WebJunction's Spanish Language Outreach Pilot Program
Spanish speakers are especially affected by the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not; the need for computer training in Spanish and access to public computers and information on the Internet is one of the more important in the Spanish speaking community today. As the number of Spanish speakers in this country continues to increase, all types of community organizations, including libraries, are faced with the challenge of how to meet the needs of this community directly.
In an effort to help libraries continue to meet this challenge, WebJunction has launched a Spanish Language Outreach Pilot Program to discover how best to equip local library staff with knowledge and resources to meet the technology needs of Spanish speakers in their community. The program will partner with four state libraries and span 18 months. Creating a comprehensive nationwide online resource for training, materials, and library staff interaction is WebJunction’s ultimate goal.
The pilot states are New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois and Florida, each of which had either a high percentage of Spanish-speakers or a rapid increase in percentage of Spanish-speakers between 1990 and 2000. The State libraries and their training teams will contextualize their workshop curricula in order to address a variety of types of Spanish-speaking communities and to learn how best to respond to various cultural needs.
The program begins with a Training Institute during which trainers hired by the four state libraries will learn techniques for connecting with Spanish-speaking communities and identifying ways in which technology can improve their lives. Following the Institute, the trainers will conduct up to ten local workshops in each state to teach local library staff members these techniques. Representatives from local community agencies which serve Spanish-speakers will also be invited to participate in the workshops so that existing outreach efforts and partnerships can be linked. The library staff will then put together workshops in their communities, based on a menu of options, encouraging local Spanish-speakers to use the public computers in their libraries.
Participating libraries will share their experiences through the community at WebJunction. Using this interactive environment, WebJunction will create a collection of best practices, case studies and resources to facilitate similar outreach in any library in the country. As the community continues to grow, WebJunction will become the primary source of interactive communication, training, and materials for library staff members nationwide who want to learn more about addressing Spanish speakers’ computer and information needs.
Through evaluation of this program, WebJunction and the group of pilot state libraries will determine if the program has increased cultural awareness and outreach, and if locally-contextualized curricula can have a significant impact on computer use in local libraries in Spanish-speaking communities.
As knowledge of technology and access to the Internet become increasingly important gateways to information and resources, libraries throughout the country are considering their role in working to narrow the digital divide. Learning how to remove barriers to technology resources and provide computer training to all members of their local communities has become a primary goal of libraries in many areas of the country. WebJunction’s Spanish Language Outreach Program will help to bridge this gap.