Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

E-Readers at Glynneath Library – a blog post for Digital Day

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Catherine Evans, Wales Co-operative Centre Marketing Manager, has been to a Digital Day event in Glynneath Library, where e-readers were the flavour of the day…

Many, many column inches have been written about digital inclusion in recent years – the need to get people online so that they can buy things more cheaply, get access to services, find jobs or stay in touch with family and friends.

But I have to admit, the enormity of this task hadn’t quite dawned on me until this afternoon, when I went to a session at Glynneath Library, held to coincide with Adult Learners Week and Digital Day.

The session was on E-Readers, and was designed to help some of Glynneath’s library users access the thousands of free books available on-line. Many of these are available through the libraries’ own portal, which has been funded by the Welsh Government as well as the libraries in 21 Welsh local authorities.

Bethan shows Margaret how to download free books on her e-reader

Bethan shows Margaret how to download free books on her e-reader

The proposition is simple. If you’ve got a library card, a computer or an e-reader, you can get free books and magazines.

In practice, it’s not actually that easy. For a start, the questions being asked by people at the session included, “What’s an app?” and “What’s an iPhone?” These are people for whom even the language is intimidating and scary.

In addition, the range of technology available to do this kind of thing is huge. The library users in Glynneath had with them lots of different devices – a Kobo, a Samsung, iPads, at least two different types of Kindle – and no two people had the same device, so trying to show everyone how to do the same task proved impossible.

A third hiccup – the wi-fi in the library had stopped working so that no one was able to connect to the Internet and try things out in practice. We all just had to take notes for later.

If all that didn’t make things complicated enough, the steps required to actually access free e-books were quite frankly baffling! Go to a website on a computer, enter your library card number, register an email address, now download an app on your tablet, register on the app, put your magazines or books in your basket, and so on…

By the end of the session, none of us had managed to download a free book. A few people said that they were happy with the paid books they could already get on their devices and with using the library for free paper-based books. One lady said she’d get her son to show her how to do it.

The afternoon might sound like a depressing failure. However…

It was actually a really positive experience, both for me and the library users.

For one thing, Glynneath Library itself was so welcoming, warm, light, open and friendly, it felt like the perfect place to go and get help with something. The staff were brilliant and all the library users attending the session felt that they’d had a great afternoon. If everyone had access to places and people like this, digital inclusion could be so easy.

For another, the enthusiasm of the group was undiminished by the end of the session. They were eager to learn about technology and committed to doing more with it. They wanted to know all about Twitter (“Isn’t it terribly dangerous?”) and the library’s Twitter based reading group. Such was the fervour of the discussion that the librarian has promised a session devoted to Twitter in the next few weeks. If everyone approached IT in such an open, enquiring and enthusiastic manner, then many of the barriers could be overcome.

Finally, I had a long chat to a lady who asked me to explain what an app was. After talking to her for a few minutes and showing her a few of the apps on my phone, she said, “Thank you, you’ve explained something that’s been bothering me for ages and so that’s one good thing I’ve got from this afternoon.” It was great to be able to help someone and push back the level of digital exclusion in Wales, just a tiny bit.


Written by Mark Smith

May 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm

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