CyberNavigators: Reconnecting Families

Categories: CyberNavigator

With the help of a CyberNavigator, Library Patron Benny Contla has not only managed to narrow the digital divide for himself, but also the physical divide with his family who reside in Mexico.

Bonifacio Contla tries to talk to his three daughters whenever he can. But it’s not always easy: Contla, who goes by “Benny,” lives in Logan Square, and his daughters, age 15 to 20, live just outside of Mexico City.

Before Contla learned how to use Skype from a Chicago Public Library CyberNavigator, it was hard to find time to talk on the phone, and he wasn’t able to see his daughters’ faces when he talked. At the Richard M. Daley Library Branch in West Humboldt Park, he found CyberNavigator Jason Nosek, who worked one-on-one with Contla to teach him about the Internet and computer technology — including Skype.

Contla knew that some people could talk to family members who lived far away, but he had no idea how to do that, he said. “Jason showed me how to get in touch with people in a lot of places using the camera and the mic.”

During their regular hour-long appointments, Nosek also showed Contla how to send e-mails and use Dropbox so he and his daughters could exchange photos and home videos.

Contla started going to the library in November 2011, shortly after the West Humboldt Park branch opened. An avid reader, Contla also used the library’s computers. He would ask Nosek questions about sending emails and attaching photos and eventually started making appointments to see him. “Jason has a good way of explaining things,” Contla said, “and he has a natural patience to help people like me who don’t know much.” After a few months, Contla got his own computer, but he continued to come to the library to work with Nosek.

Even though Nosek works at a different branch now, Contla still goes to see him occasionally. And what Nosek has taught him has stuck with him. He loves talking to his daughters on Skype and feels that it has brought him closer to them. “I have a better idea of how they’re feeling because I can see their faces and their eyes,” Contla said. “It’s kind of like being there.”

CyberNavigators are tech savvy computer tutors working one-on-one with library patrons helping them to become digitally proficient.

CyberNavigators can be found at all 80 branch locations and are funded with generous gifts to the Chicago Public Library Foundation.