Library teaches basic skills

As someone who helps residents with tech aid on a daily basis, librarian Kelsey Psaute is eager to teach the library’s newest Google-funded class focused on building baseline computer skills.

Psaute built her first computer when she was eight years old. She now works as a librarian and resident-tech person at Burnham Memorial Library, but she’s well aware that her ability to take apart and put back together a computer is not normal.

According to Psaute, Google teamed up with the Public Library Association (PLA) and American Library Association (ALA) to create an initiative called Libraries Lead With Digital Skills that gives public libraries the tools and resources to grow skills and careers. Burnham Memorial Library received a grant through this program and began a three-session class at the library last Friday, demystifying the mysteries of technology.

Psaute hopes to help residents who struggle with technology get to a point where they are able to muddle through it on their own. “And I do mean muddle,” she said.

“There’s a perception that it’s really difficult, or that if they press one button [the computer] will explode,” she continued, explaining that she doesn’t think folks are afraid to ask for help, but afraid to experiment on their own. “It’s understandable why some folks are afraid or intimidated by technology. People are terrified of messing things up,” she said. “But there’s sixteen different ways to do one thing. It’s part of the beauty and horror of desktop computers.”

While much of the impetus for the new tech courses came through Google, the PLA, and ALA, Psaute said the desire for a tech class has been in the works for a while. “We do a lot of patron one on one help. People come in with these huge problems, and they don’t have the right terminology to communicate their problem. But they often turn out to have really simple solutions,” said Psaute.

Creating a class from scratch takes time, resources, and staff, Psaute continued, and she hopes that this headstart will help residents who have voiced a desire for more computer knowledge.

Another turn off for many folks from older generations is the perception that young people know everything. But there are gaps between every generation.

Psaute worked for a stint at the University of Vermont and encountered some younger students who had a hard time writing essays. Teachers told her that students couldn’t write a paper, but she realized the problem had to do with conceptualizing physical pages, not their lack of ability. “They were so used to screens and scrolling,” Psaute said. “It’s a complete mental shift.”

At the first class on Friday, five spots at the library’s computers filled and Psaute walked through basic computer skills, starting from the power button and moving on to folder organization and vocabulary.

The next two sessions will cover email and more of the “nitty gritty,” Psaute said, but she seems excited to help residents muddle through.