Shauna Edson, an MA student in Communication and Writing & Rhetoric Studies, has been working with the Salt Lake City Public Library to help make our local communities more digitally inclusive. In 2016, Edson was named as a national Digital Inclusion Fellow, a partnership program through Google Fiber and the Nonprofit Technology Network.
Through this partnership program on which Edson serves, the Salt Lake City Public Library created an initiative called The Tech League, which offers information, workshops, events and classes to those who lack the access, devices or skills to connect digitally. In conjunction with The Tech League, the Laptop Discovery Kit was created. This kit allows library cardholders to check out a laptop along with power cord, mouse, Chromebook and internet hotspot for up to 21 days. Edson’s position as a Digital Inclusion Librarian will soon become a permanent position to continue the essential work of these programs that point to the value of humanities in digital communities.
“I first became aware of digital inequities when I was facilitating writing workshops with ESL students at the Asian Association of Utah. Without access to computers, broadband, and the knowledge of how to use technology, the students were not able to put the practical and civic writing skills they had learned to use,” Edson explained. “Employers request digital copies of resumes, letters to landlords to fix broken faucets have been replaced with emails or online forms, and healthcare, financial services, education, and social services are all shifting to online platforms. Digital inequities are complex, they change frequently, and digital needs vary for each individual.”
In addition to working on The Tech League and the Laptop Discovery Kit, Edson coordinated and participated in many digital inclusion outreach events at the Salt Lake City Public Library along with several local library branches. Edson also facilitated the Glendale Library Online Learning Program, a drop-in computer lab where adult community members can drop in for any computer questions, but most people are working toward high school completion. Five participants graduated from high school in June 2017 and one participant is enrolled in the fall semester at Salt Lake Community College on a scholarship. Edson staffed the lab six hours a week, registered and tutored students working on high school completion with the Horizonte program, and managed volunteers and child care.
“The 2016 NTEN Digital Inclusion Fellowship gave the Salt Lake City Public Library the chance to experiment with different digital inclusion programs, and the Library was able to gather information to help us better understand the digital needs of the communities the Library serves,” Edson said. “As a Digital Inclusion Librarian, I will be able to continue working with the City Library and our community partners to create long-term, sustainable digital programs.”