By Everett Blackmon, University City Regional Library
It goes without saying that we believe in the concept of No Person Left Behind when it comes to digital inclusion. Accordingly, the Strategic Outreach Team at University City Regional Library has formed an alliance with our senior population through several integral partnerships to bring this knowledge—digital literacy—to these residents at the most convenient facilities within our community.
This senior digital literacy program represents an extension of outreach projects in which we were already involved (adding a digital technology component). The program is designed to help provide internet and other modern technology skills to the people that need it most, connecting them to this vital tool which improves their lives.
It takes a strong team
This initiative was originally designed to address University City’s FY2017 Plan of Work Goal related to outreach and digital inclusion within our community.
After adding key members to our already established strategic outreach team, this group (Sherleen McKoy, Erin Crites, Lisa Wilson, Amy Maggard, John Peitzman & Everett Blackmon) worked out the details of UC’s digital inclusion program for seniors, which included streamlining Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s original DigiLit curriculum to fit this particular audience, contacting community partners to solicit their participation and recruiting suitable trainers to properly execute the content of this special program.
These classes were well received by the participants, as they expressed great pride and appreciation for the new skills learned as a result of these classes. Community engagement and transference of digital literacy skills were definitely exhibited and highlighted as an important component of the Library’s mission during these sessions.
The UC DigiLit Crusaders refined the curriculum for this program to better adapt it to seniors, and coordinated trainers (including volunteers) with the appropriate expertise for each class. Each member of this team had a key role in the planning, implementation, and instruction of this class.
We also recruited branch-wide staff involvement in the preparation, planning and teaching of this popular program, which now includes our other pod locations.
We started conducting classes at the University Square Senior Apartments (1/18), continued them with our University City YMCA partners and are now in the process of conducting classes for the Rockwell Community before returning for a Drop-in Tech Tutor session and a series of additional classes at the Y.
In early June, Jonita Edmonds and I met with representatives from SUG and HG to discuss outreach collaborations within our pod to expand our program offerings and maximize our ability to reach more community partners with library services. Several participants, as well as our community partners, have attested to the value of having these classes at convenient locations throughout the community. It serves as a prime opportunity to have a presence and outreach with a cherished service to our citizenry.
Seniors proud of what they have learned
Seniors participating in these classes are very proud and enthused about their accomplishments. We have received overwhelming positive feedback from class participants thus far.
One class participant commented, “This class has been wonderful. Learning about all this (the Internet and BiblioCommons) is like opening the door to a palace and finding it filled with treasures!”
Partners also crucial to program’s success
The University City Regional Library’s DigiLit Crusaders are on a mission to enhance the digital literacy of seniors in our region. Partnering with community organizations and groups such as the YMCA and Senior Living Centers, the team aims to bridge the digital divide that exists between those with access to technology and know-how and those who find themselves in the “gap.”
This DigiLit course is specifically tailored to teach key computer and internet skills at a pace congruent with seniors’ learning style and dearth of prior technical knowledge. As a result of this training, held in a convenient and accessible space for these seniors, these individuals have positively benefited and praised the Library for helping them gain access to CML resources, the internet and other community agencies.
Having these needs met has enabled them to better function in our modern technological society.
About this article
This article was provided by Everett Blackmon, circulation services manager for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. University City Partners is one of several groups and businesses helping the University City Regional Library offer digital literacy programs to area seniors. Visit the library branch at 301 E. WT Harris Blvd or online at cmlibrary.org