A reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4, at the Prendergast Library will mark the opening of a new public computer center dedicated to helping area residents enhance job and computer skills.
The Prendergast Library is one of 30 libraries and five mobile training centers across the state selected to create a public computer center through a project called Broadbandexpress@yourlibrary. The Dunkirk Free Library and Olean Public Library are also participating.
The state Education Department has been awarded $9.5 million in a matching grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration to expand computer access in public libraries across New York state. The funding is being provided through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.
Bobbie Caswell, Prendergast Library reference librarian at right, demonstrates updated software features for Karen Golden, Prendergast Library circulation supervisor, in the new public computer center at Prendergast Library.
Broadbandexpress@yourlibrary will enable the State Library and its public library partners to provide more than 860 computers estimated to serve an additional 50,000 users per week over the next two years.
The goal is to help low-income, unemployed, underemployed and other vulnerable populations cope with economic difficulties. Centers are expected to provide high-speed Internet service and digital literacy training programs for their communities. At the Prendergast Library, the new computer center upstairs includes 16 public work stations with resume software, a color scanner, laser printer, digital cameras and webcams.
"We expect to add videoconferencing capability during Year 2 of the project," said Catherine Way, library director.
The library will also continue to offer public access computers on the main floor to meet the need for basic Internet access, e-mail and word processing. The library is adding new books, DVDs, and digital audiobooks on topics such as writing resumes, conducting interviews and organizing a job search. Users will also have access to databases with career information.
Classes about job and computer skills will be offered at the library by instructors from Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES and Jamestown Community College.
"The Public Computing Centers, funded and supported under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), are designed to bring the fruits of high-speed connectivity to everyone. Many parts of New York State will, for the first time, be able to experience the bounty of communications and content available online," said Bernard A. Margolis, state librarian and assistant commissioner for libraries.
Margolis called the PCCs "a primary outpost for free public access to a wide array of broadband services" and said the libraries hosting them "will continue their critical role as a hub for community life and service."
According to David Steiner, state education commissioner, "The increased broadband capacity, training and online resources funded through this grant will provide more New Yorkers with access to essential online information for work, healthcare, education and citizenship as well as E-government resources."
For more information about the new public computer center at Prendergast Library, call 484-7135, ext. 225, or visit www.prendergastlibrary.org. The library is located at 509 Cherry St., Jamestown.