Franklin County Library Receives Grant To Improve Computer And Internet Services
Franklin County Library System received a $27,300 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to replace and increase public computer workstations for its patrons. The foundation's Opportunity Online hardware grant program is designed to help the library provide free access to computers for library patrons long into the future.
In order to receive the funds, Franklin County Library System was required to match a portion of the funds given by the Gates Foundation. The Grove Friends applied for and received a grant for $2,500 from the Franklin County Foundation for Grove Family Library computers and Antrim Township gave a grant for $4,000 for Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library computers. The .2 mil local tax increase helped create the additional matching funds needed.
While nearly all public libraries in the United States now offer free computer and Internet services, 40 percent report that they are not able to successfully maintain quality technology services for their patrons. This grant allows up to $2,600 per workstation to be spent over a period of four years. The Franklin County Library System was able to purchase four new computers per library for Grove Family Library, Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library, Coyle Free Library and St. Thomas Library. Most of the initial purchases in 2008 were to replace computers that were more than 5 years old. Some of the grant money was also used to purchase eight laptops for a mobile computer lab that will be up and running by the end of 2008.
Another interesting aspect of the Opportunity Online grant is that all of money does not have to be used in one year and can be used for more than computer purchases.
The grant also provided a special professional development symposium for local library staff from the region. The symposium trained library professionals in the skills they need to build partnerships, work with their local leaders and reach out to their communities to secure stable funding and services.
The Opportunity Online hardware grant program is offered by the Gates Foundation's U.S. Libraries initiative, which seeks to help libraries maintain quality, free access to computers and the Internet for people in need. This will be its last grant program to support libraries with vulnerable computer services. Information about the foundation can be found at: www.gatesfoundation.org.