The constant flow of information through the Internet can be a useful tool in research for high school or college papers or for a person's own curiosity or for finding a job. Word processing is also useful for typing resumes and professional looking spread sheets. For ages, libraries have been thought of as a wealth of information and they still can be in combination with new technology and innovations.
Recently, public libraries in Oregon County received a LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) mini-grant for technology. The Institute of Museum and Library Services supports LSTA, and the Office of the Secretary of State administers it.
The first part of the grant, $18,626, was used at the two full-time libraries in Alton and Thayer. This money, which was awarded in late 2008, was used to update computers for the library patrons' use.
"We got all new computers," Judy Wright of the Alton Library said. "Our computers, for the most part, were over three years old. Of course, you know computers, you buy them one week and they're ready for an upgrade a week later."
The second part of the grant, $9,621, was awarded April 2009. This grant was used to update computers at the Koshkonong, Myrtle and Thomasville libraries.
"We thought it would be better to update the whole system (all computers in the Oregon County Library District) relatively close together (rather than) doing it piece meal, one or two here, one or two there," Wright said.
The old computers, Wright said, the libraries would sell to residents in the county, as is.
"We feel like we have a really outstanding library system," Wright said.
She said the library district is governed by a board, which is comprised of representatives from areas where the five Oregon County libraries are located.
Wright said the computers are used for a variety of purposes and all of them, according to law, have filters that block unwanted Web sites. "It's staggering how many people come in and use the computers. We have kids who come in and play games. We have kids who come in and do research. We have adults who do e-mail. It just kind of runs the gambet. We have college students come in who use the word processor to do papers," Wright said.
She said computer use is free, but if someone wants to print something the cost is $0.10 per page.
Janice Richardson, the Alton librarian, said an average of about 40 to 50 people use the computer lab per day.
"We have several college students who are using the computers here to do online classes and that kind of thing," Richardson said. She said there are also people who come in to look for jobs online.
Wright said the libraries were also able to purchase some laptops to loan out to people for in-library use. Wright said Richardson was able to write a grant for teen space, which is a sitting area for teenagers who want a quiet spot to read. She said some of them check out laptops and use them in the space.
"We're quite proud of what we've accomplished and what we've done," Wright said.
Library summer reading programs will be starting up soon. For more information about what is offered at your local library, give it a call.