Libraries aid older people in search for computer knowledge
As the world shifts to the digital age, a knowledge of computers is becoming an essential part of life.
The group having possibly the hardest transition is the elderly. The technology hasn't been a part of their lives as much as it has for younger people.
To help the elderly ease into the digital world, local libraries offer assistance to learn the ever advancing technology. Whether it is computers or e-readers, library staffs deal with people trying to find comfort using these tools on a daily basis.
At the Frackville Free Public Library, free computer classes are held from 10 to 11 a.m. every Thursday for people ages 55 and older. The hour is designated to help people learn basic computer skills, such as operating the machine or using the Internet.
Library director Elaine Mykolayko said the hour is not necessarily run like a class in school, but as time to serve those in need on an individual basis.
"We're just basically here for people who need us," she said.
Mykolayko said people come in for assistance on a wide range of issues. She said some people want to learn how to do banking on the Internet, while some are just looking for help setting up a Facebook account.
Although the classes are targeted at older people, she said the staff will help anybody. However, most of the people who need assistance are older. She said she believes it's how people were educated.
"Younger people don't really need it because they are getting it at school," Mykolayko said.
She added that the staff is willing and able to help people with computer questions at all times, not just during the designated hour. She said they frequently help people throughout the week.
"It's really an every day thing," Mykolayko said.
It is a similar situation at the Pottsville Area Free Public Library.
Becki White, head reference librarian, said the staff answers one-on-one questions on a daily basis. This method can be easier due to the range of information needed by different people.
"It is so specific that it would be tough to do a class," White said.
However, the library previously held classes but they were stopped for a few reasons.
One issue being a lack of attendance. White said the library held a class in November on the perils of the Internet. Only five people attended.
White said the classes drew interest but people would no-show the sessions in which they signed up.
Another major issue is getting someone to run the classes. White said they had a volunteer teaching the classes as recently as last year. For some reason, White said he stopped coming and nobody else has filled the void.
"We want to offer more but it's just not possible at this time," she said.
A staff crunch is also felt at Orwigsburg Free Public Library.
The library has classes scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first two Mondays of March, according to director Claudia Gross.
Currently, they are the only programs scheduled. Gross said they help as they can because Schuylkill County is "way beyond the need."
"It's a digital world and people need to learn to live in it," she said.
According to Mykolayko, the state is interested in using more technology in libraries. An extensive survey was released about technology in libraries and included items such as amount of computers in libraries and use of hands-on devices.
The emergence of e-readers and smartphones has played a role in the local libraries. Mykolayko and Gross said that they have dealt with questions on how to use e-readers like a Nook or Kindle. Gross said the Orwigsburg library even hosted a seminar on smartphones.
As technology continues to advance, so too do the local libraries. The services they provide are becoming necessary in everyday life so a large number of people are turning to them for help. It's a matter of knowledge and safety.
White said when helping someone use the Internet, it is important to show them how to be safe when exploring. They need to know which websites provide bad information and how to spot a bad email.
The staff at the local libraries see firsthand the importance of their duties.
"It's really a need in Schuylkill County," Gross said. "People are out there looking for assistance."