Listen to this article
Don’t let the serene surroundings fool you: Estes Park is a busy place. Hikers and shoppers, visitors and locals flock to this bustling community surrounded by the stunning peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. The intense beauty draws people from all over the world, and some of them decide to stay and call Estes Park their home. Over 50% of the Estes Valley community of 11,000 is over the age of 50, and these retirees are well educated, well traveled, and looking for more adventure.
Nestled in the center of this buzzing, beautiful town is the Estes Valley Library, a building with the best views that nature has to offer. And like the community it serves, Estes Valley Library is busy—this is a place for people who want to learn and explore.
On the day I visited in early August, my guide was Diana Laughlin, the library’s tech guide and adult tech instructor. Diana was hired in 2014, her position the direct result of a community survey that showed a desire for more adult technology education. She came to the library with a background as an outdoor education instructor, and built upon that education background to begin designing the the adult tech program. During her first year, Diana trained the library staff on technology proficiencies, an ongoing part of her job and one for which she has created these helpful guides and resources. After a year of staff training, the tech classes for patrons launched in 2015.
To say that Diana is busy is putting it mildly. Her part-time schedule is filled with planning and teaching classes, and helping patrons during one-one-one appointments (called “Book a Librarian”)—and she’s excited to do more. In 2015 the library held 50 adult tech classes that served 383 participants; now, only halfway through 2016, they have already held 32 classes and served 301 participants, many of them repeat customers. “Often, they come to one class and just keep coming for the rest of the series,” Diana told me. “This is a highly motivated community dedicated to lifelong learning.” One of her favorite parts is learning along with them.
A 2015 Technology Survey gave Diana and her team helpful information about the kinds of classes that patrons wanted, and it wasn’t just basic computer skills. A look at their class schedule reveals a variety of needs and interests. Diana says that some of the most popular are about how to use the library’s databases, download digital books, setup and manage mobile devices, search genealogy sites, and stay safe on popular social media sites like Facebook. Other popular, interest-based classes include Internet safety and security, basic photo editing, and selling stuff online using Craigslist and Ebay. Classes, which are either held in the 13 Mac lab or the 15 seat conference room, are usually full.
Attendance can be an indicator of success, but so can personal stories. Diana told me about providing resume assistance to a woman who had been out of the work force for a decade. The woman was overjoyed when she got a call for an interview just minutes after submitting her job application. Another time, a man who took her Internet privacy class said that he better understood the risks of going online and was able to plan a trip using sites like Airbnb.
Estes Valley Library works hard to offer high quality programming inside their walls, but they also serve the needs of their patrons by collaborating with other organizations in the Estes Valley community. For instance, the library partners with the Town of Estes Park, the Estes Park Museum, Estes Park Non-Profit Resource Center and the Estes Park Economic Development Corporation to bring lifelong learning opportunities to the community. Several local merchants have even worked with the Estes Valley Library to create food and beverages to help commemorate the library’s 100th anniversary.
Diana is excited to see how the adult tech literacy program will change as technology and the community evolves. She imagines that a makerspace might be in their future, or they might start loaning tablet readers. The future of the program at Estes Valley Library may look many ways, but it will always reflect the needs of a community of learners that is on the move.
This post is part of Spotlight on Sharing, an initiative that aims to increase the visibility of resource sharing in Colorado libraries. Does your library have a story to share? Contact Amy Hitchner at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @hitchlib.