Digital literacy has been a part of library service since the first public computers were installed nearly 40 years ago. Public health concerns limited access to both library computers and face-to-face interaction with patrons in 2020.  In the meantime, patrons were pushed into situations requiring new levels of digital literacy: working from home, applying for new jobs or new benefits, and supporting online learning for family members.

Libraries are and have been engaged in the work of digital literacy, whether they have formally recognized that work or not. For many library staff, this work may feel like something “extra” that they have to do, especially if they don’t feel supported in that work. For library administrators, it is often difficult to find the resources to support their staff the way they would like. Northstar can and will be that support.


How is Northstar different from LinkedIn Learning?

In brief, Northstar is for folks who have relatively low digital literacy skills, and it is a tool that your staff can use to navigate those "where do we even start?" conversations with patrons.  It can also update or supplement any training curriculum you may use in your interactions with patrons.  The folks who developed Northstar (Literacy Minnesota) are skilled at breaking down digital literacy topics into manageable pieces with simplified vocabulary for people who are just starting out in their digital skills journey.
LinkedInLearning is focused on learners who have a more advanced comfort level with computers and want to explore topics in-depth.  Since the courses tend to be longer, the pace a little quicker, and the vocabulary a little more advanced, the LinkedIn Learning courses are better for folks who are further along in their digital skills journey.

When does my library have to "go live" with Northstar?

Your library can go live whenever it works best for you. Please take your time to get as comfortable as everyone needs before rolling it out. We will be checking in with libraries in January to see how you are doing, where you are, and what you need to get to where you want to be.

What does it mean to "go live" with Northstar?

That is up to your library and your community. We believe strongly that Northstar can be an effective resource on many levels, and we think that it will save you and your colleagues time and effort with the digital literacy work you are already doing. Here are some ways that you might implement Northstar at your library:

  • Your library may choose to promote Northstar for your patrons to do self-assessment and self-directed learning via your website.
  • Your library may choose to use Northstar to guide your interactions with patrons.
    • You can start with the digital literacy Screener, available to staff among Other Resources in the Northstar staff interface.
    • You can use the Northstar Curriculum to guide your interactions with patrons in one-on-one or group settings.
  • Your library can offer Proctoring Services or partner with local community groups to provide proctoring services to your patrons, resulting in digital literacy certification that they can use for job searches and personal satisfaction.

As you prepare to go live, you may find this checklist helpful.

There are two options to consider. 

You can use your library's unique link to the assessment launch page, as presented in the Admin portal.  For example:
You also have an option for a Learner-focused starting point.  For example:
The second option may suit your library better, but it requires a few tweaks--please contact Christine AT directly to get your unique URL and instructions to make it work best.

When can library staff get Northstar accounts?

Your local Site Administrator will be able to answer your questions about how & when your library will begin setting up staff accounts

What functions do Learners have in Northstar?

Learners can take assessments and save their scores. Learners can also access the practice lessons for questions that they missed on the assessments.

Do we have to add tags to Learner accounts?

No, whether or not to add tags and which tags to add are entirely up to your library.

Can Learners see tagging on their account?

No, tagging is only for the benefit of library staff, and it is only visible to staff.

Can Learner reports be sorted?

Yes, reports can be filtered by tags or date range, and the reports can be downloaded as a spreadsheet for further analysis.

Do Learners need an email address to set up an account?

Yes. That is the way the Northstar uniquely identifies each Learner. Each Learner must have a unique email address. That may be challenging for folks who are not yet firm in their digital literacy skills.  One way to deal with that is to follow your local processes for setting up patrons with personal email accounts.  Another way may be to set up an alias email and route it to your library, until the patron feels comfortable setting up their own email.

For example, Gmail has a built-in alias function. Multiple accounts can funnel to a single email address by using the + symbol and descriptive text afterward. Using that feature, one account (i.e. can become many email addresses (i.e.,, etc.). As far as Northstar is concerned, these are each unique email addresses, and Learners can update their email address when they are comfortable doing so.

Does my library have to proctor Northstar for our patrons?

You certainly don't have to proctor Northstar assessments, and there may be many reasons you choose not to do so.  But one of our goals with this grant is to have at least one library in each county that is willing to offer proctoring services.  It may be that you choose to offer proctoring for one or two hours per week by appointment, and even that can be a great service for your community.

How can I review the Northstar proctor training?

When you have been designated as a proctor, you will be prompted to complete a proctor training session in the Northstar system.  Once you have completed that training, the prompt will not return, but you can go back to review the training again at

Why can't I see my proctor PIN?

Until your library edits your Location Info to indicate that you are offering proctored assessments and certificates to your users, you will only be able to see your Proctor PIN on  your Personal Profile page.

How can my library proctor test takers in a group setting?

To do group proctoring, you would verbally instruct the test takers to make a request to start a proctored assessment from their account, and then you would approve the request in your Admin portal. Full instructions can be found at

How can my library proctor remotely?

Remote proctoring is very similar to group proctoring. Northstar has created a couple of best practice resources for remote proctoring, including a full instruction guide and a handy checklist to use each time you work with a remote test-taker.

Can my library deputize volunteer proctors?

Yes, your library can set up volunteers as proctors, especially if your staff do not have capacity to take that on. You may find volunteer interest among a variety of civic groups. You can add the proctor volunteers in the Admin portal, and they will receive an email invitation to undertake the training.  Once they complete the training, they will have a Proctor PIN, and you can coordinate a proctor schedule with them.

Can community partners (like Ohio Means Jobs sites) get the results of their clients from the library?

There are confidentiality considerations to make in responding to that request.  The simplest solution would be to print out two copies of assessment results or certificates for the clients to share one copy with the partner organization.

Can Learners get Northstar certificates without proctoring?

No; the proctoring process ensures that the assessment was completed according to Northstar standards for certification.

Can a Learner be checked in without a photo ID?

No; Northstar protocol requires a photo ID, but if you have specific concerns about a Learner without a photo ID, please create a Support Ticket with Northstar to discuss the situation.

Are the Northstar certificates recognized?

The Northstar certificates are not an industry credential, but they are becoming more widely recognized as documentation of digital literacy skill.

How frequently are assessments updated?

The assessments are reviewed annually for needed updates, and they are also reviewed after the release of major software updates.

Why does Northstar not recommend using the assessments for pre-employment screening?

There are several reasons why Northstar does not recommend using the assessment to screen job applicants.

First and foremost, the Northstar philosophy is one of empowerment - they do not want Northstar to be used to 'screen people out' of employment, but to help individuals identify skills that might need improvement, so they can take appropriate action.

Secondly, Northstar was not developed as an employment screening tool, so they cannot vouch that it meets legal requirements as such. There are a number of requirements regarding assessments and test validity from the US Department of Labor and the EEOC that should be considered before using any tool for pre-employment screening.

Can we use Northstar for our library staff training?

It is possible to use Northstar to help improve digital literacy skills among your own library staff. There are many local considerations to make in doing so, but there are libraries that have found success. One example is from Heights Libraries.

How can I help Learners after they take an assessment?

Almost all of the assessment topics have NSOL practice modules. These are the assessment topics that have built-in lessons:

  • Basic Computer Skills (English and Spanish)
  • Internet Basics (English and Spanish)
  • Email (English and Spanish)
  • Windows 10 (English and Spanish)
  • Windows 11 (English and Spanish)
  • Mac OS (English and Spanish)
  • MS Word (English and Spanish)
  • MS Excel (English and Spanish)
  • MS PowerPoint (English and Spanish)
  • (Google) Docs (English and Spanish)
  • Social Media (English and Spanish)
  • Information Literacy (English and Spanish)
  • Career Search Skills (English and Spanish)
  • Your Digital Footprint (English and Spanish)
  • K-12 Distance Learning (English and Spanish)
  • Telehealth (English and Spanish)

There is no answer key

Never fear! The Learners will receive a report after taking the assessment. That report will refer to the Northstar standards they need to address. Those standards are addressed in the curriculum, which you can use in a class setting or in a one-on-one consultation with the Learner. You can also use the curriculum to suggest resources for self-guided learning.

How many administrators can my library have for Northstar?

Each library can have up to three administrators.  We recommend that you consider having at least two, so that there is a backup in place at your library. If you want to have three administrators, please re-assign the OPLIN account for your library to have Admin Portal Access only.

Where can I see the recordings of the previous training sessions?

We are recording all of the training sessions, and those sessions are posted on the OPLIN YouTube Channel. The slides are also available. The introductory session, hosted by OLC, can also be viewed..

Can I learn about Northstar in less than an hour?

Yes! The recorded trainings are a great resource, but sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day.  Here is a way to get ready in less time:


If you have 15 minutes:

Overview What is Northstar? 3 min, 55 sec
Northstar Online Learning (NSOL) Meet Northstar Online Learning 44 sec
Northstar Online Learning (NSOL) NSOL Navigation, Part 1 1 min, 24 sec
Northstar Online Learning (NSOL) NSOL Navigation, Part 2 1 min, 25 sec
Northstar Online Learning (NSOL) NSOL Navigation, Part 3 1 min, 54 sec
Assessments Opening a Northstar Location's Launch Page 1 min, 45 sec
Assessments Public vs Proctored Assessments 1 min, 53 sec

If you have 30 minutes, all of the above plus:

Learner Accounts Creating and Managing Learner Accounts 2 min, 34 sec
Learner Accounts Viewing Learner Progress 1 min, 36 sec
Learner Accounts Viewing Learner Usage Reports 1 min, 35 sec
Learner Accounts Organizing Learners Using Tags 2 min, 20 sec

If you have 45 minutes, all of the above plus:

Assessments Invalidating an Assessment 38 sec
Assessments Viewing Missed Questions 51 sec
Assessments Downloading Assessment Results 1 min, 05 sec
Proctoring Assessments Passwords and PINs 1 min, 27 sec
Proctoring Assessments Proctored Assessment - Using Proctor PIN 1 min, 13 sec
Proctoring Assessments Proctored Assessment - By Test Taker Request 1 min, 08 sec
Proctoring Assessments Claiming Badges 42 sec
Proctoring Assessments Printing a Certificate 52 sec
Proctoring Assessments Merging Certificates 1 min, 16 sec
Proctoring Assessments Changing the Name on a Certificate 55 sec

And if you need an Admin overview:

Admin Portal Managing Staff Accounts 2 min, 12 sec
Admin Portal Editing Location Info 2 min, 00 sec

What other resources are available to my library for Northstar?

Please remember that there is a lot of support available to you in the Resources tab of the Admin Portal of Northstar. Additionally, we have prepared some resources specific to our grant that you may find useful, including flyers, bookmarks, sample press releases, and digital assets.  Those are located with OPLIN's other Marketing & Training Materials at

Which libraries are "live" with Northstar now?

There are a number of libraries that have implemented Northstar locally, and they are great examples of the many ways that Northstar could be used in your community:

What comes next after Northstar?

Northstar is a tremendous resource for your library and your community, but it might be just the start for your community.  Many libraries are building on their long-standing commitment to closing the digital divide by working towards digital equity and digital inclusion.

Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.

Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies.

Digital Inclusion requires

  • Affordable, Robust Internet Service
  • Internet-Enabled Devices
  • Digital Literacy Training
  • Quality Technical Support
  • Applications & Content

Digital navigators can help people with many of these aspects.

Digital Navigators are trusted guides who assist community members in internet adoption and the use of computing devices. Digital navigation services include ongoing assistance with affordable internet access, device acquisition, technical skills, and application support.

There are several ways to think of digital navigation. Digital inclusion researchers have suggested four archetypes of digital navigation work:

  • Intervention Specialists - people who provide others with quick answers, basic support, and network referrals
  • Digital-Inclusion Specialists - people who are dedicated trainers to whom intervention specialists make referrals
  • Social-Change Agents - people who have trusted community relationships and a deep understanding of the systemic issues for their community
  • Functional-Skill Builders - people who align skills training with specific goals and outcomes

Many library staff find themselves in the roles of intervention specialist or digital inclusion specialist. Your library may want to partner with other community agencies to connect patrons with social-change agents and functional-skill builders.

Here are some other resources and potential partners for you to consider as you plan next steps in helping your community achieve digital inclusion for all: