published Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Polk library grant to add computers

By Paul Leach

DUCKTOWN, Tenn. — The East Polk Library in Ducktown is receiving $11,311 as part of a combined federal and state initiative to provide Internet access and computer job training to Tennessee’s rural county libraries.

The Secretary of State, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development pooled resources last summer to provide $1.2 million to 76 libraries in 60 counties.

“When people have trouble getting Internet connections or cannot afford a home computer, our public library fills a void,” state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, said in a news release.

The money will go toward buying and installing six or seven laptop computers and up to 60 hours of computer skills training, said Arthur Bigham, vice chairman of the county’s library board.

The East Polk Library will be part of the first wave of Tennessee libraries to receive computers and peripherals, said library board Chairman Roger Mayer.

The library ultimately will receive more than $16,000 in Internet and technology grants, according to Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the Tennessee secretary of state office. The USDA is expected to contribute $4,765 in addition to funds already received, he said.

The library’s board also has requested a monitored security system to protect the new computers. Mayer wrote in a letter to county commissioners that an electronic surveillance system could be purchased for a $129.95 installation charge and a $24.95 monthly fee with a three-year contract. Such a system would reduce the library’s insurance costs, he said.

The library board has asked commissioners to increase the weekly operating hours for both the East and West Polk libraries to 24 hours. Mayer’s letter cited a library survey completed at both branches in which 86 percent of respondents requested more hours.

Neither library now operates more than 20 hours per week. Neither is open in the evenings or on Saturday or Sunday.

“In this economy, we’ve got to be realistic about what we can expect the county can do,” Mayer said. “Still, if you don’t ask, you don’t receive.”

Polk County Commission Chairman John Pippenger said the library budget request tentatively is scheduled for review on Monday.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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