Helen Balfour

A perfect fit! Tailoring IT teaching to your community


Public libraries today face the challenge of educating, and bridging the knowledge gaps of those patrons in their communities who have limited experience with information technology and few related skills. Connecting people with information, fostering digital skills in the community, and enabling participation in online environments have become core functions of the library. These functions, which are lacking in other public and private spaces, are increasingly relied upon by library users to socialise, develop themselves and conduct their business.

A lack of basic IT skills and familiarities can result in frustration, depression and feelings of helplessness in regard to the use of computers. At Cambridge Library, the Digital Services Team (myself and two library technicians), first provided small group classes teaching people basic computer skills. On review, it became apparent that the students attending had such di-verse needs that a group teaching program was no longer the most effective option. To pro-vide a better service to library clients, we developed a specialised IT teaching program in which we tailor one on one classes to each individual’s needs.

The paper will outline why these tailored IT teaching classes can be the best option for com-munity libraries, the strategies our team used to research, structure and implement our teach-ing program, and how the team manages and resources the program on a day-to-day basis. The paper will provide a model or blueprint for the design and implementation of such a pro-gram in other public libraries.


Helen is a new librarian in my first supervisory role with two Library Technicians that make up the Cambridge Library Digital Services team. She has been in the role since November 2012. Her previous roles were Librarian working for Chevron for 3 months and from 2009-2012 Helen was a Library Technician at UWA working in the Document Delivery, Course Materials Online and UWA Repository project teams.





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