In 2011, Harris County Public Library continued to provide more, better and a wider variety of free technology training in our communities. HCPL staff taught more that 3,600 technology classes to well over 25,000 students from all walks of life. Classes are taught in both English and Spanish, and range from basic internet and email safety to multipart courses that give students the skills in the whole Microsoft Office Suite of programs that employers require.
With the help of a grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program we were able to hire five more Technology Training Assistants to teach more classes at more libraries. The BTOP grant also allowed us to install or replace almost six hundred computers at our branches, and to upgrade several additional branches with fiber-optics that greatly increase the data speed of our public computers.
With eBooks accounting for a larger proportion of overall circulation—almost a forty percent increase in eBook checkouts in 2011—we have developed educational programs targeted specifically to new eReader users and those contemplating the purchase of one. Our Technology Petting Zoos continued to be a popular attraction at our branches, allowing customers to get hands-on experience with a variety of eReaders and tablets. We added a support page to our website where new eBook readers can get help 24/7 for all of the top eReader brands. If customers want or need personal assistance, all HCPL branches now have an Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and an Apple iPad on hand, so that HCPL staff can show customers exactly how to solve problems they are having.
Branch staff members have also found ways to incorporate the new eReaders into more traditional library programs like children’s storytimes because both early literacy and early familiarity with technology are crucial to a child’s future success in school and in life.
In addition to our home grown programs, Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library hosted the Overdrive Digital Bookmobile to help promote HCPL’s ever-growing collection of free eBooks and eAudiobooks.
HCPL continues to be a leader in social media for libraries. Along with our ever-growing presence on Twitter, and Facebook (all twenty-six branches now have their own Facebook pages), we launched a popular and innovative Pinterest page.
As always, HCPL will keep current with library technology trends, and do everything we can to anticipate them, but for all of our innovative use of new technologies, our primary goal remains to help the people of Harris County acquire the technological knowledge and skills that will help them to enhance and enrich their lives and those of their families.