Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Wish we could...but someone else does it better.

The nice senior gentleman was perplexed. He has a computer and needs someone to show him how to use it. Could he sign up for one of our free internet classes? Well, unfortunately, our classes require that you have at least some experience with your PC and can use the mouse and keyboard comfortably. We can teach you how to surf the Web and organize effective searches for information. We can show you how to create a Favorites list and how to print your search results. We can teach you how to use our online databases and genealogy products. And, for the first time this month, we can help you open an email account and show you how to send and receive messages.

But when it comes to teaching basic computer skills or Microsoft Office©, our staff doesn't have the training, time, budget or facilities to assume this responsibility. While we want to help every patron who comes through the door with a problem, we do have to recognize that there are limits to what we can do, so we focus on the things we do best and leave the rest to other experts.

So what do you do if you've got a computer and no computer skills? Locally, there are a few options. Merrimack Adult Education (424-6213, http://www.merrimack.k12.nh.us/adulted/adulted.htm) usually offers some computer classes, though they tend to focus on specific software programs. The Merrimack YMCA (881-9810, http://www.nmymca.org/ ) offers a basic computer course. The Adult Learning Center in Nashua (882-9080, ext. 219, http://www.adultlearningcenter.org/ ) offers some software-specific training. All of these programs charge a fee.

Another option for seniors is RISE--Rivier Institute for Senior Education--at Rivier College (897-8623, www.rivier.edu/departments/rise ) This program gives you the most bang for your buck. For a $100 registration fee for the spring, you can take up to 8 courses over two sessions. The basic computer class alone lasts 10 weeks and spans the two sessions, and though it charges an additional $20 lab fee, that's a lot of instruction for the money. And there are lots of other interesting classes to take, too, with the only prerequisite being a curious mind. If you're interested in RISE, don't delay--the spring schedule will begin on February 11. We have a few brochures at the library, or you can contact RISE for more information.

Yes, these programs all have a fee, and some require you to travel to Nashua, but they provide multiple sessions with trained instructors. For those with basic computer skills who want to "get connected" to the Web, the library can help with free, one-session programs. For more information about our internet classes, visit our website or call the Reference Desk at 424-5021.

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