ALA has supported ConnectHome since its launch in 2015 by helping to connect local libraries with their public housing authority, the lead in local efforts to connect low-income housing residents to online opportunities. Libraries have provided digital literacy training, resources, and other support necessary to be successful online. As part of Digital Inclusion Week, today’s guest post by Joojo Ocran (Special Programs Advocate, EveryoneOn) highlights the ALA-EveryoneOn partnership and describes how more libraries can get involved.
It is a common misconception that libraries exist solely as a repository for accessing books. Beyond that core mission, libraries serve as a communal source of internet access for patrons who lack adequate technological resources at home. Oftentimes, however, libraries in communities around the country experience overflow, and are unable to cater to all the patrons who live in that area. In order to solve this problem, the American Library Association (ALA), which has spent nearly 20 years fighting to end the digital divide, and ConnectHomeUSA, launched in 2014, have cooperated to provide community residents with devices and literacy training in order to be more technologically independent.
Through the collaboration, ALA member libraries work with their local HUD-assisted communities in order to foster digital inclusion. ALA has partnered with ConnectHomeUSA to host digital literacy trainings at community libraries. San Antonio Public Library spearheaded an innovative iteration of this partnership through their Digital Literacy Passport program, where participants attended seven trainings and were given the opportunity to keep their newly mastered device upon graduation. Collaborative efforts such as this have helped thousands of low-income families to gain digital literacy skills. Digital skills including proper web search techniques empower families to leverage online resources such as affordable housing websites and job boards, which help to break the cycle of poverty for low-income families.
In addition than bridging the digital divide, ConnectHomeUSA is working with ALA to close the homework gap for K-12 families living in HUD-assisted housing. For instance, ALA has worked to provide software such as ABC Mouse for free on desktops in member libraries, which has caused a increase in local literacy rates. The literacy gains from software like ABC Mouse, as well as increased exposure to the library environment, has also caused students to check out more books in participating community libraries.
The American Library Association and ConnectHomeUSA have made a substantial impact by collaborating with each other, and we look forward to working together to bridge the digital divide in the years to come. For more information on ConnectHomeUSA, visit their website or follow them on Twitter for updates. If your library is interested in learning how they can get involved, please contact Marjike Visser for details.