Charlie Brown is a cheery older man, who carries around a huge bag overflowing with papers. Like many people his age, he relies on social services for housing and health care.
But lately he’s noticed a trend when at social service offices—they are short staffed and send him online for information or to fill out a form. It’s been a challenge for Brown, who describes himself as “computer illiterate.”
So once a week he goes to Harold Washington Library to meet with Zach McMahon, a cyber navigator. A cyber navigator’s central job is to help people learn to use computers. But Zach Mahon says that much of what they do is help people access government services or find a job. In a way, the cyber navigators are almost like digital social workers.
“I use [the cyber navigators] about once a week to find what’s available to senior citizens such as food pantry, clothing or housing assistance,” says Brown.There are 45 part-time cyber navigators at different Chicago Public Libraries. The program is unique to Chicago, though, according the American Library Association, most libraries have noticed an increased number of request to help access social services online.
Exactly where it’s at.