The Lake City Branch was one of the busiest Homework Help sites in the city. So when branches closed at the onset of the pandemic, the students who relied on it felt its absence.
“I can’t tell you how many requests I got for Homework Help from students missing it,” says Nancy Garrett, teen services librarian at the Lake City Branch.
After a search for online alternatives, the Library contracted with Tutor.com, which provides one-on-one academic coaching via the internet. Library staff said they picked Tutor.com over other possibilities because it offered help in multiple languages and provided a voice option in addition to text-based chat.
“It gives options to connect in a way that (users) feel most comfortable with,” says Emely Perez, a teen and adult services librarian at the South Park Branch.
After activating the service in October, with options for Vietnamese and Spanish language tutoring, the next important task was to promote it to those it could help.
Perez has plugged Tutor.com on Spanish-speaking radio station El Rey, 1360 AM, and contacted community partners who could help spread the word, such as local schools, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, Consejo Counseling and Referral Service, and Villa Comunitaria. Ayan Adem, interim K-5 program manager, appeared in a segment on a Somali-speaking radio station.
Garrett has promoted the service to Northeast Seattle organizations – such as the Lake City Collective, Literacy Source, Seattle Housing Authority, and the North Seattle Family Center – and even to adults who may want to use Tutor.com’s adult option to study for a citizenship test or get job search help.
The goal is to communicate the availability of Tutor.com to prioritized communities throughout the city where children and families are experiencing increased barriers to education due to the pandemic. Youth and families need the Library’s support more than ever, says Josie Watanabe, public service programs manager.
Tutor.com provided more than 2,700 tutoring sessions through the Library between October and December 2020, according to statistics provided by Tutor.com – mostly serving secondary grade students.
In-person Homework Help will resume eventually; students and volunteers alike miss the essential in-person connection they used to share, Watanabe says. But Tutor.com fills a vital role during the era of physical distancing.
“I’m so grateful that we were able to pivot to Tutor.com,” Garrett says. “It was really important to the community.”
If you or someone you know could use the help of a tutor, visit www.spl.org/Homework.
This story appeared in our 2020 Report to Donors. Read the full report here, complete with stories of donor impact and financial information.