After reading the 21st Century Digital Divide article by Jessamyn West, I began evaluating how my library is accommodating users in the area of digital literacy. West (2014) equates helping people get online with “helping them to be citizens.” I couldn’t agree more. The digital age is not just about innovative technology, but also about learning to do old things in new ways.
The Fairfield Civic Center Library is the main branch of the Solano County Library system. The Library currently has a Computer Lab with 20 desktop computers and one printer/copier. Our current digital literacy services consist of a Tech Buddies program for seniors that provides drop-in tech help (2 hours) with small devices and laptops, twice a month, at two senior recreation centers. Additionally, we have a computer docent volunteer who provides computer help two hours a week. We recently added Mobile Hot Spots to our circulating collection and they are in high demand.
Our users often need assistance getting online and doing basic tasks such as checking email, printing, scanning, and filling out online forms and job applications. Many users have requested basic computer classes or help using their smartphones or tablets. There is an increasing need for digital literacy services and it would greatly benefit the community to expand current services to offer comprehensive digital instruction and tutoring.
Purpose and Benefits
The purpose of the Digital Literacy Learning Center (DLLC) would be to encourage users to learn how to use computers, smartphones, and other digital tools in order to prepare them for new opportunities for employment, education, and business, help them cultivate personal and professional relationships, and complete routine tasks requiring the use of the Internet. In addition to having access to computers and printers, users would have access to one-on-one digital literacy tutoring, online access to DigitalLearn.org basic computer tutorials, in-person computer training classes, Grow with Google workshops, and a technology “petting zoo” where users can try out various gadgets. The DLLC would be a good example of a service offered by a participatory library, which Casey (2011) describes as one that “engages and queries its entire community and seeks to integrate them into the structure of change” (para. 8).
Goals/Objectives: The goal of the DLLC is to provide users with the digital knowledge and skills required to access jobs, increase productivity, build businesses, complete routine online tasks, and maintain personal relationships. Digital literacy classes would teach users computer basics and would touch upon the following topics: using email, navigating a website, applying for jobs online, completing forms, printing, scanning, online privacy, social media, Microsoft Word and Excel, using smartphones and tablets, and more.
- Teach digital literacy skills and empower users to apply these skills in practical ways.
- Encourage personal growth and learning from exposure to new technology.
- Increase digital literacy in order to improve standards of living.
- Help users to maximize their digital skills in their businesses.
- Create a safe place where users can get help with basic everyday tasks and learn how to protect their digital information and identity.
- Teach users how to download eBooks, movies, and music.
- Assist job seekers in finding or preparing for employment.
- Encourage small business owners to build their online presence.
- Familiarize students with new technology that will help them succeed in school.
- Help users cultivate professional and personal online relationships using social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube).
Description of the community: This program would benefit adults 18 and over, who are looking to improve their digital literacy skills. Potential users would include job seekers, business owners, entrepreneurs, students, and senior citizens. A large percentage of users would have little to no experience using computers and many would not speak good English.
Action Brief Statement: Convince users of the Fairfield Civic Center Library that by learning new digital skills they will acquire fundamental digital and online knowledge which will help them achieve their lifelong goals because they will become more competent with technology as a result of using services and resources provided by the library.
Evidence and Research:
American Library Association. Digital literacy. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/pla/initiatives/digitalliteracy
American Library Association. Libraries lead with digital skills. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/pla/initiatives/google
DigitalLearn.org [Website]. Retrieved from https://training.digitallearn.org/
Grow with Google [Website]. Retrieved from https://grow.google/
Morgan, K. (2018, June 15). Bridging the digital divide by building digital literacy skills. WebJunction. Retrieved from https://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/building-digital-literacy-skills.html
Pew Research Center. (2015). Libraries at the crossroads. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2015/09/15/libraries-at-the-crossroads/
West, J. (2014). 21st century digital divide. Retrieved from http://www.librarian.net/talks/rlc14/
Examples of digital learning centers at other libraries
Carson City Library. @Two Digital Learning Center. Retrieved from https://www.carsoncitylibrary.org/use/digital-learning/learning-center
Kista Library. Retrieved from https://biblioteket.stockholm.se/bibliotek/kista-bibliotek
Umass Lowell. Digital Learning Centers (DLC). Retrieved from https://www.uml.edu/IT/Services/DLC/default.aspx
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy:
The DLLC fits in with Solano County Library’s mission and values under Strategy for Success: Strategy #1 Seeds for Success which states “The Library supports basic information needs and provides a diverse range of resources for people of all ages.” The DLLC would meet the emerging digital needs of the community.
Policy for the DLLC would be the same as for any other program and all library policies would be enforced (behavior, privacy, Internet use, etc.). Volunteers would be required to get a background check in addition to attending a 2-hour orientation.
Digital literacy classes would be conducted by volunteers and regular library staff. Ideally, two classes would be held per week. Bilingual classes would be held at least once a month, but if that is not possible, a translator would be present during the regular classes. One-on-one computer tutoring sessions would be offered in 1-hour increments, two hours a day, four days a week by appointment only. Roving computer help would be provided during business hours based on volunteer availability. The technology “petting zoo” would be held once a month and patrons would not be allowed to take devices outside of the DLLC.
Funding Considerations: Funding for the DLLC would be through a Digital Technology grant provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, ALA/PLA Grow with Google grant, Friends of the Library, and Solano County Library Foundation. Expenses to be considered are installation of software, hardware (scanner, charging station), and technology books. Partnering with local colleges and adult schools for recruitment of volunteers would help reduce the number of hours staff would be required to run the DLLC. Electronic gadgets needed for the “petting zoo” would be donated or borrowed from staff and volunteers.
Action Steps & Timeline: 12 months
- Send program proposal through proper channels for approval (1-2 months).
- Once approved by administration, apply for digital technology grant, submit application for funding from Grow with Google, and approach Friends of the Library and Solano County Library Foundation.
- Once Grow with Google funding is pre-approved, schedule a workshop for library staff with Grow with Google (within 60 days).
- Determine which digital literacy classes are going to be offered (2 months).
- Once funding is secured begin recruiting volunteers for computer classes, tutoring, and workshops. Volunteers will need to attend a 2-hour volunteer training session (2-3 months).
- Schedule training for all Reference staff on DigitalLearn.org (1 month).
- Purchase any needed hardware, software, and equipment (2 months).
- Determine where to borrow gadgets for the technology “petting zoo” (1 month).
- Work with volunteers and staff to create monthly calendar and daily schedule of classes, workshops, and tutoring sessions (1 month).
- Officially open the DLLC (grand opening).
- Evaluation period (every 3 months for first year).
- Create focus groups after 1 year.
Staffing Considerations: Volunteers would conduct most of the computer classes, however, all reference staff would be trained to teach classes when volunteers are not available. Library IT staff would be used as a last resort when volunteers and reference staff are unavailable. The DLLC would require at least 12 hours of staffing time per week, with 4 hours devoted to teaching classes and 8 hours for one-on-one tutoring. Some of the library staff hours would come from the Tech Buddies program which would transition over to the DLLC. Hours would also come from our computer docent who currently volunteers for two hours a week. Ideally, there would be a roving computer docent volunteer available during business hours, but that would depend on volunteer availability.
Training: Reference staff (3 librarians and 4 para-library professionals), two IT staff, and 3-4 volunteers would attend at least one 2-hour Grow with Google workshop and get oriented with DigitalLearn.org tools and resources for trainers. Additional training may be required depending on what type of classes are being offered. Volunteers would be required to attend a 2-hour volunteer orientation in addition to the Grow with Google workshop.
Promotion & Marketing: Marketing strategies to be used would include in-house flyers, pamphlets and bookmarks advertising the DLLC, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube), newspaper press releases, word-of-mouth, and advertising at senior centers, adult schools, Solano Community College, and local hiring agencies. The DLLC would also be promoted at outreach events and ongoing library programs. Additional marketing support would be provided by ALA and Google once funding is secured. The Solano County Library website would also be promoting the DLLC and would incorporate DigitalLearn.org as an online resource.
The DLLC would be evaluated every 3 months for the first year. Surveys would be distributed to all users who attend classes, workshops, and one-on-one tutoring and attendance would be recorded at all classes and workshops. Staff and volunteers would also provide feedback.
After one year, focus groups would be created to gather more detailed information from users regarding the usefulness and effectiveness of the classes, workshops, tutoring, and events. Participants in the focus groups would be encouraged to share their experiences with the DLLC on the Solano County Library social media pages and website.
Results from the evaluations would determine if any changes need to be made, such as the addition or removal of classes and workshops. Based on feedback about the DLLC and new and emerging needs of the community, additional programs and resources that may be considered in the future would include a CoderDojo program for youth between the ages of 7 and 17, digital equipment (laptops and tablets) available for check out, virtual reality technology, and 3D printers. Budget considerations would also factor into the decision to expand services and resources.
Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory services in trying times. Retrieved from https://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/
West, J. (2014). 21st century digital divide. Retrieved from http://www.librarian.net/talks/rlc14/