an older white man sits at a table behind a pile of books
[image credit: Library of Congress]

I was asked to give testimony about technological know-how for the Functioning Group On the Position of Vermont Libraries. this is what I wrote.

My identify is Jessamyn West. I am a librarian who life in Orange County Vermont. I have a technologies qualifications, an MLIS, and I have worked for and with general public libraries considering the fact that shifting to Vermont in 1997. I’ve created a ebook about technology instruction named With no A Web: Libraries Bridging the Electronic Divide and I do community talking on engineering matters nationwide. I run the web site and other technology for the Vermont Library Affiliation, a expert association for public librarians in the condition. I am the elected Vermont Chapter Councilor for the American Library Association.

My key perform has been helping compact rural libraries and their patrons find out to use technological innovation to fix problems. I begun as an outreach librarian at Rutland Absolutely free Library exactly where I taught email courses using a flip chart and began my present perform in 2005 when I was employed at the Randolph Technological Vocation Centre as an Americorps worker. This is a regional tech ed facility serving lots of “sending towns.” RTCC wanted to do some outreach to individuals sending towns and so my job there was a blend of training community technologies courses in their grownup instruction plan, executing immediate outreach to the rural libraries in those cities, and what I termed “Drop-In Time” which was an open session exactly where any one in the neighborhood could occur ask technologies inquiries on a weekly foundation.

Drop-In Time started out mainly because we had been acquiring that the individuals who signed up for our standard engineering classes sometimes didn’t have the basic technological innovation skills—vocabulary, mousing abilities, keyboarding—to just take those courses. We would also occasionally get referrals from the state’s vocation rehabilitation individuals and the neighborhood grownup basic education and learning application. In excess of time that job morphed into what I do now which is a identical Drop-In Time on a weekly basis as a library assistant with Kimball Public Library in Randolph Vermont. Due to the fact the commencing of COVID I will also from time to time do tech help electronic mail exchanges or Zoom/Skype/Teams/Hangouts technical assist which the library employs me for, at library assistant wages.

I’d like to briefly handle what I see as the most important difficulties in the spots the Operating Team on the Standing of Libraries in Vermont has asked about.

Library providers for certain segments of the Vermont populace

The bulk of my work is with more mature users of Vermont’s population, ranging from my age up to mid-90s. Several of these folks are also on a preset money and can not pay for to get guidance from technological know-how professionals. If they ended up not having assistance from the library, they would typically not be receiving assistance at all. Illustrations of the sorts of items they have to have assist with, dependent on my very last week’s function:

  • receiving tunes again on a cellular phone just after a beloved application stopped working
  • Finding a CD-ROM to participate in in a personal computer when it wouldn’t auto-participate in
  • Figuring out why Outlook wouldn’t open (these persons known as tech assist and after two several hours made the decision they would call me as an alternative)
  • Figuring out how to log into a website system and transfer a web site from yet another system
  • Figuring out how to make two-aspect authentication work when you never have a intelligent cellular phone

A several points that are vital to this populace team

accessibility variables – quite a few people today in this populace have 1 or much more concerns that require accommodations. This can vary from simple accessibility issues—setting a much larger font, or getting a much better pointing machine for a shaky hand—to much more complicated types involving cognitive and memory worries or psychological wellbeing difficulties that can make currently being in a annoying setting exceptionally difficult. The general public library is properly-positioned to assist tackle these concerns due to the fact we are nominally obtainable normally, but staff really do not generally have the coaching, especially the specialized teaching, to know how to make lodging in the electronic realm.
outreach challenges – from time to time it’s a problem permitting folks know the library is a position for this sort of services. Not all libraries in the point out offer this form of service and individuals may not know or believe of the library when they imagine of “getting help with the laptop.” Several patrons do not know that the Equipped library can support with people needing obtainable formats. We put in a great deal of time getting the correct way to achieve people and frequently it is either term of mouth or putting something in the area newspaper that will get to persons.
defining “solving the problem” – lots of individuals in this service inhabitants have what I would contemplate “chronic” technology wants. They are mindful that they have ongoing troubles but do not have the potential to stay on top rated of them for different explanations none of which are lack of energy. They have a difficult time obtaining good information resources to assist them with their engineering requirements and typically rue the lack of print manuals to tutorial them via remedies to their concerns. It is tough for them to shift to the solutions that perform for other population groups—googling, examining on-line assistance forums, seeing YouTube videos—and they can generally fall prey to frauds because they have reduced confidence in their have talents to evaluate and distinguish great information from negative information and facts.

As a single example, a college student Googled “Netflix cellular phone number” to get assist with her Netflix account and a fraud website showed up higher in the Google final results than Netflix’s actual mobile phone amount. She named the variety on the display and an individual tried to just take more than her personal computer. The library can be a trusted supply of facts to help people today study to differentiate fantastic details from bad details having said that, again, staff members need to have their very own technological competencies and this can be erratic at a statewide stage, even even though there are quite a few technologically capable librarians in Vermont.

The job that libraries enjoy in emergency preparedness, cultural diversity and inclusion, community health and fitness and security, local community identification and resiliency, financial advancement, and obtain to community courses and expert services

This is a challenging matter since lots of libraries responded in another way to the most new unexpected emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic. My own library designed a selection to be shut to the community (offering curbside solutions and some digital programming) for a lot of the earlier wintertime (November – April) which had a devastating outcome on individuals who were being a lot less in a position to interact with the library making use of technological approaches. While the library is generally viewed as a place for receiving access to sources (i.e. you want to master about fishing we’ll help you obtain resources about fishing, we will not, personally, educate you to fish) with technological know-how in some cases we did have to get to the “teach a human being to fish” degree for the reason that, related to Drop-In Times in the previous, if another person couldn’t use Zoom, they could not show up at a library plan. So my purpose shifted to another person who would support folks exercise applying technological know-how so that they would be ready to use it for the point they wished to use it for.

So, for instance, a woman in my neighborhood needed to show up at her granddaughter’s Zoom violin recital but was anxious that she would not be equipped to use the equipment thoroughly. We practiced Zooming (me from my dwelling, her from her household) and practiced turning the digital camera and the microphone on and off, coming into and leaving a Zoom space, working with the chat feature. I also did this with folks who desired to mail an email with an attachment, or open up an attachment that was despatched to them. They could practice by emailing with me. A lot of individuals do not have people to apply with, or not someone they really feel snug remaining vulnerable with. The library can be, all over again, a trusted resource of ability setting up so that individuals can access the resources they want to dwell their lives.

In brief: people who experienced some degree of technological competency or help networks for know-how set up just before the pandemic fared improved than people who did not. When accessibility to a laptop and world wide web are and go on to be important, many individuals in Vermont, digitally divided people today in unique, largely interact with the on-line entire world by means of their phones. This can be social media interactions, or even things like planning a resume, composing a doc or applying for a job. Historically it hasn’t been a library’s position to help a library patron with a cellular phone situation. On the other hand, because phones are turning out to be much more ubiquitous and also the approach through which persons are heading on-line to access assets and facts, libraries have experienced to shift to becoming in a position to assistance with these units. This can even include points like figuring out a patron’s cellular phone strategy to figure out why they just can’t do a issue they are hoping to do on the web. It’s sophisticated and sometimes time-consuming but an completely important part for libraries in rural communities wherever individuals deficiency other possibilities.

Even however this is not on the topic of engineering I’ll point out specially that every library in the state that I have been to has a book/media collection that is a lot more numerous than its populace. In a state with a lot of class diversity but incredibly minimal racial diversity, I believe this is a critical element of the function libraries fill for their communities.

The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on library functions and providers

We ended up extremely lucky in this condition that our Point out Office of Libraries took a leadership part early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. Libraries had been usually adrift and making an attempt to serve their communities as effectively as attainable. VTLib helped by distributing PPE and administering grants for other tough equipment (air filters, plastic dividers, teleconferencing machines, additional wifi nodes) but also staying a calm and caring institution which collected and shared figures and stories of how other libraries ended up, and are, running the crisis.

Libraries which experienced to close early on in the pandemic discovered new expertise, supplying not just curbside e book lending, but items like curbside printing, which is important in communities with no community printing selections. They expanded their wifi products and services to lengthen outside the house of the developing and developed outdoor areas where persons could access the world-wide-web. They discovered approaches to do contactless or socially distant programming.

But not all libraries engaged with these alternatives similarly. I did some on the internet programming for a single library in a little group which was accomplishing its initial on the internet programming in February of 2021, noticeably late in the sport. Lots of of our public libraries interact and exchange information and facts and thoughts making use of mailing lists supplied by VTLib or the Vermont Library Affiliation and libraries that were not using these tools would get additional isolated.

As another person who is not only cozy but enthusiastic about using know-how, striving to determine out ways to make applying engineering a authentic choice for not just these libraries but also their communities has been a person of the worries that the Vermont Library Affiliation has been trying to handle in the previous couple of a long time.

In summary, my considerations about technological know-how relative to the standing of Vermont libraries is primarily in generating absolutely sure that Vermont’s library patrons have equitable obtain to not just the internet and technological know-how-enabled gadgets but also to trustworthy and educated personnel who see the library’s purpose of delivering access to data extending into the digital realm.

Thank you.

A full checklist of libraries I have worked at, with, or for, in Vermont

Aldrich Library, Barre
Baxter Library, Sharon
Bethel Library, Bethel
Bradford Public Library, Bradford
Brooks Library, Brattleboro
Calef Library, Washington
Carpenter-Carse Library, Hinesburg
Charlotte General public Library, Charlotte
Chelsea Public Library, Chelsea
Goodrich Public Library, Newport
Hartland Public Library, Hartland
Kimball Library, Randolph
Peacham Library, Peacham
Pittsfield Library, Pittsfield
Rochester Library, Rochester
Rockingham Free of charge Public Library, Bellows Falls
Roxbury Free Library, Roxbury
Royalton Library, Royalton
Rutland Absolutely free Library, Rutland
Starksboro Library, Starksboro
Tunbridge Library, Tunbridge
Williamstown Library, Williamstown
Windsor Library, Windsor