Digital literacy program helps senior ‘do things I never even knew existed’

CITY CENTRE – Years ago, tackling literacy issues had much to do with picking up a book and learning to make sense of the words on the page. In the age where social media and digital text are the primary ways of getting information, it’s more pertinent than ever to be digitally literate – that is, learn how to use a computer and the internet.On International Literacy Day (Monday, Sept. 8), Surrey Libraries released a report that outlined a major spike in digital consumption by library card holders in the past year, including more than 175,500 e-book checkouts, 28,000 catalogue searches from the Surrey Libraries app and more than 17,000 "freegal" music downloads.The report also outlined new digital literacy programs that members of the library can make use of for free. Programs include digital literacy classes and a new "Curiosity Corner", a space in the Newton branch where six iPads loaded with educational apps are set up to encourage learning for youngsters and parents.One such beneficiary of last year’s digital literacy program was Guildford resident Jeannie Peltz, a senior citizen who took advantage of her Surrey Library branch’s basic computer skills program."Here’s someone who’s 66 years old, doesn’t own a computer, knew nothing about a computer, a mouse was something a cat chased and a window was something you looked out of," Peltz said, pointing her thumb at herself at the Surrey Libraries’ event on Monday morning."As of today I am also a volunteer in the Guildford centre for seniors kitchen," she told the Now. "I’m their kitchen coordinator and I now can at least print up the menus, do borders, do things I never even knew existed and I’m no longer afraid of a computer."Peltz said she took the six-week course and, even surprising herself, is now a regular user of Facebook."This is the first focus on digital literacy. We’ve never done that before," said Linda Stromberg, chair of the board for Surrey Libraries.Underlining why digital literacy is so important, especially to a large city like Surrey, Stromberg said, "Every time you turn around, the government, businesses, accessing community services are more and more happening online."The aim of the report and the new programs is to get Surrey Libraries card holders up to speed with communication in the digital age."If you don’t have Internet access or the tools that you need or if you don’t have the knowledge of how to use those tools, you are handicapped in so many ways to get around your community, to interact with government services, to find out when the bus is coming next, to get a job," Stromberg said.Currently, there are 188,691 active Surrey Libraries cardholders, with over 175,000 e-book and e-magazine checkouts in the past year. There are nine Surrey Libraries branches across the city.kalexandra@thenownewspaper.com

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