Change the World with a Library Supported Computer Training Program

Edited by Grimm, Eng, Dougie, Doug Collins

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Throughout history, libraries have been the cradle in which the collected knowledge of mankind has been nurtured and grown. The most well-known library was the Great Library of Alexandria. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Old World, and set a standard for libraries that is still followed to this day.

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In every developed nation, people know that they can find knowledge, help, and assistance in their local library. In fact, it is this system of global libraries that is the hallmark of modern society. In a library, anyone can do anything, or be anything. Where once the only key needed was the ability to read, being able to read is no longer even required, as audio books are available.

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However, technology is changing libraries and how people interact with them. Now, a person can often access the resources of their local library from home, with their computer or tablet. For most people, this is great advance, but not everyone knows how to use a computer. More importantly, not everyone has grown up with Facebook and Twitter, and many lack the background necessary to easily grasp modern technology.

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This is especially true of seniors, and it's why we set up the Lilydale Seniors Computer Club. To learn more about us, click here to skip to the section on our history. Otherwise, read on to learn how to set up your own volunteer computer training program.

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What You Need to Set Up a Computer Training Program

It's easy to get started, and you'll be overwhelmed with local government support.

To help you start your own library computer training program, we're going to share how we set up the Lilydale Seniors Computer Club, what we've accomplished in our community, the difficulties we've experienced, and how you can get started. Here's how we did it:

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  1. 1
    We had the support of our local library and government council
    Making sure that your local community and government support your program will provide an invaluable help network. Everyone wants to better their community, but not all of them have the time. By securing support in your community, will be able to more easily open doors, and legitimize your own training program. This sets the foundation on which your own program will rest, and will allow you to build an effective computer training program of your own.
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  2. 2
    Regularly available training space was secured in our local library
    Libraries are central to any community, and being located in one lets everyone know what you're providing. This lets people see what you offer, while providing the security of a library setting. Plus, you won't need to struggle with rent, or changing locations when rent becomes impossible. Schedules are also an important part of this. Some people may be traveling from more than an hour away to attend lessons. By being available according to a regular schedule, people will always know when you're computer training classes are available.
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  3. 3
    Our volunteer staff is knowledgeable, and committed
    It's important to respect the time and commitment students show in coming to your classes. This will allow you to build trust. People will know that you're always there, and you'll always do your best to teach them. By staffing your program with knowledgeable people, you'll be providing quality lessons. That help will improve their quality of life, as they're able to learn and do more with computers.
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  4. 4
    Low cost solutions were applied to technical limitations
    Library computers are an outstanding resource for basic training, but when you aren't able to install programs on the library computers, you'll need to adapt to those challenges. Low cost systems, helped with donations and grants which your government council, library, and community can assist with, are key to this. Grants will allow you to have additional hardware for teaching, and provide a greater range of help to your students. You'll then be able to install applications like instant messaging services, image editing programs, and even other web browsers that your students may prefer over those installed on library computers.
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  5. 5
    Community outreach was provided by regional libraries
    Nearby areas that do not have similar programs to yours can make sure others know about your program and services. Likewise, your students can make their own word of mouth recommendations to others. This will allow you to help more seniors and pensioners, letting those near your area know about your services. Word of mouth and community outreach will then expanded your program considerably.
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This is our recipe for success, and it doesn't require a lot to get started. You just need some hard work, commitment, and of course the support of your community. We've done well, and would like to share the following success stories that have been highlights of our service to the community.

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Success Stories of the Lilydale Seniors Computer Club


We've had great successes, and you can too. Here's some of the good we've done.

  • One couple came in to learn how to use the internet for overseas travel and accommodation bookings. Because they were elderly and he was handicapped, the travel agents would or could not organise their travel. They wanted to go to England for a last visit to their children and grandchildren. After only three attendances at our club, they were successful in arranging not only their own flight plan but also their accommodation and car hire.
  • Many are given a device for a gift or as a hand-me-down, then become very frustrated at their lack of knowledge. The most common complaint is that the grandchildren know it so well that they go too fast to teach and lose patience with teaching so they hear about us, come to see what we are doing and tend to stay for many weeks or months to continue learning.
  • Some have never heard of Skype so they become very keen to learn this once we tell them about it. The excitement they show at the first contact with a loved one overseas is very contagious in our little classroom when we ring a nearby county like Singapore or Indonesia etc.
  • Another favourite series of lessons is registering on Ebay and Paypal. They have sometimes heard about Ebay but don't really understand how it operates and they have concerns about internet banking so are quite happy to learn about PayPal.
  • Email is always a popular subject; many are keen to learn this and show their surprise when we get them an email address and send a message to themselves. Their face will light up like a child in a toy store.
  • Some like to trace their ancestry and luckily we have a good program built in at the library as well as being able to help them get onto local and international sites.
  • The library has a magazine and ebook lending system which is a favourite with many who come in to find out what they can do with their computers.
  • Transferring photos from a camera to a tablet or computer is a difficult subject as handling folders and files is seemingly quite complex but after a few weeks becomes a lot easier.
  • Retired secretaries who have not touched a typewriter for years suddenly own a computer and come to get keyboard lessons. Ex-business people know about Excel and come to learn how to utilise this program at home. Some like to learn Publisher so they can do flyers and cards for their social clubs and event publicity.

What is the Lilydale Seniors Computer Club

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The Lilydale Seniors Computer Club is a volunteer staffed computer training program.

We have helped thousands of seniors learn to use computers, access the internet, and connect with family around the world. Some seniors even visit from an hour and a half or more away.

The program has been a great success, but that success has not been without its difficulties, chief among them being the limited financial resources available to volunteer programs. However, we've been fortunate to receive enough grants, complimented by the commitment and dedication of our volunteer staff, and of course the ongoing support of the Lilydale Library.

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We started ten years ago, in 2004, when the local Lilydale council asked for seniors to give an indication of whether they felt they needed computer help or not. The response was an overwhelming yes, demonstrating a clear need. As a suburb of Melbourne, the Lilydale library was the ideal place to hold these lessons.

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The Lilydale library training room was equipped with six computers, available for teaching. Lessons were originally scheduled for Monday afternoons, and offered every Monday afternoon that the library was opened, excepting closures for public holidays and such. All training was provided free of charge to any senior or pensioner, with lessons taught by three volunteer pensioners.

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However, after only a few weeks there were so many pensioners and seniors visiting, that classes had to be changed to include Monday mornings, as well as the afternoons. Additionally, nearby libraries heard of the program, and began to refer people to it, as there are no similar programs in the area.

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As the number of users grew, so did the questions, and with them the different types of computers, tablets, and other technology devices. Because the library computers were not open to software installations, it became evident that there was a need for the club to have its own computers. To support this, we wrote a number of grant applications, and were fortunate to raise enough to purchase three low cost laptops for the instructors.

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Since then the club has grown to its current size of about 500 people attending per year, and includes training on Apple computers, iPads, and iPhones, as well as Windows computers and Surface tablets, Android cellphones, and even digital cameras. Some of our pensioners even come from suburbs and nearby regional areas, traveling from an hour or more away with their questions.

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Because of the diversity of products we teach on, there is no structured form of lesson. Rather, we just give help to individual questions and problems presented by our students. As a result, operating expenses are always a concern, and the club is always looking for ways to buy equipment through grants and donations.

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We pay for materials used in our printing exercises, blank media, and of course the computers, tablets, and cameras we use for training. Due to the relatively small size of the Lilydale Seniors Computer Club, it's difficult to compete with larger organisations for grant money.

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How You Can Help the Lilydale Seniors Computer Club

Our purpose is to help seniors and pensioners, and better our community.

We provide the training, and the Lilydale Library provides us with the facilities and six desktop computers. However, we're always looking for additional support, either in the form of grants, or from individual sponsors. If you'd like to help support us, we've set up a GoFundMe donation website where you can help. Even one dollar will make a difference, as we're purchasing paper, CDs, and of course always trying to get additional devices to train our students on. Even if you can't help with a donation, you can help by spreading the word about what we're doing, so that others can use this guide to start their own computer training program. Just give us a Facebook like, spread the word on Twitter, or show this article to your local library and ask them how you can get started. You can make a difference, and the Lilydale Seniors Computer Club is proof that it works, and it helps better the community.

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Thank you for your help and support. We'd love to hear your own success stories in the comments and questions section below, either locally, here in Melbourne, or in your own community. If you need help with your own program, just let us know.

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References, External Links, and Additional Reading

Here are some links to other great libraries around the world.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Categories : Communications & Education

Recent edits by: Dougie, Eng, Grimm

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