Library Outreach Services provides access to digital resources and library services
The Larimer County Community Corrections facility serves on average 280 individuals daily through a variety of innovative services and treatments designed to empower individuals and reduce recidivism in the community. Some of the people using the facility are transitioning back into the community after serving their sentence with the Department of Corrections; others are there as an alternative to incarceration or for reasons related to probation and parole.
Regardless of why a person is at Community Corrections, the professional staff and their community partners, like the Poudre River Public Library District, work to provide each individual with the programs and services he or she needs to make positive choices and effect personal change.
Karol de Rueda, a library assistant and community liaison with the Library District’s Outreach Services team, visits Community Corrections weekly to provide residents and nonresidents with access to information, online research and resources, and digital tools vital to their growth and change. She frequently helps as many as 24 individuals during her time onsite each month.
Karol’s weekly visit to the facility includes setting up laptops, opening Internet access, and helping people build the knowledge and digital literacy skills necessary to overcome gaps. This is essential to helping them make a smooth transition back into the community and equip them with skills for ongoing success.
When individuals leave Community Corrections custody or supervision and enter the community, they need to be able to navigate and operate in a digital economy to be successful.
“The library provides people with access to resources they otherwise don’t have during their time at Community Corrections,” explains Karol. “That includes everything from bringing in computers to teaching people how to effectively use technology to find the information they need to problem-solve.”
She routinely works with individuals using the computers to help them conduct job searches, find local housing, learn how to navigate online information, and connect with other community resources necessary for release from Community Corrections.
Karol has enjoyed many successes throughout her work with the Library District’s Outreach Services, and one recent encounter with a woman at Community Corrections stays with her.
“She had to obtain a job in order for release but couldn’t find her citizenship documentation to prove residency when applying for positions,” Karol recalls. “The immigration website would provide her a copy for $600 – which was out of the question for her – so we worked to find a better solution.”
Karol helped the woman research information and they determined that she could use a government website to obtain her passport number, apply for a new passport, and use that document as proof of eligibility to work. The problem? This process also had a fee, and the woman had no access to money.
After thinking and rethinking about how to solve this dilemma, Karol found that there is a process for obtaining a copy of your passport records at no cost. This was the perfect solution!
After the woman received her passport records, she quickly found a job and was released from Community Corrections!
Karol is frequently asked to assist with writing resumes or completing online job or school applications. She also spends time teaching digital skills that many of us take for granted, but which are new to many individuals and critical to their success.
“It’s important to be flexible and listen to individual needs,” explains Karol. “I build positive relationships with many of the participants simply by providing a library service that the rest of the community accesses every day. For this particular group, these services open up new possibilities and opportunities to change.”
The Library District has partnered with Community Corrections for the past two years, providing residents and nonresidents with a safe and nonjudgmental space to learn and help themselves through digital technology.
“Everyone can use help at one time or another,” says Karol. “The library’s here for everyone, whatever their circumstance or need.”
Curious about other ways the Library District is helping bridge the digital divide and provide digital literacy education? Read the blog post, The Forefront of Digital Equity.
Interested in other Library Outreach Services programs? Visit their webpage or call the Answer Center at 970-221-6740.