What's it like working the Free Library's E-Gadget Helpdesk? - Technical.ly Philly

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Feb. 9, 2015 9:56 am

What’s it like working the Free Library’s E-Gadget Helpdesk?

“We see a fair number of retirement-age folks.”
The E-Gadget Helpdesk helps boost digital literacy.

The E-Gadget Helpdesk helps boost digital literacy.

(Photo by Flickr user camera_obscura [busy], used under a Creative Commons license)

Has your mother asked you how to send a tweeter to John Stamos? Does your elderly coworker keep asking if anyone in the office can “scan” his 50 Shades of Grey paperback into his new Kindle?

Have no fear, digital literacy specialists are here.

The Free Library’s E-Gadget Helpdesk was introduced in the winter of 2012 as a temporary holiday service aimed at helping the digitally illiterate understand their new toys. Since then, the Helpdesk has been actively helping library patrons understand how to connect to WiFi, use web services, software, tablets and smartphones.

"I think the most common digital literacy issue is understanding web services."
Scott Pinkelman, Free Library of Philadelphia

As for the patrons’ demographics? “The overwhelming majority are adults over the age of 35,” says Scott Pinkelman, one of FLP’s digital literacy specialists. “We see a fair number of retirement-age folks.”

Pinkelman says it’s not uncommon for someone to come in and say, “My son gave me this iPad, and I don’t know how to use it,” or, “I’m trying to learn Facebook so I can keep in touch with my grandchildren.”

“I think the most common digital literacy issue is understanding web services,” says Pinkelman. “Remembering that one has an account, knowing the username and password, knowing how to reset a password, understanding that you can access the same account from multiple devices.”

Sometimes, the Helpdesk encounters constituents who need help executing personal projects that surpass service requests of the “connect my iPad to WiFi” variety. For instance, a recent customer visited the Helpdesk gadget gurus for help getting his computer clean of viruses and malware.

“As we worked with him, he opened up about why he needed to make his netbook computer like ‘brand new’ — he’s trying to get into day trading and needs a computer that can keep up with the market,” Pinkelman said.

The customer told Pinkelman and his colleagues that he was planning on buying several more notebooks and was curious as to how to “tether them together” so he could have multiple screens available. “We gently guided him away from this idea and proposed he use one higher-end device with multiple display monitors,” Pinkelman says.

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That seems to be the most difficult challenge facing the E-Gadget Helpdesk: informing people that unfortunately, they’re better off buying an entirely new product. In instances where a product might be broken, outdated or even off-brand, Pinkelman says, the Free Library refers people to Nonprofit Technology Resources to obtain refurbished devices.

The E-Gadget Helpdesk is available to anyone in need of technical support every Tuesday and Thursday from 3-6 p.m. at the Parkway Central branch.

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