BARSTOW Construction will begin early next year for a new computer lab that will help provide job-seekers with the tools they need to complete applications and file for unemployment.

A large number of people are on the hunt for jobs in Barstow, with unemployment at 17.6 percent in August. The new computer lab will allow more job seekers to apply for jobs online, according to Debbie Medina, branch manager at the Barstow Branch Library.

"[The new computer lab] will have a big impact because of the high number of unemployed people right now," Medina said. "Right now I have at least two or three people a day coming in to file for unemployment or apply for jobs."

The library currently has about 20 computers available for use with a one hour time limit. Despite the rule, some people can be forced to wait up to an hour for a computer to open up during peak times of the day.

Dwight De La Cruz was in the library on Thursday afternoon looking for a job. He said that he has had to wait from 30 minutes to an hour just in order to use a computer.

"When [the computer] runs out of time, you can extend it by 15 minutes two times," said De La Cruz. "I wish there was more time available."

De La Cruz will soon get his wish, as construction is set to begin on the new computer lab that will be mainly designated for those seeking employment. The library is focusing on helping Barstow residents with employment and also recently received access for two databases that allow residents to search for jobs and provide job-hunting skills.

The library received $30,000 for the computer lab construction from a Community Development Block Grant funded by the U.S. Department of Housing, said Medina. The money for the grant will be used to purchase 12 to 15 new computers and will also be used to install an ethernet connection for the library.

Medina also hopes that the library will be able to provide free wireless Internet for library patrons once the ethernet connection is established.

Construction could begin as early as January and should take about three months, said Medina.

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