When the new downtown central library opens to the public Sept. 30, it will come with more than just books, reference materials and special collections.
Another resource, one that many prominent figures from the city agree will be an “amazing service” for San Diegans -- as Mel Katz, chairman of the San Diego Public Library Foundation, put it -- will become available that day as well, in the opening of the library’s career development services center, to be officially known as the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Career Center.
Throughout the county, there are 12 other such centers with similar tasks of providing access to information, knowledge and technology for those seeking to improve or change their career, or get one started.
“The impact here, potentially, I think is great,” Peter Callstrom, president of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, said.
Procuring funds to keep the county’s career development centers running is part of the Workforce Partnership’s job. About two-thirds of the Workforce Partnership’s roughly $35 million budget goes toward adult programs, such as the career centers, while the remaining third is directed at funding basic job training for youths, Callstrom said.
The new career center was made possible by a $400,000 donation from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which amounted to one of the institution’s largest single donations to a cause within San Diego County to date. Along with individual and small group counseling services, the center will offer resource materials, computer and résumé assistance and training workshops.
An estimated 15,000 people go through the career center system every year. But the new location, in Room 555 on the new library’s fifth floor, will be the only one in the county to have a direct access to the San Diego Trolley outside its building.
The Workforce Partnership thinks that could make a difference.
“Our job, in a nutshell, is to do this as efficiently as possible and meet the greatest need to the community,” Callstrom said. “Having accessibility like this is amazing -- being on the trolley, being where people congregate, being in a community center.”
He didn’t have figures immediately available that could speak to the measurable effect and value of the centers as they pertain to the thousands who turn to them, but he said the effect is “pretty profound.”
“People are able to access these free services,” he added. “That’s a great value to the individual who’s in that place of looking for new employment, or even just making a career switch. Because it’s not everybody who’s just unemployed, but, rather, those who are looking for new career pathways.”
Callstrom was joined Friday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony -- despite the center still being 10 days from its opening -- by several figures known around San Diego, including Katz, who as chairman of the library foundation was influential in leading the charge to get the downtown library constructed, former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and the city’s interim Mayor Todd Gloria.
Sanders, who is now the president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that “during these tough economic times, it’s even more important than ever to have these important resources available.”
Gloria called the unveiling a reminder of how the new library will be a crown jewel to the city.
“If the Great Recession taught us anything,” Gloria said, “it’s that it is important to help job seekers become as marketable as possible. Everyone benefits when people are in the job market.”
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