I’ve been following the news about the plan to upgrade the interior of the Ashcroft Library with keen interest. I’ve been a huge supporter of libraries since I got my first library card at about the age of four, and visits to what was then the Minoru Library in Richmond were a highlight of my young life. As a naturally bookish child who did not lack for books of my own, the vast selection of titles available was little short of a dream come true. Stepping through the doors was like stepping into a vast Aladdin’s cave of treasures, all of them available — for free! — whenever I accompanied my mother there.
Libraries have, of course, changed a good deal since those days, and have in fact proved amazingly nimble when it comes to adapting to the times and adopting new things. Books on tape, then videocassettes, and then DVDs were added; videofiche machines gave way to computers. Children’s sections became more interactive. Libraries became places not just for author visits; they evolved into community hubs where people could learn new skills and enjoy old ones in the company of others. What’s more, they did all this while still keeping services free for anyone with a library card.
Despite my familiarity with the vast range of services offered by libraries, their extent and impact didn’t really hit home until recently. My mother had been given a tablet, and while she wanted to make use of it, she wasn’t able to, as she lives in Penticton, and two of the family members best placed to help her — me and my son — live in Ashcroft and Prince George respectively. As anyone who has ever tried to talk someone through a computer issue on the phone will tell you, long distance tech learning is less than ideal.
This is especially true when one of the people involved is not terribly tech-savvy. This is by no means a knock on my mother, who is a very smart lady. The trouble is that tech is designed by twenty-somethings who have grown up with it, and what is obvious and intuitive to them (a light touch on the screen does one thing; a heavier touch does something else altogether) isn’t necessarily obvious or intuitive to people who grew up with manual typewriters and rotary landline phones.
Then it hit me. Our local libraries offer “Tech One-on-One”, where people can meet with tech professionals and get assistance with their devices. Did the Penticton Library offer anything like that?
I called the library, and was put in touch with Heather, the Head Librarian. I explained what I was looking for, saying that Mom wasn’t looking to do anything overly complicated: she simply wanted to know how to send emails, check a few websites, and be able to watch videos. Heather said that the library normally offers something like “Tech One-on-One”, called “Borrow a Librarian”, but it was on hold because of COVID-19. However, she very kindly said that if Mom wanted to come in with her tablet and ask for her, she would see what she could do to help.
Well. That was a month or so ago, and since then my Mom — whose emails to me over the course of two decades I could count on the fingers of one hand, with enough left over to allow me to hold a cup of coffee — has been reaching out via email to friends and family near and far, as if she’s been doing it for years. As a bonus, now that Heather has been able to help with some basics, I’m able to give a few tips and suggestions (including the truism that no matter what she does to the tablet, short of throwing it from the balcony, she is unlikely to break it).
All of this is directly thanks to libraries, and what they offer. If you haven’t been in one for a while, go take a look. And if you’re in Ashcroft, fill out the survey about the proposed upgrades. The library would love to hear from you.