Evanston Public Library focuses on English and Spanish technology training


Andrew Rowan/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Public Library Volunteer Computer Class Teacher George Lowman helps a visitor figure out ways she can get more storage on her iPhone.

Andrew Rowan, Reporter

This fall, the Evanston Public Library is focusing on computer training in both English and Spanish, aiming to address Evanston’s digital divide.

About 14 percent of Evanston residents do not have internet access at home, according to a 2017 library report. EPL added the Spanish-language classes “to close all demographic gaps,” the library wrote in a press release.

Anyone in the area, even those without a library card, can call the library and set up a 45 minute, one-on-one training appointment. The training sessions can be on “any subject of your choice” with any device in either English or Spanish, said technology associate Susan Arden.

Sergio Gonzalez, one of the library’s technology trainers, holds about 20 sessions per week. He said the individualized sessions are best for resolving specific issues with technology, such as setting up a new smartphone or understanding how to use a workplace database.

“You use the computer for anything,” said Gonzalez. “If you want to learn, just come.”

At Evanston Township High School, Gonzalez also teaches a computer class in Spanish designed for parents.

The class began last year with computer basics, such as how to use a computer mouse and keyboard, but progressed to more advanced topics such as Google Docs later this fall, he said.

He also teaches technology skills specific to parents, such as online forms for school events or academic portals.

Gonzalez emphasized the importance of having these opportunities available in both Spanish and English.

“The idea is to make (students) comfortable with using the computer,” Gonzalez said. “People feel more comfortable when you speak their own language.”

Additionally, the library offers free technology tutorial classes on Thursdays throughout the year, according to George Lowman, a volunteer who teaches weekly technology classes at EPL.

The classes cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from basic classes like “Why would I want a smartphone?” to more sophisticated sessions like “How can I sync my iPhone with Windows 10?”.

Other local phone stores in Evanston also recommend the classes to customers who have purchased new devices, Lowman said.

Each session tends to average about 10-15 people, though Lowman noticed a rush of attendees coming to classes after technology changes. He taught a class on the new iOS 13 update last Thursday.

Technology services offered by EPL are free. In the future, Gonzalez said the library hopes to offer certification in Microsoft Office Certification to show proficiency in the platform for prospective employers.

Gonzalez said services offered by EPL are changing the definition of a library, no longer making it just a place to get a book.

“There are a lot of services here that people don’t know,” Gonzalez said. “Come here and learn something.”

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