Great Stories are written by Guiding Ohio Online AmeriCorps Members about their service.
This year so far has given me a lot of great stories and the idea of picking just one is hard.
Do I talk about the third graders who came in and learned how to check out ebooks or the lady who was having trouble with getting into her email on her Apple computer or . . . the list goes on. Because I’ve never been very good at choosing and no one story can fully encompass what it is that we as Guiding Ohio Online members do and the impact it has, let’s focus on the two stories I already mentioned and leave it at that. These stories occupy two different ends of the spectrum in the experience of both the patron and myself as the guide.
One type of interaction tends to be introductory. Somebody comes in and wants to learn about something they’ve never used before. This can be using email, social media, ebooks or audiobooks, or other things. The patron is looking for the basics and enough to get them started. Our main branch was able to have the entire third grade from one of the local elementary schools come to the library and go through multiple stations with different activities to familiarize the students with the library. My station showed them how to use the Ohio Digital Library to check out and read ebooks on a Chromebook (which they will soon have in school). Many of them didn’t have a library card yet, and seemed intrigued by the idea that they could check books out without having to set foot in the library and to have books that would return themselves - which is something I still think is pretty cool. Since this station wasn’t as active as the scavenger hunt or as immediately rewarding as making the local brick rubbings, it was hard to tell how much they would actually take with them after they left the building. I was very gratified when, the next time I came to this branch, one of the staff members told me that he’d had third graders coming in all week talking and asking about ebooks. I got to introduce a new opportunity to these kids and it was very satisfying hearing that some had run with it.
Another common type of interaction for me is diagnostic. Somebody comes in and is comfortable enough with using a computer or technology to meet their needs, but don’t know what to do when something isn’t acting the way they want it to. Sometimes I know right away how to fix it and other times it takes some investigation and experimentation. A woman came in because she was no longer receiving her Gmail to her Mail application on her Mac laptop. It had been working and then it stopped. This is the type of appointment that I always dread just a tiny bit, because what if I can’t figure it out? This lady came in and was very bubbly and determined to know what had happened. We spent a lot of time investigating, and searching the internet, and checking and changing settings, and then came the moment where we opened her mail back up and it worked. We had become comrades in this quest to beat the fiends of technology during the course of our appointment and both of us were so happy for a variety of reasons. She was able to more easily conduct her business again and I had helped to resolve an issue that I wasn’t sure we were going to figure out.
There are a lot of nuances and details to these interactions that are hard to truly capture in words. One of those is the feeling we walk away with at the end. If everything went well, the patron leaves with an increased sense of confidence and excitement and plans to go home (or stay in the library) and work with it more either for work or pleasure. As an AmeriCorps member, I watch the patron leaving and know that I am fulfilling the pledge I made at the beginning of this term to “get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier . . . to strengthen our communities.” These are the marks of what Guiding Ohio Online is all about. We are here to guide people into being more comfortable with using technology, into increasing their digital literacy, and most importantly into being excited, or at the very least not dreading, to look at a screen and then make the next move.