Michigan Economy Relected in Libraries
Unless you live in Michigan, especially metro Detroit like I do, it’s hard to realize the scope of our current economic “recession.” I work in a suburban library serving a community under 50,000. Our public Internet computers used to be half-empty on any given weekday morning. Now when I’m on Reference at 11am during the week, all computers are filled and we must open our computer training lab for the overflow. Most of these users are filing for unemployment benefits electronically, looking for jobs online, or trying to create a resume. Computer skills are non-existent for at least 50% of these patrons. They can become frustrated, angry or depressed by their situation. It takes very little to “set them off,” especially when the computers don’t act the way they think they should. These are our new Library users and we must learn how to deal effectively and patiently with them!
For those of us who use technology for hours on end daily, what we think of as simple keyboarding on a MS Word document or searching the Web is often beyond the skill set of those who now ask us for help. For the past two days I’ve experienced outbursts from patrons who have “lost” their documents online and feel compelled to take it out on the staff. It’s hard not to feel compassion for their plight, but I can’t allow public profanity to become commonplace in our public area.
I don’t know what direction the local automotive industry will take in the near future , but I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. I just hope we can serve these new patrons in our Library community with the same friendliness and great service as we have our traditional users.
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