Posted in Computer Classes

Navigating the Facebook Universe

This week’s two-part computer class, “Getting Started with Facebook,” has proven to be decidedly popular. Because we only have twelve seats in the computer lab, we require reservations and usually limit classes to that number; however, I had sixteen people in yesterday’s session. As I’ve mentioned before, the local newspaper has started listing the classes in their print calendar, but those listings neglect to mention that registration is required. Hating to turn people away, I allowed those who weren’t registered to pull a chair into the lab and sit in on the side. Even though they weren’t at a computer, they were able to at least watch and learn something instead of having wasted their time coming downtown to the library for nothing.

This particular class is one of my favorites to teach, but I have to admit yesterday’s session left me scatter-brained and exhausted. With any of the computer classes, there’s always a variance in ability among the attendees, and a lot of the times when I’m instructing, I need to pause to catch someone up or explain something one more time. On top of that, though, when teaching people how to use Facebook, there’s so much going on it’s hard to stay on one particular path. I’ll get to explaining one thing, and a patron will have a question about something slightly related but just off-topic enough to get me going in a whole other direction, and I end up feeling like I’ve gone in circles. All the while, the patron is sitting there and I’m never quite sure if they’ve followed along, or if I’ve left them with their own heads spinning in circles of information overload. I’m really fortunate, though, that pretty much all of the participants in the class were patient with me, and some even felt sorry for me having to be pulled in so many directions.

My goal for Tuesday’s session was to get the patrons registered if they weren’t already and then give them a tour of their home page and their profile or timeline. I wanted to start slow. A road block, though, was the confirmation of new users’ email addresses, which you have to do first in order to access most of the features on the site. After getting around that, I provided an explanation of the difference between the news feed and their own timeline (or what used to be called wall), the different kinds of updates people can post, how to find friends to add and pages to like, and how to send private messages and chat with friends. I made sure to warn them, though, that every six to twelve months, Facebook likes to update, change and rearrange things, so they shouldn’t get used to something being the same for too long. By the time I got through all that, I looked at the clock and my hour was up.

I’ve planned for Thursday’s session to focus on uploading photos, editing profile information, and changing account and privacy settings, but I’m sure I’ll find myself wandering all over the Facebook universe again. At the end of yesterday’s class, though, I let everyone know that even after the second session, the learning experience doesn’t have to end. With Facebook, a lot of it is taking the time to explore on your own. However, I did tell them that if they had a question, they could always come back to the library and ask for me, and I’d be glad to help them to the best of my ability.

Posted in Computer Classes

Keeping the community going

After the second part of my Intro to Email class today, a patron explained that, before attending this week’s sessions, she had no idea that the library offered free computer classes. Then she said, “This is what keeps the community going–the library.” That statement stuck with me all afternoon–one more affirmation of the value of my job and libraries in general, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had several job-seeking patrons in my computer classes, because, they’ve said, there are very few positions out there that don’t rely on computer skills. This week’s session focused on setting up and using an email account, something virtually all online applications require these days. I wasn’t a bit surprised that out of the 10 people who attended, 8 of them had never opened an email account.

When my supervisor asked me two years ago to help develop and teach computer classes, I jumped at the opportunity. Having come from an education background, I knew that teaching the classes would be something at which I could be successful. The same patron commented on how well I was able to take information about computers and present it in a way that they–older adults–could understand it. She said that she’s tried learning from her nephews who have degrees in computer science and information technology, but they just couldn’t help her understand. As first a teacher, and now a librarian, that’s one of the cornerstones of my responsibilities–finding ways to present information in a way that patrons can understand and use it successfully.

From computer basics to getting patrons started on Facebook, we’ve offered computer classes on a number of different topics, but it’s always those beginning level sessions that are the most popular. We’ve recently started advertising our classes in the local newspaper, and it’s been surprising how much that has increased interest. Word of mouth has helped a lot too. Attendees, ranging in ages from 16 to 102, are always eager to learn something new, and have pretty much consistently been patient with me if they’ve felt the pressure of information overload. Many of them even come back for more. It’s inspiring to know that the library is becoming more and more the number one place for learning in the community–keeping it going.