I spent many years at University training to provide library services and collections online. It’s exciting to take such a traditional profession and think about how to make it accessible to a whole new generation of technophiles. It is truly my life’s work. So, imagine my surprise two years ago, shortly after coming to Manchester, when my reply to the question “What is the biggest challenge facing libraries today?” did not involve IM or digitizing black & white photos. I said, with conviction, “providing stable computer and internet access to the public.”
There was a study released this week by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation finding that a full 1/3 of adults in this country use the computers available to them at public libraries. The story was even picked up by NH’s own, WMUR.
“Library technology services have created opportunity for millions of Americans, but public libraries struggle to replace aging computer workstations and increase the speed of their Internet connections,” said Allan Golston, president of the United States Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This is not big news to us here at MCL. Between 2006 and 2009 we have seen our computer usage increase a whopping 43%. In the same time span:
- we applied for and won an Opportunity Online grant to add six internet workstations between our two buildings,
- our Library Foundation provided the necessary matching funds for the grant and generously purchased new flat-screen monitors,
- thanks to Library Trustees and the Cote Family Estate, we invested in a more stable, easier to maintain system for public library computing to help with this demand,
- this year we are hosting a wonderful volunteer from the Americorp VISTA program to help prepare our staff to meet the demand of supporting folks using these technologies,
- we are working with the city’s Information Systems department to upgrade our network to allow faster connections and make more applications available to those using our workstations.
All-in-all we have been very fortunate to have wonderful partners who help us meet the needs of folks using computers and we all thank them, very deeply.