Summer tech support available through Chatfield Public Library

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Cyberspace: The final frontier. These are the voyages of people pushing buttons whose functions they know not. Their mission is to explore their devices and learn to bring their charging cords.

“We find more and more that the library is the place people go when they need help and are unsure of where to go. Frequently, the help they are looking for involves some sort of technology,” observed Chatfield Public Library (CPL) Director Monica Erickson. “While we, as a library staff, frequently provide this sort of help, sometimes a solution or answer to a tech question is beyond our expertise or we simply don’t have the amount of dedicated time required, and there are so many devices, so many applications and so many things that can go wrong. Add the never-ending changes, upgrades and misleading popups, and trying to help folks with these issues can sometimes seem overwhelming, especially to staff who do not have extensive professional training in all things technology, and this is why, when Randy Wilson offered to volunteer his time, his experienced, professional expertise to help us help our patrons, we didn’t have to think twice about responding, ‘Yes, please!’ and ‘thank you!’”

Wilson, a Chatfield transplant who has quickly become part of the community — even playing a seagull in Wits’ End Theatre’s production of “The Little Mermaid” — brings to town from his East Coast home his experience in technology, an invaluable tool that he has chosen to share with his neighbors and friends. He is helping them become Techies who know what that touch-screen button does.

Erickson and the CPL crew, are, of course, very grateful to him for his willingness to appear at the library each Tuesday evening this summer to energize iPad-confused patrons and visitors as they travel the vast universe of information.

She shared, “It’s for those who need help learning how to use their device – laptops, tablets and smartphones — to search the internet, read an ebook, listen to music, video chat, email photos, watch videos, download a new game or get some work done with a word processor or spreadsheet. Basically, if you are looking for help in figuring out how to do stuff that your device is supposed to make it possible for you to do, come ask Randy for help. If you are looking for technology repair services, you will need to go elsewhere for professional assistance.”

Public libraries have had to keep their captains — directors and staff — well-educated on what technological asteroids and wormholes may lie ahead because patrons and visitors have come to rely on their knowledge when navigating on various devices, be it the library’s patron use computers or their own devices.

Erickson said, “At the library, we are always having to learn more about technology as it keeps changing, as do the needs of our patrons. The library has eight PCs available for public use and Wi-fi access inside and outside the building. Library staff assist patrons with question they have regarding a variety of application or access issues they encounter while using the library’s computers, or their own, at the library every day. We also help folks figure out how to access e-books and e-audios on their particular devices so they can take advantage of digital media provided by the library through OverDrive or Libby…the library either has, or can access, books or other materials on pretty much any technological device or application you are interested in.”

She pointed out that the library’s mission is met through its venture into tech troubleshooting. “Certainly, it helps us meet our mission to ‘serve as a vibrant community center which meets the various and ever-changing needs of all Chatfield area community members…services are specialized, individualized and relationship-focused to provide a high quality and positive experience.’ Utilizing technology successfully for a variety of reasons is important to people, so it is important to us. Knowing they will get the best possible individualized help that we can offer helps prevent that feeling of hopelessness and frustration that can come from feeling there is no one to turn to.”

Furthermore, bringing one’s tech device to the library can result in intergenerational experiences not found on other planes. “It doesn’t seem to matter how old or young people are, all seem anxious to help one another out when they see a technology issue being wrestled with,” Erickson added. “Patrons of all ages who have overheard a tech-related problem we are trying to help another patron with have stepped forward with their suggestions or solutions. This is awesome because we often all learn something. And the best part about helping someone with a frustrating tech-related question is seeing how excited they are when the issue is solved. At last, the barrier has been breached and they are free to finally make their technology do what they want it to! They are always so grateful.”

Persons interested in exploring new frontiers with help given by Wilson, temporary tech commander, may do so at the public library throughout this summer, though the continuation of the program is open-ended and dependent on how much demand there is for tech assistance.

Erickson stated, “They can call ahead to set up an appointment with Randy at a certain time during the 4:30 to 6:30 time period on a Tuesday night. Otherwise, walk-ins will be helped on a first-come, first-served basis. When setting up an appointment, it will be helpful to tell us first, the type of device you have, such as laptop, tablet, phone or library computer; second, whether it’s Apple or Windows; and third, a short description of the question or issue.”

The Chatfield Public Library and volunteer Randy Wilson welcome Techies to the library on Tuesday evenings from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. throughout the summer to explore the portals beyond lock screens and passcodes, and remind all to bring their own chargers, cords and docking stations to avoid mid-lesson power-down.

For more information, call the Chatfield Public Library at 507-867-3480 or log onto the library’s website at