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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Gates Computers

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lots of new public computers have been appearing around the library system.


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing funds to about one-fourth of Ohio’s public libraries for technology, and we are using the funds to replace computers at 6 of our 7 buildings.


The Gates Foundation has made it clear that this will be the end of their ten-year commitment to public libraries in the United States as they shift their philanthropy to other efforts.


Library branches in Adena, Dillonvale, Tiltonsville, and Brilliant had all of their public computers replaced, and the Toronto Branch and Main Library had some computers replaced.


Everything is now flat screen technology, which is easier to see and takes less power for the library to provide.


Other public computers at the Main Library had their hard drives replaced and upgraded.


So what happened to our Schiappa Branch?  It did not meet the requirements for the Gates Grant, but application has been made to the State Library of Ohio for replacement of the public computers.


This round of grants is requiring a larger local match.  In 2001, the Gates Grants were 100 percent to the library, but this round requires 25-50 percent match from the library system.


The usage of the library’s public computers continues to grow.  To use the computers, the library requires a library card and agreement for use of those computers.


During the first two months of this year, we added over 300 new people to the computer use agreement.


We are seeing more people discontinue Internet services in their homes due to the economy, and they turn to the public library for Internet access.


Aging computers in the home are not being replaced, software upgrades are not being done, and access to the Internet is being lost to many people.


All of our libraries have wireless connections, allowing the public to bring their laptops to the library to access the Internet.


Visitors to our area come to the library to use the Internet to access e-mail, and stay connected to their local office.


The most common use of the library computers is access to e-mail.


That is followed by job searches; resume production and transmission, research and consumer issues, and finding directions for travel.


Actually, the list is endless.  The Internet opens the world for information, and when combined with being at the library with other resources and real humans to help, it is no wonder the library is the perfect place for the Internet.


The library system pays $ 3,000 per month for just the basic Internet access using state contracts, and when the cost for servers and traffic controllers are added, it is an expensive service of the library.


Flash drives, and discs, printing and faxing, databases and online catalogs have changed the look of your local public library forever.


Unlike other agencies, the public library is open to all.  No prerequisites or requirements to use the library, no income level, age, or vocational requirements.


And above all, public libraries are still staffed with people to interact with the public unlike so much in our society today.


And all you need is your library card.