People still visit in search of good books and general information, but they also seek assistance getting up to speed and staying current with technology.
Chris Sabin (right) heard about the library’s computer classes two or three years ago.
“A class at the library was a very comfortable way for me to learn how to use the computer I had at home but was afraid to use in case I would mess it up or break it," he says. "I started with the most basic classes and keep coming because I always learn something new.”
Sabin, 72, enjoys classes because of the camaraderie he feels with fellow students and the instructors.
“It’s a really positive environment to be in," he adds. "The instructors teach in a patient, friendly and collaborative way. Then I go home and use my skills to keep in touch with family, friends and the outside world. The classes and the relationships I have formed there have changed my life.”
Hayley St. John-Ayre (left), Community Liaison for Broward County Library says, “Our partnership with Oasis resulted from budget reductions, and the need to engage volunteers to deliver services to our community. Oasis Connections helps us fulfill both of these conditions while still addressing our goal of meeting customer needs. Since the inception of the program there have been 17,000 enrollments for over 2,000 classes. This impressive reach demonstrates the continuing need for digital literacy in our community.”
About 25 volunteer instructors make up the Broward Connections Instructor cadre. Instructors run the gamut of experience, and many make their volunteering a permanent part of their lives.
St. John-Ayre goes on to say, “We have one instructor who had never touched a computer before taking classes at the library and now she teaches classes she was once a student in. We have another instructor who has a Ph.D. and authored technical manuals before retirement. They all do it because they enjoy helping people get comfortable with technology and continue learning.”
Peggy Dodd and Arnold Freedman were among the first group of volunteer instructors and have each taught over 800 students.
Dodd (right) says, “I was always the go-to person for technology problems during my career, so helping out at the library was an easy decision. I keep teaching because of how happy I feel when I see my students realize they are capable of using a computer and to keep myself current by learning from my students and from the handbooks I teach from.”
BCL also offers Digital Downloads, a technology initiative that provides one-on-one help for customers to learn to use their digital devices more effectively. These classes continue to gain popularity as people adopt more portable devices.
And last but certainly not least, the library also keeps the public up to speed with emerging technology through the introduction of maker spaces. Maker spaces are places America’s students and entrepreneurs can go to use tools necessary to innovate and create in our digital society—tools like 3-D printers, video editing equipment and the like. In 2014, BCL was recognized by The White House as one of 125 library systems providing innovative space and tools like the Creation Station, which hosts STEM-oriented activities for students.
BCL volunteer instructors celebrated four years of keeping people in sync with technology.
Oasis Connections is made possible with support from AT&T.