City Library Creates Digital Literacy Programs for Youths

July 11, 2020 Updated: July 12, 2020

San Jose Public Library (SJPL) is preparing online educational programs to help students develop digital skills outside a standard classroom.

Although many youths today are tech-savvy, some may not be, and some have limited access to technology or the internet. During the pandemic and the resulting shift to online learning, some families are struggling to keep up.

This is where the programs at SJPL come in.

“The library is a fantastic complement and needed now more than ever for students to succeed,” Lauren Hancock, Community Programs Administrator at SJPL and former advisor for FUSE Corps, told The Epoch Times.

Right now, they are working with the County Office of Education to distribute hotspots to schools and students. She expects a device lending program to start soon.

SJPL already offers coding camps and robotics programs that engage students in coding and technical computer skills. The coding programs are sponsored by various tech companies such as KLA Foundation and Google.org.

The length of programs ranges from a few hours to up to seven weeks, and they are free of charge.

Hancock told The Epoch Times that she wants every student in their district to have a library card, and that there are currently 60,000 student library cards. Although SJPL locations had to close to the public on March 17, the reopening process has begun, and several of the locations now offer express pickup for books on hold.

Challenges With Distance Learning

“Teenagers across the cities … have been impacted in so many different ways,” said Hancock.

Some families are managing their work or school schedules with one device.

“So you have families trying to work off one or two Chromebooks or laptops. That can be a bit of a struggle,” Hancock said.

Occasionally, two students may need to hop onto Zoom classes at the same time.

Hancock said that challenges exist where siblings may negotiate space among themselves. Additionally, they’re trying to create new habits and routines at home.

George Zamora, 15, told The Epoch Times that he and his sister usually argue about who gets what devices.

He said his family didn’t have a laptop until two and a half months ago.

“We had to find ways to do our work without using technology,” Zamora said. “[My mom] put me in this program, and they were able to get me a laptop.”

Tony Nguyen, 15, told The Epoch Times he has a good bond with his sister and that they don’t fight over devices. He prefers to do schoolwork on a laptop because of the bigger screen compared to a smartphone screen.

Regarding distance learning, he said, “The only thing I liked about it was that it was short and our grade didn’t have to go down.”

Duane Guingrich, a father, said that while devices and internet connectivity play a role, he believes the kids that do best are the ones with family support.

“It’s the parents that are more motivated, and they’re more educated,” he told The Epoch Times. “They can teach their kids much easier than parents from a tougher background.”

Hancock from SJPL said that people are supporting each other, and the community is coming together in terms of digital inclusion, connectivity to food and meals, and reopening of restaurants and small businesses.

“I think, often in a time of crisis, there are these really beautiful moments that you can see … that now, more than ever, we’re coming together as a strong community,” she said.