Emma S. Clark Memorial Library launched computer classes quite some time ago, teaching Microsoft applications and other programs to those in the community who need help learning computer literacy. Now, the library is again poised to respond to what it has determined is a need among its patrons: classes to teach people how to use their mobile technology, whether it's a tablet, e-reader, or MP3 player.
The series of classes, which library administrators have named "Teach Me Mobile," is expected to make its debut in February. Not only will the library set up stations where people can actually hold and use those devices to see how they function, but there will be classes focused on specific devices that will be available starting within the next few weeks.
"Mobility is becoming huge for everybody everywhere," library director Ted Gutmann said. "[Teach Me Mobile] is a good outlet for people who need to be introduced to the technology."
The library will set up for display the following devices: iPad and iPad Mini, iPod Touch, Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy, Kindle reader and Kindle HD, Nook Color, and Windows 8 Surface.
"They'll be live devices that can download and connect to the internet," said Bob Johnson, the library's manager of information and technology services. "Most libraries have a 'petting zoo' where they're on display. To offer it with a new platform of education is kind of groundbreaking. There's really no outlet for education. If you go to Best Buy, you're going to get a sales pitch."
Johnson said the library spent about $1,500 on the devices, which came out of the library's general budget. Exact class curricula is still to be determined but it will evolve over time depending on patrons' needs, he said.
The Teach Me Mobile stations will replace one of the two rows of reference computers, which the administrators noticed weren't all being used at the same time. They had cleared the space to make way for coffee and hot chocolate when the library re-opened following Hurricane Sandy, and did not replace the reference computers in anticipation of the coming Teach Me Mobile program.
Even as circulation has increased somewhat over the past year, Gutmann said those numbers aren't going to go away with the popularity of mobile technology – the new classes will simply emphasize "all these new opportunities to put our collection in the hands of our patrons."
"I think the library, to be able to stay relevant, needs to do this to address the whole trend of mobility," he said.