Surrey Libraries releases literacy day report, launches digital literacy programs

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 their literacy day report, which outlined the major spike in digital consumption from library card holders in the past year, including over 175,500 e-book checkouts, 28,000 catalogue searches from the Surrey Libraries app and over 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.”

The 66-year-old Surrey woman said she took the six-week course and, even surprising herself, is now a regular user on 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.

ADULT LITERACY PROGRAM SEEKS VOLUNTEERS:

With International Literacy Day and Surrey Libraries’ campaign to promote digital literacy, there are still some adults and seniors who just need the basics.

That’s why READ Surrey/White Rock is looking for volunteer adult literacy tutors to help with the process."Literacy is a significant yet largely hidden issue for so many adult learners," Shanti Ang, READ Surrey/White Rock literacy coordinator, told the Now in an email.

"Getting a good cohort of volunteer tutors trained up will help many learners in the coming months."

A training program orientation session is scheduled to happen at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 29 at the City Centre Library for interested participants.Minimum qualifications for would-be tutors include having to be at least 19 years old and possessing a high school graduation or equivalent, along with excellent written and oral English skills and competency in reading, writing and math.

Tutors will help adults develop reading, writing and math skills, and a free 15-hour tutor training will take place in October.

"The info session is free but space is limited so anyone interested should contact me to reserve a seat," Ang said.

To register for the orientation session, call Ang at 778-255-5508 or readswrs@gmail.com.

kalexandra@thenownewspaper.com

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