Meet a Library Customer: A Decade of Discovery at CHPL

Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Marketing, Downtown Main Library

We insist on being a library for all. All minds. All modes. All needs. More than 2.4 million visits are made to the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library each year from customers living in and working in our diverse, vibrant, and unique neighborhoods. Our series “Meet a Library Customer, opens a new window” shares the stories that minds of all kinds have each day at CHPL.

If you visit the Downtown Main Library on any given morning, chances are you’ll find Ernest sitting at a desk in the Adult Learning Center, diligently reading every word of the newspaper or closely listening to a classic oldies artist on a C.D. He’s a familiar face at the Library, a frequent visitor for over a decade, and is always looking for something new to learn.

Building Confidence with Literacy Skills

Nicole Powers is an Adult Learning Center Assistant, and one of the staff members who Ernest has gotten to know the best over the years. “He's by far our most dedicated customer,” Nicole says. That dedication has paid off.

When he started to visit the Library more than 10 years ago, Ernest struggled with reading. He wanted to know how to keep his finances in order and read the newspaper to know what was happening in his community. Nicole used ABC Mouse, a learning database available free with a Library card, to build Ernest’s confidence in reading and writing.

“It’s helped him quickly grasp the basic concepts of reading,” Nicole says, “What was most beneficial was allowing him to move at his own pace through the sounds in the alphabet and basic sight words.”

Now, Ernest is able to read through most books and asks Nicole for help with new words he finds. His favorite thing to read? Anything, he says, “I love keeping my mind occupied."

Learning to Navigate the Digital World

For the many people who have never used a computer before, a computer mouse can be a barrier to the digital world – and the world of discovery that comes with it. Nicole uses a paid subscription service available for free for library cardholders, Learning Upgrade, to help Ernest navigate computers independently and securely.

And no surprise, Ernest was a quick learner.

“Ernest is doing quite well progressing through the 22 courses they offer that cover math, English, and digital literacy,” Nicole says, “He has used the digital literacy portion of the service to improve his use of the mouse and discover topics like communication, cyber security, and general technology terms.”

And Ernest didn’t stop there, using the Learning Upgrade’s tracking system, he can view his growth by lesson, course, and subject area. What started as a first-grade reading level, quickly advanced to a third-grade level. “We couldn’t be prouder of his hard work and dedication,” Nicole says.

Using the “Oldies but Goodies” to Master English

Sit down with Ernest and it won’t take long for him to mention an artist or song he listened to on WDJO, his favorite radio station. Nicole uses Ernest’s love and encyclopedic knowledge of music as another way to grow his reading and writing skills.

Using his library card to borrow from the thousands of CD’s in CHPL’s collection, Nicole prints out the lyrics to the songs so Ernest can read along with the music. "This has been a great way for Ernest to improve his literacy skills and reading comprehension," Nicole says, “Since he has such a love for music, and a great memory for it, the reading practice feels less tedious for him.”

While most times Ernest closely reads along silently to the CD, he’s been known to add his voice to the song if it’s one of his favorites. “I stick with the old sounds, the oldies stations,” Ernest said with a smile.

“He sings them to me, too, if they’re really good!” Nicole added in.

Ernest plans to visit the Adult Learning Center to continue building his reading and computer skills, but he knows that’s only the beginning of his journey of discovery of the Library. “They’ll teach you everything!” Ernest said, and that’s music to his ears, as he plans to learn everything.

What have you learned at the Library? Check out the Library’s Adult Learning resources, opens a new window and visit the Adult Learning Center at the Downtown Main Library to continue your journey of discovery!