Oscar Nieto works as a volunteer at Plan Ceibal in the Manuel Rosé Public Library in the Canelones region of Uruguay. Plan Ceibal is an initiative to introduce information and communication technology in primary schools throughout the country. Oscar promotes the use of ICT at the library, working with children, their families, and the wider community to help them learn digital literacy.
BA: What are some challenges you have faced in your work?
One challenge was familiarizing ourselves with our work, as it was originally something new for us. Although community members were well-informed and involved in the acquisition of the new technological equipment, they weren’t knowledgeable about the volunteer work needed specifically for this action plan. So we started a campaign. The idea was “From less to more.” We started putting up flyers in local businesses so people could learn about our proposal. We also visited education centers and chatted with the people in charge to spread information about our work. People started hearing about us through word-of-mouth, and at the same time, the Municipality of Canelones, which the library is part of, started to promote our activities through official channels, giving us the opportunity to participate in neighborhood festivals, where we started to get to know people through our work. And finally, we are taking advantage of the enormous potential of social networks.
BA: What projects are you most excited about?
Definitely transmitting knowledge, especially to older adults. They belong to a generation in which technology was a thing of the future, and a future that many didn’t think would ever come. And now it is an increasingly present reality in their daily lives. Digital literacy is really a challenge for these grandparents, not only because they don’t belong to the generation of “digital natives,” but also because of effects of their age.
BA: What do you think the role of libraries should be within communities?
Libraries should have the capacity to form and inform communities; they should become a place of reference for people. The transformation occurs with the appropriation of technology by and for citizens. A library is a place where networks reach toward the community in order to empower people with the tools of knowledge.