Free Advice for Your Device Classes
Des Moines Public Library, Iowa
Learners bring their own mobile devices (tablets, phones and e-readers) to learn how to install and use the library's e-resources and materials. In these two-hour, small group classes with one-on-one learning we install apps (sideload if necessary), obtain credentials, learn search strategies, and download selections. We also cover E-books, e-audio, e-magazines, Tumblebooks.
Des Moines Public Library's customers wish to use the e-books and other e-materials on our Virtual Library, but feel hesitant setting up their mobile devices to do so. Many of our class attendees are seniors, who have received their devices as gifts, and are eager to add the library's offerings to their skill set. Other attendees are busy professionals and kids who are very tech savvy but may not have the time to devote to setting up multiple software platforms for their leisure use. We may wish that library-industry e-book software were as simple to use as some of the commercial products, but excepting a few cases, the library industry has not yet reached that goal. Help and guidance is often needed.
We try to keep the ratio of 1 teacher to 5 learners. We also maintain "office hours" where this service can be taught one-on-one on a scheduled basis outside of class, and maintain a telephone advice service. Most of this is handled by the Virtual Library staff. We have a goal of never leaving our patrons "up to their own devices." Classes are divided by type of device, especially by e-ink readers vs tablets. We work with all devices, even non-standard Androids. Participants are required to pre-register, to have their app store available, and to know passwords.
We found that pre-registration is a must. We have had up to 50 people show up for a class if pre-registration was not required. One achieved outcome has been a lessening of pressure on front-desk staff. If a patron is severely struggling with using e-materials on a mobile device, they can be referred to a device class rather than tying up a service desk. After nearly 75 classes and over 1,000 patrons served, we are finding that seniors are our largest audience. They often arrive with little knowledge of their device. Since they leave with the ability to download and enjoy library materials, we are finding that these classes are building enormous amounts of goodwill for the library.