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Libraries and a Strong Workforce Make for a World-Class City


Library Director Misty Jones and San Diego Workforce Partnership Director of Learning Sarah Burns

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT | JOB READINESS | EQUAL ACCESS


When you think about things that are critical to San Diego’s economy, several images come to mind – our military, biotech, beaches and sunshine, and Libraries.

Yes, Libraries. Did that last example surprise you? It shouldn’t. San Diego’s Public Libraries are essential to informing and educating the local workforce. Add in the long standing relationship with the San Diego Workforce Partnership and, to no surprise, our Libraries are what keep our economy moving forward.

BOOKS ARE THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY

As much as Libraries are known for books and reading, through this partnership, Libraries demonstrate that they are hubs of free public workforce services that include advanced technology and community resources. In fact, this has become the standard for the San Diego Public Libraries – what we envision all Libraries should look like. 

Take, for example, the Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common in the East Village. 

Here, the OliverMcMillan I Can! Center provides spacious and specialized workspaces and staff trained to assist people with disabilities. The IDEA and Innovation Labs, Career Online High School, and the upcoming Microbusiness Center are also examples of resources that exist to support people, meeting their needs so that they can pursue greater opportunities. On the fifth floor, there is a full-service career center, made possible through the collaboration with the San Diego Workforce Partnership. All of the career center services are at no cost and include job search assistance, career coaching, tuition assistance programs, resume preparation, mock interviews  , and career workshops. It’s through community collaborations with entities like the San Diego Workforce Partnership where critical support for the region’s workers ensures all people have access to career pathways and jobs they love.

A recent Family Career Exploration Day at the Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library is another example of this extraordinary union. This free event amplified the Library’s and San Diego Workforce Partnership’s services throughout the community, including job skills and career development resources. Together, these teams offered research-tested resources that helped people organize their interests and discover meaningful careers where they are more likely to perform well and achieve job satisfaction. Children and adults learned together, embracing each other’s energy as they discussed their shared hopes and dreams for the future.  

What an excellent example of the Library’s story. It is just one piece of collective commitment to supporting a strong workforce. The Library has been there to support the economy and it will always be – it is dynamic, serves diverse communities, and is a catalyst for change.

Yet, none of these services are possible without proper funding. The OliverMcMillan I CAN! Center, for example, is possible because of San Diego Public Library Foundation donors who helped open the amazing Central Library and this important lab. The Library Foundation is also exploring how we can scale and continue to fund programs like the Career Exploration Day at the Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library. These collaborations position Libraries as a key piece of economic support assisting work-ready San Diegans.

Perhaps it’s best summarized by Central Library Supervising Librarian Joe Miesner: “Books are just one powerful piece of the Library. We’re also one place you can come to for free resources. We’re a trusted center point and clearinghouse for the community, so all people can feel safe coming here and accessing those free resources.”

WORLD-CLASS RESULTS

A world-class city has a strong economy fueled by a strong workforce. Libraries are a crucial component.

Thankfully, as evidenced by their continued support, City of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Councilmembers, agree. As Mayor Gloria said in his State of the City address, delivered at the San Ysidro Branch Library, “This Library is a symbol of who we should be as a city. It is a beautiful reminder of investing in traditionally underserved neighborhoods and proof of community perseverance.”

San Diego is a world-class city with a world-class Library system. The Library and Workforce Partnership collaboration will create access points for so many more people to build thriving futures for themselves and their families. The result will be world-class – more people in careers they love, who are financially healthy, and with better social, health, and economic outcomes. 

Just like we imagined.


This commentary appears in the October 13, 2021 San Diego Union-Tribune.