Libraries Bridge Digital Divide

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The NYPL's new Tech Connect program is bringing technology literacy and more to local residents According to Amy Geduldig of the New York Public Library, libraries aren't typically the first thing people think of when it comes to digital education. It may be time for that mentality to change. NYPL has begun its Tech Connect program, a series of tech classes to educate users, "particularly those who have been left behind by the digital divide," said Geduldig. These classes are especially essential as technology continues to grow and change. Brandy McNeil, the Tech Connect coordinator, said overall the program represents an effort to give a consistent feel to training regardless of which branch a patron frequents, including incorporating the same materials across branches. The program also provides new computers for each branch, new software and equipment and new training facility labs that are more conducive to learning. "We've seen a double in our training numbers for how many people are coming to the new labs," said McNeil. These are patrons of every age and skill level. McNeil said some patrons attend classes all day, treating it a bit like school. The "digital device kits" in the branches also incorporate every kind of tablet which people can come in and explore, particularly if they're trying to decide which kind to purchase. People can also come in and learn about age-appropriate apps, ebooks, photo editing, reading websites and more. McNeil added interactive story time on ebooks has changed the way kids do story time. The classes range in difficulty level from "how to use a mouse" to "how to create a blog" and beyond. The libraries have also hired bilingual trainers so classes can be helpful for even more patrons. The NYPL has even launched a YouTube channel so people can watch short videos and learn about various technologies from their own homes. "We're New York and [the library] has to be right there with people for the things they're doing," said McNeil. "We're looking to launch a progress program that will help people go through a series of classes to get a certain skill." These skills include gaining employment, writing resumes, finding jobs online, social media do's and don'ts and Skype interviews. Edwin, who immigrated to the City from Fuzhou, China, uses the classes to improve his digital literacy, his professionalism and his English. Edwin lives in Chinatown and is a regular at the Tech Connect classes there. Edwin said he first heard about the Tech Connect program from a flyer at the library and the Mandarin translation classes have been especially helpful for him. "I have a better resume and I am able to find a job online," said Edwin of where he is now versus when he first started. "I also learned how to use LinkedIn for job searches and Facebook. I couldn't do these things before class, but now I am able to use these tools to find a job." "The biggest surprise was the bilingual computer classes where the teacher spoke fluent English and Chinese Mandarin," he added. "In my fifteen years in the USA, I have never had a class with a teacher that spoke dual languages."

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