Money will come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will be administered through PALINET, a Philadelphia-based regional library network.
When local public libraries receive the money sometime next year, computers will be purchased.
The Gates Foundation has announced that $8.3 million is available for libraries in 10 states, including Pennsylvania. Local contributions must match the grants, said Ann Yurcaba, PALINET chief program officer.
Local matches must be 25 percent for the first year of the program and 50 percent for the second year, according to Yurcaba.
For instance, if a library gets a $4,000 grant, $2,000 of it will be bestowed the first year of the program, and the remaining $2,000 will be given the second year. The library would have to contribute $500 the first year and $1,000 the second year.
The money mainly will be used for computer terminals, according to Yurcaba, but also for peripherals, such as printers, maintenance and training.
“The idea is for libraries to continue to maintain the computers over time,” she said.
PALINET provides leadership consultation, Yurcaba said, but will not consume any of the grant money.
At the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport, Assistant Director Jeffrey Swope said the library plans to purchase 13 computers.
The allocation amount each library receives, according to Swope, is based on factors including local poverty level, age of current computers and size of the library’s service.
Hopefully, grant money will be received sometime this spring, Swope said.
“We are interested and filed an initial request to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Jean Reeder, librarian of the Dr. W.B. Konkle Memorial Library in Montoursville. “We think we can meet their obligations.”
The Konkle Library request is for three computers, according to Reeder.
Barbara Weaver, a librarian at the Jersey Shore Public Library, said that location will not participate in the program. She cited concern for paying the local grant match and a lack of sufficient square footage at the library building for more computers.
With county assistance, the library acquired two more computers for educational games and installed them last week in the children’s room, Weaver said. This initiative did not involve the Gates Foundation, she said.
The Hughesville Area Public Library plans to pursue at least one desktop and one laptop computer through the Gates program, Librarian Lena Carichner said. The library only has table space for one more desktop computer.
Although there are peaks and valleys in computer usage, Carichner said there are times when all of the library’s public-use computers are being used.
The Muncy Public Library Board still is weighing the decision, according to Librarian Laurie Cressman, but the acquisition of two computers is being considered. How many of each computer type to get through the Gates program also needs to be determined.
“We’re looking at laptops, maybe,” Cressman said. “Or, maybe a regular desktop.”
The Montgomery Area Public Library won’t participate in the Gates initiative.
Although “nice, state-of-the-art computers” are attainable, Assistant Librarian Cynthia Bryan said, “we’d have to spend too much money.”
The libraries that do decide to participate in the program decide which brands of computers to buy, said Jill Nishi, program manager of the Gates Foundation U.S. Libraries Initiative. No preference is shown to specific companies.
Created about a decade ago, the initiative’s concept is to provide computer access to people, regardless of socio-economic level, Nishi said.
“All people should have access to the library,” Nishi said. “Public libraries deliver them opportunities to get online.”