Another staff member told me about a call from a man who was told that you can find women on the Internet and wondering if we could help him. It may seem humorous, and certainly isn’t the first. We have had several instances of patrons coming in for the first time on this new-found revelation that the Internet, was among other things, a seeming repository for whichever gender you might be searching for. “I just thought I should warn you that he might come in and ask for your help,” my colleague said.
Sure enough, this gentleman did come in. He approached my desk and introduced himself and it was instantly clear that he had some physical and/or perhaps developmental disabilities. He repeated much of what my colleague had already related about finding a woman on the Internet and needing assistance. We found a computer and he sat down nervously. “I’m pretty computer illiterate,” he warned. “Let’s see what we can do about that.” I replied.
I showed him how to hold the mouse and how the movement of the mouse translated to the movement of the cursor on the screen. He worked with it a bit as I showed him where to click and gave instructions on what to type. He struggled pecking out letters on the keyboard, but I kept myself from interceding too much, trying to keep to my theory that if I do something for a patron learning these skills, they will be more dependent on me and really not be learning anything.
The process to sign up for the first site he wanted to go to involved also setting up an email address and all told these two tasks took about an hour. He was getting much better at the mouse and I continued to encourage him. As I worked with him, a previous student looked up from the opposite bank of computers and smiled knowingly.
He comes in nearly every day now and still needs help, but he is making tremendous progress on using the computer. I’m not sure if he found what he was looking for (have any of us ?), but it is nice to help him out.