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Wide range of services available close to home

Shree and Bharti Gandhi receive assistance from IT library staff member Justin Oksam.
Shree and Bharti Gandhi receive assistance from IT library staff member Justin Oksam. (Photo supplied)

Do you have some new electronics, possibly Christmas gifts, you’re having trouble setting up?

A new laptop or other device that’s stumping you?

You can ask an expert for help, nearby, and at a really good price — the advice is free.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library has a host of programs you can access at no charge. One of them is Ask a Tech. 

There are specific dates when an IT staff member will be available to answer your questions, says Matt Furlong, IT coordinator at the library.

Just bring the device for which you need help, and if they can’t fix your problem, they can help by suggesting where you can go to get it fixed.

The next date for Ask a Tech is Jan. 17, at 11 a.m., but you don’t have to wait for one of the scheduled sessions — although it’s a regular program, you can call and make an appointment, says Furlong.

As an example, he says, a common question he is asked is how to transfer photos from a phone to a laptop or computer. While it may seem daunting to some, it should be fairly simple, and will free up space on your phone.

That’s just one of all the services and bits of advice you can find at the library.

Want to learn about genealogy, ancestry and DNA testing? That’s available from expert David Hemmings — at the library.

How about local health care, and services you might need as you age? Learn from Dr. Bill Brown, along with doctors and medical students associated with McMaster University. They are at monthly InfoHealth sessions — also at the library.

Learn to be creative with Knit-a-Bit, socialize and make friends while you’re learning, all over a cup of tea. “It’s something we offer, organized by what has become a tight group of people,” says library tech Sarah Bowers. 

For new moms who want to get out of the house and hang out with a laid-back, no-judgment group of women, there’s a Mamas and Babies group — sometimes including fathers — organized by a local mom and offered through the library.

Wine and Words, a library program that invites authors to talk about their books at local wineries, is so popular it is usually sold out, and the Beer and Books club, held at The Old Winery, is well-attended, says Bowers.

There’s also a drop-in coffee break for seniors, some of whom are suffering from memory issues and come with their caregivers. It provides a bit of respite for both, says Bowers, and a chance to enjoy free coffee and cookies while chatting.

“It’s a place that is safe and welcoming, where people can meet each other and chat. We set up tables and chairs in the Rotary Room, and it’s very informal.

Most of the people who come are alone, but it would also be a great opportunity for couples to get out and talk to other people. We feel there is a need for seniors who are looking for a place that is safe and warm, at no charge.”

As an added bonus, if there is a senior who needs help, or a family member looking for assistance, library staff can direct them to the right source. 

“We can provide a bridge to the resources that are out there for people with health problems, such as dementia,” says Bowers.

“Libraries of today are really about being a general hub for the community,” says Furlong. “Books are secondary, a small part of what we do.”

“If someone comes to us with a suggestion, we’re open to ideas,” Bowers adds. “Some programs are a result of a particular suggestion from the public, some are from staff who get an idea from dealing with the public.”

A recently launched children’s chess club was a combination of that — a volunteer who was interested in teaching chess, and a staff member who knew there were kids interested in learning, says Bowers.

“It makes it easier if people come to us with suggestions — then we know what is needed and that there will be some interest in it.”

Other programs and workshops have been held to talk about zero household waste, beginners’ gardening, and beeswax food wraps. One that turned out to be pretty popular was the Repair Cafe, which will be repeated Feb. 1, at 11 a.m.

That gives you time to pull out all your old electronics, such as toasters, toaster ovens, computers, weed-whackers — even lawn mowers — to bring to the library, says Bowers. Jewelry and sewing repairs will also be available.

When the first Repair Cafe was held in the fall, there was a shout-out for people with repair skills to help, not only to fix things but to teach how to do the repairs.

The response was overwhelming from people who wanted to help, says Bowers — they may have had more volunteers than items to repair.

But with a little more publicity, she expects it will be a program that will take off — those who did attend were impressed with the help they received, including Furlong, who is very knowledgeable about computers but needed help to fix a lamp.

Repairing, rather than throwing away, ties in with zero waste, recycling and the interest in a greener future, says Bowers. If the item is something you don’t need, you could bring it in for repair and then pass it on to someone who does, possibly through Newark Neighbours.

There is also a coordinator for children’s programs at the library, with some aimed at the family, such as movie events, and The Makery, which encourages parents and kids to put their heads together to create something.

“People are often surprised at the wide range of services available at the library,” says Furlong.

For more information about programs, dates and times, check out the library website at