The Internet and Libraries

The internet vs. the library.

It is a well-debated topic. Are libraries still relevant when we have instant access to information on the internet? Being in a public library setting on a daily basis, I can strongly argue that not only does the internet make libraries more relevant, but it makes us almost indispensable.

Take for example, this quote:

The library is one of the only places people ca go to get free, unlimited personal assistance navigating the online universe.

——-Mandy McGee, Adult Services Supervisor at Elmwood Park Public Library (excerpt taken from THIS IS WHAT A LIBRARIAN LOOKS LIKE by Kyle Cassidy)

This is so true on many levels. We have five public access computers, as well as free wi-fi at our library. Many larger libraries probably have even more to offer, including the use of devices such as tablets that they can borrow. Every day, we have many questions from people who are using the internet—including how to print a page, how to save a document to a USB drive or to the computer, where to find phone numbers, maps, or addresses, how to open an email account, how to use Facebook, and a variety of countless things that might only pop up once in a while.

People need us. Not everyone has their own computer. Not everyone knows how to use a computer to look up information or to apply for jobs or funding. Not everyone understands how to access public wi-fi. While we strive to help everyone find and use the information online that they want, sometimes, it will take a little more than just a quick five minutes. So, we also offer weekly tech-tutoring, which is a one-on-one session with our “tech-spert” to go over whatever technical questions a person would like to learn. Our tech tutor teaches people how to double click a mouse, how to save documents into files, where to log into the internet, how to access public wi-fi, how to print something, what certain programs are capable of doing, and much, much more.

Now, think about purchasing a new computer. Can you go back to the store repeatedly to ask how to operate that computer? Can you continually call tech-support and get immediate assistance for free? Can you go back to the same people when you forget what they explained the first time? I would have to guess that most often, the answer is no.

But at the library, we will help you as many times as you need, for whatever your problems might include. And if we can’t figure something out, we’ll try to find someone who knows, or find the information online to help you with your issue.

Even if you’re very skilled in using your device, sometimes people just need a little assistance to work a new app, or print something wirelessly. We do that. And we do it for free every single time, usually without much of a wait time.

Where else can you get service like that?

Libraries will continue to be sources of personal assistance in navigating the world wide web, which is essentially just one large depot for information. Exactly what we’ve always done, just in a new way. And until there is a free community access facility to help people with technology and information on how to use it, the library will be absolutely necessary. Always…now, just with an ‘on’ button.

Happy Ontario Public Library Week!





Tech Thursdays!

techAre you having trouble figuring out your email? Finding that new tablet confusing? Wanting to learn how to download eBooks or Audiobooks? We can help!

We’re now offering “Tech Thursdays at the Library!” Sign up for a one-on-one session, and we show you the basics, or help you get past that stumbling block. Give us a call to reserve your space with Caroline, starting today!


Check Out a Skill!

skillCheck out a Skill at the library is only in the mid-week phase, but it’s already been super popular, and helpful to those participating.  We still have sessions that are available if you have a technology skill you’d like to learn….anything from setting up an email, to opening a browser for the first time, to downloading audiobooks to your phone. Whatever your questions, we’ve got the answers.

Call us to book a half hour session sometime later this week, or next week. Our fabulous Skill Master, Caroline, will guide you through the steps to learn a new skill. Bring along your laptop, tablet, phone or other device you want to learn, or we can book you on one of our own computers to assist with the session. So far, it’s been a popular program, and maybe something we’ll be able to offer up periodically at the library.

So, check out a new skill today! (Or next week!)

Speed Reading, Smartphone Style!

US-based Tech company start-up, Spritz, is claiming to have developed an app that will allow future smartphone users to read an entire novel in 80 minutes. They’ve been working hard on the app, also called Spritz, which will allow upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones and the Gear2 watch to benefit from this technology. It’s speed reading, app style!


While speed reading is nothing new, the people at Spritz have “reinvented the way people read by eliminating the obstacles associated with traditional reading on mobile devices”.  While we are all used to a swiping action to move from page to page or screen to screen, Spritz freezes the action into one spot so the eye can focus and read the important parts of the words.  They have a fantastic demonstration on THIS page, and you can change the speed of the information to anything you like. I tried it at 250 words per minute, and it seemed fairly easy to follow the sentences.  The really great thing about this app?  It allows more time for harder words, although you won’t even realize it. The inventors of the app warn that at 400 words per minute, your comprehension will not be very strong, as it takes the brain a little time to process more difficult words.

Of course, there is some skepticism about how well this app will work for people, and the general warning that it’s better not to speed read at all for the best absorption of information. But if you’re trying to work more reading into your life, having a way to get through a book anywhere from 80 minutes to 2.5 hours would make that possible. Of course, this means you’ll have to have the technology to use it, also, so take that into consideration if you’re hoping to try this new app out.

You can read more information about the Spritz app right here. Happy reading!


Are You Ready for a Book Apocalypse?


Much has been said recently about the idea that print books will become obsolete in the near future. While many people have embraced “new” ways of reading (ebooks, audiobooks etc.), a lot of people are reluctant to give up print books altogether. But what happens if the world changes and a total print apocalypse happens?  Would you be ready???

What is a Print Apocalypse?

The complete destruction/removal of any printed matter on a worldwide scale.

How Quickly Would it Happen?

A total annihilation of books would probably take some time, especially when you consider the number of books in libraries, schools, stores etc. Once the print apocalypse begins, however, it would mean nothing new would make it to printed form.  I don’t think we have to worry quite yet, but there may come a time in the future where everything will become digital.

Can I Stop It?

Probably not. Ebooks are here. Digital media is not going away. As much as we love the smell of books, the weight of a good book, and the joy of opening a cover and beginning to read, digital books/newspapers/information will allow us to carry more, have updates by the second and let us read the latest thriller within seconds of its release. This is a good thing. Really.

How Can I Prepare?

Right now, most of us are comfortable reading headlines and articles on the internet. Some people have graduated to reading books online or on a device. And there is a growing number of people who have stopped darkening the doors of libraries and bookstores altogether, preferring to read only on a tablet or e-reader.

If you don’t regularly read the headlines or articles online, that might be the place to start. Find you favourite newspaper online and read it on your computer for a week. Or subscribe to you favourite magazine on your tablet. Most mags and newspapers are interactive now, which means you can download recipes, shop directly for whatever you see on the pages and email the author of an article you enjoyed, right from your computer or device.

Your next step would be to learn how to download ebooks, either from an online store, or free from your library. Once you begin, it might not be your sole form of choice, but you’ll probably discover it’s much nicer to bring along a tablet that weighs 10oz when you travel, rather than a suitcase full of books.

What If I Can’t Do It?

New technology can be difficult at first. Understand that, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Young people are GREAT resources for helping with devices and technological issues. So grab a kid, or check out the “help” section of most web pages. Embrace technology. You won’t be left behind in when the Print Apocalypse happens!

Technology for everyone!

I was browsing the library catalog today, and glanced at the “hot sites”  list at the bottom of the page. I’m not sure how these links are found, or if they’re based upon Google searches or sites that just interest the people at Sirsi who develop and maintain the library catalogs, but they are always interesting! Today, they were featuring the Free Technology Academy, which is a site devoted to providing good educational tools to allow anyone access to study technology. 

So what exactly is the site all about? It’s a joint initiative from several educational institutions in a variety of countries that believes all people everywhere, should have access to courses that allow them to study and learn current technology.  Great idea! Not only does this initiative aim to educate people who might not have the means to study technology courses (from different operating systems to web development), but it also gives access to people who just want to learn in their spare time.  And it’s free.  How much better can you get?

There are instructional videos and print access to the various courses, and while it is constantly expanding, there seems to be a great deal of available programs already.  The people who run the site ask for donations (because really, even though it’s all free, these people are putting in their time and energy to keep the site going), so if you feel the content is worth it, you may donate something to their cause.

This is a great idea that we’re probably going to see more of as the web expands. We have access to so much out there now that it almost seems “silly” to pay for things when you can get them for free. Of course, nothing will take the place of an actual teacher or school, but this concept is evolving.

Would you take a free course to learn more about technology?

Ebooks, audiobooks and technology at the library

My sister-in-law works at a library in Northern Alberta and while she was visiting recently, we were talking about our libraries and how things are done in both places.  One common issue we noticed is that while technology at the library is a great step forward…..there has to be a learning curve as well as expectations from the public. Not only is staff expected to know everything about new technologies that are being used withing the library (such as eBooks, audiobooks and, but many patrons also seem to expect us to be able to teach them as well, and it isn’t always possible.

When we started with audiobooks and eBooks here at our library, we all received a small virtual training session.  Yes, virtual….meaning we participated in a webinar online.  No hands on training, no devices to try.  We were given the basics and had to go from there. Now, we were lucky enough that some of us had iPods and eBook readers so we could experiment at home.  But not everyone has one, so while the staff was trained, a few have never used these devices before.  You can see how tricky this might be.  It would be like someone learning how to drive by watching a video and then being expected to teach others in an actual car. (Okay, maybe not as lethal, but you get the picture.) So you can see  how tricky this is for us.

Secondly, we’re finding that many people who want to download eBooks and Audiobooks are not well versed on their computers and certainly have no experience using these devices, which makes the experience frustrating for all of us. While we can hopefully help someone figure out how to eventually get the books onto their systems (everyone has different settings and devices), we can’t always spend as much time as they need and we can’t do it repeatedly. That means a little experimentation at home is required. Go to our help pages on this blog when first setting up. Visit the help pages on the OverDrive website to see if you can solve the problem that way.  Or ask someone (grab just about any young person you know…they’ll probably do it in three seconds!) to help you in your own environment. And write it down.  I can’t stress that enough….if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing…..write it down, step by step, when someone shows you.  That’ll make a big difference.

As for, not all of us know every in and out of the site (not everyone has done genealogy research).  While most of us can help you figure out how to print off that great photo or census, the site is limited by what it can do.  We might be able to make the photo larger, but not necessarily clearer, and while you’d love to have all the data from the link included, sometimes it will just print the photo and that’s all. It’s not our fault if they change the website on occasion. We didn’t do anything to make them change things, so getting frustrated with the staff won’t help. Again, take your time, learn how to work the computer and write things down so that you can do it again next time. We don’t always have the time to spend with someone if we’re really busy.

We want this to be a fun and useful for all involved because eBooks and Audiobooks  and Ancestry are a wonderful addition to the library. But keep in mind that some of the work has to be done on your end, too. Know a much as you can about your computer and your device before bringing it in (taking it out of the box at the library isn’t going to help either of us). Prepare to get frustrated, but trust us that it gets easier. And while we encourage you to come in with questions, give it a try before you walk in with all your equipment. And please don’t get upset with us if we can’t figure it out in three seconds. Remember….this is new to us, too.