Training Is Her True Calling
by Sarah Binns
In a world of constant technology changes and a maze of digital devices, we've all been baffled: Why did my photos disappear? Do I need the latest software update? But really, where are my photos?! For the past ten years Multnomah County Library volunteer Andrea Dobson has heard these kinds of questions on a daily basis in her role as a technology trainer; luckily, she always has the answers.
Based at downtown's Central Library (“My favorite place in the universe,” she says), Andrea teaches technology classes ranging from iPad lessons to resumé workshops, all for free. She also volunteers on Sundays at a new walk-in tech support booth in the Central Library lobby. “There's nothing that people have come in with that we haven't been able to help,” she says. That said, “A lot of [questions] that people have, I'm not familiar with either, but I Google it and we figure it out.” Constantly learning on the job is a perk of Andrea's position.
Teaching others has long been a part of her life. Prior to her volunteer job at the library, Andrea worked as a TriMet bus mechanic for 20 years before moving to its training department, “which was my true calling,” she says. Tri-Met computerized quickly, which led Andrea to learn desktop publishing and other computer skills. Always a book lover, she pursued library volunteering once she retired; ten years ago, she began by staffing computer labs. Andrea sees technology as a critical, though often overlooked, library service: “I think what the library is doing in the technology area is so important. It’s really impossible these days to get a job or really participate in our society in a lot of meaningful ways if you don’t have access to the Internet.”
Andrea also volunteers to support military families through the Red Cross and travels the world over: she's been on 15 adventures, including trips to Turkey, Spain and Iceland. Wherever she goes, though, she knows she'll return to her Central Library spot: “It's one of those places where you feel like nothing bad could ever happen.”