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University City library takes digital literacy on the road

A group of staff members and volunteers organized by the University City branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is taking digital literacy classes on the road, and has already educated and certified 100 seniors in six classes throughout north Charlotte.

Librarians are on the front lines of addressing digital literacy, and the University City branch recognized that not everybody who needs help can make it to a library — seniors, for example. So they rounded up instructors, curriculum, hardware, software, and projectors to create a mobile instructional team, in a program called DigiLit.

The team graduated its sixth class earlier this summer at Ebenezer Baptist Church. They ran previous certification programs at YMCA branches, a University City apartment complex, and Rockwell Church. Each class includes about 15 students, and instructors host follow-up, one-on-one sessions for both class graduates and newcomers.

“I’ve been around older people all my life, from my mom and her friends, from the people I work with at the library, and I’ve been taught a lot,” said Everett Blackmon, circulation services manager at the University City branch. “They’ve taught me what they know, they made me who I am. This is an opportunity to give back and teach them what they didn’t get. They want to connect with their children and the grandchildren on social media, and then, sometimes just mousing around. Learning to navigate the computer.”

In addition to navigation of personal computers, laptops, and tablets, Blackmon said, classes include internet security, organizational tools, and online educational resources.

The University City branch’s work is consistent with findings from the Pew Research Center that indicate Americans appreciate new library services that enable access to library services wherever they happen to be located at the time. These include online research services, smartphone apps, and programs that provide technology tryouts and education.

“Everybody can’t get to the library,” Blackmon said. “That’s why we love to come out into the community. And it means that someone coming out to where they are, spending six weeks and two hours a session with them, that begins to mean something. And usually at the end of the class, or sometimes before, seniors are starting to feel that someone really cares about them. Someone is trying to impart something with them. I get thanks especially at our graduation ceremonies. ‘Thank you for coming out. Thank you for caring about us enough to try to help us with these skill sets.’”’

The University City branch’s digital skills program relies on a portable computer lab provided by Digital Charlotte. If your non-profit organization is interested in checking out the lab, more information is available here.

The next six-week session of DigiLit is scheduled to start Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays, at the Keith Family YMCA, 8100 Old Mallard Creek Road. Call the YMCA at (704) 716-6700 to register, and walk-in registration is also available.