It is Seniors Week here in Melbourne and as part of Council’s special programming the library Home Library Service (HLS) Team ran a special afternoon event for Seniors called ‘Introduction to Digital Reading’ (including a  Technology Petting Zoo.)

The goal of the session was to introduce users to eBooks and eAudio books in a relaxed & supportive environment.

We had 5 staff involved and as people arrived we ‘triaged’ them – did they have a particular area of interest?, did they bring their own device?  and so on.

We then partnered them with an available staff member for a chat.

From the library side of things we had  ipads, kobo eReaders, an ALDI eReader, no-name eReaders & tablets etc for our guests to try. (Staff had brought in their own devices to complement the library owned ipads & kobos).

The most popular device was the ipad – several of our guests brought their own with them. Interestingly several of the ipad owners didn’t know they could read eBooks or listen to eAudio on their ipads.

A couple of our guests had been given Sony eReaders by their families and had no idea what to do next.

We had 32 people come in to talk to us and they all appreciated the chance try different technologies or be helped to use their own tech.

Common themes were: ‘my son/daughter gave me their old ipad/iphone and said it was very easy to use’; ‘what do eBooks look like?’;

They liked being able to heft a device and see if it suited what they imagined using it for. We had copies of consumer reports and comparison articles on eReaders & tablets for them to browse.

I think my favourite though was the 80 year old who had done a training course and been given a samsung 10″ tablet so she could on-train other seniors in how to use a product i’d never heard of.

So after i’d shown her how to download eBooks to her tablet she showed me how to use Tapestry.

I would describe it as a portal style overlay – Frances described it as ‘this is Tapestry – you click here for photos, here for the weather, here for news, here for email and here for the internet’

She then showed me how to swipe the screen to go to the Samsung tablet and how to touch the picture of the house to go back to Tapestry.

The program is designed to make the internet easy to navigate for seniors. they set up ‘families’ and people who join the family (sounds very mafioso) can send them photos or emails easily.

I am planning to investigate this program both for my community engagement plan (early indications are that it would be awesome) and for my 78 year old mother who wants to ‘buy a facebook so she can ebay google’ (the family has translated this as buy a tablet so she can use the internet).

So although I started the session as a guide I finished it as a trainee – being trained in a program I knew nothing about and which may well become a part of our Home Library Service and/or Community Outreach programs.