E-readers and tablets have become an increasingly popular way for patrons to access digital media. Mobile technology has altered the landscape of the types of services offered to public library patrons. Digital media services and distributers (i.e. iBookstore, Audible, Overdrive and Hoopla) allow patrons to download and stream ebooks, audiobooks, video and music. After happening upon the article “Shape Up Your Skills and Shake Up Your Library,” by Marshall Breeding for Computers in Libraries, I’m reminded that information professionals in public libraries must sharpen their tech skills in order to be of advantage to their patrons. If you belong to a library that subscribes to a digital media distributor, such as Overdrive and Hoopla, you are most likely first tier technical support for issues concerning the application and the device itself. For patrons who are not familiar with tablets and e-readers, their expectation of your assistance goes beyond navigating the library’s subscription service. You may find yourself giving instruction on where to find the wireless settings or how to properly turn the device off. It is natural to become intimidated by the technology when you’re sitting with a patron desperately attempting to figure out what the issue could be.
Not all public libraries are fortunate to have e-readers and tablets to train with. In that case, I suggest looking into alternative forms of instruction. Though I cannot promise you a complete instructional, I’ll attempt to help you brush-up on the light technical skills you’ll need before having to phone the professionals.
Familiarity is key
The first step in getting a better understanding of the technology is to become familiar with the exact services that your library is subscribed to. In the case of Overdrive and Hoopla, their services can be accessed using a computer. That is a great opportunity to explore the different features of the service. Be ready to answer certain questions: Does the library offer downloadable ebooks, audiobooks or video? What formats are they available in? What devices can be used with the service? If all else fails, you can always contact the service provider and ask for training materials or frequently asked questions and answers. If not already available, you can create instructional handouts for use by colleagues and patrons.
Take advantage of free services
To add some edge to your skills, consider utilizing the live product displays at electronics stores.
• Visit the Apple Store to use their iPads, iPad mini, etc.
• Best Buy has live displays of various Android OS tablets
• Target stores often feature Kindles and iPads
• Barnes and Noble stores have Nook displays
There are a plethora of alternate stores to consider. The imperative is to root around with the technology until you’re comfortable with its features. You want to know where the settings are located for each device because that knowledge will be useful at some point. And while you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson questions about the device’s functionality. There is a high chance you will ask a question that will later be asked of you.
I make no assumptions here. Not all libraries have access to instructional materials or handouts for patrons. My aim is to create a starting point for self-training and instruction that is free and can be passed along to colleagues and patrons.