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Proposal Would Integrate Libraries into state Job-Training Programs

Rep. Rush Holt wants libraries to take a lead role in the economic recovery by providing funding for the tools job seekers need.

According to a 2009 survey funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 77 million people visited libraries to use computers. Of that, 30 million used them to access information to find jobs and get resume help. Of that, 3.7 million reported that they got a job thanks to the tools provided at local libraries.*

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt visited the East Brunswick Public Library’s Business Resource Center to talk about how it too has taken a lead role in meeting the needs of small businesses and job seekers and to discuss ways to make it even better.

 “Today, the head of the Institute of Museum and Library Services Susan Hildreth came to New Jersey and wanted to know what was a particularly good example of a library that is meeting the community needs for job seekers, and we said East Brunswick,” said Rep. Holt on Thursday. “There are really dozens and dozens of library’s around this state that are heavily used by people that are trying to brush up on their skills or find a match for the skills. In other words, for job hunting, and this is a particularly good example.”

Rep. Holt said his proposed Workforce Investments through Local Libraries (WILL) Act would integrate libraries throughout the state into job-training efforts such as State and Local Workforce Investment Boards and make Workforce Investment Act funds available to them. The act would amend the WIA to include library representation on state and local workforce investment boards and recognizes public libraries as allowable “One-Stop” partners. It also authorizes new demonstration and pilot projects to establish employment resources in public libraries.

He said the library’s BRC was a perfect example of that integration.

Since it opened in January, the Business Resource Center has worked with job seekers by providing them with computer training courses, resume services and with access to state resources. It also has worked with the East Brunswick Business Association and small businesses throughout the township. The Business Resource Center provides notary services, color copying, faxing, marketing opportunities, resume reviews, networking events, proctoring and much more.

“We’re reaching out to those people who are unemployed or underemployed,” said East Brunswick Library Director MaryEllen Firestone. “A lot of people as we know,  when they leave, they’re not voluntarily leaving their jobs, and they are looking for some place to go, someplace to update their skills, someplace that they can get a helping hand. We’ve reached out in a big way with our Business Resource Center to help people work on their resumes, to learn computer skills that they may not have had already.”

The visit was just one in a series of events with librarians and school children throughout Central New Jersey highlighting legislation by Rep. Holt to strengthen school libraries and to help libraries better serve job-seekers. Rep. Holt was joined on his visit by Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services; Norma E. Blake, New Jersey state librarian; Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association, Washington Office; Patricia A. Tumulty, executive director of the New Jersey Library Association; C.K. Williams, professor of creative writing at Princeton University; and Mamie Bitner, head of the Office of Communications and Government affairs at the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“I can see you addressing both employers and employees, and that’s terrific, so we’re going our best to keep your funding flowing from Washington,” said Hildreth. “It’s very easy to slip into the discussion of ‘well, we have eBooks and Google, why do we need libraries.’ Well, it’s because we have eBooks and Google that we need the library.”

For more information on the Business Resource Center, visit www.brc1.org or call 732-390-6777.

* Information provided by Susan Hildreth, of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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