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July 30, 2008 > Fremont Main Library's Teen/Senior Computer Connection Program

Fremont Main Library's Teen/Senior Computer Connection Program

An intergenerational program connecting Tri-City teens and seniors

By Gary Morrison, Teen Services Specialist with Alameda County Library

When Barbara, a Fremont resident, needed help with her new computer, she learned that the Fremont Main Library had a group of trained teen volunteers available to teach her basic computer and Internet skills. She was so appreciative of the assistance, she wrote a thank-you note to the teen that spent several weeks working with her. The library also recently won national recognition for this program from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The award-winning program was selected as one of the nation's top programs in its Excellence in Library Service to Young Adults Project!

The Teen/Senior Web Connection program serves both the needs of teens and seniors by providing teen volunteers with community service credits and the opportunity to learn teaching skills by tutoring seniors on how to use the Internet. Teens receive orientation and training then matched one-on-one with seniors wanting to become comfortable with the Internet. The program evolved from a desire to offer teens a meaningful way to earn school-required community service hours with a need to help older adult patrons become familiar with the Internet. Many seniors have Internet access at home but little idea how to use online resources. They wanted to communicate by e-mail, but do not know how to begin setting up an account. They have a variety of information needs, but lack the knowledge of how to perform a basic search.

Many seniors have reported that they tried alternate forms of instruction but have been frustrated by classrooms and large group approaches. Seniors are very appreciative of the teens (and the library) for providing this setting. Teens gain an understanding of the role of teaching - a skill rarely gained in most library-based volunteer roles - and have an opportunity to understand the information needs of a segment of our community far-removed from their own. When joining this program, some teens are somewhat apprehensive about interacting with seniors. In virtually all cases, they have been very successful, and some have continued in the program even beyond their service requirements.

The library recruits teens for the program three times per year. In a three-hour training session by the Teen and Senior Services librarians, teens are given an understanding of the library's role in teaching information-seeking skills, patron confidentiality, referring reference questions and working with issues often relevant to seniors, such as physical limitations.

Teen/Senior Computer Connection was promoted to teens through local high schools, school librarians, counselors, teachers and administrators. Many seniors became involved through referrals of library staff while helping them with computer-related questions at the reference desk. Fliers were also distributed to senior centers, retirement centers, the local adult school and library programs for older adults.

The program directly addresses the mission of the library: "The Alameda County Library system provides and protects access to books, information and services that promote learning and enjoyment for everyone." The Teen/Senior Computer Connection benefits teens and seniors of our community, and enables the library to serve an important role in a positive environment.

Sessions are held on Mondays from 2 - 5 p.m., through August 25. Seniors may drop in any time, and no registration is needed. For further questions, please contact Gary Morrison at

The Alameda County Library is an active partner with the City of Fremont and Tri-City Elder Coalition's Pathways to Positive Aging project.

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