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Basic Technology Skills & Assessment

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Section Overview Questions to Consider Basic Tech Skills Assessing Tech Skills Tracking Tech Trends Choosing the Right Technology

Basic Tech Skills & Assessment Overview

Part of the goal of this guide is to help people select the tools they need, then use them safely and effectively. Many of the other topic categories in thie guidebook will touch upon specific concepts like communicating with friends online. However, it is difficult to communicate effectively if the user doesn't know how to turn the device on, download and access new software.

This section is about building that foundation of basic skills. The challenge is that even when we, as library staff, know and understand the value of technology and the opportunities it can bring to the community, there is still the challenge of getting the word out there. People will only learn if they have a good reason. Why would someone take the time to learn about computers if they don't see the value in the services provided?

As librarians, we are not advocating for specific technology tools or 1:1 devices, we are advocating for people. What do our community members value, and how can technology be used as a tool to support those values? There are plenty of resources in the guidebook below to help people learn how to set up email or social media, and learn about the Windows operating system. But don't just advertise the skill, start with why it matters. Advertise human connection, social media us just the tool. Design a flyer that shows how older adults can stay connected with loved ones after losing access to transportation. That is what matters most.

As you explore digital skills options yourself, and help patrons do the same, dig into the reason for learning. What do they want to accomplish, and why? Then you can start digging into the menu of technology options and make an informed decision. With that said, let's get started!

By the end of the topics in this section, you will:

  • Know how to help patrons identify what they really need in terms of technology, and assess current skills.
  • Be able to connect your community with a set of technology basic skills options and learning resources.
  • Know where you go to track future technology trends and add to your menu of technology options.

Questions to Consider

As you review this section, please consider these questions:

  1. How can we encourage people to learn basic skills if they don't see a need, or lack motivation? We can't force people to learn.
  2. How do people feel about technology? Fear, excitement, bewilderment, and awe are popular.
  3. What is your current approach to choosing technology tools?
  4. Are you comfortable assessing a patron's current level of skill with common hardware, software, and tech concepts?
  5. Do you know where you find technology options, and choose the best fit?
  6. What makes you choose the technology you choose?
  7. Do we need more or less technology?
  8. Who do you currently help with technology?
  9. Are there any demographics you would like to encourage to come into the library?

Basic Tech Skills

As technology grows faster, it can become difficult to keep up the pace. For this reason, it helps to turn towards existing resources to help patrons learn the very basic skills of technology.

What are the basics you might ask? Generally how computers, smartphones and tablets work, operating systems basics, navigating the web, how to set up email and social media accounts, and being able to download new software. Recently, there is also more emphasis on the digital skills in other sections of this guide. Basically, the goal post keeps moving for basic skills.

Check out these resources to discover where to send patrons to learn basic skills and choose materials that work for their skill level to help them acheive their goals. Consider adapting a Technology Reference Interview style for your library.

Resources: This set of resources provides materials for librarians to conduct workshops, and patrons to learn directly on the site. The materials on the site are free, but you can also get a quote to add a customized DigitalLearn Site to your library's website.

Northstart Digital Literacy: This is a great resource to build digital skills to succeed in higher education and the workforce.

GCFLearn: Their menu has a Basic Skills section to get you started. Depending on what the patron needs, the other courses could be vital to success as well!

TechBoomers: This site is geared towards older adults and inexperienced internet users. It uses a collection of articles and free online courses to teach basic computer skills. This resource is made by librarians, for librarians. This set of resources is for trainers, use this resource for learners directly.

The Technology Reference Interview: The Colorado Public Library offers this great training slideshow to help librarians learn how to use a technology reference interview.

Guidelines of the Successful Reference Interview from ALA: This guidebook offers tips for conducting reference interview in-person and remotely.

Assessing Tech Skills

In the Basic Skills section you have a mess of resources to use to connect patrons with the digital skills they need to succeed in a digital world. The problem now is that the goal post does indeed keep moving. Now everyone seems to have a patchwork background in digital skills.

This section provides assessment tools to determine which of the most basic skills people already have, and which ones are needed to fill in the gaps. This is a new service for libraries in and of itself.

The same resources used to teach patrons can be used to train library staff and volunteers and get everyone up to speed. Use the resources below to find a starting point and get everything in order. If your library wants to priotizie and add other skills, feel free to adapt the resources as needed.


Northstart Digital Litearcy Assessment: This is an interactive assessment to determine the current skill level of the learner, and recommend areas for improvement. Works with the Northstar Digital SKills resource above.

Tech Skills Assessment for Public Library Supervisors and Staff: The Public Library Association offers this self-assement sheet to help you determine which skills you mastered, and which skills need some work.

Microsoft Digital Skills Assessment: For those who want to dig deeper into the Microsoft Office Suite, try this assessment paired with Microsoft's Digital Skills courses.

Google's Applied Digital Skills: If you enjoy using tools from Google, try the Applied Digital Skills with built-in assessments.

Now you have a general starting point. Our next problem is that tech just keeps piling up. We don't all of it, but it helps to have a basic understanding of what is coming down the pipeline. You never know which up and coming tool can come in handy.

Use these resources to track recent and upcoming tech trends, related to the library and the world at large.


David Lee King Blog: Follow tech trends from a leader in emerging tech in the library.

Center for the Future of Libraries Trend: This guide offers additional places to learn new business skills, both formally and informally.

Best Apps for Teaching & Learning 2019: ALA for School Librarians provides a curated list of apps for kids.

Tech Trends 2020: Deloitte is a leader in global technology innovation and trend tracking. Check out their page for a wider view into the world of technology.

Choosing the Right Technology

Now you have an idea of which technology exists. It's a lot. Take a look at the trend tracking section above, then get over the hype. It may be cool, but do we really need it all? Consider who will be using this technology and if it’s the right fit. Here are some resources to track trends and choose tech that’s right for you and your patrons:

Use the resources below to start identifying and prioritizing the problems that need to be solved, and how to find the right tool for the job. It helps to be able to evaluate technology for quality and suitability.


Choosing Technology Tools: Digital Promise outlines a method for choosing and evaluating technology tools that can be adapted for use in libraries.

12 Factors to Help You Evaluate Potential Techical Solutions: If you're looking for a technology solution in your library, consider using the advice from Forbes on choosing and implementing technology.

11 Considerations for Picking the Right Technology: Libraries and patrons frequently use open source tools. Consider this guide to choosing open source as you make decisions.

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