Iowa Workforce Development
On February 17, 2011 the new director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) proposed to a legislative appropriations subcommittee that the agency close 39 of its field offices across the state, and involve public libraries in some way in providing services to job seekers. Information about what has happened since then is below with the most recent information at the top.
A letter to Iowa librarians was sent from Ed Wallace, Deputy Director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD). See the link to the letter in the upper left section of this page. IWD has included two handouts - a detailed Access Point Proposal and a one-page Access Point Description.
A letter to Iowa librarians was sent from Ed Wallace, Deputy Director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD). See the link to the letter in the upper left section of this page.
As we reported last week, we recently met with Mr. Wallace and other IWD administrators to discuss the role of Iowa libraries in working with Iowa job seekers. Craig Patterson (ILA lobbyist) and Sarah Willeford (ILA Government Affairs Committee chair) also attended this meeting.
The State Library and ILA have repeatedly made the following points about Iowa libraries to IWD administrators:
- Iowa public libraries are heavily used, and library staff members are very busy. Libraries are concerned about whether they have enough staff to provide additional services related to the workforce.
- Many public libraries have limited space, and do not have space for additional online workstations.
- Iowans using online materials from IWD are likely to need staff assistance. A recent national study about use of internet computers in public libraries found that 67% of public library computer users ask for assistance.
- Iowa public libraries are primarily locally funded. Public libraries receive less than 3% of their total funding from state government, and the already-strained Enrich Iowa state funding has been cut again for FY12.
- Iowa public libraries are governed by local boards of trustee, who are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. The library director reports to the local board of trustees.
We want to make it clear that the State Library, the Iowa Library Association, and Iowa Workforce Development all understand that Iowa public libraries have the full authority to decide what programs and services their library will provide, and that decisions about whether to partner with IWD will be made individually by local libraries and their boards.
We are aware that this is a frustrating situation for some of you. We think that IWD has heard your concerns and has made some changes in their plans in response to them. More specific information about the Locally Enhanced Access Point program will be available from IWD in the near future. It is our understanding that libraries who wish to participate in the program will be able to choose between installing an IWD portal on public access computers or adding a computer workstation provided by IWD. The portal will include a live chat feature and a help desk telephone number that will be answered by an IWD staff member. Five Iowa librarians have volunteered to test the IWD portal and provide feedback about it to IWD developers - we very much appreciate their work on this project.
We know that Iowa libraries are already working hard to provide services to Iowa job seekers, and we will do our best to continue to strongly represent your interests as the discussion about libraries and workforce services continues. Iowa libraries and IWD share a common goal of providing high-quality services to Iowans, and we are hopeful that the attached letter can be a first step in the development of a productive working relationship between the Iowa library community and Iowa Workforce Development.
Please read the letter from Ed Wallace, and feel free to contact Ed Wallace or either of us with questions.
Mary Wegner, State Librarian
The purpose of this message is to give you an update on the State Library's ongoing discussions and advocacy for libraries with Iowa Workforce Development (IWD).
The State Library has taken the following actions in support of Iowa libraries:
- Sandy Dixon and I have met numerous times with IWD managers. We have stressed, over and over, that Iowa libraries are already very busy and may not have the capacity to take on additional work; that Iowa public libraries are locally funded and governed; and that research shows that people using computers in public libraries frequently need staff assistance.
- The State Library worked with the Iowa Senate to provide a librarian speaker at a legislative hearing on the proposed IWD regional office closings. We recommended Sue Padilla, director of the Newton Public Library, who was selected to speak and whose remarks eloquently describe the role of Iowa's busy public libraries. Her testimony included the following statements: "Iowa Workforce Development gave the Newton Public Library a plaque for what it calls 'partnering' in 2010....To me, 'partnering' means working together. Closing IWD offices and shifting unemployment services to the city public library so that state jobs can be cut and city librarians be expected to take on those duties is disturbing on several levels, but it is definitely not 'partnering'."
- The Commission of Libraries (the governing board of the State Library) sent a letter to the governor on June 21, expressing their continuing concerns over the IWD proposal to close regional centers and the IWD expectation that services to jobseekers will be delivered through public libraries. Major points outlined in this letter include (1) Iowa libraries are already very busy and may not have the capacity to take on additional services currently provided through IWD offices, (2) it is not realistic to assume that jobseekers will use computer resources without asking questions and needing assistance, (3) the IWD proposal shifts the responsibility for providing state agency services to a locally funded part of city government, and (4) local library boards have the sole authority to decide what programs and services the library will provide.
- State Library staff completed an RFP to select commercial online resources for jobseekers, and the LearningExpress product was selected. We continue to press IWD managers to provide funding for this resource for Iowa libraries, as an expression of appreciation for the work libraries do to assist jobseekers, but to date we have not been successful.
Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) managers have informed us that IWD is working on enhanced online resources that will be available to Iowa jobseekers, and that these resources will include a live chat feature and a help desk telephone number that will be answered by an IWD staff member. They have also informed us that regional offices targeted for closure are in the process of contacting local libraries to discuss these issues, and that the regional offices may be able to provide computers and computer furniture.
We know that Iowa libraries are already working hard to provide services to Iowa jobseekers. We also know that this is a frustrating situation, and we will do our best to continue to strongly represent your interests as the discussion about workforce services continues. Today's Register article makes it clear that the question of whether regional workforce offices will be closed is not resolved. We will provide more information as it becomes available. Thanks for all you do for Iowans.
Mary Wegner, State Librarian
A letter was sent from the Iowa Commission of Libraries to Governor Branstad on June 20, 2011. See the link to the letter in the upper left section of this page.
As many of you know, on February 17 the new director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) proposed to a legislative appropriations subcommittee that the agency close 39 of its field offices across the state, and involve public libraries in some way in providing services to job seekers. IWD staff did not discuss this proposal with the State Library before going public with it.
This afternoon, Iowa Workforce Development provided the following talking points about their proposal. Following the talking points is a summary of what the State Library is doing to represent the interests of Iowa libraries.
- Iowa Workforce Development announced a proposed new delivery system that changes the current 55 field offices system into 16 regional sites supported by Local Enhanced Access Points. A potential access point is the local public library of which there are over 500 in the state. Other access points include ISU Extension Offices, ICAP's, Veterans' Affairs Offices, etc.
- IWD proposes enhancing the existing partnership model with public libraries that is currently in place in approximately 100 libraries statewide. While the initial focus would be on the 39 communities with a current office, ideally it would expand beyond those boundaries.
- Iowa Workforce Development is committed to providing training and resources to the libraries to assist with heightened traffic. We recognize that a vast majority of current patrons seek out library staff for help with online services, a trend that would likely continue.
- IWD is committed to working with the State Library on efforts for resource sharing to provide enhanced service delivery models to our library partners.
- As more information becomes available regarding our changing system, it will be shared with the local libraries to help with the decision making processes necessary for this type of endeavor.
- IWD values our partnership with the State and local libraries, and are committed to working together to provide information to Iowans.
Again, the information above was provided by Iowa Workforce Development.
What is the State Library doing to represent the interests of Iowa libraries to Iowa Workforce Development? This morning Sandy Dixon and I met with Lori Adams, the Division Administrator for Workforce Center Administration; Barbara Bobb, an IWD bureau chief; Kristi Judkins, who manages the IWD Community Access Point program; and Kerry Koonce, the IWD communications director. We had a frank and productive discussion about the role of Iowa public libraries in providing services to Iowa job seekers. Sandy and I stressed the following points:
1. Iowa public libraries are governed by local boards of trustees, who are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. The library director reports to the local board of trustees. The director and board have sole authority to decide what programs and services the library will provide.
2. Iowa public libraries are heavily used: 2/3 of all Iowans have a public library card; there were 19.6 million visits to public libraries last year (54,600 per day); 29.4 million items were checked out last year (81,700 per day)
3. The Enrich Iowa appropriation is the only state funding which goes directly to libraries. FY11 funding was cut by 18.2%, and Gov. Branstad's proposal for FY12 adds an additional 24.8% cut. Local public libraries receive only about 3% of their total funding from the state, and the rest comes from city and county government.
4. Any plan that assumes that services now provided by the IWD offices scheduled for closure would be provided by libraries in a "self directed manner" is not realistic. While it may be tempting to think that job seekers simply walk into public libraries, sit down at computers and take care of their job seeking needs with little or no intervention from staff - we know that is not the way it happens in the real world. The "Opportunity for All" study about use of internet computers in public libraries found that 67% of public library computer users ask for assistance.
Despite the current bumps in the road, Iowa libraries and Iowa Workforce Development share a common goal of providing high-quality services to Iowans. Iowa libraries have clearly indicated that they may not have enough staff to provide additional workforce-related services. Many have also indicated that they believe that it is inappropriate for IWD to suggest that local government should take on services which have been cut by a state agency. The IWD proposal is a work in progress, and it will be changed as it works its way through the political process.
We think that IWD has heard your concerns and that they will be reflected in future versions of their proposal. The silver lining in this cloud is that it is an opportunity to demonstrate that libraries provide essential services which are provided with very little state funding.
The State Library will continue to represent the interests of Iowa libraries with IWD officials. Future discussion topics include ways to provide tangible, practical resources and assistance to Iowa libraries to help you serve Iowa's job seekers. We are also working closely with the Iowa Library Association leadership and the ILA lobbyists. We will work together to keep you posted.
Thanks so much for all you do for the people of our state!
Mary Wegner, State Librarian
Yesterday, the new director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) proposed to a legislative appropriations subcommittee that the agency close 39 of its field offices across the state, and involve public libraries in some way in providing services to job seekers.
IWD staff did not discuss this proposal with the State Library before going public with it. Apparently the proposal envisions building on the existing IWD partnership agreements that many of you, as well as the State Library, entered into in late 2009 and early 2010.
One of the State Library's main jobs is advocating for Iowa libraries. We know how committed you are to helping your customers, and we know about the great work that many of you are doing to help job seekers in your communities. We share your concerns about whether you would be able to take on additional responsibilities regarding job seekers. We will make sure that the new leadership at IWD is aware of the successes and challenges of Iowa libraries, and is also aware that decisions about the services you provide are made at the local level, by public library directors and boards of trustees.
In numerous communications with IWD staff today, I have been assured that IWD values the existing partnerships with libraries and does not intend to shift the job duties of IWD personnel onto local library staff. Sandy Dixon and I will meet on Monday morning with IWD staff to further discuss this issue. I have requested a written description of IWD plans which involve libraries, and will share that with you as soon as I have it.
Mary Wegner, State Librarian
The State Library and Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) developed a partnership in order to better serve unemployed Iowans. The partnership was formally kicked off in 2009 with an ICN program for public libraries and IWD managers, followed by online sessions for library staff on how to navigate the IWD Web site.