My work as an Urbana Free Library Tech Volunteer evolved into a Practicum project at the Graduate School of Library & Information Sciences at the University of Illinois. GSLIS students manage and staff a volunteer program with the Adult Services Department of the Urbana Free Library. These volunteers staff a special station at the Reference Desk devoted to managing the public computer lab and providing technical help and digital literacy training to patrons. This program both removes a burden from the professional librarians, and provides students with valuable opportunities for library experience, patron interaction and customer service, and both formal and informal instruction.
Working as a tech volunteer, I recognized a need for a tool to coordinate volunteers, collect and manage transaction statistics, and provide an archive for organizational documentation and continuity. I proposed a project to create the Online Dashboard to the Adult Services librarians, and then built it with the open source Drupal content management system. In addition to the basic management functions, I also provided for a knowledge base of instructional materials, help desk ticketing functionality, and a collaborative space for volunteers and community members working on digital literacy instruction.
This platform will be managed by the UFL Tech Volunteers student organization, and is designed to be expandable over time to share resources with the wider community, and take in curriculum being developed for other Community Technology Centers in the area as the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband project ramps up. My hope is that it will eventually serve as a platform to extend the work and knowledge of the Adult Services librarians, the Tech Volunteers, and GSLIS students out into the rest of the local community and the wider LIS professional world.
After graduating from GSLIS, I continued as a volunteer with the newly-organized Teen Open Lab, where I learned about and co-taught a variety of Maker tools and methods, and also helped to maintain the fleet of multimedia laptop computers provided by the CU Community Fab Lab.