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Webinar -- Best Practices: Workforce Development Services in Your Library

February 26, 28 & March 6, 2013. View the webinar external link opens in a new window and see the PowerPoint slides in Slide Show format PowerPoint icon (1.63 Meg) or in .PDF format pdf icon (3.8 Meg)

Best Practices for Delivering Workforce Development Services

Delivering workforce development services in the BTOP PCCs was an important component of the project.  Four PCCs presented at a 2012 New York Library Association conference workshop concerning their different approaches in delivering such services and the following are their workshop materials.

Baldwinsville Public Library | Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System | Mid-York Library System | New Rochelle Public Library

Baldwinsville Public Library

Best Practices for Delivering Workforce Development Services (also in .PDF pdf icon; 92k)

  1. Ask the community you serve what they need. In the beginning the most helpful advice we received was from our target populations. We reached out by holding Focus Groups at the library. The questions to ask are
    1. What do you need from the library?
    2. How do you want the information delivered to you (one-on-one versus group classes, or email correspondence)?
    3. What barriers/obstacles does the library need to overcome to deliver services?
  2. We created at Business Advisory Board, comprised of local business owners and the Executive Director and President of our local Chamber of Commerce. The Board is aware of the library’s mission to serve the unemployed and under-employed. They often have helpful tips and suggestions for us as to how best serve those looking for work (such as skills that need to be developed) and they keep the library informed of local job openings, which get passed to those seeking employment. In addition, the Chamber has become a strong advocate for the library and the workforce development we do. They “talk up” our services throughout the community.
  3. We watch what other libraries are doing and we “borrow with honor”. No one can think of everything that may be needed or how best to deliver services in all situations. Praise your colleagues and ask for advice.
  4. When making evaluations for classes/workshops ask people what other offerings they want. We take requests for classes seriously and try to provide what people are asking for.
  5. Evaluations – our patrons like paper best. We get the feedback before we let them out of the room. Some of our patrons still struggle with email and the internet in general, so paper is still the best method for evaluating classes.
  6. Partner with local organizations that serve the unemployed/under-employed. We regularly receive requests for resume help from people who have been referred to us by PEACE Inc. We keep brochures about PEACE Inc. in our library and refer clients to them for the services they provide.
  7. We have been most successful with one-on-one assistance when delivering workforce services. Many clients are embarrassed to admit that they are unable to fill out applications online or do not know how to upload a resume. They are much more comfortable working with someone individually. We ask that whenever possible they make an appointment in advance, though we will work with someone “on the spot” as time and other responsibilities permit.
  8. Offer to work with someone on their resume via email. Many of our patrons are on a limited budget. After the initial visit, email correspondence is much more cost-effective, since many of them are living on a fixed income. An added bonus is that it helps them develop their emailing, emailing with attachments and uploading skills.
  9. Be kind. While this should go without saying, we are all very busy and sometimes we get exasperated with those are serving and we might snap a little. I take a few deep breaths, offer them the chocolate that is on my desk and remind myself how fortunate I am to be on my side of the desk.
  10. While most of us have offered classes in JobNow! and Learning Express, offer to teach in a one-on-one setting with a job seeker. We have found that working with patrons individually is much more effective. They are more likely to utilize the service again after individual instruction. We forget that these services are simple for us to use because we are information professionals. Many of those we serve have very limited computer experience.
  11. If at all possible, work in your office (if you are fortunate to have one with a door and a DO Not Disturb button on your phone… all the better!).  We have also used the training lab for individual assistance when classes are not in session.
  12. Provide statistics and anecdotal information to your Director (or Board of Trustees if you are the Director).  We kept our Board of Trustees aware of the work we were doing with the unemployed/under-employed, thus making sustainability of services a given after the grant was over.

Nancy Howe, nancyh @; Meg VanPatten, megv @

Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System

Best Practices for Delivering Workforce Development Services (also in .PDF pdf icon; 42k)


We developed partnerships with Literacy Volunteers, Chambers of Commerce, BOCES, and a Volunteer Fire Department, and we had a built in partnership between the Clinton Essex Franklin Library System and One WorkSource of Essex County through our contract arrangement.

The partnerships helped us address the challenge of a small population and low population density, bringing more people into our classes and help sessions.

One-on-one assistance

We found that people needing assistance to find jobs were reluctant to attend group class sessions.  We had some success offering digital literacy classes (MS Office, Antivirus Protection, etc.) in groups, but even these were more popular when offered in a one on one format.  Many people need assistance to use their own equipment, such as laptops, tablets or ereaders.  After the one on one format, small groups were our next best format.  Anywhere from 3 to 8 or so worked well in the small libraries we offered classes in.

A regular schedule

People are busy and distracted, and having a regular monthly schedule helped them plan to fit in the classes.  Libraries also helped publicize the classes and help sessions, and the regular schedule avoided confusion.

Free publicity in newspapers and community calendars

We regularly submitted our classes to local papers and community calendars and also used a community email list in one of our small communities.

Flyers at local stores and public buildings

When we had time to place flyers in communities, it worked well.  Unfortunately it was very time consuming.

Flexibility and willingness to react to local layoff events

When a Lowe’s store in one of our communities closed, we were ready with a trainer and a laptop lab to help with the process of assisting the employees.  We also had formed a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce in that community, and we let them take the lead along with One Worksource, but they were appreciative of the program’s willingness to help, and it cemented the partnerships further.

Instructors that enjoy learning new things and can adjust their teaching levels

Because of the one on one sessions that we began concentrating on, a great variety of questions were asked.  Our instructors were already very knowledgeable, but were willing to pick up new skills along the way.  They were also very personable and avoided the pitfall of speaking in “tech speak.”

Betsy Brooks, Automation Librarian, CEFLS, brooksb @

Mid-York Library System

NYLA Workforce Development Presentation – Best Practices (also in .PDF pdf icon; 97k)

  1. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Teach your patrons to fish: show them how to use technology rather than doing their work for them.
  2. Cater to a variety of patron preferences and needs. Make a variety of training formats available (1-on-1, group classes, open lab)
  3. Don’t forget your online library users - make resources available to them.
  4. Offer classes on a variety of levels and topics. Basic computer classes are a must, but patrons may also want more advanced training.
  5. Design some classes for targeted groups, for instance the unemployed and underemployed. Many people are looking to hone their skills while looking for work and others need help applying for jobs in a technology-driven culture.
  6. Use naming conventions that clearly articulate the level of the class - and be prepared for patrons attending who don’t meet prerequisites.
  7. Know your limits.  You can have a great workforce development program without devoting all your time to it.  Keep your program at a size where you are able to provide quality service.
  8. Have multiple trainers with multiple specialties – recognize individual skills and interests. Cross-train staff to build skills and training techniques.
  9. Select your partners wisely. A good partner will have the motivation, organizational skills, and power within their organization to help your program succeed.
  10. Formalize partnerships with local workforce development agencies, non-profits, and businesses that will spread the word about the value of your library and services.

Kevin Perez, kperez @; Jennifer Recht, jrecht @; Katie McCauley, kmccauley @

New Rochelle Public Library

Best Practices for Delivering Workforce Development Services (also in .PDF pdf icon; 25k)


  1. To develop the program, first initiate  a community needs assessment by conducting as many surveys, focus groups and other discussions as possible, to identify:
    • Services to be instituted
    • Areas of instruction
    • Best times/days to conduct services and instruction
    • Key ways to connect with target populations
  2. Forge collaborations with existing partners and seek out additional organizations for partnerships and collaborations. If your community has an umbrella organization of social service agencies, institutions, businesses or another entity that has instant connections to a larger group, be sure to become an active, vocal member.
  3. Continually evaluate to determine what needs to be added, deleted, modified or enhanced, and retool accordingly.  On-going dialogue with community partners and all library staff members; patron evaluations and surveys; and thoughtful, proactive analysis/review of findings, leads to timely and appropriate modifications.


  1. Explore existing programs that can be replicated or expanded to provide employment assistance and social services to patrons overcoming multiple barriers.
  2. In tailoring the digital literacy courses to the needs determined in assessments, consider all ages and backgrounds of your community.  Most written materials should be created on a 6th to 8th grade level, and actual instruction may need to be geared for that level. Classes need to separate the digital divide – in an economic sense and a generational sense. Schedule the courses according to the best times for patrons, which may mean holding some courses on Saturdays or Sundays.
  3. Select and train librarians and hire instructors who will not only be effective and compassionate teachers, but will also constantly work towards furthering the goals of the Work Force Development program.  Hire/designate a full-time IT employee to oversee the purchase, installation and upkeep of all technology, and to handle scheduling of technology instruction.  Schedule specific times for one-on-one assistance, as these critically important sessions help determine which courses a patron should take, and provide encouragement for those who learn best by an individualized, “human” approach.


  1. Train the entire library staff about the work force development program and its objectives. In most cases a patron’s first encounter at the library is with library clerks or reference desk librarians, but all staff members need to promote the program and answer patron’s questions about the training, services and support that is available. 
  2. Re-purpose existing space that is underutilized into space that responds to changing community needs.
  3. Establish an in-house communications network to centralize information pertinent to the work force development program.
  4. Celebrate your successes, and do so with all staff members and possible funders.

Barbara Davis, Community Relations Coordinator
New Rochelle Public Library
1 Library Plaza
New Rochelle, NY 10804
(9914) 632-8254
bdavis @

Last Updated: July 15, 2015