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ULC Joins National Partnership to Develop COVID-Era Digital Service Models for Libraries

In partnership with the Salt Lake City Public Library and National Digital Inclusion Alliance, ULC is advancing a new Digital Navigators service model to help libraries address the new and intensified digital access barriers resulting from COVID-19. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant number LG-248566-OLS-20.

Now being piloted by SLCPL and NDIA through September 2021, the Digital Navigators model offers a replicable blueprint for meeting the digital needs of underserved community members via phone-based support services. This framework trains Digital Navigators – who can be either volunteers or professionals – to confidently assess digital needs over the phone and guide people to supports relevant to their specific experience level and situation.

“For decades, libraries have relied on physical spaces and face-to-face engagement to meet the digital needs of their communities. But COVID-19 has made it critical for libraries to rethink our strategies so that vulnerable residents can access the digital tools, supports and skill-building opportunities they need,” said ULC President and CEO Susan Benton. “ULC is honored to partner with NDIA and the Salt Lake City Public Library to equip North America’s libraries with the powerful Digital Navigators framework for digital services in the pandemic era.”

As the project lead for the initiative, Salt Lake City Public Library is working to test and enhance the Digital Navigators service model through partnered outreach to residents in three of Salt Lake City’s lower-income neighborhoods. The service areas include ZIP codes where reported COVID-19 rates have been among the highest in the county. Salt Lake City Public Library's outreach will kick off in December 2020.

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance is helping to extend the reach and adaptability of this project by offering online resources and coordinating a cohort of organizations who are developing their own Digital Navigators programs.

Additional information about ULC’s support of the Digital Navigators initiative can be found at