Meeting the Technology Needs of the Community

One of the ideas I've been excited to bring to the Oskaloosa Public Library is offering free computer classes to the public. It's obviously not a new idea - the staff has offered Q&A sessions in which patrons could bring their own devices before, but because of budget cuts that affected part time hours, they had to stop. The local cable and Internet provider comes in and offers classes once a month in one of the meeting rooms, too, but I wanted to be able to do something more. So I scheduled a few classes in December as a trial run just to see how the community would respond.

Coming from a library that serves a population of nearly 100,000 residents to one that serves a little more than 11,000 - I've quickly realized the limitations I have to work with. The computer lab that I'll be using only has 8 computers in it, but two of them are so outdated they're pretty much useless for this purpose. Thus, I have to limit my class sizes to six. Because the library can only afford to replace a few computers at a time, we have a mismatched set. Funding has also limited the programs that we have on the computers - not all of them have the basic Microsoft Suite. Staff time, too, is limited. However, I've decided these things aren't going to stop the library from offering the best service we can.

The day after I released the schedule for December's computer classes and sent out a press release, the local newspaper, The Oskaloosa Herald, published it on the front page. By that evening, my two Computer Basics 1 and Computer Basics 2 sessions had filled up. By the next morning, we had enough people on the waiting list to fill another session of each. I can't express how good I feel about this. It's a clear demonstration that opportunities to gain technology skills is a real need in the community, and that the library can be the first place people can go for it. I'm excited to see how the classes go!

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