Egad! E-help for e-readers: Oak Bluffs Library to the rescue

Mikaela Wolfe, the new Reference Librarian at the Oak Bluffs Library, with her daughter Riley. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Let’s suppose you get an e-reader as a gift this holiday season but you don’t have a 10-year old handy to teach you how to use it.

Fret not, help is here in the person of Mikaela Wolfe, the brand-new, wicked smaht reference librarian at the Oak Bluffs Library. Ms. Wolfe said last week that the library is available for one-on-one tutorials and will offer seminars on the wily ways of our electronic gadgets.

Ms. Wolfe holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Florida and advanced degrees from Florida State University in both Library Science and in something named Online Navigation of Social Spaces for Libraries and Non-Profits.

Before joining the Oak Bluffs Library in November, the Gainesville, Fla., native managed online services for the 14 libraries in Gainesville public library system for several years.

While residents are free to call Ms. Wolfe for help at 508-693-9433, the library techy will offer a free 45 minute class on best ways to navigate e-readers and e-books on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 6 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Ms. Wolfe said that a slideshow version of the presentation will be available at after the class.

“e-readers are exploding in terms of consumer use and especially in the volume of e-reader electronic books in libraries,” she said. “The technology is only as good as the skills of the people who use it. It can be frustrating to have this expensive toy and be unable to access it. Libraries are a natural place to turn to for help, so we’re trying to be the one-stop place for electronic knowledge and resources.”

Ms. Wolfe also noted that public libraries have served as their community’s social centers from the earliest days of public libraries in the 19th century. “Public libraries were social places. Libraries in the west had pool tables in the early days, for example,” she said. “Libraries moved away from that role, but communities are remaking their libraries into social places again. And with online capabilities, libraries are 24-hour resources today. Libraries are involved with culture of their place. They aren’t just very quiet places, anymore than schoolrooms are silent places.”

Ms. Wolfe describes a convergence of need and opportunity from which libraries and their patrons can benefit, particularly in the presto-chango world of electronics.

“We want to have classes, for example, on the different uses and functions of e-readers versus tablets, versus iPads, different add-ons,” she said. “How to Google most effectively. You know, the choice of an electronic tool is related to your specific personality. For example, I bought a really expensive iPad, very excited, but found I didn’t really use it. Kindle worked better for me. I gave my sister the iPad and she loves it – and me for giving it to her,” she added with a laugh.

“We hope to begin classes in January on subjects like these and on how to use them, including cellphones,” Ms. Wolfe said. “We all learn in different ways. Some people are visual, others learn from reading text. We’ll continue to work one-on-one with folks.”

Ms. Wolfe has noticed that the intersection of technology and commerce has created some thickets for users to get through. “There are [resulting] intricacies of library lending in the e-book world because publishers are placing customized restrictions on accessing their books,” she said. “For example, accessing a Penguin e-book requires four additional steps than a Kindle e-book uses. Of course, it’s their right to do it, but it also makes it difficult for patrons.”

The opportunity for libraries to serve is great, in Ms. Wolfe’s eyes. “It’s really a re-branding of libraries in terms of the resources available to our patrons,” she said. Libraries can win two ways, Ms. Wolfe notes, because statistics show that the majority of fiction is still read in hard-copy books and non-fiction is read electronically for the most part.

Ms. Wolfe’s enthusiasm is infectious and boundless, and no wonder. She’s luckier than many of us. She knows this stuff — and she has a pre-teen daughter for backup.

e-readers vs. Tablets: Which one is right for you? Tuesday, Dec. 11, 6 pm, Oak Bluffs Library. With Mikaela Wolfe. An overview of products to help with purchasing decisions. This is not a how-to class, which will follow at a later date, to be announced. For more information, call 508-693-9433, ext. 147.