About six years ago through a mix of luck and being willing to say ‘yes’ when opportunity appeared I taught my first computer class at my library. It was Internet Basics – aimed at people with some basic mousing and keyboard skills, but no knowledge of the internet.
Since then I have offered classes on ‘Advanced Internet Use’, Microsoft Word, Excel, library databases, ebooks (ebooks and more ebooks), social media, privacy, and more.
Technology classes offered by public libraries are weird beasts. Very rarely are our classes about ‘library use’ or ‘library website use’ (although I have done those as well), but more about helping people develop the skills to participate in the digital world. This can involve buying and selling, job hunting, creating resumes, creating a digital presence, and searching effectively.
I like to call the skillset of ‘participating in the online realm’ Digital Literacy. This is a contentious term, some like to think digital literacy is just research based skills, others, coding skills. In my organization we also have used ‘Digital Life Skills’ as an umbrella term.
But, whatever we call it, the goal is to help our community members access content, and participate in the world. And the amount of time, and expertise that many public libraries are able offer suits the needs of our community members.
When I started teaching at my library I had zero instruction experience and very little public speaking experience. I had worked at a circulation desk at a different system for two years previous and had held a couple of customer service jobs beforehand.
So going into a session all I had was a brief orientation on the space and a set of outlines and handouts.
Then it was me, and twelve eager learners.
With very little it is possible to do a lot! You will make mistakes, there will be questions that you don’t know how to answer, but with patience and a loud voice you will be able to do it!
Instruction became of of my favourite activities, and something that I discovered that I am skilled at. Which I, as a shy teen, never would have guessed about myself. Instruction has allowed me to connect with my community, help fellow staff members, and develop a love of public speaking.
So, think about what opportunities that you might take advantage of, even if you don’t necessarily have any experience in them. You never know what you might discover.