Digital Access Will Expand At All Wichita Library Branches

Effort Reinforces the Findings of Blue-Ribbon Commission that Emphasizes the Importance of Libraries as Digital Centers

WICHITA, KAN. (Oct. 15, 2009) – More library visitors will be able to use the Internet and learn basic computer instruction thanks to a $122,500 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant is part of the foundation’s $3.3 million initiative to expand residents’ digital access by boosting libraries’ online capacity in 12 communities.  

The grant was announced today at the Westlink Branch of the Wichita Public Library. City Councilman Jeff Longwell, who serves District 5 where the branch is located, accepted the gift on behalf of the mayor and city.

“The goal of this grant – to help narrow the digital divide – is truly transformational,” Longwell said. “This is particularly needed during these tough economic times when an increasing number of residents need access to information and services that will help them manage the challenges and access the opportunities of global competition.”

“Libraries are the greatest providers of free Internet – offering residents access to the critical news and information they need to make decisions about their lives,” said Anne Corriston, program director for Knight Foundation. “Through this initiative, we hope to augment libraries’ roles as vital community centers while helping to create engaged and informed communities.”

The initiative reinforces the findings of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, which assessed how communities across the country receive news and information. In a report issued earlier this month, the blue-ribbon commission argues 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 key to filling gaps, the report, available at www.knightcomm.org, says.

Knight Foundation’s grant in Wichita will provide hardware, wireless Internet access at the Central Library in downtown Wichita as well as at library branches and computer literacy training for residents.

“When I announced this grant to the library branch managers and staff earlier this week, some of them were so thrilled to be receiving wireless Internet access that they gave Knight Foundation a standing ovation. That shows you how important and vital digital access is in our community,” Corriston said.

The following communities will receive grants: Aberdeen, S.D., Akron, Oh., Charlotte, N.C., Columbus, Ga., Detroit, Mi., Grand Forks, N.D., Lexington, Ky., Miami, Fla., Broward County, Fla., Milledgeville, Ga., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Tallahassee, Fla. and Wichita, Ks.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Contacts:

Marc Fest, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677; fest@knightfoundation.org or

Anne Corriston, Program Director/Wichita, 316-461-2004; corriston@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.