Digital literacy programs expand at B.C. library system

Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Flickr

Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Flickr

The Burnaby region of the B.C. library system will expand its free computer training sessions with new classes for seniors starting February 2013. The new courses aim to help a diverse and aging community navigate the rapidly advancing technological world. These courses are part of a collaborative attempt by local libraries to anticipate the unique needs of each community and provide applicable educational resources.

In addition to the introductory classes to MS Word, MS Excel 2007, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, one Burnaby library will now offer sessions on Computer Basics and Internet Basics for Seniors. Training will be available at the Tommy Douglas branch in Burnaby, which is the only branch with a computer lab.

“It is a one time session,” says Roberta Summersgill, manager of the Tommy Douglas branch. “There is often a misunderstanding of this being a consecutive course. It is not. For extended courses the school board is still the best option, but to get your toes wet, you can start with us.”

Each branch offers a broad range of classes, with a different class schedule at each location. The frequency and types of courses vary throughout the year, but there are usually between two and six computer related sessions per month, depending on the budget and demand, says Summersgill.

The seniors’ courses were added after discussions about how the branch could meet the particular needs of its aging community.

Deb Thomas | Photo courtesy of Deb Thomas

Deb Thomas | Photo courtesy of Deb Thomas

“We meet often to report on each other and discuss the possibility of programs considering the different demographic needs of each branch,” said Deb Thomas, deputy chief librarian and manager of the Metrotown branch.

All branches aim to create programs that are inclusive, by “anticipat[ing] the needs of our communities,” said Linda Shineton, manager of the McGill branch.

To meet the demands of their multicultural communities, the branches have hosted other programs, such as basic computer skills in Mandarin and Settlement Programs. The Settlement Programs aim to provide immigrants and refugees with information on accessing resources as well as an orientation to their respective communities. These workshops are offered at multiples sites, times and days of the year.

The Settlement Programs are given in partnership with other government-sponsored job integration programs in Vancouver such as the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and MOSAIC organizations, and have been offered in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English, says Shineton.

She adds that for children, the branches offer programs such as Story Time, Author Visits, Film Screening and others that are co-sponsored with organizations like Simon Fraser University, Burnaby Village Museum, and Science World.

The range of programs offered by the B.C. library system will soon expand from information, language and digital literacy, to financial literacy due to a new partnership between the Vancouver Public Library and Vancity Credit Union.

The new classes for seniors are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Classes will be held in the 12-terminal computer lab at the Tommy Douglas branch. Registration for this branch will start on Jan. 25, and classes will begin on Feb. 1.