As today’s digital world moves fast, Chicago Public Library Foundation Donors make sure Chicagoans aren’t left behind.
Larry visits the Portage-Cragin branch of Chicago Public Library every Saturday. At 60, he’s learning to use the computer for the first time. Today, he visited for a more advanced lesson – creating an online resume and uploading it to different job sites.
Mark is in his mid-30’s. He persistently visits his local branch library after a 12-hour shift from work. Mark found his job through Chicago Public Library’s CyberNavigator program – a service funded by gifts to the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Mark continues to attend CyberNavigator lessons religiously to master basics such as scanning documents, submitting govern,ent requirements online and navigating the Internet.
These are only a few of the patrons Ethan sees every day. At 25, Ethan has been a CyberNavigator at the Portage-Cragin branch in Chicago’s Northwest Side for almost two years. “I teach 5 to 10 people in one day. Most of them ask for help finding a job online,” he shared. That’s a loaded request, especially since 90% of Ethan’s students have limited computer and digital skills. “I understand the pressing need of looking for work, but I also explain to them the importance of understanding the process. I break down the steps and together, we create an effective plan,” he explains.
“From learning how to set-up an email to using resume building tools, my students, are eager and willing to learn,” Ethan beams proudly. Having observed some of Ethan’s classes, I noticed how his students took detailed notes and practiced tirelessly. The look of accomplishment as Larry finished the first draft of his resume or as Linda submitted her first online job application was priceless. One student said it best,
“For me, every step is a win.”
Ethan also makes sure that his students are active participants in their lessons. He shares, “I always ask them questions such as, what jobs are they looking for? What are their goals? Do they have specific industries or companies in mind?” In the process, Ethan gets to know his students.“The people I teach – they are strong-willed, and they are determined to put in the effort to succeed,” Ethan explains. He follows that statement by sharing stories of how patrons who visit the Library after long hours at work or how they stay after their sessions to review the day’s lessons.
“There was one man I worked with for months. One day, he called the library and asked for me. He said he wanted me to be the first one to know that he got a job.” Ethan was thrilled for him because he knew his student had been job searching for months and working together had helped make a difference.
Ethan admits that one of the most moving moments in his career as a CyberNavigator was when one of his patrons, a 6’3”, burly man, came up to him and hugged him to say thank you. “After that hug, I told him that he did most of the work; I was just there to guide him,”
“That’s important – for them to know that they were able to accomplish something they didn’t think they could do.”
I ask Ethan, “Why do you enjoy working as a CyberNavigator?” He smiles then answers, “People think that because I’m the designated ‘teacher,’ I’m the one imparting the lesson. The truth is, I learn as much as I teach. The people I have met showed me the value of persistence and of never giving up. Most of them are older than I am, and they share life advice that I have taken to heart. I have learned from them as much as they have learned from me.”