During a special five-day event in partnership with Brian Frehner, a tenured professor of science, technology, and society at University of Missouri–Kansas City, the Kansas City Public Library is offering free classes and drop-in sessions to help you with your smartphone, technology repair, and even guide you through the online search and application steps for a job.
Assistance will be available from Monday, October 16, through Friday, October 20, 2017, with sessions offered at various times at the Library's Plaza, Southeast, and Bluford branches. They are manned by volunteering students from Frehner's classes at UMKC.
The event is coordinated by KCPL's education and career advancement coordinator, Wendy Pearson, who has been working with Frehner to create a service opportunity for his students looking to fulfill a civic engagement requirement.
"We have had many conversations over the past five months," Pearson says, "and the project has evolved into an exciting five-day event that includes over 110 volunteer opportunities at six different locations—three libraries and three partner organizations."
Volunteers will visit two senior living facilities and a low-income housing unit in partnership with Phenix Family, offering hands-on training for smartphones in addition to computer repair and job application assistance.
The offerings evolved from Tech Coach drop-in sessions that Pearson has launched at the Library. "It is a series of simple steps for which we have prepared materials to guide any volunteer through their service to patrons," she says. "Even if our volunteer has limited experience and knowledge, they will be able to assist patrons through all or selected steps of this program."
Pearson notes that "low-income people cannot take a device to Geek Squad or Office Max when it stops working. They just can’t afford those services. So, we equip volunteers with a flash drive that contains an antivirus/diagnostics software program. All our volunteers have to do is plug in the flash drive and follow directions. We also teach patrons about system restore and show them how to back up and restore their hard drive. If we are unable to fix a patron’s device with these simple techniques, we have prepared a short list of reasonable options in our community."
The hope, Pearson says, is not only that patrons reach their goals through technology but also that volunteers also come away with a new perspective of their community. The student volunteer experience is designed to:
- Provide opportunities for students to connect with populations and areas of their community that they may otherwise never experience. Through their service, they'll meet individuals who often are stigmatized for their race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or where they live.
- Provide opportunities for students to relate to the struggles and challenges of living with limited resources. All special event sites are located on the bus line. Students have been urged to use public transit and imagine life without technology (no smartphones, wi-fi, or computers) so they can experience what many of their patrons go through.
- Provide opportunities for students to make a difference in someone’s life. An overwhelming majority of Pearson's Tech Coach sessions end with a real-life result—from helping someone create a resume to assisting in the repair of a computer and saving someone money on data overages by teaching him or her about free wi-fi.
For more information, check the Library's Events and Activities Calendar.