By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
In a world of rapidly changing technology, the London Public Library (LPL) is doing its part to make sure people of all ages have access to a helping hand in navigating the information superhighway.
The library is hosting a number of events during Media Literacy Week, including the Computers for Older Adults program, Privacy Matters, which was offered on Wednesday (Nov. 7) at the East London Branch of the library. Media literacy staff and the library’s volunteer technology tutors, joined together to assist participants in getting an introduction to not only issues related to getting started on the Internet, but how to be safe aftewards.
“We are helping people build their media literacy skills,” said Sarah Andrews, LPL co-ordinator of technology. “We really are encouraging patrons to reflect on their use of especially social media, get a feel for the privacy settings that exist in the tools they use and setting them properly,”
The library offers four courses, free of charge, to the community, including an introductory computer course, another to help people set up an email address, a how to use the Internet, and — starting later in December or early January — an introductory course in social media.
“We feel digital literacy is as important as any other literacy skills of the community. We positioned ourselves a few years ago, but we have really worked hard to help people learn to use those skills,” Andrews said. “The digital divide — the people who are left behind — there is nowhere else in the community they can build those skills at such a basic level, free of charge. We really feel that is our mandate.”
The library’s 90-minute classes are supplemented by the use of technology tutors take part in workshops with individual participants. The tutors can help participants remember the content of the courses and work with them a little more closely to enhance their Internet skills.
Diane Capitano is working on her own computer skills as she trains to be one of the library’s new volunteers. Capitano retired from the library system a few years ago and when she went looking for volunteer opportunities, thought her skills could come in handy — once they were polished up a little.
And once they are, Capitano will be volunteering at the Lambeth library to help people upgrade their own computer skills.
“Learning how to set up an email address, basic things like how to save files, create files, (helping) older people who have no idea how to use a computer,” Capitano said. “The social media thing, that is new to me. You have to keep up with the new technology. Things change so quickly, you really don’t want to be left behind.”
Ellen Hobin, LPL manager of communications, said the program has been going on for approximately a year. The library has three locations that offer permanent computer labs, making them good places to set up classes.
“Staff take the information part, the part we are supposed to be experts at, and the volunteers help people use the equipment, the technology,” Hobin said. “So we work together to support people. We have been surprised with the number of older adults taking part in that.”
Older adults, Hobin said, have “well-articulated needs,” getting help with a specific program or a particular piece of equipment. And while the average person learning about computers isn’t interested in knowing the functions of their computer’s hard drive, Hobin said they do need to learn things such as the importance of Internet literacy.
“The technology is more user-friendly in one way, but it asks a lot of the user. Privacy is one element of that,” Hobin said. “Those of us who are more savvy, are always aware of changing tends with privacy, the user ideas you have to get to access these things.”
And that’s where Capitano comes in. Older adults, she said, need to learn how to be careful with technology and refrain from natural tendencies to be more trusting and need to follow the example of young people who grew up with modern devices.
“There are so many different ways of communicating, it is important you arm yourself with the proper knowledge,” Capitano said. “We should never stop learning, people should always be educating themselves.”
Find us on Facebook: London Community News