The TechConnect program offers more than 80 free technology classes at libraries throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Classes include learning about computers and tablets, internet basics, Microsoft Office, video chatting, finding a job online and much more.
Read the interview below as McNeil shares her experience in creating innovative programs that help educate and inspire library users.
TA: What inspired you to work at the Library?
BM: I wanted to continue my love of helping people, to teach them something new. The non-profit world was one that I hadn’t tackled and I thought it would be interesting to really understand what engages and moves people when they have free access to something.
TA: What is one thing about working at the library that you love?
BM: I love that every day is different: New challenges, new tasks. I love trying to come up with new ideas that our patrons may love.
TA: How can libraries continue to promote library use?
BM: Libraries can continue to promote library use by showing people that we are changing with the times. If we show people that we can help educate them on their journey or at least give them the first steps in the right direction, we will continue to have patron usage. We are not just books, but unfortunately, most people don’t realize that. We have to stay continuously engaged with our patrons from elementary school and up so that we take the journey with people throughout every stage of their life. I find it sad when I hear people mention the last time they went to their local library was when they were in elementary school or only to get a book for their child because they are missing the benefits that we have for them.
TA: What advice can you give someone who is interested in working in the library?
BM: My advice to someone who is interested in working at the library is to have a passion for helping people and a continued passion for learning and wanting to know as much information as possible. You never know what type of question or need might pop up!
TA: How did the NYPL TechConnect Classes project come about?
BM: The library wanted to proactively invest in the digital literacy of NYC. So we decided that we needed to brand a program of innovation for patrons at the library where learning technology was at the forefront.
TA: How can libraries use technology more efficiently to create innovative programs that allow Library users to learn new technology and digital skills that help educate and inspire?
BM: The best way to do this is by having a variety of staff who have a passion for technology and the skills to teach it. In addition, there must be some type of leeway given to allow for experimentation so that innovation can happen, which would include the purchasing of technologies that patrons may or may not know about and technologies that patrons may or may not be able to afford.
TA: What are some challenges affecting libraries today and what can be done about them?
BM: One of the challenges affecting the library today would be trying to change the mindset of people so they realize just how important and all the many benefits that libraries provide outside of the traditional use of books. Another challenge is having enough funding to renovate locations where the basics needs of the building hinder the focus on programs that could be done. There are branches that need computers labs. However, due to flooding issues with the city streets, it hinders a computer lab from being able to be included in a location.
TA: Who is a librarian/library staff member that inspires you?
BM: The library staff member that inspires me are the TechConnect training staff. They really have a passion for technology and figuring out ways to help others with their digital literacy and that inspires me.
TA: What does the future hold for libraries?
BM: Technology will be one of the biggest roles in the future for libraries. I think the future of the library will be about how quickly libraries can adapt to the changing needs and wants of patrons.
TA: What library projects are you currently working on?
BM: I am currently working on Interactive Testing for patrons where they can assess themselves, as well as a Phase 2 to the very popular 10-week coding program called Project Code that boasts a waiting list that would probably wrap around a NYC block.