Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Web 1.0 Patrons

Here is the response I gave to a colleague who wanted to know how I handle Patrons who are completely new to the computer.

Yup, it's definitely a slippery slope. Do you sit down and devote 30 minutes to one person when there are 5 more standing waiting for help?
I say:
"Well, I can get you started..."

When people come up and want to find something specific, like a phone number, I help them reserve a computer and then I stand behind them and verbally direct them,
"Double click the blue "E" on the desk top, Click, click,, not on the word "Explorer" but on the big blue "E"
"Click in the address window using the mouse"
"Now type in, use the mouse to click in the search window and enter the names, you can use the "Tab" button to navigate between entry fields."
"Every blue underlined word is a link that can be followed to a new site full of more information."
tedious, but it's all I can do, I work in a public computing center with 25 terminals and 2 printers. There is ALWAYS someone who needs help.

We also have brochures that are pretty good at directing through the steps of getting a gmail account or filing an unemployment voucher.

If they can't manage to grasp the functionality of a mouse and keyboard combo, I send them to Reader's Services for the class schedule.

I am quick to point out that when it comes to specific websites, I'm clueless to the details because there are thousands of websites. I can't know it All.

I also allow myself to say "I've reached the limits of my knowledge, I can't help you because I just don't know anymore than what I've already shown you."

By this time there are usually a bunch of people standing around waiting for my help and I can scurry off.

Is this a cultural issue?
Is this an age issue?
Is it a class issue?
In the Computer Center it's usually a Class/Economic issue, people who have fallen through the cracks in the educational system are being asked to be computer literate.
I can give them the tools, give them a few starter tips and then they are on their own because I don't have the time to individually tutor each and every person that comes through the door. I'm as helpful as I can be.
I hope this helps and I hope you understand that I'm not trying to be callous to people who need help, I'm protecting myself from burning out and being useless to the other people who need help.


Kirsten said...

Hip! Hip! Huzzah!!! Perfect, that's exactly what I do too!

Jen said...

Keep making lemonade out of those lemons, kaygraphic. It's a sad, sad scene, and someday hopefully libraries and/or other social service agencies can get some sort of foothold. You're doing what can be done now.

rachelann31 said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, and I work in that lab 20 hours a week.
This can be VERY frustrating for both us and the patron. Usually, this is a person that would rather not use a computer, but has no choice (i.e. unemployment is newly internet based, etc).

You do the best you can, and that's the most that can be expected.

And, yeah, don't be afraid to send them down the hall for those classes!
I usually inform them of the classes up front. Sometimes, they stop and just want to do this first. That's always a relief.

Oh, and by the way, I think it's awesome that you make them do it, even though that is not the easy route. This way, they are forced to get familiar with it.

Keep up the good work trying to survive in the Twilight Zone we call a public computer lab.