Spanish Regional Technology Coordinator, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
BA, History, California State University–Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA, 2008
Photo by Kristin Beadle
Carlos Galeana’s youngest student so far was an eight-year-old boy who wanted to get ebooks on his ereader. He’s helped students back up photos of their deceased relatives; gone “deep in the trenches of Microsoft Word” with a graduate student; and helped a nearly deaf woman with the notifications on her iPhone. He taught one of his longtime students, Kathy, who was stuck in an entry-level job, “almost everything I know about computers,” Galeana says. “Through her strong commitment to learn, Kathy was able to grow her skill set and secure a higher paying job,” he says. She has since cotaught a few classes with him as a volunteer instructor.
These are some of the 1,086 people Galeana has worked with in one-on-one technology learning sessions in the two years he has been regional technology coordinator at the Multnomah County Library. He’s also taught more than 200 group classes and conducted numerous staff training sessions.
Galeana rotates among four branches and coordinates their library labs, which see about 35 patrons a month for guidance about laptops, smartphones, tablets, operating systems, and software. Many are Spanish speakers hailing from all over Latin America, but patrons from European and Asian countries also come for help.
The one-on-one appointment model gives students the chance to explore technology on their own terms, he says. “Closing the digital divide is about providing opportunities and information so that people can have empowering relationships with technology. The human element is key. If a person has trust and a connection with another technology explorer, then they are more likely to learn and embrace new technology.”
Multnomah County Library director Vailey Oehlke concurs. “We know that those with the fewest resources, often facing instability on many fronts and language barriers, are at the highest risk of being marginalized and shut out of opportunities for employment, housing, and human services,” she says. “Carlos’s work shows how the library is meeting that need by making a trusted human connection to effect tangible positive change in people’s lives.”
Galeana also produces a monthly newsletter for library staff filled with technology tips, articles, and examples of collaboration: coteaching spreadsheet skills, creating a tech help display, and brainstorming challenges ahead with Windows 10.
“My peers are the superheroes that keep me motivated,” he says. “The positive impact we make with hundreds of students is astounding.”