Less than a month into a whirlwind tour of over 40 libraries around the state and the Gadget Menagerie is officially a big hit in libraries. January kicked off the Gadget Menagerie with visits to Skagit and Lincoln Counties as well as the Ritzville Library and Mid-Columbia Libraries. Now, we are preparing for a super-busy February with visits to Gonzaga University, Richland Public Library, Timberland Regional Library, Washington State Library, Spokane County Library District, Sno-Isle Libraries and Everett Public Library. Wow, that’s exhausting just at a glance!
The exciting thing about the Gadget Menagerie program is that it is not only for staff, but also for the public. Libraries wishing to offer a public program are partnering with Washington State Library staff to bring the Gadgets to the library for patrons as well. Working directly with library users has been a joy. It is so much fun to help people discover the world of eReaders and tablets. Everyone has different needs when it comes to using a tablet and our job is to help people understand how they are all similar, yet different. Is this a contradiction in terms? Perhaps, but it is very true.
By working with staff and encouraging them to approach devices in a “device agnostic” manner, we hope to get staff more comfortable helping patrons coming to the library on a daily basis with various devices. Each day of the Gadget Menagerie, we are learning more about devices and about our communities.
Devices in the current menagerie include: Kindle, Nook Touch, Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, Galaxy Tab 10.1, iPad Mini, Microsoft Surface RT and a Chromebook.
New devices are coming soon and will include more android-based tablets. Patrons and students may bring their own device or explore one from the Washington State Library.
At the public workshops, we assisted many people with their own devices and showcased the gadgets from our menagerie. An 83-year old woman wanted to compare tablets. After working with the various tablets in the Menagerie, she was able to narrow her interest down to 2 tablets. At another session, a 70-something farmer wanted to know when high speed internet would come to his county and town. He loves technology and has quite a few of his own gadgets already. He enjoyed showing us what he liked about the different tablets and was enthusiastic when telling us that when high-speed internet comes to his town, he’d be able to do so much more with all his high-tech toys. When the local librarian asked him “How did you get so tech savvy?,” he responded with, “My grandkids, and I have a lot of them!”
Our youngest patron at the Gadget Menagerie was 9 years old. She had a tablet and wanted to learn about YouTube. Unfortunately, since she has no access to internet at home, her tablet has limited functionality when items aren’t downloaded directly onto it. She loves coming to the library and now knows that she can bring her tablet in and use the library’s wi-fi to download what she needs and ask the friendly staff for help.
So, by now you are probably wondering, what exactly is this Gadget Menagerie?
The Washington State Library is partnering with local libraries across the state providing gadget training for library staff. Library patrons and students will be given similar training focused on the needs of the device user. Over 40 locations and 70 trainings are scheduled for the Gadget Menagerie through June 2014.
“We are very excited to be able to provide this training,” State Librarian Rand Simmons said. “We hope these skills will be beneficial to both library staff and those who rely on library resources.”
Library staff will learn how various eReaders, tablets and other devices work. They will discover what these devices have in common, how they differ, and learn basic operating tips. Staff will learn basic troubleshooting and tips for helping patrons with their devices, including how to download books from the library.
The Gadget Menagerie will familiarize local library staff with the variety of gadgets available, allowing for staff to be more comfortable and skilled in helping library patrons.
Not all libraries are offering both types of training; some libraries are focusing only on staff training since they either already offer public workshops or don’t have the resources to offer trainings at this time.
These trainings are funded by the Washington State Library via the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).
For this project, which is part of the Washington State Library Digital Literacy project, we are actively encouraging feedback and stories. So far, 100% of the public attendees say they have learned something valuable and would recommend the program to another. Comments from the public vary, but this one is very typical of the responses we have been receiving; “It was useful to have knowledgeable persons explain the equipment-what they will and will not do. Thank you for bringing the variety of devices.”
As one staff person said in a thank-you note, “We couldn’t have asked for better, more useful, hands-on training!”