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Grant gives St. John 11 new library computers

DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / August 12, 1998

LAPLACE – If you can get to your local library you’re just a hop and a jump from the information superhighways thanks to a $7.25 million grant to theState Library of Louisiana from the Gates Library Foundation and Microsoft and Corbis.

Access to the internet is now available to all residents of the River Parishes as GLF kicks off its Louisiana Libraries Connect project. Lastweek 11 new computers went online at the four branches of the St. JohnParish Library as part of the project which will provide computers, technical assistance and training to every library in the state.

Installation and staff training is being conducted by Technology Resources Institute of Seattle under contract with GLF.

St. John Parish Library director Randy DeSoto said, “It is a massive effortto bring internet access to citizens of the state, whether in cities, towns or rural areas where it would not have been possible without the leadership and coordination of the State Library of Louisiana.”In addition to internet access, the grant also provides word processing software donated by Microsoft and several other programs, including Magic Schoolbus for children.

Eric Holt, systems librarian for St. John Parish who is in charge ofcomputer applications for the system, said demand for the service is very high from a wide variety of people.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” Holt said. “It’s exciting to be able to providethis excellent service for our patrons.”The computers will be available for use during library hours to patrons of all ages. Computer time will be limited to two consecutive half-hoursessions, but sessions can be extended if no one is waiting to use the system. Some internet access is restricted by state laws controlling theuse of the internet in public buildings.

Holt said he will be scheduling free internet classes for patrons in the near future.

The Gates Library Foundation was founded in June 1997 by Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates and his wife Melinda to partner with public libraries in bringing access to computers and digital technology to patrons in low-income communities across the United States and Canada.

Gates said he believes “everyone – regardless of age, income or education – should have access to knowledge and information. By training locallibrarians and providing needed resources throughout the state, we can make a world of information available to even the smallest library.”

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