POTTSBORO — With technology and the Internet becoming a primary source of information for many, libraries across the nation are facing an identity crisis as they search for relevance in an increasingly wired world. Following these trends, the Pottsboro Area Library has embraced new technologies by starting technology education classes, as it looks for ways to serve the community.

POTTSBORO — With technology and the Internet becoming a primary source of information for many, libraries across the nation are facing an identity crisis as they search for relevance in an increasingly wired world. Following these trends, the Pottsboro Area Library has embraced new technologies by starting technology education classes, as it looks for ways to serve the community.


"We are in a huge time of transition," said Dianne Connery, president of the operating board for the Pottsboro Area Library. "The question is, what role will libraries play in the future of our communities."


As the library looked forward into an uncertain future with limited funding, Connery and other officials with the small-town library decided the library needed to change its approach to the community. Coming from previous experience in Plano, Connery saw what she described as a "digital divide" in the rural communities.


"People do not have the same access to technology that they do in the cities," said Connery.


Starting in 2013, the library started applying for grants and funding for technology upgrades. The library was offered a $30,000 grant through the Texas State Library and Achieves Commission for the purpose of technology upgrades and equipment. With the funding, the library was able to create a computer lab with nine computers, and five tablets. The library was also able to acquire software licenses for their new computers, including professional software titles like Adobe’s InDesign.


Looking to provide technology services and education, the library started what it calls its "Techsperts" program, where it hosts classes and educational seminars on topics ranging from various computer programs to smart phone use on Tuesdays and Sundays. In a recent class, the library brought in educators from Grayson College to help older citizens with their smart phones. Connery said she remembers an older couple bringing in an audio cassette of a relative telling his life story that they wanted to convert to a digital format to preserve it for future generations.


"I had a man in his 80s show up and and say ‘I am here to learn the Internet,’" said Connery.


"I don’t know a lot of things that teenagers just pick up, because they are out in this technology," said Beverly Ann Murray, manager of the Pottsboro Senior Center. Murray attended one class to get help in operating a new tablet.


In looking for ways to expand the services of the library, Connery made a recent visit to Pottsboro High School to get a grasp on how the library could better serve students. Connery was surprised to find that many students lacked home Internet access. In response, the library offered open hours on Sunday afternoon to allow students a place to do homework.


The library offers classes aimed at teenagers on programs like InDesign, which can later be used professionally in the workplace. Teens have been using the program to design and create a small entertainment newspaper aimed at other teens in Pottsboro. The teens also received a six-week class that taught basic videography and video editing. With the training, the teens made a promotional video for the library, and have recently expanded out to other non-profits.


Prior to receiving the grant, the library would charge between $5 and $10 for classes, but has waived the fees since.


"If the library is about free and equal access to everyone, then not charging them for that access is part of our mission," said Connery.


Recently the library has been recognized for their contributions to the community. Connery said the city of Pottsboro recently increased its funding for the library, and it was also the recipient of an award and an additional tablet from Tech Soup, a nonprofit group aimed at assisting libraries and other nonprofit organizations with computer programs and technology services.