This article was written by Christine Friese, Assistant State Librarian

Rutland LibraryThe Computers at Rutland Free Library get a lot of use, from people seeking Lauren’s help to a troop of Boy Scouts!

Lauren DuQuette is a digital literacy super hero. Most of the time, she is a college student in Liberal Studies, but several hours a week she becomes an Internet Intern at Rutland Free Library and helps all sorts of visitors to the library gain a better understanding of computers and the Internet. Lauren is at the library most Monday and Friday afternoons and has already had more than 100 sessions with library patrons needing her assistance.

The library staff have taken notice of the contribution that Lauren is making. According to Randal Smathers, Rutland Free’s Assistant Librarian, “Lauren is an invaluable resource. The crucial thing she brings is one-on-one time for users who really need intensive assistance. Often it’s to help with tasks that those of us who deal with computers daily wouldn’t even think about. However, for some people, having to use a computer to fill out a job application, to stay in touch, to contact a business, or to get services, technology can be a real barrier. Lauren solves those kind of problems every time she’s here.”

Lauren says that most people asking for help at the library are using computers for communications with friends and family or to fill out a form for a job, having been told they can only apply online.

For example, Lauren had one patron ask her for help in applying for a job that required an email address, but unfortunately, he did not have one. “He had very little experience using a computer and navigating,” explained Lauren. However, with her help, not only was he able to create an email address, but he also completed the job application and submitted it.

Some people come in looking for help with Microsoft Office Word, including how to find, print, or save documents. Often it is enough to simply understand the connection between the computer and the printing station offered at Rutland Free.

As with other Internet Interns, Lauren finds that many people have trouble becoming accustomed to all the options in email, such as how to download or upload pictures and how to use zip files. And, those experiences with email are often a stepping stone to curiosity about other communication options such as Skype and Facebook.

One such patron was a woman who had difficulty logging on to the library’s computers. “She initially was trying to log onto one of the library’s desktop computers, but was unable to because she no longer had a library card. I asked her if she would like to have me assist her on the laptop and she said she would like to try it out.” Lauren then worked with this patron, teaching her how to use a laptop, which she had never used before. “After helping her for an hour and a half, she said she would like to come back to work on some other things she wanted to learn, and then she went to grab her husband to introduce me to him, because she was so grateful for the guidance I was able to provide,” said Lauren.

Another trend being seen across the state, and no different in Rutland, is people bringing their own personal devices, such as Kindles and Nooks, and asking how to use Overdrive to download audio and e-books available from the Rutland Free Library through the Green Mountain Library Consortium’s program called “ Listen Up! Vermont.”

Lauren has seen great progress with some of her patrons in this area. For example, she recently helped an elderly couple. “An 84-year-old woman and her husband came in for assistance with their new gift they received from their son, a Kindle. They needed to create an email address in order to create their Amazon account to use it,” said Lauren. She was able to show them not only how to create an email address, but also how to navigate the Kindle. Lauren was happy to hear that the couple planned to return for more help. During the session, “I stayed with the couple a half hour past my scheduled time in order to assist them,” said Lauren, “They were very pleasant and they greatly appreciated the help I  provided.”

Many of Lauren’s patrons want to become more comfortable navigating the computer, especially when something changes and becomes confusing. For instance, users are now coming with questions about Windows 8, the newest Microsoft Operating System, which looks nothing like previous versions and can be confusing to experienced users as well.

Lauren tries to help everyone and sometimes has to look things up with them, in order to provide assistance to some library patrons’ needs.   “Sometimes people assume I’m there to fix computers and I need to explain that I’m not IT, just an average person and will help look for sources that can help them find the answer.” She is also frequently asked questions more appropriate for the library staff and must steer them to a Rutland Free staff member.

“There are great resources at the Rutland Free Library, so I often show them the Technology resources on the library’s website,” explains Lauren.  People often like to learn how to navigate the Internet more effectively and Lauren tells them to look for reliable sources you can trust such as those provided by the Rutland Free website.

Lauren is one of 24 library interns who are in the field, making a real difference in Vermont communities by teaching essential Internet and computer skills at local libraries. We are very proud of the impact we are making through the Internet Intern program. Thank you, Lauren, and all of the other interns, for the difference you are making!