“Boomers” still comprise a big demographic of our population. We are characterised by a desire to be active, to take on a second career, to challenge our minds, to contribute to the community by volunteering, and are savvy consumers. (Huffington Post, 4/24/2012) Amanda Grombly, Librarian at Tulare County Library, presented some lessons learned from programming for this age group.
Since many services are now online-only (applications for work, aid, communication with family), she offered some basic computer classes to help this group get the access and skills they need to be self-sufficient. Some topics: basic computers, smart searching, community health resources, going back to work, tech test drive, minding dollars and sense. Her target audience was those who do not use computers because it’s too complicated or too hard to figure out.
She discovered that
- The health, technology and money classes were virtually ignored, but the basic computer skills, smart searching and jobs classes were really popular.
- This group likes to take the basic/beginning classes multiple times, so offering a basic class on a regular basis is more successful than offering it just once.
- The library needs to be aware of competition in the community for similar classes.
- The information about the classes needs to be easy to find. The newspaper is a more effective PR venue than flyers or event calendars.
- The library needs to define what services it is willing to teach. Pick a few and add more as you can. Some services requested: using e-readers; buying e-books from amazon; streaming netflix. They decided to provide referrals for everything except library ebooks.
- Mornings and mid-afternoon seem to be the best times for programs.
- The one-on-one model works really well for this audience, providing point of need service, specific information for the individual’s situation.
- Staff needs patience to work through the questions without triggering information overload.
This matches the experience I’ve had here at Central Library. People seem to want to repeat classes to reinforce what they learn, especially because they don’t have the same programs installed on their home computers – if if they even have one. Our most successful programs are basic computing skills, MS Word and MS Excel. Programs offered on other topics (Twitter, Facebook, Travel, Finance, iPads) bombed.
Follow Amanda on Twitter: @agrombly