Stafford Library hosts JMMC computer courses

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Fri., Sep. 23, 2011
Andrew McFarlin, director of information technology at JMMC, teaches an introductory Internet course at Stafford Library. Student June Jacobsen plans to use Stafford Library's computer resources when she is comfortable with the technology. Photos by Lauri Voter.
Andrew McFarlin, director of information technology at JMMC, teaches an introductory Internet course at Stafford Library. Student June Jacobsen plans to use Stafford Library's computer resources when she is comfortable with the technology. Photos by Lauri Voter.

Through a three-week series of one-hour sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays, Johnson Memorial Medical Center's Director of Information Technology Andrew McFarlin will teach computer novices basic computer skills through a free program being offered by JMMC at the Stafford Library.

On Mondays, McFarlin will focus on teaching Internet skills, and on Wednesdays he will teach Microsoft Word to provide unemployed people with the basic technology skills they will need to write cover letters and resumes. “You'd be surprised, in the communities, how many people don't have access to Internet, don't have computers at home, but still want to have that capability to get to the Internet and use the resources that are available,” said McFarlin.

JMMC and McFarlin devised a solution to this problem by creating a series of computer classes for the public, in turn creating a relationship with the local library by selecting that location as its teaching venue. Stafford Library Director Chris Frank said that JMMC and Stafford Library forged a partnership when Lindsay Baghramyan, development and community relations coordinator at JMMC, contacted him to inquire if JMMC could partner with the library by using its computer lab, which can accommodate up to five students.

The beginning Internet and beginning Microsoft Word classes quickly filled. “We have enough interest where we’re going to have a second round,” said Frank.

McFarlin said that one of JMMC's goals is to continually find ways to serve the local community. He explained that JMMC wants members of the community to be aware that there are resources available to them through JMMC, which “has a history with Stafford, and we want to continue that history.”

The introductory computer classes are designed for people who want to become familiar and comfortable with a computer, with the goal of helping students get to the Internet and open a free e-mail account as part of their lesson.

June Jacobsen was the first student to show up. “I don't have a computer, so I am really intimidated,” she said. Jacobsen eventually plans to make use of the library's computer resources.

Fellow student Donald Barton said, “I can turn the computer on, and I can get into Google. That's all I can do. I'd like to do more.”

McFarlin said that he helped his own father learn how to use a computer. Now in his 70s, McFarlin's dad is a frequent computer user who conducts genealogical research.

Baghramyan said that JMMC has “a community outreach program that provides free programs to the community,” and that those programs include topics that can have an indirect bearing on health issues. When developing the computer classes, JMMC designed them for unemployed persons, because “being unemployed can have a negative impact on health,” said Baghramyan, who said that “given the unemployment rate and state of the economy,” Frank was excited about the idea of serving as a venue for the computer classes.

JMMC hopes to enhance the computer classes to an intermediate level so that job seekers can “increase the scope of their job search.”

Baghramyan said that JMMC is conducting a needs assessment in its primary service area, which includes the towns of East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield, Somers, Stafford, Suffield, Tolland, Union, Willington and Windsor Locks. Local leaders, human service directors, health clinic directors, health department officials and physicians are being asked to provide input. The results of that study will enable JMMC to strategically implement programs that help improve the health status of local communities.

Many outreach activities offered by the community relations department at JMMC are provided free-of-charge, or require only a nominal fee. Requests for speakers, information about available programs or support groups can be made to JMMC's community resource number at 860-684-8487.

In addition to JMMC, the Stafford Library has developed relationships with other local organizations. “We’re always looking to form those relationships,” said Frank.

The library’s computer lab is just one of its resources. The library also has two large meeting rooms available in which area non-profit organizations can conduct meetings. Tutors and students have access to two quiet study rooms, and Wi-Fi access is available to patrons who possess a library card. Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about Stafford Library’s services and resources should contact Chris Frank at 860-684-2852.

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