How to “Make Technology Simple” for your Community

Heeding the advice I passed along a few days ago in “Ways to Bring a Conference Back to Work,” I’m blogging the Halton Hills Public Library’s session at OLA 2012 Superconference (session 422 “Technology Made Simple! Moving Beyond Basic Computer Instruction” with Beverly King, Clare Hanman and Darlene Green of Halton Hills PL) The session – and the experience they shared with the audience – was solid.

Here’s my notes on how they are making the library the place for people to learn to apply and exploit personal technology devices:

  • they have 2 branches – both under reno or being rebuilt during the development & piloting of this service
  • creating new spaces for all age groups including seniors
  • they liked a program Old Bridge Public Library in New Jersey had developed a Senior Spaces Initiative with Seniors on Fridays, and learned from it
  • they looked too at New Horizons for Seniors Program,  a federal grants program for projects led or inspired by seniors, and worked to secure a $25,000 grant
  • the TMS or Technology Made Simple program  started out for seniors but it evolved to a program for all
  • they purchased 5 e-readers, playbook, ipod touch, digital camera, 2 camcorders, 2 ipads, 8 laptops, plus patrons brought their own devices in
  • also purchased cleaning cloths, storage bags, tote boxes & carts, extension cords ,bower bar, adapters, brewing system for coffee!!
  • quickly realized that some devices can’t be used while being powered; people often didn’t realize that the device wasn’t powered off, but rather “sleeping”, so the battery would run down, and then not be usable for the next session 🙁
  • they began having sessions each Friday, with a topic and then hands-on time; quickly realized they needed to be really flexible, with topics and staffing; one staff runs the session, with another on call in case too many people arrive for a meaningful interaction with 1 staff; they change the topic being presented if people want to cover another tool or topic
  • topics include: Facebook, ereaders, skype, library Online, twitter, blogs, genealogy online, digital photography, gmail, flickr,
  • they also have drop-in sessions
  • they ‘ve taken all of the equipment to outside venues too – seniors’ centres, community centre, etc.
  • they bring in speakers: example –  on digital photopgraphy, how to pick the right camera, on genealogy, etc.
  • budgeted $2000 but only spent $700 on marketing – on website, community calendars, posters, etc.
  • over 400 people have participated
  • have volunteer mentors, who start to work gradually with attendees
  •  launched e-reader lending in July 2011 with 4 e-readers, and added another 6 ereaders in Nov 2011 (10 Kobos)
  • other programs benefited or sprang from t the TMS program ––> with the local chamber of commerce, and Technokids which was launched in the summer — very successful
  • also have patrons describing individual success stories:  a family transferred to china for 2 yrs  needs English resources for their kids’ homeschooling and is staying connected with these through the Library’s technology programs; anther child uses Skype to stay in touch with her dad who is often away as an Air Canada pilot
  • they promote the program through their homebound service
  • they’ll continue the drop-in sessions
  • currently investigating My PC Series offered by Microsoft – it comes with 10 presentations built in
  • Halton Hills advertises this program and all services in the local paper — well done. 

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