With our ever-growing reliance on technology to navigate our daily lives, it’s shocking to hear that one-third of Angelenos still do not have Internet at home. As millions turn to the Los Angeles Public Library for free access to computers, the Internet, wireless access, eBooks, eMusic, and eEverything, simply getting to a computer is only solving part of the problem. For those who are inexperienced or uncomfortable using technology, the Library Foundation supports the Cybernauts program, offering personal concierge-like technology assistance to Library users of all ages.
“What’s great about the Cybernauts program, is that it puts learning into play,” says Karen Gavidia, an enthusiastic Cybernaut at the Exposition Park branch, pictured below. “It’s about teaching and keeping patrons updated on technology that is constantly changing and piquing their interest about what’s out there.” Cybernauts are savvy at providing help on a range of issues—from creating email accounts, using word processing and photo sharing programs, to filling out job applications and tax forms. “Teaching a lot of basic things has a long term impact on how people use technology,” explains Gavidia.
Like many of the Cybernauts, Gavidia is from the community she serves and has become a welcoming face in her neighborhood branch. “I used to be a regular patron and a lot of patrons feel more comfortable coming in and asking questions because they recognize me and I can speak Spanish with them.” Bryan Bazalar, another bilingual Cybernaut and nearby resident of his Panorama City branch, considers himself lucky to be a part of such an inspiring program, which was partially conceived as a way to offer meaningful job training to young adults. He’s currently getting his Masters in Library Science and loves the everyday challenges of problem solving.
“The Internet is not always a clear solution, so I enjoy sitting down with a patron and getting their whole story, and then helping try to solve their issues,” says Bazalar. In his branch, he manages the Student Zones where he helps students with research—teaching students how to use online search engines and find information beyond cursory sites like Google and Wikipedia. But he also has noticed a lot of basic questions arising from students and adults alike on keyboarding issues, so he began offering a weekly keyboarding class to address these needs.
“The biggest benefit that I see patrons get from our coaching is confidence, and that’s very important to overcome fears of using the Internet,” says Bazalar. This year, the Cybernaut program expanded to 32 neighborhood branches as well as Central Library thanks to the generous supporters of the Library Foundation.
As part of the Library’s mission to provide free access to ideas and information, these innovative programs are also empowering individuals through technology supported by the Library Foundation:
- Full STEAM Ahead—A fun, integrated science, technology, engineering, art, and math program that sparks the imagination, and develops perseverance, problem-solving, and self-confidence. The Library is collaborating with a number of partners, such as Los Angeles Makerspace, Iridescent, Nine Dots, and The Exploratory, to teach workshops in areas like computer programming, electronics and robotics, 3D modeling and printing, animation, filmmaking, and more.
- Live Homework Help—A free online tutoring service that offers one-on-one help with math, science, social studies, English, and Spanish to students in Kindergarten through first-year college as well as adult learners.
- Student Zones—Offering teens and children access to dedicated computers, equipment, and furniture during the after-school hours, including the free use of books, subscription databases, printing, school supplies, trained personnel, and other learning resources.
- Adult Literacy—Committed to breaking the cycle of low literacy in our community, Adult Literacy Services help adults with English literacy skills below a sixth grade level to improve their reading and writing proficiency through one-on-one tutoring as well as self-directed, online practice.