Partnership since the Beginning

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Recently, Lydia (DL coordinator) and Ashley (Communication Intern) spoke with Anne DuRoss (Library Director) from the New Hartford Public Library (NHL) to reflect on the partnership between the library and LCNY. The Digital Literacy program started two years ago and the first volunteer was stationed at NHL. Since then, the relationship between LCNY and NHL has only grown as more volunteers have joined, more community members are attending computer help sessions, and workshops continue to be scheduled.  

About the Library and Anne 

The New Hartford Library (NHL) is a public library located in the Town of New Hartford. This library is open every day except Wednesdays and offers a variety of programs, resources, and materials for all ages. 

Anne is the director for NHL. She started working at the library in 2007 as a part-time Library Aid as she was a stay-at-home mom. By 2012, she became Interim Director of the library. Anne enjoyed working for the library and decided to get her master’s so that she could become the director. And the rest is history as Anne has been the Director of NHL ever since. 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, NHL had an IT employee to help patrons with computer or technology questions. However, because of funding deficiencies, the IT position has not been filled again. That is when LiteracyCNY offered to step in and provide volunteers for weekly computer help sessions. Anne commented that all the staff are knowledgeable to an extent about technology questions, but “LCNY has helped fill a void in services.” 

A customer states that it’s “Best Buy or here” for technology questions and they can usually get their questions answered with a DL volunteer.  

Many customers share the belief that, “This is my library, and this is where I want to get help.” 

Digital Divide Phenomenon

There are some areas in New Hartford and Oneida county where households may not have broadband internet available. Therefore, they rely on libraries such as NHL for seemingly simple digital tasks such as checking emails, getting concert tickets, or booking appointments. The digital divide, as this phenomenon is called, limits people’s ability to access the internet and many have no choice or the luxury of internet access because of where they live. 

Furthermore, many of the customers assisted at this location are older adults, ages 55 and older. The digital divide impacts this demographic the most and Anne stated that “technology is the missing piece when it comes to the conversation about loneliness.” Many Boomers and Gen Xers report feeling lonely and disconnected from their friends and family. There is an intersectionality between the digital divide, age, and feelings of social isolation that compounds negatively on specific individuals. By offering computer help sessions, LCNY and NHL have fulfilled some social contact and interaction needs of older members in the community. By working with a digital literacy volunteer, more community members now feel confident about connecting and staying in contact with family and loved ones in online spaces.  

Third Spaces 

Third spaces are typically community spaces that are separate from the home or workplace. These spaces can include, but are not limited to, cafes, community centers, gyms, parks, malls, and libraries. Third spaces are essential for building relationships with others, but it’s more difficult to keep these spaces alive with less funding towards public areas. 

Libraries have traditionally been places for borrowing or loaning books, media, articles, and more. Anne commented that she recently asked some second graders if they knew what they could borrow from the library and all the answers were the same… books. However, many people do not realize the variety of diverse borrowing materials that are available. Some items that can be borrowed from NHL include instruments, museum passes, and pickleball sets (just to name a few). Ultimately, libraries help expose people to new experiences by making supplies and materials accessible to the community. And the Digital Literacy partnership is another experience that encourages the community to learn new things about technology at no cost to the customer.   

Volunteers 

A huge part of the success of the partnership between LCNY and NHL comes from the volunteers. These individuals donate a couple hours of personal time each week to help the community with digital questions. Both organizations recognize that volunteering takes patience, and we appreciate those with the skill to work with others in respectful and kinds of ways.   

Being a volunteer isn’t always easy, however many have noted that it is a very rewarding experience. Many of our volunteers go home so happy and fulfilled to have helped, even if it was one person during their shift. Their happiness is quite visible, and the feeling that volunteers experience when helping others is like no other. Volunteers also serve as constants for patrons visiting a session which fosters trust. Some adult feel behind the eight ball or embarrassed to ask for help with technology and devices. So, having a consistent person available helps to build that trust and relationship with customers, the volunteer, and the library.  

Additionally, volunteers also help to create a safe space and revitalize third spaces. Computer help sessions can be out within the library or in a reserved room depending on personal needs. Sometimes, a reserved room helps customers feel more comfortable filling out confidential forms or when asking questions that may seem embarrassing. Utilizing the library has helped to bring the word “community” back into “community spaces.” The DL volunteers continue to amaze both organizations and we thank you all.   

Stats about NHL & LCNY 

  • Since 2022, there have been 8 workshops at this location. 
  • Workshops have included Introductions to programs within the Google Suite and Selling on Facebook/eBay.
  • During the 23-24 Program Year 
    • Volunteers spent 68.2 HOURS helping customers at NHL. 
    • A total of 105 customers helped.
    • 69 unique customers helped during shifts.
    • 36 customers helped during workshops.
  • Top three tasks @ NHL in the 23-24 Program Year.
    1. Learn new smartphone/tablet skill (17% of tasks).
    2. Learn basic computer skills (13% of tasks).
    3. Complete an online search and/or navigate a website (12% of tasks).

What’s Next? 

Starting in June 2024, the drop-in computer helps sessions with now be appointment based to better serve the needs of individuals. Appointments can be scheduled by calling the library, (315) 733-1535.

You can also plan for more workshops to be held at this location. We are in the process of planning a workshop in October for National Cybersecurity month. Stay tuned for more information and cybersecurity resources to help keep you safe online.  

Over the years, thousands of subscribers continue to receive updates about the organization through our monthly “Notes from the Fridge” e-newsletter. We welcome new subscribers! Sign up now – Click Here or refer to the “Contact Information” section on this page. 

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