A new public-use computer lab will open Feb. 3 at the State Library and Archives, thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, officials said Thursday.
Ten Gateway computers with flat-panel display monitors are up and running in the south east corner of the building, 100 N. Stewart St., with an instructor's computer connected to a data projector.
The machines will help narrow the "digital divide," which limits access to technology along income lines, according to the Gates Foundation.
"This lab is for the public," said State Librarian Sara Jones. "Whether they are individuals interested in researching the Internet, sending an e-mail, or working on a word processor, or an organization who wants to conduct group training, we invite and encourage everyone to take advantage of this incredible resource."
On Thursday, Steve Shields and Wendy Wheeler, sent by the Gates Foundation, trained librarians from Lyon and Douglas counties in advanced PowerPoint techniques on the new machines. The computers, all Gateway machines with Pentium 4 processors, are on cherrywood tables moved from other areas in the library.
"They're gorgeous," said Phyllis Sargent, assistant administrator for the State Library and Archives. The Gates Foundation grant comes complete with a printer and one year of technical support.
The Gates Foundation will have given about $250 million worth of public-access equipment to some 10,000 libraries in all 50 states by the end of the year.
All the library had to buy was a collapsible wall to enclose groups using the machines for training and some of the wires needed for set-up, Sargent said.
Also included in the package is a set of durable, plastic "quick guides" in English and Spanish for each computer. They cover topics ranging from computer basics to creating a Web site with the "Front Page" program.
"This is very suitable for training," said Sargent of the guides. "I can photocopy these and hand them out in a class."
The library's computer specialist, Annie Kelley, made a trip to Seattle for special training offered by the foundation. She learned the basics of setting the machines up and trouble-shooting them.
"If she runs into any trouble, she can call technical support, which we have for a year," said Sargent.
The library's current computer lab, six older Dells, is usually full of users, Sargent Said.
ON THE NET
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: www.gatesfoundation.org
Call State Library and Archives at 684-3313