By Paul Thompson
January 11, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The North-East library has a new program aimed specifically for beginners looking to take their first steps into the age of technology.
Free drop-in tech assistance is now being offered at the North-East branch of the Kansas City Public Library system each Monday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. On January 9, the Northeast News stopped by the library to see just what was being offered during the weekly two-hour window.
Wendy Pearson currently heads the drop-in technology services at the North-East branch. Pearson is one of 22 digital inclusion fellows throughout the nation being funded by Google Fiber and administered by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), which is based out of Portland, Oregon. Kansas City was one of 11 cities partnering with Google Fiber and NTEN for the initiative. After Kansas City was announced as one of the partner cities, organizations in the area were given the opportunity to apply for one of two fellows provided through the program. The Kansas City Public Library’s application was accepted.
“I’m here for a year, and my objective is to kind of standardize digital literacy services across our branches,” said Pearson. “We have a very strong program at Central Library downtown, but that’s obviously not affecting the patrons who live near the Southeast Library or the North-East branch, for example.”
The library hopes to expand its technology program at first through these weekly drop-in sessions, and later through outreach programs conducted throughout the community. Pearson noted that a grant recently issued to the library has given her access to a mobile computer lab that will be used to run those community technology classes.
“We have a fleet of 24 laptops that are going to eventually enable us to take the show on the road,” said Pearson.
For now, drop-in sessions at local library branches are the main vehicle used by Pearson to offer technology assistance to the community. In practice, that can mean anything from helping a patron put together an online job or health care application to showing a tech beginner how to set up an email account.
“We are actually learning through the first few weeks of this program that patrons are needing a lot more basic help than we expected,” said Pearson. “Every single time I have sat down to help someone, they are very shy and a little scared, I’ll even say. The process by which I help people is that I don’t touch the computer. They learn pretty quickly that they’re capable, because they’re doing it.”
Though drop-in appointments are only available from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. on Mondays, one-on-one appointments can also be scheduled by calling the North-East branch of the Kansas City Public Library at (816) 701-3485. If you’re interested in volunteering as a tech coach, visit http://www.kclibrary.org/techcoach. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (816) 803-8807.