YMCA and Library tag team on computer skills

DigiLit Class at University Square

A University Square resident takes part in a DigiLit class

University City YMCA offers many classes for seniors, but a new one starting on March 16 may be one of the few involving a mouse. The Y will host a six-week, 12-hour program to help seniors improve their computer skills. The program, DigiLit, is led by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, which created it to help bridge the digital knowledge divide among its patrons.

University City Regional Library is partnering with University City YMCA to present a DigiLit Community program to the Y’s seniors group, said Everett Blackmon, project manager at University City Regional Library. The program is open to members 55 and older. Classes will run 10 am-noon Thursdays for six weeks starting March 16.

“With this program, we decided to target seniors to close that digital gap to help them connect with the community, their kids in school, their families, and to access basic services that you need to reach on line,” Blackmon said.

The birth of DigiLit

A recent article on the Library Foundation website explains what led our library system to create this new program:

Last year, Library staff members at the Hickory Grove branch noticed many people using Library computer stations ask similar questions. Most don’t have computers at home and with some instruction, staff knew they could work more productively. An idea was born: develop and deliver a curriculum to help bridge the digital knowledge divide among patrons.

They developed a list of topics to cover, and in a stroke of perfect timing, NTEN, an affiliate of Google Fiber, chose the Library as the site of a fellowship funded by the Knight Foundation. The Library’s first digital inclusion fellow joined the project team, and Google Fiber Charlotte provided Chromebooks for graduates of the first class.

Hickory Grove staff invited computer lab “regulars” to participate. The curriculum included computer hardware and software basics, web basics, social media, and an overview of the Library’s digital resources, from e-books to online courses.

Now in year 2, the program is being offered at several library branches, plus DigiLit has expanded into three programs (two inside the branches and one outside):

  • DigiLit 101 – A six-week, 12-hour course in computer basics.
  • DigiLit Lite – A more limited program for users with less time to commit.
  • DigiLit Community – Using strategic partners such as the YMCA to offer customized programs to groups such as seniors.

Library seeking partners to bring program to the community

Margo Scurry, a longtime University City resident, is the program’s Digital Inclusion Manager. She works with community groups across Charlotte to bring the DigiLit programs to their members.

“We’re trying to eliminate the barriers to digital inclusion,” Scurry said, “so we bring programs where people either can come to libraries or we partner with community partners who can get the program in front of people who need it. We are also looking for partners interested in helping to sustain the impact of this work through volunteering and learning to offer the curriculum themselves.”

Scurry says she has a passion for helping get people online. Fifty thousand people in Charlotte have no Internet connection, she said. Yet many teachers are assigning at least some schoolwork that requires Internet access, so parents without Internet service in their homes either must take the kids to the library or find a restaurant with free WiFi.

The need to stay current with online access and skills is high for seniors, as well, Scurry said.

She recently dropped in on a DigiLit 101 class for seniors at Hickory Grove Library. “One of the participants was saying, ‘It’s not a matter of standing still (if you don’t keep learning); it’s a matter of going backward because technology is changing so fast.’”

People interested in learning how their business or group can get involved with the DigiLit program can contact Scurry at mscurry@cmlibrary.org.

Learn more about DigiLit and sign up for a course

Visit the DigiLit web Page for an overview of the program. Call your local branch library to find out about their digital literacy programs. To find courses, search the library website using the term DigiLit.

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