around the nation, spurred us to ask ourselves how our libraries could be part of the solution, helping our citizens at a significant time of need, as a workforce development tool.  This included helping folks create resumes, giving assistance in navigating job searches online, even showing people, many of whom had never used a computer, how to fill out an online application.

 

Cultural Resources and the State Library of North Carolina worked with our state’s Employment Security Commission, and the N.C. Department of Commerce – all three agencies shared in funding for the project, with the State Library providing the training resources.

 

Our State Library Development section organized 9 Job Search workshops around the state for public library staff, co-presented by state library staff and local partner organizations. Nearly 300 librarians were trained statewide.

 

The project became a national model.  Following our success in North Carolina, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) requested that our State Library work with WebJunction to develop a national project based on the work we had done in North Carolina. The result was Project Compass, linking libraries nationwide in order to share strategies for helping unemployed patrons find work.

 

Project Compass featured regional summits where state library officers could share best practices on meeting the workforce needs of their communities, developed a national “Job Search Toolkit,” and provided training and training resources to public library staff across the United States. More than 2,000 library staffers were trained through in-person workshops in 38 states. There were also two online workshops for staffers from 22 states.

 

Our public libraries have always been an important part of their communities, providing a wide range of programs and support.  However, one of the important things learned during this time has been that our libraries continue to play a critical role in the lives of our citizens–including assistance with meeting basis human needs, such as getting a job!

 

The wonderful North Carolina writer Robert Morgan once wrote, “A library is richer than Fort Knox and everybody has the key.” Not only do citizens have that key to our public libraries, but we also believe in giving job seekers the key to their future.

The Job Search Toolkit continues to be available online.

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