I was working at the Caldwell County Public Library in the early 1990’s when computers were first introduced into the library. Fear is usually the reaction of most people to new technology and that was pretty much me all over. Would I be able to learn how to use one? How foolish would I look trying to learn how? Would it mean more work to do on my job? How’s learning to play with a mouse going to help anyone anyway?
It was a struggle at times, especially when we began offering the Internet to the public. Libraries really were not prepared for it. The computer industry was pushing it and the patrons were demanding it so we really didn’t have much of a choice. We as staff members didn’t have much experience with it ourselves. It was trial by error. We were on the cutting edge of technology though and boy did we bleed some in the early days.
The Internet was being touted as the greatest thing since the Guttenberg Press and any library that didn’t offer it was living in the Stone Age. We opened the boxes and got out the computers, monitors, mice, keyboards, and printers and set them up with one staff member reading the directions out loud. We hooked them up to the Internet and waited to see what happened. It wasn’t long before we found out that there were a lot of good things on the Internet and a lot of bad things as well. There were not Internet Agreement Policies in the beginning nor did we have filters. We didn’t know we needed them until we began to see what some of our patrons were looking up.
One county library system near us moved all their computers in front of the circulation desk thinking that patrons would be too embarrassed to look up such things with staff members standing right there looking at them. Wrong, they just sat there and grinned and looked anyway leaving the staff and the patrons being the ones embarrassed. Soon we were busy putting filters on the computers and writing out rules and agreement policies spelling out what you could and could not look up on the library’s Internet computers. These policies are standard now in North Carolina libraries.
It was a bit like that when we first moved into the new library building two years ago this month. There were a lot of “What if’s” being floated around by staff members over how we were going to cover such an increase in space and handle the new systems we would be using. The beauty of the new building and the leaky roof in the old one again didn’t allow us a choice though so we dutifully gathered our things up in boxes and moved in.
April 17, 2005 was the official grand opening of the new library building and April 15 marks the beginning of National Library Week. One of the new services we can now offer in the new facility is free computer classes. The first of 14 one day classes on “Internet I–The Basics” will begin on April 19 at 10 am and 6 pm. Students will be using the library’s laptop computers. Classes are one hour long and limited to 8 students. Registration for the one day class begins on April 15 and the class will be repeated on various dates through September.
Other classes being offered include “Internet II-Advanced Searching” and “E-Mail Basics” both of which start in May. Registration for these classes will begin the Sunday before each class is held and the classes will be repeated on different dates on though September. These one day classes will be held in the Conference Room at the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville. Brochures describing the classes and giving dates and times are available at the library’s Reference Department. For information contact the Reference Department at 704-928-2400.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Library to offer free computer classes starting April 19” on April 11, 2007