New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

Commentary

Conquer Technology!

pat-rutkowski-2

My first memory of computers in the library was when a Mac was brought to the office area, parked on a desk and staff was told to have at it. Not quite the technology of today, but back then it was very foreign to us. We found ourselves baffled.

I can’t say this Mac got much use. Nor was it unusual we had to figure it out on our own. With limited resources, there were limited opportunities for staff training. We all agreed computers and the Internet were important tools for learning and research, but public libraries scarcely had the money to buy the necessary equipment or the staff expertise to use them.

An amazing thing happened to libraries in the late 90s. Bill Gates came along and in his quest to conquer the digital divide (the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not), he provided funding to libraries for computers, Internet connection, staff training and follow up staff support.

To libraries, it was an incredible gift. He brought computers to libraries because libraries were the place that would ensure that children and adults would have an access point to technology whether they have a computer or not. It was a strong statement about the value of libraries. Gates said that the goal of the project was that anybody who can get to a library can get to the Internet. And indeed, how true that simple statement is and has continued to be. A requirement of the grant was that we would provide instruction to our community. And so we did.

Classes were held in the Computer Center with ten computers available for 10 interested learners. It could prove to be a challenge; for skill sets and comprehension varied and there were always many questions. Kudos to the librarians, who in their passion to share and teach, imparted their knowledge and brought forth successful computer users.

Flash forward 16 years later. Certainly, technology has changed. The need for instruction still exists today as it did originally and perhaps more so as we all try to stay on top of all the new which has been added in our lives since then– iPads, tablets, cell phones, downloadable collections, e-readers and databases. We continue to offer classes. After a short summer break, we will again be offering, in the fall, a variety of classes: computer basics, Internet basics, email, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher.

We can also show you how to use the library’s electronic catalog, Encore, as well as any of the databases the library offers (Ancestry, Learning Express, Global Road Warrior, Job Now, Mango Languages, World News Digest, or Driving Test). Let us show you how to use our downloadable collection of e-books, audio books and e-magazines. Classes have changed a bit since we first offered them. No longer do we do the large classes but offer classes for three participants which better meet people’s needs.

We also offer one on one instruction which work well with smart phone or tablet instruction. So if you got a new cell phone or you have finally decided you are ready to take that iPad, other tablet or e-book reader out of its box, call the Information Desk 860-224-3155, ext. 125.

Ask out about upcoming classes or book a librarian for a one on one session. Let’s conquer that technology together!