Using Technology to Connect to Opportunities

Reprinted courtesy of: American Libraries Magazine


Funds from the American Dream Starts grant helped the library deal with budget cuts

Despite budget cuts that reduced the outreach staff by 50 percent, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library continues to serve more than 800,000 patrons, nearly one out of six of whom speak a language other than English. “Avanzando (advancing) @ your library” created opportunities for nearly 500 patrons to enroll in free and accessible technology classes offered in Spanish in three different library locations.

All of the program’s participants reported that they now know how to use the Internet; 93 percent state they now have an email account and can use it; and more than four out of five reported that their computer skills have improved because of the program.


Software expands literacy resources 

Hialeah is the second largest city in Miami– Dade County, Florida. Of the city’s 207,000 residents, 94 percent are of Hispanic origin and speak a language other than English at home. The library provides free access to ESL instruction, government information, and social services. To expand its resources, the library used the American Dream Starts @ your library grant to purchase web-based ESL software and laptops to enhance literacy instruction. The software was a new service for the library and a new resource for the community, allowing ESL students access from the library or home. Through partnerships with the Hialeah Adult Education School, Friends of the Library, the Women’s Club of Hialeah, and volunteers, the library promoted its adult literacy program, provided training for ESL teachers, and supplemented its ESL collection. These community partnerships proved to be essential to the success of the program.


Computer classes in Spanish

Like other American Dream grant recipients, the Wauconda Area Public Library identified Mango Languages online language learning software as ideal for their patrons who sought language instruction most: members of the local Mexican, Polish, and Russian communities. The library used funding from the American Dream Starts @ your library grant to purchase the software and other print and multimedia resources.

The local school district’s bilingual coordinator volunteered to present six basic computer classes in Spanish. The library scheduled regular computer classes in Spanish after the initial offering saw high demand.