Business and Workforce Development Events & Programs Online Learning

Montgomery County Public Libraries Launches Northstar, a New Digital Literacy Resource

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) now offers the Northstar Digital Literacy suite of tools to help residents acquire or improve basic digital literacy skills. The resource includes the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment – a suite of free online modules that test proficiency in essential digital skills. The assessments, built around basic computer digital literacy standards were developed by leading Adult Basic Education (ABE) groups and are now sustained by Literacy Minnesota.

Assessments are available to test proficiency in the following digital skill areas:

Basic Computer Skills, Internet Basics, Using Email, Windows OS, Mac OS, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Google Docs, Social Media, Information Literacy, Career Search Skills, Supporting K-12 Distance Learning, Understanding your Digital Footprint.

Residents who take proctored assessment tests and score 85% or higher can earn certificates and badges to show to employers or add to resumes to prove proficiency in key digital skills.

The resource also includes a learning component – Northstar Online Learning (NSOL) which offers customized, self-directed online instruction and practice resources making it easy for learners to review material, practice and prepare before taking proctored tests. 

“As a center for life-long learning, MCPL is pleased to offer this valuable free resource to help our customers gain or sharpen digital literacy skills and enhance their chances of success in life, work or school,“ said Director Anita Vassallo. “Northstar is the latest of several tools MCPL has launched recently (Brainfuse’s HelpNowVetNow and JobNow) to support learning and economic recovery.”

 To access NSOL, customers must request a Northstar learner account: :

To take a virtual proctored assessment test to earn a certificate or badge, customers can register for an upcoming test session:

Tuesday, July 27:

Tuesday Aug 31:

Business and Workforce Development Online Learning

MCPL Adds Brainfuse Resources VetNow, JobNow, HelpNow to E-Resources


Brainfuse JobNow connects users with experienced career coaches and resources to assist them during all stages of their job search.

Self-assessment and job search resources

Carefully selected job resources include eParachute, a Brainfuse partnership offering an online resource created by What Color is Your Parachute? author Richard Bolles. Connect with a Brainfuse JobNow coach to review efficient job search strategies.

All-in-one resume assistance

Curated resume resources, include templates, samples from a variety of career fields and levels, and valuable information about usage, structure, and relative importance. JobNow coaches provide expert analysis.

Interview preparation and practice

Brush up on interview techniques or get live online interview practice from JobNow coaches. In addition to live interview coaching, patrons enjoy 24/7 access to an extensive library of interview strategies, tips, and career resources.

Foundational and career-enhancing skills

Refresh skills and knowledge with the Adult Learning Center, where patrons can access High School Equivalency prep, US Citizenship test prep, writing lab and skills building.


Navigate the VA and benefits

Our Brainfuse VetNow navigators help veterans and their families understand and apply for the benefits they are eligible for from local, state, or federal programs. From housing and health care to education, mental health, and more, Brainfuse VetNow navigators are ready to help.

Transition to civilian employment

Veterans can get live, online assistance transitioning from military to civilian careers throughout all stages of the job process. Experts can help translate military skills for civilian job managers, restructure resumes, and practice interviewing.

Brush up on academic skills

Veterans and their families prepare for college through a full suite of academic tools, including live online tutoring in a variety of college level subjects, holistic writing support, extensive video lessons, and comprehensive practice tests.


Brainfuse HelpNow is a unique tutoring and study suite designed for patrons of all ages.

On-Demand One-to-One Online Homework Help

Students draw or type their question in our online classroom and receive live homework assistance from a
Brainfuse tutor. Tutors don’t simply give answers but help students master underlying academic

Comprehensive Writing Assistance

HelpNow offers a robust writing lab that helps users become better writers. Features include Real-Time Writing Assistance and intensive writing analysis.

Homework Tools

Homework tools include Support for Distance Learners; the SkillSurfer extensive library of Brainfuse-created lessons, video tutorials, and practice tests in a wide range of academic subjects; Flashbulb™, which offers patrons 24/7 access to an extensive library of online flashcard sets in virtually every subject; Send Question Center, an asynchronous service for users who require a detailed, extended explanation of a difficult concept but are not inclined to meet with a tutor in real time; Foreign Language Center, featuring on-demand homework help for students taking a foreign language class; CloudPack™, that helps users better integrate their classroom materials with their tutoring sessions by storing documents, class notes, and other materials in their personal “CloudPack” and share these items with tutors during a live session, and live digital literacy support to users who need assistance using their computer to complete a personal project or academic

LEAP Learning Platform

LEAP helps patrons build academic skills through targeted lessons, quizzes, and live, online tutoring.
After finishing a diagnostic test, LEAP prepares a customized learning plan, broken down by skill areas,
for patrons to complete at their own pace. The learning plan contains lessons, videos, and quizzes to
assist patrons with specific concepts and offers easy, one-click access to a live tutor at any
point for extra help.

Business and Workforce Development Library Branches

Ten Montgomery County Public Libraries Offer Free Outdoor Public Wi-Fi

Montgomery County has leveraged federal COVID-19 funding to install outdoor public Wi-Fi at 10 Public Library (MCPL) locations: Aspen HillDavis (N. Bethesda)GaithersburgGermantownMaggie Nightingale (Poolesville),  Marilyn Praisner (Burtonsville)Rockville MemorialTwinbrookWheaton, and White Oak branches; and in front of the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza.

This free service is available 24 hours a day in parking lots adjacent to the library buildings. Additional coverage is provided in grass area behind the Davis branch, in the park from the library to the playground area at Wheaton, and in the Rockville Town Square. Wi-Fi coverage varies by location. Customers are advised to follow COVID-19 safety recommendations and are required to adhere to executive orders and Health Officer directives when using the services.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought greater awareness of the impacts of the widening digital disparity, which often deprives community members of opportunities to participate in important daily-life activities such as remote learning, accessing workforce development and employment information or staying up-to-date on news and information,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “The work of MCPL and the Department of Technology Services (DTS) to secure funding to provide Wi-Fi availability for outside use at 11 County facilities is another step in working to ensure that all community members have equitable access to reliable connectivity.”

“Outdoor public Wi-Fi will provide more places for people without home Wi-Fi to access the Libraries’ early literacy, education, workforce development and health and wellness information and the robust digital programs and services,” said MCPL Director Anita Vassallo.

MCPL and the Department of Technology Services (DTS) applied for but were not awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services federal COVID-19 grant. DTS then worked to leverage other federal CARES Act COVID-19 grant funding to install the free outdoor Wi-Fi access. 

“With the support of the County’s Chief Administrative Officer, we thought strategically about how we could leverage remaining federal COVID-19 funding to help families and small businesses respond to COVID-19,” said Montgomery County Chief Information Officer and Director of DTS Gail M. Roper. “Internet is essential during the pandemic and DTS is proud to work with MCPL to find ways to expand internet access for those that do not have it at home. I am also pleased that the Poolesville branch was selected to support small business owners and will also provide more internet access for rural Montgomery County.” 

The 10 library branches were chosen by analyzing U.S. Census and MCPL data. Seven library branches were selected by mapping Census data neighborhoods with lower incomes and households without home internet. The Pew Research Center for Internet & Technology reported that as of 2019, 18 percent of adults with incomes less than $30,000 do not have home internet access, compared to only 2 percent of adults with incomes greater than $75,000, and 85 percent and 86 percent of Black and Hispanic adults use the internet compared to 92 percent of White adults.  Median per capita income in the Census Block Groups served by the 7 libraries is $35,372 and the population is 27 percent Black and 28 percent Hispanic. Three additional locations (Davis, Rockville and Wheaton Regional) were selected because prior to the pandemic they had greater participation in MCPL small business programs.

“Small business owners who relied on MCPL indoor Wi-Fi to run their businesses asked the County for help and we were glad to assist them,” said Assistant Chief Administrative Officer for Small Economic Development Jerome Fletcher.  “Small businesses are critical to County’s economy recovery and more outdoor public Wi-Fi is another way the County is offering relief to small businesses.”