State College (January 20, 2011) High-speed Internet computing will be more readily available to Centre County residents, thanks to a $350,000 Knight Foundation grant that will improve Internet bandwidth and computing resources at the Centre County and Schlow Centre Region Libraries.
The grant will enhance Wi-Fi at all library locations; add 34 new computers at libraries; increase speed and connectivity, and expand workspaces and comfortable seating areas for library visitors. It will also create four satellite computing stations in remote areas of Centre County for those who live far from the libraries.
The Centre County Community Foundation will receive and distribute the funding.
“There is definitely great demand for public Internet access, and with this added workspace, we’ll be able to accommodate it,” said Lisa Erickson, director of the Centre County Libraries.
According to a Pew Research Center report, one third of Americans lack broadband Internet access at home. Residents who can’t get online face considerable challenges in completing job applications, unemployment and insurance claims, tax forms and training resources, as many are exclusively online.
“We hope to serve an additional 6,000 computer users a year through these county-wide improvements,” estimated Schlow Centre Region Library Director Catherine Alloway. “This grant will greatly improve the ability of county residents to get the information needed to improve their career, financial and personal success.”
The $350,000 grant is part of a $5.5 million Knight Foundation initiative benefiting library users in 20 communities across the United States.
“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 Jorge Martinez, director of information systems 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 effort reinforces the sweeping recommendations by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, a project of the Aspen Institute. In a report issued earlier this year, the Commission asserts 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 one key to filling the gaps, the commission says. Its report is available at www.knightcomm.org.
The growing need for internet access available through our libraries comes at a time when these libraries are experiencing severe budget constraints. “Obtaining support from a source such as Knight Foundation will inspire the development of a sustainable fund for our county libraries” said Alfred Jones, Jr, executive director of the Centre County Community Foundation.
About the Local Library System
The mission of the Centre County Federation of Public Libraries is to provide the best library service to every resident of Centre County. The Federation was created in 1990 to improve library services through coordinated efforts among the public libraries in Centre County.
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 informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
- Lisa Erickson from the Centre County Federation of Public Libraries
- Marc Fest, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677; firstname.lastname@example.org
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.