NDIA had the privilege of training and supporting a total of 105 participants with the Digital Navigators of the Hudson Valley over the past year. This regional model combined the efforts of neighboring library networks Ramapo Catskill Library Council and Mid-Hudson Library System, as well as community partners to create a blanket of digital navigation services throughout the Hudson Valley in New York State via 45 library branches and partner organizations.
The program recently released its Report on One Year of Service with detailed data analysis, maps, and stories from their 12 month pilot.
This program utilized a number of unique elements, including a creative training model called “digital navigator mentorship.” This mentoring program paired experienced and novice digital navigators for support and shadowing. New digital navigators built confidence and skills through direct customer support, and the mentorship helped build a roster of even more digital navigators in the region.
Digital navigators cited their digital navigator cohort meetings and mentors, as well as the NDIA Digital Navigator Working Group and listserv as critical supports that helped them to begin, and will also help them to continue, service to their communities.
Community members connected directly with a digital navigator near them by checking the directory or asking their local librarian for assistance finding a digital navigator. With the help of a marketing firm, the digital navigators also gained their own branding, including large indoor and outdoor banners alerting community members to the new program and that there was a digital navigator present in their library.
The digital navigators requested “Digital Navigator – Ask Me” buttons to wear, and they saw an increase in conversations, often starting with, “What’s that mean?” and ending in, “Well, I could sure use that.”
The program coordinators were well aware of the laundry list of new services libraries could be asked to pilot and opted to include a financial incentive between $700 and $900 for libraries that participated in the digital navigator program and documented five different community member interactions in their data portal. This incentive ensured staff were able to invest some resources into their work with digital navigators and contribute to the collective data and best practices of the model.
During the 12 month pilot program, over 620 unique community members worked with a digital navigator in the region. Thanks to the program, community members were able to maneuver their way through civil service exams, CDL licensure, and job and college application portals. One community member was also excited that her library helped her share photos of the baby birds living on her porch with her daughter who lived in England.
The program was funded by an ARPA grant administered by Southeastern NY Library Resources Council in partnership with Ramapo Catskill Library Council and Mid-Hudson Library System.