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Volunteers offer free computer help at New Hartford library

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
Posted 9/21/22

In an increasingly virtual world, the New Hartford Public Library has spearheaded a program that provides patrons with free computer technology help.

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Volunteers offer free computer help at New Hartford library


NEW HARTFORD — In an increasingly virtual world, the New Hartford Public Library has spearheaded a program that provides curious - and sometimes just plain confused - patrons with free computer technology help.

Since May, Digital Literacy volunteers with Literacy CNY have offered one-on-one assistance in a wide range of technical digital assistance. They help patrons navigate the internet to look for a job and fill out job applications; write a resume; log into governmental programs like unemployment benefits; browse social media; or even work their own personal technology like laptops, cell phones and tablets.

Completed documents can then be taken home on a USB drive.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to provide help to our community members who have questions about computers or their other devices,” said library Director Anne DuRoss. “I think people feel comfortable having this one-on-one help here and it has been received very enthusiastically.”

The New Hartford library was the first in the area to offer the program, said Lydia Torres, Digital Literacy coordinator with the Syracuse-based Literacy CNY. She said the pandemic helped create the program, as making online appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations showed the need for expanded digital literacy in the modern world.

Torres explained some people didn’t even know how to turn on a computer, let alone sign up for those appointments - and that digital divide definitely needed to be addressed.

“We now live in a time where having these basic tech skills is really no longer optional,” Torres said. “The pandemic actually cast a very, very bright spotlight on the issue of the digital divide.”

Library staff can help in-between visits from the Literacy CNY volunteers but don’t always have time for assistance that is too extensive, DuRoss explained. No appointments are needed for the tech help - anyone in need can simply show up during the hours the volunteers are there, currently from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then 5-8 p.m. Mondays.

Torres said there are currently 12 Digital Literacy volunteers in 10 locations in Oneida, Onondaga, Madison and Herkimer Counties, including hours from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Mondays and noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays at Jervis Public Library in Rome; from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays at the Kirkland Town Library in Clinton and from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. Tuesdays at the Utica Public Library in Oneida County.

More libraries are expected to be announced soon, Torres added.

Volunteers are needed to expand the program and Torres said they only ask a commitment of a single three-hour shift a week and to stay for at least six months. Literacy CNY offers Zoom meeting training for those volunteers, she added.

Volunteer Farhat Rahim works the Monday morning shift at the New Hartford library. She said she volunteers for two reasons - to give back to the library, where her own son has spent many hours reading books and to use her knowledge of computers to help others.

“There can really be a big difference in what people know about computers,” she said. “I want to help cover that gap and be here to show them how to work their computers and devices.”



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