From a press release from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). An HTML version of this release with important links can be read on the agency’s Web site at

The Institute of Museum and Library Services IMLS is funding an innovative yearlong project linking libraries nationwide to share strategies for helping unemployed patrons find work. Project Compass, launched by OCLC WebJunction and the State Library of North Carolina, features four regional summits where state library officers are sharing best practices on meeting the workforce needs of their communities.

“In the last 12 months, approximately 30 million people used library resources to help address career and employment needs,” said Marsha L. Semmel, acting director of IMLS, citing the new IMLS/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-supported report, Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. “Project Compass is developing the tools libraries need to help patrons who are already using library resources.”

“WebJunction is thrilled to be a partner in this project,” said Chrystie Hill, director of Community Services for WebJunction. “With so many states sharing their approaches, challenges, and successes, we are well on our way to achieving the goal of improving and expanding library services related to employment.”

The Summits
At the inaugural Project Compass summit held March 10-12 in Atlanta, representatives from 11 state libraries showcased their states’ responses to workforce needs in tough times.

South Carolina State Library representatives highlighted an IMLS-supported Web site for workforce recovery. It provides library staff across the state with a well-organized and consistent set of resources for patrons, providing them with a number of pathways toward employment. The “Next Steps” section, for example, provides resources for starting a small business.

Along with a job and career resource Web site, the Tennessee Public Libraries featured an impressive array of partnerships that it has leveraged for staff training, workforce development tools, and promotion of library services. Partners include the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce, the University of Tennessee, Adult Education Centers, and State Technology Centers.

“A lot of eyes were opened and people were exclaiming, ‘Oh, you’re doing that? We could do that too! Oh, you have those resources? Could we get those from you? Yes!'” said Project Compass’s program manager, Betha Gutsche. “I was surprised at the level of connectivity among participants.”

After the showcase, the Atlanta group identified three key needs:
1. Training for library staff to meet the needs of job seekers.
2. Strategies for funding, including information about how to maximize support, gain visibility, and minimize budget cuts.
3. A Web site with centralized resources on workforce recovery provided by the state library. For examples of state Web sites that have been established, please go to:

The project has great potential for national impact because states are coordinating their efforts and sharing information and resources, Gutsche noted. In addition to working together in person, Project Compass is facilitating development of a “community of practice” with an online hub to help librarians share ideas and resources designed to help get their communities fully employed. To reach greater numbers, Project Compass staff will adapt the in-person summits into live, online sessions and self-directed work that will be offered for free in June.

Each state library was invited to send two representatives to one of the summits. In addition to summits in Atlanta and Portland, OR (March 21-23), two more are scheduled, including:
* May 5-7: Providence, RI
* May 26-28: Denver, CO

Additional IMLS resources:
Libraries to the Rescue is the story of how libraries in five states, North Carolina, Washington, Connecticut, New York and Michigan are helping citizens access all types of employment assistance. A list of Online Resources for Libraries and Jobseekers is available here