Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services


Community Workshop Series: An academic library, public libraries, and library school collaboration

Ellie Boote (left) and Dani Brecher (right) – Coordinators of the Community Workshop Series

By Amanda Foster, Carolina Academic Library Associate

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Each Friday and Saturday morning, members of the Chapel Hill, Durham, and Carrboro communities make their way to their local public library to attend a computer or information literacy class put on by the Community Workshop Series (CWS). But before you think this is another case of traditional public library computer class offerings, keep reading to learn about the unique partnership that brought the CWS about.

The CWS was started in 2005 by a SILS graduate assistant working at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Undergraduate Library. Since 2006, UNC University Libraries has funded a graduate assistant whose responsibilities include organizing the CWS. Current UNC SILS student, Ellie Boote, is the Coordinator of Community Workshops. Each week, she schedules a volunteer instructor and floaters to staff around three classes per week. Classes are offered throughout the Research Triangle at the Carrboro Cybrary, Chapel Hill Public Library and the Durham County Southwest Regional Library. Last year, 255 members of the community attended a class.

One of the primary audiences of CWS classes is job-seekers wanting to build their computer skills. Classes on applications in the Microsoft Office Suite are the most popular for job-seekers, as are classes on resume writing and online job searching. Courses on online shopping, social networking, finding health information, and creating e-mail accounts are also popular.  Recently, the CWS began offering “Open Labs,” at some locations. Open Labs allow community members to bring their own projects to the library and receive help from a CWS volunteer.

Another primary audience for CWS classes is older adults wanting to learn more about computers because their children are using them. Dani Brecher, another SILS graduate student who will be the Coordinator of Community Workshops for the 2012-2013 academic year, says one of the more rewarding aspects of leading CWS classes is having participants come back later and say they’ve used their newly created e-mail accounts to send pictures and notes to out of state relatives.

Recently, the CWS has been reaching out to other organizations in the community. Boote has noted an increase in referrals from Parent University, with the goal of getting parents up to speed on current technology so they can help their children with their homework.

The workshops are staffed almost exclusively by student volunteers from UNC’s School of Information and Library Science and librarians from UNC University Libraries. In a way, the CWS serves the purposes of both the participants and the volunteers. Because the majority of CWS volunteers are current SILS students, they gain valuable instruction experience which will help them on the job market.

In 2007, the CWS won the ACRL Instruction Session Innovation Award. Since then the CWS has continued to be a unique example of collaboration between an academic library, public libraries, and students from a library school. CWS allows UNC Libraries to give back to the local community by offering computer and information literacy classes while also helping library school students gain much-needed instruction experience.

Would you like to learn more about CWS? Check out their website.

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Trackbacks are disabled.