A grant from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation is directly benefitting patrons attending computer classes at the Stow Monroe Falls Public Library.
The library recently unveiled the newly acquired electronic touch screen whiteboard in its freshly refurbished computer lab. The 65-inch monitor was made possible by the $7,795 grant and is the first of its kind in the area.
Library director Douglas H. Dotterer said in a statement: “The new monitor will enhance the library’s free hands-on computer instruction and help with our commitment to offer training on state-of-the-art computers with the latest applications.
“The new whiteboard can offer students a wide viewing angle from a high definition LCD panel, which maintains high picture quality regardless of the viewer’s position within the computer lab. Combined with the new board’s anti-reflective glass, this will make viewing easier for all library patrons, especially those with reduced vision. We are very happy to say, the library shares the foundation’s commitment to education as a cornerstone of society, and dedication to innovation and the building and sharing of knowledge.”
At a recent dedication of the newly redecorated instruction lab, Dotterer explained that the library is in the helping business. “We’re here to help you find information and also help you with your computer skills. This is where we shine. Over the last 15 years our instructors have brought the best computer training to the Stow-Monroe Falls area and we’re very proud of that. But to make that happen we have to stay up to what’s going on with technology,” he said.
About a year ago he noticed that the computers were starting to really date. So he wrote a Knight Foundation grant for all the new computers in the library. He then noticed that the projector in the lab was starting to age, so he turned to the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation in Hudson. Dotterer said, “Mrs. Morgan and her wonderful foundation stepped up to the plate and I wrote a grant application. This monitor is a state-of-the-art whiteboard by Samsung.”
Children’s librarian Kristin Casale has conducted a lot of programs in the lab room – different multi-media classes for children of different ages. She said the old way was a projected image on a pull-down screen, but now the young people can actually write on the board and work together. “This gears right into established research about how children learn by doing. Honing their development is very important, and you have to do that by tactile experiences. The best way that can mimic real life, the better. So this board here is really perfect for that. You can just go right up and do all kinds of stuff here,” she added.
Lydia Gamble, another of the children’s librarians, said she is eager to incorporate the new capabilities into her “story time” by having the children interact with rhymes and motions. She demonstrated how a typical alphabet rhyme – Bananas are my favorite fruit – would work.
“I can add the banana to my page…then if I want to discuss more about bananas and their importance, we can go to [selects area]. I can tell them that South America is the continent we want to focus on, and Brazil is the country that produces over four- million bananas a year. I would have a song embedded – a multitude of things.”
She went on to explain that the children could go up and touch them and make the colors and grab their electronic pencil and write “banana.” “It helps spelling classes. That’s a sample of some of the fun things we can do and incorporate in our story time. We’re hoping to have a good time with that, and let kids get up and do their experimenting with their little fingers too. So it should be a lot of fun,” she concluded.
Reference librarian Diana Parker teaches the work-horse applications such as Excel, advanced Word and Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and demonstrated how the monitor could be turned into a surface to write on electronically. “In Excel II class I teach people how to do arithmetic in Excel and the first thing is a review of math. Instead of having to turn off the projector and pull up a screen and use a chalk board on the wall, I’ll be able to write with the [electronic stylus] pen up here on the screen.”
Parker went on to explain, “One other real advantage to having the whiteboard being a touch screen, is that I’ll be able to do some of this from up here and be able to look at my students. I’ll be able to snap that up whenever I want to and then when I’m done with that, then I’ll simply hit the ‘show desktop button’ and I’ll go back to the program screen then go back to stuff like typing numbers and formulas to add them up. My students will have a nice quality experience,” she said.
Dotterer summed up the demonstration by pointing out the power of the new whiteboard and what it will be able to do for the students. He said, “This is part of the technology and where it is taking us and we are trying to adapt to that for the times. With our computer classes over the past few years we’ve been able to help our city hall employees train up as well as the police department. So please take advantage of us.”
After the event, Monroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson said, “It’s a great opportunity for the residents to come over here and learn. The depth of what is available nowadays is just unreal, and for the library to get this grant and make this available is going to be really beneficial.”
Stow Mayor Sara Drew was also in attendance and said upon leaving, “I think it’s going to be a great addition for the classes. A lot of people at the demonstration said they were going to sign up for the classes. I think the points that were made tonight about the interaction for young children are really important because they’re, obviously, going to be more comfortable with the technology than those of my generation. So if we can reach out and capture their interest and their imagination and use this to teach them things at the same time, I think it’s a great use for the library and the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation made it possible. It’s a great addition to the library.”
Ann Multhaner, Marketing and Public Relations manager, pointed out that the library is always in a continual state of improvement. “But this room with the new technology is just a big shot forward,” she said.
Susan Falkman is a reference librarian who teaches the basic skills classes and feels this will be beneficial in that she won’t have to keep running back to the computer every time she wants to do something on the screen. “My beginning students have a hard enough time with everything (using the mouse, clicking on buttons, etc.), and the anxiety over using a computer and moving the cursor, etc.,” she said. “Half the time I can’t even get them to look up at the screen. So if I’m up there, a lot of times they will turn and look at me instead of looking at the keyboard and display. It is so foreign and intimidating.”
She said that applies more to the older/senior people learning for the first time. “In the more advanced user classes, the students already know how to use the computer and they are there to learn more complicated stuff. It helps being able to be up at the front of the class,” Falkman said, “rather than behind the class, because all of the [students’] focus should be on your computer or on the screen, and I’m way back here, so it’s nice to be right there to poke and point at things.”
Founded in May 1924 as a school district library with a board of trustees appointed by the board of education, Stow Public Library was first located in the township hall close to the center of town. Jessie Williamson, daughter of Adell Durbin, was the first librarian, presiding over a collection of 2,000 primarily fiction and some reference books. In 1930, property across from the First Christian Church (Darrow Road at Rt. 59) was purchased for $8,500 and the library resided in a small house there until 1963 when there were six staff members and a yearly circulation of over 100,000 items.
The newly built library building underwent several additions and expansions over the years and now checks out more than 800,000 items per year, features the latest materials and cutting-edge technology, and employs more than 40 full- and part-time employees.
In addition to books; periodicals; CDs; DVDs; large print books; books on CD; Playaway books; Playaway view; and e-books, there are various data bases which can be researched for free. SMFPL is a certified passport service provider, and hosts various book discussion groups and a monthly writer’s critique group. It operates a Homebound Outreach program and has story hours in the children’s section. SMFPL is located at 3512 Darrow Road, in Stow. Call (330) 688-3295 to schedule services or make conference room and program reservations. For more information, visit www.smfpl.org.