Library Initiative Will Increase Digital Access in Horry County

CONWAY, S.C. - (Oct. 7, 2009) - Horry County Memorial Library will replace 151 outdated computers in its nine libraries and purchase 27 Net Book laptop computers in order to expand digital access for residents. The upgrade is possible thanks to a $150,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“This is a huge announcement for Horry County,” stated Clifton Boyer, Horry County Memorial Library Director. “Our library system has emerged into a community computing center for citizens and visitors who do not have access to the Internet or computers and who have relied on this vital service that we are able to offer.”

The grant - as well as a $65,000 grant to the city of Myrtle Beach’s Chapin Memorial Library - is part of a $3.3 million Knight Foundation initiative benefiting library users in 12 communities across the United States. The effort 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. The Knight commission, which issued a report Oct. 2 available at http://report.knightcomm.org, argues that the lack of equal access to quality information threatens democracy in America. It recommends funding public libraries as centers of digital and media training.

“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 Susan Patterson, Myrtle Beach 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.”

At the Horry County Memorial Library, the computers have handled more than 290,000 computer sessions from all the branch locations over the past year. The current computers are well over five years old and use an operating system that does not allow the user to take full advantage of the Internet and productivity software. The new computers will use the “flex computing” model, which reduces the cost from roughly $1,200 to $400 per unit. Each computer station will have a flex box, which will have its own monitor, keyboard and USB connections. However, they will all operate under one main server, which reduces labor costs for maintenance. Also, only one license agreement will need to be purchased.

The additional 27 Net Book laptop computers will allow patrons to access computers via Wi-Fi that is available in all branch locations and increase the amount of people that can access the Internet at one time. The laptops will give patrons more flexibility to collaborate in work areas where computer access is not available. Twelve of these laptops will be set aside to create a mobile computing lab that can be used for programming and library instruction off-site, i.e. a community center.

The flex computing system will take at least one day per library branch to be installed and will likely take place after-hours so the day-to-day functions of the libraries will not be interrupted. It is anticipated that all the computers will be replaced by Spring 2010.

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.

See Knight's Library Initiative

Media Contacts:

  • Lisa H. Bourcier, PIO, 843-915-5390, E-mail: bourcier@horrycounty.org
  • Susan Patterson, Knight Foundation Myrtle Beach Program Director, (704) 973-4566 or (764) 271-6631, patterson@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.