by Brad McNally, Head Editor, INALJ Ohio
Beyond Basic Tech Programs for Libraries
In recent months, I’ve worked with a large number of people regarding technology in the library. While it is absolutely wonderful that libraries can offer basic computer skills courses, there are patrons that would like to go beyond that and explore deeper tech subjects. Here are a few ideas for programs that might bring in some more advanced users:
Although there have been posts here at INALJ about learning coding as a job seeker, there hasn’t been much discussion about learning it as a patron. Multiple patrons at the public library where I used to work would request books about Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS, and other coding languages. A place for them to get together and discuss these topics would have been great. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert in a language to help others get access to the information. There are free courses that you could direct patrons to and assist them with additional resources.
For a relatively small initial investment, libraries could purchase a dedicated computer and software for the specific program that they would want to do. Additionally, open source software (GIMP, Audacity, etc.) could be used to save cost. This gets the patron using the resources of the library to create something original and could be supplemented with resources already in the library (books on podcasting, music theory, etc.).
Hacking things together (or apart)
There are many patrons who would love to learn the skills to physically build or repair hardware. This could include learning to build a desktop PC, but could be applied to all kinds of different electronic devices. The idea is that learning the skills will enrich the lives of the patron. I know that the knowledge that I can re-build certain electronics (baby’s swing motor assembly) has saved me time and made me happy. Patrons have the same issues, and the library is a great resource for learning these things.
Linux (and user groups)
I know patrons that have used Ubuntu exclusively for several years. I also know many that get into command line for the first time and freeze. Assisting patrons with the resources/documentation available for Linux is something that is easy to do but requires a bit of knowledge up front. If you’ve never used it, how can you help them? The simple answer: User Group. As the library resource in this situation, you don’t have to be the expert, but you can connect other interested people who can assist in helping patrons get started.
Many libraries offer basic tech programs but shy away from more involved ones because the staff might feel they aren’t adequately qualified or don’t have time. These programs can bring in individuals that are beyond the basics as participants, but also allow LIS professionals to connect with experts in the community in which they are based.