High-tech mobile library brings free broadband access - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

High-tech mobile library brings free broadband access

Press Release 

COLUMBUS, GA -  Thanks to a $258,400 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries (CVL) will launch a high-tech mobile library in early 2011, bringing free broadband technology to residents of three rural counties.

"This mobile library will make it possible to take library services to where they are needed most," said Abbie Dillard, Chair, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries Board of Trustees.  "Those most challenged by the digital divide will receive access to services necessary for the improvement of their lives."

With one of its bookmobiles on its last wheel, CVL needed to find a way to expand services to benefit underserved communities by targeting rural areas with limited access to library branches and existing broadband technology.

"Digital access is essential to first class citizenship in our society.  Without digital, you lack full access to information; you are second class economically and even socially," said Beverly Blake, Program Director for Knight Foundation.  "While the mobile library will benefit families and individuals, the staff of CVL will also benefit as they learn more about the people they serve and how CVL can provide those customers access to computers, the Internet and materials that they wouldn't otherwise be able to obtain."

The CVL is an eight-branch system that serves four counties - Muscogee, Chattahoochee, Marion and Stewart. 

Though many residents already have easy access to a neighborhood branch, there are those with limited public transportation which makes it difficult to get to the libraries.

  "The number one need for Marion County is transportation," says Marion County Commissioner Kevin Brown.  "Having a mobile library that can travel to outlying areas will serve a great need in those communities and reach a far greater number of children and teens.The library is one of our greatest resources and it is sad that so many members of our community are unable to enjoy the services the library provides because of their lack of transportation."

So what will this new mobile library look like?  It will provide all the amenities found in the traditional "brick and mortar" libraries, including six computers that will connect to the Internet via satellite uplink.

The mobile library will offer a complete range of library products and programs that will now include Internet access for research, online-only job applications, school work and GED classes, tax assistance, voter registration, computer training, and filing for services such as unemployment benefits and other private and public programs.

In addition, this new mobile library will be stationed deeper in the rural communities for longer periods of time than a traditional bookmobile and will look and feel similar to a library branch. 

It will become a destination and remain in specific locations for three hours, allowing customers adequate time to complete their task, whatever their particular need may be.

In addition, the mobile library will allow customers the same access that other libraries offer, such as book reservations, computerized catalog searches, checking out books, CDs and DVDs, programs for children and adults and more.  "Stationing it for three-hour blocks will also extend library service hours in each community," said Dillard, the CVL Board Chair. 

The grant to CVL is part of a $5.7 million Knight Foundation initiative benefiting library users in 20 communities across the United States.  The effort reinforces the sweeping recommendations by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, a project of the Aspen Institute.

In a report issued earlier this year, the Commission asserted that democracy in America is threatened by the lack of equal access to quality information. 

Funding public libraries, as centers of digital and media training, is one key to filling the gaps, the commission says.  Its report is available at www.knightcomm.org

Source: www.ChattahoocheeValleyLibraries.org

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