Digital Navigators: Texas Libraries and Digital Literacy

A team of researchers is working with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) to conduct research examining digital inclusion programs in ten Texas libraries.  

Led by Prof. Sharon Strover with Research Assistants Sheila Lalwani and Whitney Nelson, the team investigates TSLAC’s Texas Digital Navigators grant program, which funds libraries to develop and implement unique approaches to enhance local digital capabilities. Those programs are designed to work with trusted community partners to close the digital divide in their areas. Digital Navigators are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills — with community members through repeated interactions.

Through the grant, the research team will be assessing the activities of 10 libraries across Texas in both large and small communities as they close the digital equity gap. The Project Team will look at implementations and assess their outcomes in meeting the identified local needs.

What is a Digital Navigator? Trained Digital Navigators are able to assess a community member’s need, and guide them towards resources that are suitable for their skill level and lifestyle. They are familiar with resources that relate to digital equity, such as Internet service providers and devices, and they help residents learn to use critical online services that provide guidance with anything from food support, rent, education, employment, and childcare, to government benefits and more.

The ultimate goal of this work is to provide meaningful data on the participating local libraries to ensure program maintenance and improvement, while providing benchmark data for other libraries seeking to implement Digital Navigator programs in the future. Additionally, this research will provide recommendations and supporting data to guide future training and public awareness efforts.