Remsen Public Library patrons have quicker access to the Internet and computer programs, thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The library received $4,785 from the foundation to help fund the new technology. Former Remsen resident Craig Arnold is the Director of the U.S. Library Program for the Gates Foundation and was in Remsen to assist with the installation.
The library was closed Sept. 18 and 19 for installation of two computers and the training for library staff, according to Peg Wurth, Remsen librarian.
Wurth and staff members Valerie Loutsch and Rita Nuebel received training on the Gateway E series computers, which have a Windows 2000 Professional operating system.
The computers are equipped with a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, a floppy drive and zip drive, enabling users to save their work to a variety of storage devices.
The computers are programmed so that no user-generated documents will be saved to the computer's 120 GB hard drive.
Software includes Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft Office 2000 Premium, Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2003, Microsoft MapPoint 2003, a mouse tutorial, Magic School Bus in Concert, Magic School Buss Discover Flights, Magic School Lands on Mars, Magic School Bus Explores the Ocean, a mouse tutorial and Gateway tutorials. The system also has a Hewlett-Packard 4200N printer.
"Remsen Public Library offers all community members free access to a world of learning through computers and the Internet," said Wurth. "These computers are available for everyone to use, whether they want to search the Internet for health information, send an e-mail, or use a word processing program to create a resume."
The grant funded one complete computer system, the Remsen Library board funded the purchase of a second computer.
"This is a great addition for the community," said Arnold, both of the grant award and the board's initiative in purchasing a second computer. "The object of the foundation is to increase equity in access for all residents."
The foundation offers the technology, training and support to equip eligible libraries with computer systems for accessibility for residents.
"These computers are designed for multi-users," Arnold continued. In addition to the on-site training for library personnel, the Gates Foundation offers a set of training companion manuals for the staff. Technical support is just a phone call away, he continued.
In Iowa, the Gates Foundation has installed 950 personal computers in 375 library buildings with $3.8 million in grants.
The Internet bookmarks are loaded with several favorites such as health, sports, and information categories. Only library staff members can set up additional "favorites" as they are requested. The DSL connection gives patrons instant Internet access.
"We have safe guards built in so all programs are protected," Wurth continued.
Library patrons were able to see the new computers, installed in small rooms on either side of the library entrance, at an open house last Friday.
"The foundation's U.S. Library Program was started five years ago with a simple premise: A society can't have equal opportunity if it doesn't have equal access to information. Our goal was 'if you could reach the library, you could reach the Internet'," said Arnold. "Today, nearly all public libraries offer free access to computers and the Internet. For people who cannot afford computers or do not have Internet access at school or at work, the public library might be the only place to go."
"Public libraries offer a place where anyone -- no matter how much he or she earns, or where he or she lives -- can use the latest technology to improve their lives and their communities," said Wurth.
During the installation, the old computers used by patrons were removed. "The trainers have given us several ideas for new uses for the old computers within the library," said Wurth.
The new computers in Remsen mark a significant milestone for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation has worked in partnership with public libraries since 1997 to help them provide free computing services. By the end of 2003, the foundation will have installed more than 40,000 computers in 10,000 libraries in all 50 states. The Remsen Public Library is the last library in the 50th state to receive this type of grant from the foundation.