So says the new “Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act” signed into law on July 22, 2014.
“As the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes libraries as One-Stop partners and includes adult education and literacy programs offered at libraries as statewide employment and training activities. Additionally, the bill provides funding support for 21st-century digital readiness training programs that help library users learn how to use technology to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.
“Today America, libraries and the people who come to us for assistance have cause for renewed optimism. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes that libraries are often the first places Americans seek when they need job training or job search assistance. We’re proud of what libraries have accomplished with meager resources over the last several years. Now, with the support of this legislation, we look forward to a brighter future for the American workforce libraries have served for more than a century.
“The American Library Association would like to thank Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) for their long time efforts to include libraries in this legislation.”
“Senator Jack Reed and I led the effort to include public libraries in this important new law because they are often the first places Americans go for skill development and job search assistance,” said Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ). “I’ve seen this firsthand with NJWorks@yourlibraryproject, which used federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding to help get job seekers back to work with access to online job resources and training in every community in New Jersey.”
It is an interesting moment. To have a large piece of our mission recognized and mandated at the same time. This feels like a win… The law reaffirms what most are already doing, provides us a seat at the table, and a vehicle to seek funding.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the document:
When will we see funding or change?
As this mandate is applied it will be interesting to see the reaction from those (like the WIBs and similar agencies) who now must allow us a seat at the table. Will we be welcomed with open arms? Will additional funds be made available at the federal level or will our inclusion affect the funding available to others in our community? If so, how welcome will we be then?
This is a great thing!! To have new funding avenues and official support and recognition for a service most libraries already provide.
But, as with many things, this could be a slippery slope. We must be vigilant in years to come that other such legislation is as reflective if our purpose and mission.
It would be an unfortunate day when we awoke to discover that we were now a “one-stop shop” for a service or purpose we could not as readily embrace such as supplemental nutritional assistance, adult protective services or transportation assistance programs. Legislation that mandates we incorporate a program or service that we (some or many) feel is not in line with our mission of creating an informed citizenry and providing access to information. Will ALA be our watchdog and seek buy-in on any new legislation…or use local libraries services as a political token to be cashed in as they choose?