Delawareans getting connected at libraries statewide

Delawareans are obtaining access to digital technology at their local library.

Delaware is in the midst of a broadband expansion, but the cost of service could still be a barrier for families and individuals. There is also the matter of knowing how to use the Internet once you are connected.

Some answers to digital ability and affordability can be found at Delaware libraries.

From Claymont to Selbyville, Delaware libraries have been offering patrons the opportunity to sign up for low-cost or even free web service. Also, an education in how to use it may be available with a digital literacy summer associate, through AmeriCorps Vista.

"With this AmeriCorps position, our focus is to build the capacity of Delaware communities to enhance our digital literacy rate," Delaware Libraries digital literacy lead Joey Mezzatesta said. 

Six digital literacy summer associates have been available at various libraries during various times. 

"It doesn't always start with a conversation about computers," AmeriCorps summer associate Anthony Pena said. 

Patrons are often directed to the Affordable Connectivity Program, which was introduced in March. Involving the state and non-profit Education SuperHighway, it makes discounted Internet service available as well as credit toward a laptop, computer or tablet. Income guidelines apply, similar to WIC, SNAP and other government programs. 

"In every state, a library's role is to help people take the next step," Delaware Libraries Statewide Social Innovator Alta Porterfield said. "With digital literacy, learning how to navigate computers to be able to use it is a game-changer for people that don't know it - because nowadays, everything is on a computer practically."

Delaware Libraries utilize the Northstar  online instructional program, which allows people to take the digital literacy course at their own pace.

Delaware Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long is hopeful these resources will get more people coming through the doors of Delaware libraries.

"The libraries are an incredible resource for communities, for many, many reasons - whether it be access to Internet, whether it be access to educational programs, also vital health information and amazing other resources, if they're looking for employment," Hall-Long said. 

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