Walk into just about any library today and one of the first things you'll notice is books - and usually LOTS of them. This is the way it has been for the lifetime of everyone who is alive today, and is likely to continue for some time yet. Some say the day will come when that isn't the case, but exactly when and if that will happen is anyone's guess. But look around a little more closely and you will see that amongst and around the books are growing collections of movies, documentaries and audiobooks, as well as large groups of public access computers where library patrons spend their time on activities from games to filling out job applications.
It is this latter service that is commanding more and more of a librarian's attention. But beyond merely helping our users navigate the Web or use their email or use word processing software, we are helping more and more people navigate the confusing waters of today's endlessly changing technology. Even those of us who spend most of our day glued to a computer screen find ourselves in a constant battle to keep up with the change.
For those who rarely if ever use computers, this can be very daunting. It used to be that one could ignore computers and the Internet and get along just fine, but that is no longer the case. In one afternoon the other day I had three perfect examples of how true this is, and how the library can be the go-to place for people who need help with technology.
One woman had been in the process of purchasing real estate, and the mortgage company had emailed her a document that they wanted her to sign and email back. She had no idea how this could be done. I printed out the document for her, then she signed it and we used our public scanning station to scan the document back into digital form so it could be saved on the computer and sent back via email.
Another was interested in advertising her home nursing services and had been told she should do it on craigslist, but barely knew what that was let alone how to use it. So we helped her get an account on craigslist and showed her how to create a simple classified ad. Hopefully she'll get some good responses!
And finally, if you want to take a photo today you are likely going to be using a digital camera or your smart phone. I've run into lots of people who really have no idea how to get them off the camera and end up storing large numbers of them on the little memory cards that come with the camera. This isn't the safest place to store irreplaceable photos, and our third patron needed some help connecting her camera to our computer and copying the photos on it to a flash drive.
I could go on and on with examples of how libraries sometimes feel like Tech Help Central. Want to apply for a job? Many if not most will require you to fill out an application online, which assumes a level of sophistication with technology that not everyone has. We help people with this task regularly. Do you have a photo or document you need scanned but don't own a scanner. We do, and can help you use it. Did a friend or relative generously give you an ebook read you have no idea how to use? Come on in and ask for help.
So remember. The library isn't only a place where you can find a good book, ready today's newspaper, check out the latest movie, or bring your children to story time. It might also be the place to go when your grandchildren in California have finally convinced you that the best way to stay in touch with them is on Facebook. Only you have no computer and haven't the slightest idea how to get on Facebook!