This article was written by Christine Friese, Assistant State Librarian. To apply for an Internet Intern for your Library, fill out the form here.

Access to high speed broadband and free computers has long been a known barrier to digital literacy across the U.S. Now, with more areas of Vermont receiving better connectivity and public libraries throughout the state offering computer access to all, the next most urgent need to bridge the digital divide is effective training for digital literacy. Vermonters may have high, medium or no skills in finding and using information on the Internet, in using online tools for work or entertainment, or in lifelong learning and social interaction.

As part of the Vermont Digital Economy Project, The Vermont Department of Libraries (VTLIB) and Community College of Vermont (CCV) are continuing a partnership, begun under the eVermont project, to match CCV students to Vermont public libraries as Internet Interns, helping Vermonters become better internet users. Interns come from various college programs and are not teachers or IT experts. The students receive iConnect training, learning how to help adult learners become digitally literate, but they have no specific training in digital literacy. Therefore each intern’s technical and teaching skills differ but all are digitally literate and interested in helping others navigate on the Internet.

Interns have school-term-based contracts to work up to 6 hours per work in a given library. They assist library patrons one-on-one and in small groups if appropriate, working on things like how to use a web browser, fill in a web form (job applications for instance), create and use an email account, learn how to write, save and publish a document such as a resume, share photos through email or understand social media tools and their various uses.

In addition, the interns gather data about the kinds of help their library patrons request and report back (always respecting a patron’s privacy) to help CCV and the VTLIB understand what kinds of digital learning opportunities would be most useful throughout Vermont. There are some clear trends appearing in the types of help being sought, with job hunting (searching for jobs, applying online, writing resumes) and advanced email topics among the most frequent (how to transfer photos, how to change email settings). As CCV and VTLIB work on digital literacy initiatives and partnerships in the coming years, these interns will be providing very important input and feedback on the methods that work and the topics that require attention.

The library patrons being helped also provide valuable feedback and are encouraged, if willing, to share their stories through quotes, surveys, photos or video, to help tell the story of digital literacy in Vermont. The internships will continue through the end of the grant in July 2014 and applications (which can be filled out here) will be accepted for additional libraries in the near future. More details on the program are available here and by contacting Christine Friese, Assistant State Librarian at [email protected].