There aren’t many places you can go to and ask someone in person for help, for free, using anything to do with digital. Where do you even start to look for information?
I have worked in libraries for over 35 years now and have seen the difference and prominence digital has played in our staff and customers’ everyday lives. I have also noticed the wide range of customers who still don’t have the digital skills to do some tasks needed for life today. What would these people do if they didn’t get the help they needed, at a time they needed it?
Libraries are and have always been a place to find information. They are also the place to go to get help with digital skills or signposting to some of our excellent DigiKnow partners in Stockport.
To ask why we need libraries at all, when there is so much information available elsewhere, is about as sensible as asking if roadmaps are necessary now that there are so very many roads.
Customers ask the library staff for help using computers in a variety of ways, all of which can make a huge difference to their lives when it is most needed. These are just a few examples of the things we get asked for.
A man who recently lost his job goes into a library…sorry, no punchline to follow. He was quite distressed when he went in, as the Job Centre had told him he needed to apply for Universal Credit. He had never even used a computer before and so was obviously anxious and worried about how he was ever going to do this.
Staff helped him get onto the Universal Credit website and taught him some basic skills so he could complete the required form himself. This led to him applying for jobs online, each time getting a little bit of help from the staff in the library. After about four weeks, he successfully found a job and felt more comfortable using computers.
An older customer, currently writing a novel, would often print out several pages of drafts on a visit and then re-type everything again on subsequent visits, each time adding more. As we built a rapport, we discussed pen drives and how they could help. She was initially dismissive but eventually did bring one in, and I talked her through how to access the drive’s files, save to it and remove it safely.
We did this over several visits, and soon she was using it very confidently. She even figured out how to find a file she had thought lost but had misnamed. Although I was there to help if needed, the fact she could do it by herself shows just how much her digital skills had improved, and she was rightly proud of this.
Another customer asked for help to negotiate the school admissions site. Time was ticking out. Staff helped her get past the part of the website where she kept getting stuck, and consequently, her children got into the schools of her choice.
Giving people the confidence to use computers is a massive part of our daily life in libraries. From help with printing travel tickets or essays to accessing free to use computers and WiFi, we provide all this assistance at all our libraries in Stockport. I am immensely proud of our helpful and dedicated staff and the continuing service to the community.
If you know someone who needs help getting online, do encourage them to visit their local library. Or you can find out more information for them on the DigiKnow web pages. To find out more about all the services at Stockport libraries, visit Stockport Council’s library web pages. And if you would like to help other people get online, please contact the DigiKnow team.
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