LIBRARY COLUMN: More than kittens at this petting zoo

The Nelson Public Library has embraced the notion of gentle things that byte (but don’t bite) with our new Technology Petting Zoo.

The Telus advertising slogan “The Future is Friendly” alongside a bunch of cute animals is pretty brilliant. Who doesn’t love cute animals? It makes a potentially scary world full of fast-changing technology seem a lot more approachable.

The Nelson Public Library has also embraced the notion of gentle things that byte (but don’t bite) with our new Technology Petting Zoo.

There are no claws or teeth here: five fuzzy devices are set up in our lounge area, and all of them want to be scratched on the head.

There are two eReaders, the Sony and Kobo Glo, that purr when you turn them on. And there are three tablets, the Kobo Arc, Nexus, and iPad: cats with power, but who really just want to curl up on your lap.

It’s all about making people feel comfortable in the digital jungle. And it’s important. Libraries are concerned with literacy, and that includes digital literacy, something we need more and more in order to make our way in the world. So it makes me happy to know that when people come in with that wild I-don’t-know-anything-about-computers look, we can help.

Our Community Access Program (CAP) interns are computer-savvy people who can de-claw just about anything. Until the end of March, Amanda Firth is our CAP whiz-kid, taming the toothiest problems through one-on-one assistance with anything computer-related and drop in tech sessions for tablets and eReaders.

Upcoming group sessions include eBooks and audiobooks for iPads on Thursday, March 20, from 3 to  4:30 p.m. and Friday, March 21, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.; and how to use Zinio (digital magazines available through our website) on Friday, March 28 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Call 250-352-6333 to pre-register. There are still some spots available for one-on-one sessions as well.

Wildly popular, CAP will start up again in the fall.

Take a device for a walk! We have Sony and Kobo eReaders to lend, a great opportunity to compare products and learn about downloading eBooks, or for just enjoying a book in a new way.

Our website is accessible 24/7—so long after your friendly lion-tamers (uh, librarians) have gone home to their dens, you can still access our friendly digital zoo.

Downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks for your computer, eReader, smartphone or MP3 player means that if you have a penchant to read or listen to The Call of the Wild at 3 a.m., there’s nothing to stop you.

Canadian Newsstand offers Canadian newspapers from a couple of decades back to present. We also have BC’s historical newspapers (including the Nelson Miner from 1890-98) from UBC’s digital collection, and the Kootenay Weekly Express since 1988.

If you’re working on your car and can’t wrestle the widget from the grocket, the Auto Reference Repair Centre is searchable and always open, even when we’re not.

Ditto with the Small Engine Repair Centre and the Home Improvement Reference Centre.

Rocket Languages can teach you to speak just about anything, except maybe Tiger (but if your tiger speaks Hindi, you’re all set).

A-Z World Travel and Global Road Warrior will take you to where the big cats roam, and tell you where to find a cold beer when you get there (you might need one).

There are encyclopedias and health databases and a whack of things for kids (who tend to be fearless about all this wild computer stuff). And should you decide that running your own Petting Zoo — or being a librarian — is in your future, the Career Cruising database can tell you everything you need to know.

The coming generation will likely have no apprehension about the digital world, and so technology petting zoos could become an endangered species. But for now, at the Nelson Public Library at least, the future is — fuzzy.

And not so scary at all.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.

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