Digital Skills: eBook Edition

Digital Skills: eBook Edition is a project born out of a shared interest in ebooks and the impression that eBook resources in the Twin Cities were abundant but underutilized. Together we learned about eBooks and the sources locally and universally that connect readers and digital texts, and we documented what we learned on our website, readebooksmn.wordpress.com. We began to understand that the complexities of accessing different collections and formats via your local library system meant that it took many steps and often a bit of research to get ahold of the desired text. With this in mind, our project outlined information in a digestible format to familiarize new ebook readers with the landscape of free and for-purchase digital texts.

As we designed our website and learning guides, we heard about experiences from ABE educators who leverage ebooks in their classrooms and from others who struggle to use eBook resources. Connecting with ABE teachers highlighted the value of eBooks as a tool for English language learners, and helped us to understand the barriers to using ebook resources available through local libraries. We designed our resources to be navigational tools for educators as they explore the many options for accessing digital texts. Our focus on libraries and free ebooks stemmed from the recognition that low-income and teen readers, especially in the suburbs where transportation can be very challenging, are situated to benefit most from no-cost resources.

As events surrounding COVID-19 unfolded this spring, we found new meaning in our project. Although we were unable to deploy our original plans for community engagement, which centered on a physical presence at large community events during the summer, COVID-19 reinforced the value of being able to access and read long-form digital content from home. Since eBooks don’t require a trip to the library or bookstore, they allow readers to self-isolate while still being connected to the books they want to read.

Group Members: Amanda Mitchel, Lora Thayer, Jeff Thomas

Each year our 35 CTEP AmeriCorps members choose community action projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. The CTEP civic engagement projects are often cited by CTEP AmeriCorps members, staff, supervisors, and community supporters as one of the most unique and energizing parts of the program. This is one of the 2020 civic engagement projects