Imagine giving a turkey to 8-year-olds and asking them to prepare it to perfection. The scenario seems impractical.

Sandra Jones, staff member at the Pleasantville branch of the Atlantic County Library - at 33 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. - used this as a metaphor recently to discuss older members of the community and their experience with computers.

And as access to the Internet becomes increasingly essential to daily life, Jones explained that many are left intimidated.

"It makes us angry," said Jones, who has worked for the branch for 13 years and has taught classes in computer skills at the library for the past five.

Joining social networks, setting up an email address or even typing up a resume is like a foreign idea, she explained.

Five years ago, as a gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Pleasantville branch received a lab full of computers. Since then, the lab has been updated and serves as a haven for the public, branch manager Pam Saunders said.

"The library is a good place where (the public) can come and get their feet wet and get a little guidance," Saunders said. "Once they have the basic tools they can continue to learn on their own."

The library provides four unique classes, which are repeated quarterly: Introduction To Email, Computer Basics, Introduction to the Internet and Introduction to Microsoft Word.

Jones said that eight people already had signed up for her Nov. 7 Microsoft Word class. Only 10 seats are available, she said.

Saunders decided that because they serve such a large community of different skill sets, classes focus on the basics.

"In this day and age, knowledge about how to reach everything that is reachable via the Internet is important, especially as more and more government services and employers make their information available only via the Internet," Saunders said.

She went on to explain how vital a role the Internet plays, in terms of job applications and keeping up with family and friends through social networks.

And although they don't offer a class specifically on Facebook and social networking, Saunders hopes to in the future.

"It's a way to stay in contact, and certainly with the storm," she said. "In some kind of way, (some people) had a computer that worked, so they were able to stay in contact with family (through) Facebook, especially as phone lines jam up."

The 11 computers in the lab, as well as the several other desktops sporadically placed throughout the facility were all occupied recently. Visitors were there to make use of the Internet to fill out FEMA forms, following Hurricane Sandy, to catch up on Facebook or just to leisurely surf the 'net.

Steve Diggino, of West Atlantic City, was one of them that day.

"I'm here almost every day," he said.

Diggino does not have a computer of his own. But if he did, the power outages at home would have been restrictive.

"There are some people who are very dependent on our computers," Saunders said. "And there are other people who just got them in their homes, but don't even know how to turn them on."

Saunders and Jones both realized the importance of the resources that the library offers through its computer labs and classes.

"It's just something to get them started. Some of them are just so intimidated, but by the time the (class) is complete, I have them smiling," Jones said. "You're not computer illiterate anymore!"

Contact Caitlin Honan:


The schedule

Classes are free and open to the public. A membership is not required. To register, call 641-1778 or sign up at the front desk. Seats are limited.

Introduction to Email:

11 a.m., Nov. 13 and Dec. 11

Computer Basics:

4 p.m. or 6 p.m., Dec.19

Introduction to Microsoft Word:

4 p.m. or 6 p.m., Nov. 7

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