Library working to make technology accessible

EASIER ACCESS. Alex Eberle, director of the Brooke County Public Library, holds one of the 14 easier-to-use computer keyboards, with larger keys and letters for library patrons, acquired through a $5,000 grant from Comcast. Below it is one of the wide screen monitors acquired through the same grant. Both additions are intended to make seeing and using the library's computers easier for senior citizens and others with visual impairment. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The director and staff of the Brooke County Public Library have been working to make new technology easier for patrons to use by providing more accessible computers and offering one-to-one instruction in using e-mail, eBooks, social media and various electronic devices.

The 45 minute one-to-one sessions will be offered at the Wellsburg library and its Follansbee branch between noon and 4 p.m. each Monday from Feb. 5 through Feb. 16 at the Wellsburg location and between 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday from Feb. 7 through Feb. 28 at the Follansbee branch.

Staff can help individuals in using software applications, accessing the Internet, creating e-mail and social media accounts and using their electronic devices to download eBooks and audiobooks through the library’s free system.

Patrons are encouraged to bring their tablets, smartphones and other devices though library staff can’t repair damaged devices or assist with all types. Those interested in participating are encouraged to call (304) 737-1551 or (304) 527-0860 to set up an appointment.

Walk-ins will be welcome, but those with appointments will be given priority.

Alex Eberle, the library’s director, noted the sessions are part of an ongoing effort to help patrons become more familiar and comfortable with computers and electronic devices.

She said 14 computer monitors, keyboards and mice are being replaced through a $5,000 grant from Comcast.

The new monitors have wider screens with a larger display of icons representing various computer applications and view of text that can be made larger for those with visual impairment. And the new keyboards have large, yellow keys with big letters, numbers and other characters on them for easier use, Eberle added.

She said the library also has acquired 10 computer towers, equipped with processors that allow faster use, through the Kanawha County Library Commission.

Eberle said in the near future a $1,000 grant from the West Virginia Library Commission will allow patrons to check out Kindles which they may use to download any of the variety of fiction and nonfiction eBooks available through the library’s online service at https://wvreads.overdrive.com.

A link to the site also can be found at the Brooke County Library’s website at www.wellsburg.lib.wv.us.

She said when they are available, the Kindles may be checked out by presenting a Brooke County Library card, driver’s license or other state-issued ID and a valid credit card.

Eberle said there’s no cost to use the devices. The additional identification is required because the Kindles are more expensive than a book to replace and some insurance is needed to prevent them from being stolen.

Eberle noted West Virginia Reads also can be accessed by those with their own devices and a Brooke County Library card.

She said she and other library officials have embraced e-Books because “They extend the hours of a library. You can check out books when we (library staff) aren’t here.”

Eberle added e-devices allow patrons access to many more books, including large print versions for visually impaired readers and non-fiction books on a plethora of subjects, than can be stored at one location.

“The whole point of a library is to make books and other materials accessible to everybody,” she said.

The grant also has been used to purchase a die cutting machine, a device that can be used with special stencils to cut various shapes from paper, fabric and other materials.

Eberle said it will be of great use to the two libraries but there also are plans to make it available for the public’s use at the Wellsburg library.

Eberle said the Comcast grant also has been used to purchase new headphones for several of the library’s computer stations, a periodicals rack and a case for the library’ automatic external defibrillator.

She said library staff will receive training through the county’s health department to use the latter device, which allows people who aren’t emergency medical personnel to administer an electric shock to someone suffering from a heart attack.

Eberle also hopes to use funds from the grant to beautify the library’s Follansbee branch, such as painting its walls or cleaning its carpet.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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