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Bridging the Digital Divide with CyberNavigator Michael

From free computer courses to building websites, Michael is helping adult patrons in Chicago Public Library thrive in our increasingly digital world.

Michael Wassom’s enthusiasm as he talks about his past year as a CyberNavigator is contagious. He walks me through his day-to-day experience, jostling between patron success stories—and it’s clear that he’s passionate about helping Chicagoans succeed online.  

“It’s an honor to be doing this. When I found this job posting it drew my attention because I know how welcoming a space like the Library is for people trying to learn,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of it and utilize my skillset to help people and my community.”

Four days a week, Michael is booked and busy with appointments, helping adult learners one on one at the Richard J. Daley branch use technology and the Internet. And as he says, not one day looks the same.

“I have so many patrons coming in for different lessons. Some come in for help using Apple products. Others come in for assistance with building websites for personal businesses,” he says. “Others come to learn how to send emails or text messages.”

One Question at a Time

Learning how to use a computer can be overwhelming and browsing the Internet is complicated in its own right. So, how do you make a topic as complex as this easier to digest?

Taking it one question at a time.

At the beginning of every lesson, Michael asks patrons to write down goals and questions that they want to work through. This helps guide their sessions and allows for a natural progression between digital literacy courses.

Take Ms. Claus, for example. One of Michael’s “regulars,” she’s been coming in since last July. In her first few sessions, she came in with questions about how to use certain settings and apps on her phone. Then they worked on sending emails and texts. Flash forward to today, she’s now learning how to use her phone and laptop for things like online shopping and virtual assistance.

“It’s been amazing seeing her progress over the last six months,” says Michael. “She comes in two-to-three times a week and we’ve worked on a lot together. Now she’s able to use her devices in a way that makes things like shopping more convenient for her.”

Moving On Up!

Like Ms. Claus, other patrons have moved from the basics of technology usage to more advanced topics.

Ms. Milkowska first came in needing help setting up her Apple products. Now, she’s learning how to sync her iPhone to her Macbook and other devices!

In Ms. Holman’s first tech lesson, she and Michael started with the basics: how the Internet works. Today, she’s building her own website and marketing tools for her personal business.

“Ms. Holman has been showing tremendous progress. She’s now able to edit her own photos, maneuver through her email and Internet browser, even transfer files between devices,” says Michael.

Bridging the Digital Divide Together

Wherever patrons start in their digital journey, Michael has not only met them there but has taken them to new heights. “It’s so rewarding seeing the people I work with grow and learn how to use technology in whatever way they want to use it for. This is their journey, and I am here to support it.”

And there’s no place like the Library for this to happen! “The Library giving people free access to Wi-Fi and online learning resources like Chicago DigitalLearn is so crucial because they help people navigate our digital world.”

The CyberNavigators program helps bridge the digital divide by providing one-on-one digital literacy support to adult Library patrons across the city.

Thank you to the Polk Bros. Foundation, Exelon, Comcast, Peoples Gas, the Comer Family Foundation and other generous donors to the Library Foundation for making this program possible.

Give a gift today and help us provide more Chicagoans with digital literacy skills to thrive online.