Written by Chad Dally
Your résumé notes are ready to be keyed into a Word document.
That arcane song lyric you’ve wracked your brain about is waiting to be found.
The travel itinerary in your email inbox is a few clicks (and a couple dimes) away from printing.
All of these things — and so much more — can be accomplished at the Marathon County Public Library (MCPL) on any of our dozens of public computers and free public Wi-Fi.
All 9 MCPL locations have FREE Wi-Fi available to the public anytime we’re open. You don’t even need a password — just check with staff for the correct signal to connect your laptop, tablet, or phone. It’s that easy!
In addition, all of our MCPL locations have computers available for public use FREE of charge, from a few computers at a couple of the branches to more than 30 computers at the Wausau Headquarters. And anyone can use them:
- If you don’t have a library card, all that’s needed is a photo ID for a guest pass that’s good for 2 hours of computer use. (Unfortunately, we can only provide 1 guest pass per day, whether a person uses the whole 2 hours or not.)
- Patrons with a library card must have an account that’s up to date and in good standing — with a fine under $25. Unlike a 2-hour guest pass, using a library card means patrons have an unlimited amount of time on our computers! (Well, not unlimited, but at least as long as the library is open.) The one exception is the computers in the children’s area at MCPL Wausau. Because they’re so popular (and we have fewer of them in that area), young people have a limit of 2 hours on those computers. We also have a few other rules about computer and internet use, such as children under 12 can’t use computers in the adult area without a parent or guardian present.
What Can Be Done on the Library’s Computers?
I’m glad I asked. (And glad you are reading the answers! Feel free to pass them along to anyone else who could benefit, too.)
- Use the internet to check, send, and/or receive email.
- Access the internet with several different browsers/search engines — Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.
- Utilize the entire Microsoft Office suite of programs, including:
- Word for letters, résumés, and reports
- Excel for spreadsheets
- PowerPoint for slide presentations
- Publisher for graphic design projects, like posters and flyers
- Play games, watch videos, or access online training videos. But please bring a pair of earbuds or headphones with you to help keep our libraries quiet for others.
- Utilize the microfilm equipment to view such things as Wausau newspapers dating back to the late 1800s.
- Use our printers to get a hard copy of digital letters, emails, travel itineraries, or anything else that needs to be printed; the cost is 10 cents per page. (Currently, printing is available in black and white only. We do have a color copier if you have an original document in color that you need additional printouts of; color photocopies cost 50 cents per page for 8.5 x 11″ and 8.5 x 14″ documents and $1 per page for 11 x 17″ documents.)
If you’ve never used a computer before, that’s okay!
Every day the people who use the computers at the library have varying levels of computer knowledge and digital literacy. That said, we do need to make sure our staff is available to help other library patrons, so we often do have to politely limit the amount of help we can provide.
Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:
- Would you like to use one of our computers for genealogy research? Great! We have a subscription to Ancestry.com that can be accessed in the library (but not using our account from your home — one of the few of our online resources that must be accessed within the library building. Our other genealogy resource, HeritageQuest, can be accessed anywhere with a library card.) We can get you to Ancestry through MCPL’s website, show you a few basic search tips, and from there, you’re on your own — though we’ll still be available for intermittent questions or to help with printing.
- You’ve come to the library to use Microsoft Word to type a cover letter or résumé. Fantastic! We can show you how to access Word on our computers, even show you how to find Word’s résumé templates to make the process a bit easier (Word provides the structure, you fill in the details). But because we need to be available for other patrons, we can’t sit down with you to help you write the résumé. However, other organizations — including the Marathon County Job Center — are available for that purpose. Once your résumé is finished, though, we can help you save it to a USB drive or temporarily on our computer, show you how to email it to an employer or to yourself for later use, and also help you upload a résumé to an application or employer’s site if needed.
If you’d like to learn more about using computers, our staff is happy to help you with that via several offerings we can point you toward.
- Computer Classes — Our libraries offer classes from time to time about computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel. Check out our event calendar to see what classes might be coming down the pike.
- One-on-One Technology Assistance — If you have questions about a specific program, social media platform (e.g., Facebook), or website, or questions about using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, we also offer one-on-one technology assistance (sometimes during walk-in hours and sometimes by appointment). Times and locations can be viewed at: https://www.mcpl.us/research/on-site/technology-assistance.
- Video Tutorials — We frequently point patrons toward websites like the one run by the Goodwill Community Foundation that offers tutorials not only on Microsoft Office programs, but also basic tutorials on keyboard typing and using a computer mouse, as well as social media. Another great resource is Techboomers.com that has tutorials on popular websites like Facebook and eBay, as well as information on internet safety and privacy.
Computer Safety & Privacy
One final note on safety and privacy when using computers and Wi-Fi at the library . . .
Patrons frequently ask whether it’s safe to make credit card purchases on our computers or whether one person connected to Wi-Fi can see what someone else is looking at when they’re connected to Wi-Fi.
As a county department, we take the security and privacy of our patrons seriously. We have multiple filters and firewalls set up to block malicious or suspicious activity on both our desktop computers and via Wi-Fi, plus MCPL has all of our internet browsers set to “private” so that once patrons log out of our computers, the entire history of their time on the internet — including all of the websites they visited — is wiped clean.
The Bottom Line . . .
Your local public library is one of the few places — maybe even the only place — in your community that offers you free use of computers and free help using them. That’s part of our mission to serve the public, and we want to help people in our communities increase their knowledge of computers and technology.
Some people have no interest in using computers, and that’s just fine. But for everyone else, we’re happy to help if we can, so come on by!
Holiday Hours & Programming
All MCPL locations will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We’ll also close at 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve and we’ll be closed New Year’s Day.
Other than that, we’ll be open during schools’ winter break if you and/or your young ones want to use a computer, pick up some movies or books, or attend a program!
Here are a few MCPL events happening during the winter break:
- The Magic of Dr. Seuss — Celebrate the world of Dr. Seuss with Magic Bob and his assistant, Lynn, as they bring some of Seuss’ enchanting characters and wacky words to life. Audience participation is encouraged! Wednesday, December 26, 10:30–11:30 a.m. @ MCPL Wausau
- Family Film Friday: “Pete’s Dragon” — Go on a fantastical film journey with this 2016 remake of the Disney original, in which an orphan boy named Pete lives in the woods with his dragon friend, Elliot. Rated PG, with a running time of 102 min. Friday, December 28, 2 p.m. @ MCPL Wausau
- New Year’s Eve Toddler Dance Party! — We’ll start with movement-themed stories and dancing (possibly including fun props like scarves, bubbles, and a parachute!). We’ll celebrate the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 with more dancing and a balloon drop! NOTE: We’ll be using latex balloons, in case your little one has an allergy. Monday, December 31, from 11–11:30 a.m. @ MCPL Wausau
Other programming at our 9 MCPL locations for December and January can be found on our Events page.
We hope to see you at the library — on or off a computer!
Library Specialist | Marathon County Public Library
Chad Dally is a library specialist with the Marathon County Public Library, where he’s worked since 2012. He splits his time at the library between reference and programming, and generally prefers to read nonfiction over fiction. He’s heard chickens are smart, but the small brood he keeps at home provides evidence to the contrary. Email Chad Dally
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