On the Hot Spot
Community Outreach Specialist
Free Library of Philadelphia
Bachelor of Communications, Cheyney University, Thornbury Township, PA, due 2012
Worked for four years as a producer at 1340 AM WHAT in Philadelphia. Listen to him promote the Hot Spots on 900 AM WURD, also in Philadelphia. Aye is helping to raise his 11-year-old cousin. “He’s certainly a source of great inspiration in my life.”
Photo ©Sean McGinty Photography LLC
To get the digital Hot Spots off the ground and provide access to digital technology, leaders at the Free Library of Philadelphia needed someone to build partnerships in the city’s neighborhoods. Khaleef Aye, who had worked at the library from 1999 to 2004, immediately came to mind, says Theresa Ramos, who as program development coordinator oversees the Hot Spots. “He has that deep commitment and understanding of Philadelphia as a city, a community, and a home,” she says of the young man who grew up in underserved communities.
Ramos says Aye was memorable, first as a student leader and then as the library’s first teen mentor. He started the teen group Digital Dragons, which he calls a “life-altering experience.”
“Khaleef was ahead of his time in terms of technology, not just the use of it but in how you can make it meaningful,” says Ramos.
In a city where 41 percent of residents lack Internet access in their homes, the six digital Hot Spots are very much needed. At each site, friendly staff help people learn about unfamiliar technology. A two-year $760,000 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant and additional funding from Broadband USA pay for the Hot Spots.
“The most important part of the [program] is the technical assistance,” Aye says. “That sort of learning at your own pace that can take place in a library environment is crucial, and it’s very rewarding.”
In preparation for the start-up, Aye narrowed down 40 potential sites to six community partners that would work with the library to provide free and secure space and operate the Hot Spots after the grant had run its course. Once the sites were selected, Aye says, he helped customize each for its partner organization, trained staff, planned programs, and promoted the Hot Spots.
Ramos says Aye gently pushed each partnering organization to grow. “It’s a relationship-building process,” she says.
Since the March 2011 opening, 58 people have found employment because of assistance in creating résumés and online applications. Between March and January 2012, there have been 19,528 people visiting the six sites. By using online tools, 117 individuals at the four Knight Foundation–funded sites were able to complete 3,662 training courses aimed at building skills. Most recently, Aye debuted workshops on gadgets, including ereaders, digital cameras, and smartphones and their various features and apps.
Aye says he wanted to create environments where people would feel comfortable learning new skills. “For many users who don’t come into the library, it can be pretty intimidating,” Aye says.
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