The need appears to be significant, and the public library system is trying to meet it – the demand for computer literacy and a working knowledge of computers and the Internet.
“People are often a little afraid” of new technology, especially older persons with limited exposure to information technology, said Ramona Melody, director of public library services, announcing a series of 90-minute classes she hopes to introduce in Bodden Town and North Side.
“But there is not a single job or search that we can do without a need for computers. We want to stay in contact with people, to seek information, to organize our lives personally” – not to mention search for work, buy and sell goods, play games and a dozen other things. “There is almost nothing you do not need computers for,” she said.
According to a Monday news release from the library service, the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs “has charged the public library service with the responsibility to develop as a learning partner for the community, providing point-of-need learning opportunities within the various districts.
“This is one such program we are offering to meet that goal. Providing community members with opportunities to learn computer basics will assist their ability to secure employment, enter educational institutions and access consumer information,” the release reads.
Participants will not only gain an introduction to computers, according to the release, but “will also learn about: Microsoft (MS) Windows operation and Windows Internet Explorer. Other topics are to include interface, editing and formatting in MS Word, as well as the Internet and email.”
Ongoing courses are already available at the George Town and West Bay branches of the public library, taught in eight-week installments on Friday mornings between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Ms Melody is uncertain when the new classes might start, first hoping to assess the need before organizing the materials and equipment. She is certain, however, that demand will be evident in Bodden Town, if not both North Side and East End.
The classes are taught by a rotating team of teachers, including Robert Geofroy, who teaches at the University of West Indies Open Campus and already leads classes at the West Bay library. Instructors at other locations include Ms Melody and librarians Deborah Powery-Zureigat and Terri McLaughlin.
Students pay a $10 fee for use of the materials and library-supplied laptops, “but it’s basically a free course,” Ms Melody said. “People will take the course, complete it and get certified, and if some need to continue, well, we are flexible, and we reach out to the students, assess what each needs and make recommendations.
“If they don’t reach the benchmarks, we revise the material in order to reach them, whether that means, say, larger print or breaking it into subdivisions, it depends on the situation. I was teacher for many years, so understand how to do that.”
Class size is limited to eight students, the number of available laptops, while priority is given to people registered with the National Workforce Development Agency, as part of boosting their qualifications for employment. Fees for NWDA students are waived entirely.
“We notify the NWDA first when we run a course and have slots, and they get ‘first dibs’, preferential treatment,” Ms Melody said, “but once people from outside, from the general public, are notified, we don’t ignore them. We sign them up for the next course.
“Our goal this year is to teach Introduction to computer basics courses three times at George Town and twice at West Bay. We want to roll our courses two at a time, as teachers will rotate among them, to the other locations,” she said.