Maybe you're having trouble finding your way at the edge of the digital divide. Maybe you consider yourself seriously tech-savvy, but realize you've barely tapped the power of the supercomputer you carry around in your pocket or backpack - or just received as a holiday gift.
No matter your needs, the Free Library of Philadelphia may have the answer: guidance from one of its "gadget gurus," a service inaugurated a year ago that proved so popular it never ended.
Though Jan. 3, the library's E-Gadget Holiday Help Desk will offer its services for four hours each weekday at the Parkway Central Library at 1901 Vine St. After that, help will be offered every Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m.
The gadget gurus don't take appointments or wear hip T-shirts - this isn't the Apple store's Genius Bar. But the idea is much the same, except that you don't have to own the fanciest new iPhone or iPad to qualify for aid.
In fact, the gadget gurus are mostly ordinary library staffers with some special skills and training. When hundreds of people showed up seeking help last year after Christmas, the library realized it had identified a crucial resource - even if it sometimes just involved teaching people how to wake up a sleepy device.
It's common for the gadget gurus to field very basic inquiries, such as " 'I've never used a computer before,' " gadget guru Loren Groenendaal told me recently. "Some people might need step-by-step directions."
Groenendaal fields similar questions as a digital resource specialist at one of the library system's four Hot Spots. One of her job's privileges is being able to introduce novice owners to the vast array of material a new gadget suddenly puts at their fingertips - especially at the Free Library, the city's largest provider of free public WiFi.
Want to read a book on a smartphone or a laptop?
You don't need an official "e-reader" - your computer or smartphone works almost as well. Any Android or iOS device, for instance, can read e-books via a Kindle app. And most of the library's digitized books are offered in formats readable by other devices, such as Sony readers, BlackBerrys, or Windows phones.
Want to borrow a book without leaving home?
The library says it offers more than 80,000 titles in electronic formats. Some are available on limited-duration loan, just like physical books - borrowed via an app called OverDrive. Others, such as more than 34,000 public-domain titles digitized by Project Gutenberg, are available in open-source formats such as EPUB.
Want to listen to music or audiobooks?
The Free Library offers access to more than 9,000 downloadable audiobooks and a growing collection of streamable music - "hundreds of thousands of pieces in many genres," the library says.
Groenendaal and her fellow gadget guru, Jennifer Donsky, the library's public services technology coordinator, say visitors ask a vast range of questions but also benefit by hearing of things that they didn't know to ask about.
For instance, many e-reader formats allow type sizes to be changed, which can turn any book into a large-print book suitable for someone with poor eyesight. "You might not know that that's possible, or you might not know how to do it," Donsky says. Either way, the library patron leaves better off.
And even the tech-savviest can benefit from learning more about how the Free Library, like its leading counterparts around the country, is reinventing itself as a disseminator of all sorts of digital data.
The Free Library says patrons can access about 150 databases "that will help them learn a new language, research their family history, or undertake market research for their new business idea."
The E-Gadget Helpdesk, in the Central Library's lobby, will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. this Thursday and Friday, and the same hours next Monday, Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday, New Year's Eve, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, call 215-686-5415.