Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Do-It-Yourself Computer Training

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Do-It-Yourself Computer Training

Article excerpt

Janet L. Balas is library information systems specialist at Monroeville (Pennsylvania) Public Library. She can be reached by e-mail at or

Recently I saw the included "Dilbert" cartoon satirizing corporate computer training. While the cartoon was a hilarious exaggeration, it also struck a chord with me, for I have attended far too many poorly done computer training courses. Often I have felt that, with the proper resources, I could have learned more on my own with a self-study program. It can be difficult, however, to find the proper resources for individual study. Also, just reading about computer topics can he rather deadly; it is much more interesting to work through computer concepts on an actual computer. Fortunately, I found numerous online sources of computer training materials that librarians can use on their own to improve their skills.

Back to the Beginning

Many of us learned to use computers on the job without the benefit of formal training-usually by focusing on how to accomplish specific tasks. Learning about computers in this manner often results in gaps in knowledge, but beginner's guides can be quite helpful in filling in some of the missing information. A new "Beginner's Guide to Computing" has recently debuted on the CNET Web site with sections on hardware, software, and the Internet.

In the "Hardware Helper" section of the CNET guide, there is a "Beginner's Guide to Buying a PC," which, even though it is geared toward the home purchaser, can still help librarians select computers for their libraries by explaining the various options and the importance of each. In addition to the tips contained in the text, there are links to definitions of technical terms and to other sources of information.

The CNET guide also has a section called "Software Tips and Tricks" that includes information on Windows 98 and a guide to Office 97. Other parts of the guide can help Internet beginners learn to use e-mail more effectively and to master the art of downloading software. An FAQ about the Internet is included, and answers to other computer technology questions can be found in the CNET Glossary or through the links to other beginner's guides on the Internet. Even librarians who are computer savvy will find this site helpful since it is updated frequently with new information. The "New This Week" section guides return visitors to the latest updates.

Hitting the Books

It would seem obvious that librarians would turn to books to help them acquire computer skills. There are an overwhelming number of computer books available, and even a diligent reader of reviews can find it difficult to select the best titles from brief descriptions. Now, through a free service from Macmillan Publishing, customers can sample selected computer titles. Personal Bookshelf allows registered users to select up to five books that may be viewed online for up to 90 days, and the registration is a simple process. At the time I was researching this column, there were over 170 titles in 17 computer-related categories. A sample e-book was also available for online viewing without registration. Reading an entire book online may seem tedious, and many people complain that it is hard to read so much text from the screen. The interactivity of the Web, however, does provide some advantages that printed books cannot duplicate. …

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