Conquering technology


Owning one of the new computer tablets or even a fancy new phone can be a challenging adventure. On the one hand, technology allows anyone with an inches-wide computer device to freely explore books, magazines, music, movies and travel and all the while the user is completely stationary, moving only a single finger to access information that belongs to the world. These small hand-held computers are like magic carpets. Yet for anyone who cannot figure out which thread to pull, computer tablets can be as stick-in-the-mud useless as an old doormat that never gets its flying wings.

Kirsten Ng, the St. Albert Public Library’s digital services librarian, has heard every computer-user’s woe and has designed a number of courses to help people solve their problems. The fact that the library lists more than 30 different technology courses in the Albert Further Education Winter Courses booklet, suggests that the subject may be complex but also conquerable.

“It’s not that hard,” said Ng, who offers free group classes, but is also on call for one-on-one tutorials for anyone with a valid library card. The service is also available to anyone with a card from associated libraries.

Primarily, Ng helps people wanting to borrow e-books from the library. She invites everyone to bring their own mobile devices. For example, once a month she offers Maker Workshops where she covers the basic steps needed to create, design and have fun with a mobile device.

“I call them BYOD sessions. Bring Your Own Device,” she said.

No mobile devices come with instruction booklets, Ng notes, but courses are offered in West Edmonton Mall by the Apple outlet there.

“The devices don’t come with a manual because all the information is available online. Just Google the name of your device, whether it’s an iPad or an Android tablet for example and you will find tutorials. Microsoft offers online tutorials in Word, Excel and PowerPoint,” she said.

Ng also recommends beginners access books such as My Macbook, My Google Apps and Pinterest for Dummies, if they want to hold a tactual, hard copy of instructions.

One of the first library sessions, scheduled for Jan. 8, is aptly named, How Do I Work This Thing? It’s a good way to get started to learn how to download library ebooks and eAudiobooks and digital puzzles.

The beauty of these computers is they were made to sell to the public and the more you play with them, the easier it becomes to use them. It’s like trying to find your way through a maze sometimes, but once you get going, the ways to use them are endless and rewarding.

You can use your device to make movies or U-Tube videos or you might want to make music with GarageBand. Perhaps you wish to curl up with a new book from the best sellers’ list. You will have to put your name on a waiting list, but within a few weeks you will get an email telling you your book is in. Click a button on your tablet and start reading. Want to watch movies or listen to the latest music? Try the Hoopla program also available through the St. Albert Library and every bit as easy to use as the Overdrive e-books.

You may even learn basic foreign language skills through the computer application for Mango, Ng said.

All these library services, including courses to understand them are offered free to anyone with a library card but that doesn’t mean that the authors and movie makers go unpaid.

“The library pays the vendor, who then pays the publisher,” Ng said.

To learn more about the technology programs offered at the St. Albert Library check the St. Albert Further Education booklet Winter 2015. Register online at, phone the library at 780-459-1682 or visit the information desk on the second floor of the library.


About Author

Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.