Navigating through life away from the library.
Navigating through life away from the library.

Should Academic Libraries Offer Introductory Computer Classes?

Businesswoman Working on a Laptop
Image By Microsoft

I remember the first time I walked into the library as a nontraditional student, I wandered the floors aimlessly looking for the card catalog, there wasn’t one to be found.  What I did see was a row of computers with a blue and white sign posted above that read: “Catalog”.  I turned on my heels and walked out.  I had no idea how to search the catalog and I didn’t want the librarian to think I was stupid.  I was in college, after all, shouldn’t I know how to use a computer?  It took me several more tries before I got up the nerve to ask for help and you really don’t want to know how my search for the books went (I knew Dewey, this library used Library of Congress)….

So what brought this up?  Today I was sitting in The Grille, drinking a cup of tea and catching up on Facebook when an older lady walked up to my table and started asking me questions about Vivi, my sweet little Vivienne Tam Limited Edition Notebook.  Thank you again, dear husband.  Anyway, it was the size and style of my notebook that captured the woman’s attention but it was her desire to know more about computers in general and netbooks/notebooks/laptops, specifically, that brought her to my table.

You see, this lady is an adjunct faculty member who is new to computers and all forms of technology.  During the course of our conversation, she told me that she’s taken a few computer classes here and there but feels intimidated by the instructors because they’re “experts” and can’t understand her needs.  I offered to help her out any time she has questions or needs someone to show her how to do something on the computer because, well, that’s what librarians do.

The funny thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered a faculty member or a student, for that matter, who has stated that they’re intimidated by technology or are unsure of how to do things on the computer.  A few weeks ago, I  had to show a couple of students the basics of the computer ~ how to turn it on, how to save documents, navigate the internet, etc.  I even had an argument discussion with a student over spacing because he wanted to hit the space bar 5 times to indent because he said the tab spacing “doesn’t look right” and he didn’t want to get in trouble with his teacher over formatting.

Anyway, back to the discussion at The Grille…  the woman I was talking to asked me if the library offers any computer courses for people who aren’t comfortable in an online setting and I told her that we don’t.  However, it got me to wondering if, perhaps, we should.  With so many people returning to the classroom, should colleges and universities offer introductory computer classes to their students?  We tend to operate under the assumption that everyone uses a computer, when, in fact, there are people who are returning (or entering) college who don’t know the basics.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had students walk up to me and say “I have a dumb question but….”  Or I see them milling about the desk as if they have something to say or ask but they’re too embarrassed to say anything.  I remember that feeling and I don’t want anyone to feel that way so I share my experiences with them so they understand that I’ve been there, done that and survived.

Does your institution offer computer classes for its students?  Do you think this should be the library’s responsibility?  Or should it be up to the individual student to ask for help if they need it?

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