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Jacksonville Public Library expands e-classroom service [The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville :: ]
[April 19, 2014]

Jacksonville Public Library expands e-classroom service [The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville :: ]

(Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 19--Sandra Tucker was hesitant at first and appeared a little uncertain as the laptop screen flickered to life to reveal Microsoft PowerPoint.

Offering a reassuring smile, Donna Peretzman sat down beside the Jacksonville woman, who's exploring a career in marketing, communications or sales. A few minutes later under Peretzman's tutelage, Tucker was putting together a PowerPoint slide presentation with growing confidence.

"It's not as hard as I thought. Once you have somebody to sit with you and show you a few things," Tucker said with a smile Wednesday afternoon at the San Marco branch of the Jacksonville Public Library.

Tucker was brushing up on her computer skills and learning new ones through the library system's free e-classroom services.

Peretzman is among seven e-library specialists teaching free computer classes and offering one-on-one instruction in computers, tablets, e-readers, smartphones and other tech devices to library customers throughout Jacksonville.

"It's the helping them, so they can do it themselves. That is what I really enjoy: seeing it in their eyes when they get it," Peretzman said of the best part of her job.

Many customers come in frustrated or anxious about their computer or other technology skills, she said.

"They've either tried to do it themselves, or they've experienced 'the eye roll' from somebody that they have asked for help," said Peretzman.

The newest e-classroom opened Thursday at the Olga L. Bradham and Etta L. Brooks branch library, 1755 Edgewood Ave. W.

Jacksonville City Council President Bill Gulliford along with council members Denise Lee and Greg Anderson cut the ribbon at the e-classroom as part of the celebration of National Library Week, which began Sunday and concludes Saturday.

The library system now has eight e-classrooms strategically placed at branches to serve patrons throughout Jacksonville. The goal, Peretzman said, is to bring computer accessibility and technology skills to more people in the community. Library customers taking the computer classes include job hunters and people who recently received an e-reader, smartphone or new computer.

Existing library personnel and equipment were used for the e-classroom services. The library system has had e-classrooms since 2005, and the seven e-specialist positions were created in 2012, said Kathy Lussier, library system spokeswoman.

Before Thursday, the Bradham and Brooks branch library had been offering computer classes using laptops as space was available. Now, it has its own e-classroom, using existing office space. It is equipped with 10 computers, an interactive whiteboard and a projector system for instructional use. The project was funded by the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library and a State Aid to Libraries grant, Lussier said.

About 4,350 people last year attended one or more of the 934 computer classes offered at the libraries, Lussier said.

Many of her students are in their 50s or older, said Peretzman, who teaches the classes at the San Marco, South Mandarin, Mandarin and Southeast Regional branches. She is among five e-specialists who work at four branches. The other two e-specialists are based at the Main Library downtown.

Peretzman said they mainly teach introductory but also some intermediate and advanced level classes. The most common subjects are computer basics as well as Windows, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. They also teach classes in using iPad, Kindle and Nook, how to navigate e-instruction and e-government sites, and how to download library e-books, she said.

The topics taught, Peretzman said, are based on customer requests. Classroom instruction is done in small groups, and individual e-instruction is by appointment.

Tucker praised the e-classroom and Peretzman's teaching skills.

The service, Tucker said, is invaluable in an increasingly high-tech world.

"More people should know about it. ... It can help a lot of people," she said.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075 ___ (c)2014 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Visit The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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