147 libraries to receive new computers, laptops


November 10th, 2010

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147 libraries in Nebraska will be receiving new computers, awarded from a federal grant (Photo courtesy Ammodramus, Wikimedia Commons)

State officials are looking to libraries to improve community access to technology. $3.6 million in funding from the federal government and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is going toward increasing the number of public computers hooked up to broadband Internet.

147 libraries in 140 communities across the state will be getting new computers, laptops, and high-speed Internet connections as part of a broadband expansion program in the federal Recovery Act. Rod Wagner is Director of the Nebraska Library Commission. He said the goal is to open up access to education, health information, and government services online. He also hopes it means fewer people miss out on job opportunities they could find on the web.

“People who may be unemployed, low income people… a number of factors affect a person’s ability to have access to online services,” he said. “Libraries are a place where people can have access to this technology, whatever need they may have. From looking for a job to taking a course from a community college or doing homework after school.”

In Arapahoe, in south central Nebraska, the library will receive three new desktop computers and a laptop. Cheryl Ahrens (AIR-ens) is Director of the Arapaho Public Library.

“We have three at the present time, and they all three are busy all of the time,” she said. “Some actually do come in to type up resumes and apply for jobs online. It’s amazing how many jobs anymore you do all of that online and people need training in that, especially older people and sometimes even younger ones who don’t have access to the computers.”

Ahrens said around 200 people use the library every week in Arapahoe. She said she believes libraries can be information centers for small communities.

“A library is and can be the hub of a community and probably by rights should be,” she said. “That’s where you go for any kind of information you might want, be it for recreation or for your job or just for information.”

About two-thirds of the funding comes from the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The rest is from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation which is also providing training for library workers and patrons.

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