The floor of the Simak Welcome Center creaks under the boots of the laptop-toting seniors. The contraptions are running Windows 10, and the owners have questions.
Michelle Arcaro has answers. For 25 years, Arcaro worked in information technology for a manufacturing employer. When the company downsized its technology department, she was tossed into the scary world of the job search. She found her opportunity through an unfamiliar program in a familiar place, AmeriCorps and the Kingsville Public Library, respectively.
“It’s interesting,” Arcaro says. “I really had not gone to the library since high school. But when I had children, we went to the Kingsville Public Library. We would check out children’s books. Now I find that I am using it a lot.”
Although she works at the library, her full-time technology-trainer position is funded by AmeriCorps, which pays a living allowance and provides health care in exchange for her service to the community. The Corporation for National & Community Service, AmeriCorps, annually involves “more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service.” They work in nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community and faith-based groups. An important AmeriCorps benefit is the education component, which provides up to $7,000 annually to the volunteer once the commitment is fulfilled.
She works under the Guiding Ohio Online program. Marian Branch, director of the KPL, says the program places members in rural Ohio libraries to provide digital literacy training through computer classes, one-on-one computer assistance, outreach and volunteer recruitment.
“Our vision is for every Ohioan to be able to fully participate in online government, search and apply for jobs online, understand the risks and benefits of Internet finance, connect with family online and protect personal information in the digital age,” Branch stated in an email.
Branch says that the KPL started with Guiding Ohio Online in October 2015, with a part-time AmeriCorps member.
“It was so successful that in our second term (Oct. 2016-Aug. 2017), we requested a grant for a full-time AmeriCorps volunteer. With Michelle’s additional hours, she will be doing outreach at the Ashtabula County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Ashtabula Senior Center.”
Branch says a grant from the State Library of Ohio provides half of the matching funds for the Guiding Ohio Online program. In 2015 the Conneaut Foundation provided $1,250 in matching funds assistance. The library’s portion of the program was $2,500 for 11 months. The Friends of the Library contributed $1,250 and another $900 came from the Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce Fund of the Conneaut Foundation. That money was used to purchase hardware.
“We are still hoping to secure $1,250 through another local grant,” Branch says.
The library invests in the position because “patron response has always been great when have offered technology classes,” Branch says. One of the most popular aspects of that service is giving a patron an hour of one-on-one assistance with any technology question, free of charge.
“If you need help setting up your phone, preparing a resume or making a job application online, or help your tablet, I can assist,” Arcaro says.
“Since November Michelle has assisted patrons 100 times in One-on-One sessions…,” Branch says.
The one-hour sessions are scheduled in advance and held in the library. A few of the most common requests for help deal with:
- Windows 10;
- Helping authors with self-publishing, formatting questions;
- Assistance with aps that link library card holders to books, music and movies online;
- Resume writing. “That’s one of my big questions. How to write a resume and fill out a job application,” she says.
When a trend becomes apparent, Arcaro addresses the need a classroom setting. These sessions are held in The Simak Welcome Center, across the street from the library. She’s had up to 20 students in one class at a time and has offered six classes since November 2016.
The library also offers technology classes for children and youth. She schedules the classes for dates that the children will be off school. A recent class focused on animation software. In February, she will offer a virtual reality class. The library owns two VR headsets.
“There will be a big crowd for that,” she predicts.
During spring break, she will conduct a Teen Technology week. And youth are always welcome to attend any of the general technology classes, such as Windows 10, an introduction to Excel and web cameras and security. She recently offered a session on getting the most from your library card, which introduced card holders to the universe of resources locked behind that little piece of plastic. Arcaro provides handouts that the participants can refer to later.
“It’s wonderful,” says Dr. Nancy Rung, who attended a Windows 10 class.
Coming up next month is a class for aspiring authors on how to use CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing division, to get a book into print and distribution. Arcaro says the class came out of one-on-one sessions with authors who meet at the library.
“I love this work,” Arcaro says. “I help a lot of people. I love helping people.”
“We are so fortunate to have such a seasoned professional participate in the program,” Branch says of Arcaro.
For a list of future technology classes, or to schedule a one-on-one session with Arcaro, call the library at 224-0239, or visit the website.