How many of us parents always wanted to take English or computer skills classes, but, for one reason or another, never did? I still don’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing, but the pandemic allowed us to learn new things. Something positive that came out of last year was that many libraries made their way into our homes through online technology workshops. Whether it was using a USB or changing a Zoom background, I don’t think the majority of parents I know had any idea about how to use technology.
One of the many online workshops developed by the San Jose Public Library was Ofelia and Elizabeth’s computer learning group. For many moms and grandmas, this weekly meeting was a huge support system. These women created an environment where we could ask questions, in order to adapt to the tech-savvy world we were thrown into in the midst of a pandemic. Ofelia was so patient with us, she motivated us and always provided the right learning resources. Elizabeth and Ofelia were the best teachers we could’ve asked for. She showed us everything from how to make safe purchases online, to using basic technology. These classes became more than just a space for learning, they gave us a community to share with, sometimes in small ways like sharing cooking recipes or tricks to losing weight.
Ofelia shared that the idea of offering online workshops via the digital library was born from the pandemic and all of the difficulties it presented. At the beginning of the pandemic, staff from the San Jose Public Library observed what was affecting our community the most. They noticed how severe the digital divide was and how it affected families and students. The library immediately mobilized to find funds to develop more opportunities to teach technology to members of our community. After the first round of computer workshops, Elizabeth and Ofelia came to the conclusion that these classes would need to continue. That’s how they developed the Digital Resources and Virtual Tech Hour programs, which have helped the community gain more confidence in using technology.
These classes have changed the way the San Jose Public Library library operates. Ofelia has high hopes that since they’re virtual, the programs will continue to reach people in different cities, states, and even parts of the world. They’ve filled a huge need in our community and, even if we’re starting to meet in person again, will continue giving people the option to learn from the comfort of their own homes.
The pandemic also caught many of us off guard, as many families didn’t have access to computers or tablets at all. In light of this problem, our library searched for opportunities to connect the community with the resources they needed to learn at home. The city of San Jose started by developing wifi networks in various areas of the city. At the beginning of the pandemic, they bought almost 16,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for students. In addition, San Jose Public Library led a loan-to-own initiative of 200 refurbished computers to the community members. It also hosted a laptop drive in partnership with Hewlett-Packard company, to reprogram more than 600 computers donated by the San Jose residents.
Whether they believe it or not, Elizabeth, Ofelia, and the staff at the San Jose Public Library did the impossible this last year. They helped our community stay connected in a time where connection seemed impossible. They created support groups, learning environments for people with little to no experience with technology, and made it so we could do all this from the safety of our own homes.
If you want to learn more about the San Jose Public Library’s many programs, please visit their website.
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