Lakewood OH

Library computer center celebrates five years of hands-on learning

Library employee Amy Wilson helps Kathryn Hiendlmayr navigate the world of eBooks at the Rocky River Public Library Computer Center open house. (West Life photo by Sue Botos)


Rocky River

By Sue Botos

The computer training department at Rocky River Public Library has come a long way, even though classes have just moved down the hall.

“We’ve moved from what I lovingly call ‘the closet,’” recalled training manager Angela Paterek at last week’s open house celebrating the fifth anniversary of the library’s current computer lab, which opened in May 2007. “There were six computers and no room for the teacher. The monitors were also huge back then,” she continued.

This description was a contrast to the sleek Computer Training Center available to the public for free hands-on instruction in 20 to 25 classes monthly, including Microsoft Office, Photoshop and social media. Once a month, patrons can snack on donuts and coffee while hearing a talk and watching a demonstration of such topics as “cloud computing,” website design and eBay during the “Computer Breakfast Series” held in the library auditorium. Twice yearly, an evening workshop is also offered.

During the open house, visitors browsed on the flat-screen monitors of about a dozen computers, offering samples of eBooks and Skype, which Paterek said will be added to the class lists in the fall. “Next month we’re going to offer tablet classes,” she revealed, adding that patrons have requested instruction on popular devices like iPad and e-readers.

Paterek also demonstrated the training center’s “smart technology,” which allows the instructor to take control of students’ monitors to offer assistance, without having to physically move to each station in the room. “This is our favorite button,” she said with a laugh, pointing to the “shut down” button on the control station. She added that the center is also used for staff development and is equipped with a sound system and webinar ability.

While the numbers of students registering for classes has remained consistent, 12,000 over the past five years, topics have become more sophisticated. “We still get people for the introductory classes,” said Paterek. However, she added that most students are now familiar with the basics. All classes with the exception of the introductory sessions have prerequisites that patrons should be aware of before signing up. She said that Microsoft Word 10 classes are now being offered, which detail such topics as bibliographies and citations. Microsoft Excel, the well-known spreadsheet program, is still one of the most popular offerings.

Classes are currently geared toward adults, but Paterek said that some children’s technology has been tested. “We’ve done some experimenting with Lego Mindstorm(s),” she said. With this software, children can construct a robot out of the popular plastic building block, and then manipulate it with a computer.

Visitors to the open house ranged from curious newcomers to veterans such as Lois Miskoe, who has been using the library computers since the first ones were installed in the late 1990s. “I love this place. These are my friends,” said the figure skating judge and referee, who added that computers have made her work much easier. For example, she stated that she uses Excel to schedule referees for competitions. “We do everything digitally now. We rarely use the phone,” she added. While Miskoe said she “embraces” technology, she does not feel the same about social media. “There’s the issue of privacy there,” she said. Miskoe noted that she has taken the same course from different instructors because each one “has something new to offer.”

New employee Beth Fridrick, a former Apple Store employee, was giving tips on the use of iPads. “It’s really awesome to watch them develop,” she said of the students.

Kathryn Hiendlmayr said that she has attended the Breakfast Series, but has not yet taken a hands-on class. But that may change, because she said she had just gotten an iPad, and is looking forward to learning more about it.



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