Kenai Community Library patrons will have some newer, faster and more versatile computers at their disposal later this year, courtesy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The foundation provides funding for computers in public libraries across the country on a state-by-state basis. Alaska received one of the state grants, and the Kenai library has been chosen to benefit as well -- to the tune of a $16,895. The money will be used to purchase four new public access computers, a server and new software.
"It's going to be very useful," said Library Director Ewa Jankowska. "What we have right now is much, much slower."
The grant stipulates what kind of computers and software are purchased, so the library doesn't have much say in that matter.
"We got the money, but we cannot make any choices," Jankowska said. "They tell us what to buy and where to buy it from. We get what they will assign to us."
Even if the library can't choose for itself what it gets, Jankowska said the computers will be up to date so the technology will be a boon.
"(Patrons) will have access to more information and reference information and the computers will be faster," she said.
The four new computers will be Gateways and replace old computers that have become too outdated -- one at the children's work station, one in the genealogy room and two reference computers.
Jankowska isn't sure yet what kind of software the library will get for the grant, but she expects there will be reference programs, like a dictionary and encyclopedia program, as well as Microsoft Office.
The library already has Microsoft Word on its computers but hasn't been able to afford Microsoft Office in the past, she said.
Beyond that, it will be a happy surprise to see what other programs will be coming.
"Maybe we'll get some educational games for children," Jankowska said. "We have them now on CD-ROMs but it takes forever for a child to access them because the technology is so old."
The software will be put on the new server so the programs will be accessible on all of the new computers. Jankowska hopes to license the programs so they can be used on the public access computers the library already has as well.
The Kenai library just recently has been awarded the money, so it will take a while for the computers, server and software to arrive and be installed and for the staff to be trained to operate them. Jankowska estimated the computers will be available for public use this summer.
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