West Texas (March 28, 2023) — When you think of the services and buildings that function as the heart of your community, what comes to mind?
Connected Nation staff (Alek Argueta and I) recently traveled to four cities in West Texas, by invitation from the Rio Grande Council of Governments, where the public libraries undoubtedly function as a vital organ supporting the communities of Alpine, Fort Davis, Presidio, and Marfa.
We came to West Texas with the purpose of delivering digital skills workshops covering computer, internet, email, mobile device, video conferencing, and cybersecurity basics. The communities embraced us with open arms. They were excited to showcase their libraries and celebrate the joy and sense of belonging in their small towns.
If you are not familiar with this remote corner of Texas, there is a lot to learn, and it’s completely worth the drive to reach this oasis in the desert.
Getting to know West Texas
Fort Davis has a population of approximately 1,000 people. The National Park Service describes it as “one of the best surviving examples of an Indian Wars’ frontier military post in the Southwest.”
The rich history is present everywhere you look, including in the library, which was previously a general store, temporary jail, bank, telephone exchange, and post office. Today, the library door never stops swinging.
In addition to the standard free access to print, audio, visual and digital materials, residents can also participate in cultural learning events and utilize community meeting space, including a sophisticated Virtual Connection room that has everything you need for confidential meetings and telehealth appointments. Telehealth is vital when the closest medical offices and hospital are located hours away. As you might expect, digital skills and confidence in using technology are very important in this remote town.
Alpine is home to almost 6,000 people, largely thanks to the gorgeous Sul Ross State University. The Alpine Public Library boasts a technology center with nine computers equipped with thoughtfully designed devices and accessories focused on accessibility. A Digital Navigator is on staff and offers monthly digital skills training courses.
Presidio Public Library provides services to approximately 3,300 community members, where Spanish is the predominant language. Marfa has a population of almost 1,800 residents. This small town is known as an art hub, and its festivals and celebrations attract visitors from near and far. We delivered digital skills workshops in both English and Spanish in these two communities.
Opening doors to opportunity
The learners we connected with during our workshops were excited about the doors that are opening to them, now that they have basic knowledge of computers and internet safety essentials.
One workshop participant shared that she is required to complete courses online for her continuing education credits to maintain a master hairstylist credential. She previously relied on her family members to access the necessary online resources, but now she can complete this step independently.
Alek and I departed West Texas with grateful hearts. We were honored that so many residents spent time with us to learn skills to engage with technology, and shared a piece of their story.
It’s crucial that everyone feels welcome and encouraged to participate in our digital society, no matter where they are and in what stage of life.
If you’re interested in bringing Connected Nation’s digital skills workshops to your community, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: National Park Service
About the Author: Melissa Anderson is the Digital Works Facilitator and Development Coordinator. She brings more than 17 years employment and volunteer experience with remote work environments, training, and development.
In addition to being an active-duty Army spouse, she has a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior and a master’s degree in Training & Development. She enjoys everything associated with books, reading, and learning and she is passionate about supporting the military family community.
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