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Hundreds attend #GrowWithGoogle event at Birmingham Library

By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

Brian “Voice” Porter Hawkins outside the Birmingham Public Library at the Grow With Google workshop. (Ariel Worthy Photo, The Birmingham Times)

Small business owner Ethyln Harris wants to improve her online presence. Harris attended “Grow with Google” in the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) on Monday to help her with that.

“I’m getting my website done and I want to make sure it’s the best that I can get it . . . and the workshops really helped me to organize,” said Harris, who crafts and sells her own pearl necklaces, Pearls by Grace. “Getting online sounds really easy, but I want to do it well.”

Harris said was glad she came. “It gave me tools that I didn’t even know existed,” she said. “Google offers a lot of tools that can help you.”

Visiting Google presenters and coaches hosted free “Grow with Google” workshops at the BPL, with onsite instruction for local job seekers and small business owners to help with integral digital skills.

“Birmingham has such a vibrant community here and we [Google] have a great partnership with the Birmingham Public Library, who was really willing to help host our sessions,” said Rebecca Rutkoff, Head of Regional Communications at Google.

More than 600 registered for Monday’s event where Google presenters and coaches trained people from libraries, schools, and nonprofit organizations on how to use Google’s tools and resources to help others. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell were also onsite.

Penny Southward (left) and Cloritta Thomas attend a Grow With Google workshop to learn more about how to navigate emails, spreadsheets and presentations on Google. (Ariel Worthy Photo, The Birmingham Times)

Workshops focused on digital skills such as coding, online safety, email and spreadsheets and improving online business presence. There were also one-on-one coaching sessions on digital skills tools.

Floyd Council, Executive Director of the Birmingham Public Library, said libraries are a natural place for the sessions because of the free resources.

“We’ve never done an event of this magnitude and it has been a huge success,” said Council. People are motivated about using digital resources at the public library “so it was a natural partnership with Google because we share much of the same mission and vision that Google,” he added.

Desiree Bates, who works for the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension, attended the workshop on spreadsheets and presentations.

“I learned how to advance my knowledge and how to connect with some of my clients and networking and how to operate the Google process,” she said. “I think events like this are important to the community because its free knowledge and it helps the city grow and gain other employment opportunities.”

Brian “Voice” Porter Hawkins, director of The Color Project Ensley said he attended the “Reach Customers Online” workshop. He learned about My Google Business and how it draws visitors to your website or space.

Google’s Rishi (left) has a one-on-one session with Christine Davis, where he taught about blogging with Google software. (Ariel Worthy Photo, The Birmingham Times)

“I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around what am I putting in an ad to get people to say, ‘we should contact this person or these people about community development stuff . . . and it also got me to thinking about whether I should actually sell something,” he said.

Council said offering digital skills classes is part of what the library will continue.

“The Birmingham Public Library is committed to digital inclusion and offering digital skills and resource programs every single day of the year . . . we plan to offer a continuous trail of digital skills classes right there at our website and we’re committed to preserving the past and exploring the future at the Birmingham Public Library.”

For more information visit BPL at bplonline.org or for more on digital skills offered by Google, visit www.google.com/grow.