Don’t expect Morgan Simmons to come floating out of the clouds holding an umbrella like Mary Poppins.
The library tech expert can help you learn how to use cloud technology, however.
It’s his ability to troubleshoot that has the Rev. Matt Deal likening Simmons to Disney’s popular nanny.
“He is the Mary Poppins of technology. He comes in and makes it all go well,” Deal said.
Simmons’ work at the Mary S. Biesecker Public Library in Somerset is helping to bring the facility into the digital age.
“I am a problem-solver on many fronts,” said Simmons, 41, a Somerset native. He went to Carnegie Mellon University for mechanical engineering but has developed a knack for technological tasks.
In 2014 he started volunteering at the library, fixing computer problems involving internet connectivity and other concerns. Next he secured a grant that upgraded the computer network. Now he is on the staff, working to bring an elevator to the building and a solar project online — that’s when he’s not teaching classes that help people better use their computers, tablets and smartphones.
A common thing he hears: “I don’t know how to use this.”
“He has been a great resource at the library on improvements,” Deal, pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Somerset, said. Simmons has helped troubleshoot a few problems for the church.
Deal is also president of the library’s board of directors.
“He is very good at reaching out in the community; he is real community minded,” Deal said.
Once a month Simmons blocks several days off to tutor community members on how to better use their technology. Some people simply don’t know how to use a cellphone. Others want to know how to maximize their device’s potential.
“A lot of times I don’t know what the answers are,” Simmons said. But he is willing to sit down and work through the concerns with the people who visit the library. The collaboration often results in a fix. He has helped about 250 people through this effort since starting the classes. He is taking what he has learned to other organizations. That’s part of the reason he was traveling to Laurel Arts on Aug. 29. Laurel Arts is one of the nonprofits he is working with on technology initiatives.
En route, he was hit by a vehicle while riding his bike on West Patriot Street. Fortunately, he is on the mend, he said. He is wearing a neck brace while recovering from an injury. He didn’t dwell on the accident or the discomfort it produced while being interviewed Wednesday at the library, and was eager to talk about the facility’s future.
Simmons envisions the library as a resource for organizations and businesses to learn how to navigate the ever-evolving digital world. Simmons helped the library move its book catalog and membership information to the cloud. He said other organizations can better network their servers in a way that allows volunteers and people without advanced technical knowledge to keep them running, especially when problems arise.
“Libraries have always been a hub of information,” Simmons said, referencing the hundreds of books around him. “They used to be the only hub for information.”
But technology has made data accessible at the fingertip.
Simmons said the library can be a hub of understanding, a liaison between a complex, technological world, and the people, organizations and businesses that are trying to operate in it.
He also finds value in self-improvement. Part of Simmons’ classes deal with Grow With Google, a free offering by the tech giant that helps people find jobs and improve skills, and offers help for veterans, among other initiatives.
Simmons hasn’t forgotten his engineering background while completing his digital endeavors. The library was built in the 1940s, so there are some practical improvements that need to be made, including an elevator to help people get from floor to floor. He said that project should be started later this year.
Another project on the docket is unique. Simmons said the library is seeking grant money and will be holding fundraisers to put a raised solar panel system over the parking lot.
These projects will make the facility more accessible and energy efficient.
“These are some of the concerns that are 75 years in the making,” he said.
Few things remain unchanged by technology. All of the millions of words held in the library’s books used to be accessible only by reading the volumes on the shelves.
Simmons said the books will remain available, but the library must diversify to stay relevant. For Simmons, that means introducing people to the artificial intelligence used in their smartphones or helping them save money on their cellphone bills.
It could also mean helping an elderly person set up their printer.
“He gives of himself,” Deal said of Simmons.