Libraries keeping community connected

Libraries today are so much more than just a quiet place to browse through books for borrowing.
There’s a buzz. An energy. And people of all ages are getting involved.
I’ve been to Baby rhyme, Preschool story time, borrowed toys, DVDs and books of course, but recently a Knit and stitch group caught my eye.
What a great chance to learn from experienced volunteers.
And speaking of these wonderful people who use their time, patience and skills to teach others, last week I took my young daughter along with me to Campbelltown library to meet a UniSA student working with the IT volunteers.
Teh Wen Nee (or Wen Nee as she’d prefer) is helping senior citizens learn how to use technology in the Digital Help Drop Ins.
Wen Nee is doing Bachelor of Business and didn’t mind telling me that the Community Service Learning Project, “isn’t really related to logistics and supply chain management, but it gives me a break from studies and of course it’s project experience for my CV”.
That’s not to say Wen Nee isn’t working hard, just differently.
One day she could be helping someone learn how to copy and paste using shortcut keys, or how to set up an email account and the next she’ll be looking for other tech savvy volunteers to fix a corrupted USB.
‘I find it really interesting,’ Wen Nee says.
‘It’s all about how you communicate with older people.
‘I find it really interesting to talk to the seniors who drop in with not much idea about what IT is.
‘It’s exciting when you teach them something.
‘But then sometimes they know a lot and they ask us complicated stuff and I have no idea how to answer.” says Wen Nee.
But what Wen Nee is most excited about is the upcoming Keeping Connected Online event that Campbelltown Library is hosting as part of Veteran’s Health Week.
Wen Nee will be giving a presentation to seniors at the Payneham RSL about how to use Facebook and email to keep connected to family and friends.
The event will no doubt encourage more senior people to access the library for services they may never have known existed.
And that’s the thing, according to Public Library Services, Jo Freeman libraries are 80 percent community engagement and 20 percent information management these days.
The Digital Help Drop Ins has been in operation for over two years at Campbelltown Library in partnership with the University of South Australia’s Community Projects and it’s success has captured the interest of other libraries across the state too.
Campbelltown City Council (SA), Digital Literacy and Programs Officer, Alison Hall began the Digital Help Drop Ins in May 2015, beginning with one day and a week.
‘We’d get anywhere from two to eight people drop in within two hours, so we thought we’d spread the load out a bit ,’ Alison says.
‘The IT volunteers can be waiting for half an hour with nobody to help and then nine people can arrive all at once and they have to deal with that, but they never let anyone leave without having a question answered.
‘They’re really great volunteers,’ says Alison.
Alison says the drop in sessions allows patrons to feel at ease knowing that they can just turn up without a booking, practice a skill and ask a question without getting a frustrated answer.
‘Sometimes people ask friends or family for help and they get frustrated with them,’ Alison says.
‘Here they know they are in a relaxed environment where our volunteers have lots of patience to answer their questions.’
Digital Help Drop Ins is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1-3pm at Campbelltown Library.
Wen Nee will be presenting at Keeping Connected Online, Thursday 27th October 2016, 9:30-11:30 at the Payneham RSL, 360 Payneham Road, Payneham.
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