Learn a new skill in the new year with Universal Class

By Tracy Ihnot

In a recent survey conducted by YouGov, an online polling firm, "learn a new skill" came in at number six on the top New Year's resolutions for 2018. Even further up the list, "spend less money" came in at number three. Realizing both of these popular resolutions in tandem is possible with a library card.

"People who visit our libraries regularly tend to know a great deal about the kinds of services and resources Delta County Libraries offers at each library location during open hours," says Leah Morris, collections and systems administrator for Delta County Libraries. "But patrons sometimes overlook the considerable resources available through the online library 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Universal Class is one of nearly 50 online resources found in the library district's online library. Accessing the online library requires a library card, a computer or device, and an internet connection. Once connected, Universal Class alone offers over 500 continuing education courses, including over 100 courses in career training, over 65 in computer training, and over 90 in office skills.

"The variety of courses available is really quite impressive," says Morris. "There are courses in alternative medicine, general education, teacher and homeschooling resources, real estate, accounting, social work, spiritual studies, web development, do-it-yourself, and much more."

All Universal Class courses are self-paced, instructor-led, and generally take 10 to 20 hours to complete. In addition to being available to answer questions, the instructor monitors, assesses and records all coursework, exams, participation and activities. Successful completion of a course results in a printable report card and a Continuing Education Unit (CEU) certificate.

"Despite the incredible value of this resource, usage is not what we would expect," Morris explains. "We are continually seeing new users sign up but overall usage has dropped significantly."

Each year, library district staff make the difficult decision whether to continue renewing certain databases, like Universal Class, with an increasingly tight budget. "We use statistics and staff and patron feedback to make tough choices. Fortunately, the decision is easy with our more popular databases," Morris states.

Resources like Freegal Music and Mango Languages saw substantial increases in 2017. Freegal Music offers over 13 million songs for downloading and live streaming and Mango Languages offers 72 online language-learning courses.

"I really believe there is something of value for everyone through our online library," says Morris. "I would love to see our patrons take advantage of Universal Class and all of the other online resources we offer, not only as a New Year's resolution, but year-round."

Visit the Delta County Libraries website at http://deltalibraries.org/databases/ to get started!