A library patron came to every weekly tutoring session student Amanda Schlott held at Castleton Free Library last year. His first question was how to set up his computer, and by spring he was emailing family and friends and printing out his grandson’s basketball schedules. In weekly sessions in libraries in Jeffersonville, Bristol, and Morristown, student intern Angela Talbert found she mainly answered one-time walk-in questions: how to send an email, search the web, use eBay or Facebook, or download photos from a camera or USB drive.
Both these students worked last year as Internet Interns for the e-Vermont Community Broadband project, a statewide effort to help bridge the digital literacy gap for rural Vermonters. CCV manages training efforts on behalf of the VSC. Eric Sakai, CCV’s dean of academic technology and a member of e-Vermont, oversees these training efforts. Hartness Public Service Librarian Larraby Fellows coordinates and offers community workshops and helps develop the training webinars and videos, and Karen Case, coordinator of academic services at CCV-Montpelier, coordinates the training and placement of student interns in local libraries.
CCV’s Internet training work with the broadband project includes offering community workshops, webinars, and short how-to videos; developing and offering a series of “Train the Trainer” classes for employees who work with Vermonters needing digital skills (filing unemployment claims and taxes, submitting online job applications); and working with local libraries to coordinate and place student Internet Interns.
There are 183 public libraries in Vermont. All provide computers and most have high-speed Internet connections for local residents, which made them the logical centers for a fall 2011 training pilot sponsored by VSC and the Vermont Department of Libraries (both partners with the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project). Six trained college student interns were placed in eight libraries across the state to answer questions from patrons or staff. This spring nine interns were placed in thirteen libraries.
Vermont State librarian Martha Reid told a group attending the day-long Vermont’s Digital Future conference at Champlain College on May 8, 2012, that e-Vermont project coordinators found early on that group training sessions weren’t reaching targeted audiences: seniors and Vermonters lacking digital skills respond best to hands on, one-on-one training sessions about specific problems. CCV’s weekly interns’ tutoring hours, and the “Train the Trainer” programs, which provide hands-on Internet training skills to public employees, have been very successful in reaching these audiences. President Joyce Judy and student intern Angela Talbert presented on CCV’s individualized training efforts for the panel “Digital Leadership: Building Digital Literacy,” at the Digital Future conference.