Digital information is an essential component of our daily lives. Purchasing groceries, cashing checks, and even checking out books at the library require the transmission and storage of electronic data. Most workplaces require some technology skills - sometimes before you begin, as 80% of Fortune 500 companies require online applications, according to the FCC. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that in the coming decade, technology skills will be required in 77% of jobs.
For those that have physical and intellectual access, digital technologies have made life easier and more connected. For those that lack access, the rapid progression of these technologies outpaces the ability of individuals to gain the necessary skills. Literacy skills are no longer enough; digital literacy skills – the ability to find, create, access, and evaluate digital information – are now also necessary to fully participate in this digital society.
Neill Public Library has long provided both physical and intellectual access to digital technologies, including free public computers with access to the Internet and Microsoft Office Suite, and free WiFi for enabled devices. The reference desk offers one-on-one assistance with using the online library catalog and library research databases, checking out eBooks and eAudiobooks, and much more. The library also offers free participation in the Microsoft IT Academy to card holders, which provides online courses that prepare students to take Microsoft certification tests at one of the state’s centers. Since the recession, library staff has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people needing assistance to search online for jobs, complete job applications and resumes, create email accounts, and otherwise develop the digital literacy skills needed to be competitive in today’s 21st century job market.
This year, Neill Public Library will focus its programming efforts on bridging the digital literacy divide in our community, and recently conducted a survey to shape a curriculum in this direction.
While the survey will lead us to offer more tailored services beyond what we already do – including workshops in computer technology and increased programming in technology services – we will also increase our focus on basic digital literacy services.
Our outreach will be creative and include the forging of additional community partnerships to leverage local expertise and talent. Our digital literacy classes will be free and available to all community members and address a wide spectrum of skill levels. Join us and start learning today!
By Erin Hvizdak, Adult Library Assistant, Neill Public Library