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Brewton Public Library given grant by Bill Gates

By By ANNA M. LEE Assistant Editor
Brewton Public Library has been selected as one of 54 libraries in Alabama to be given a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The "Staying Connected" grant is intended for the upgrade and replacement of computers in Alabama libraries.
The grant will provide a total of $248,400 for Alabama libraries, to be matched by $124,200 from Library Services Technology Act, Beaumont Foundation and state funds, said Marie Groark, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spokesperson.
Alabama was the first state chosen to participate in the program in 1995, Walker said.
In mid-January, the library will submit a survey of the present condition of its computer equipment, and in mid-February Walker will attend a meeting in Montgomery to learn more details about using the grant, she said.
The Brewton Public Library currently has 24 computers, of varying age.
Library patrons most commonly use the library's computers to check email, search for jobs and browse the Internet, Walker said.
The Brewton Public Library will open its new Activity Learning Center on Jan. 20.
The library recently bought two new computers and several educational software programs through a "Children at Risk" grant for Small Library Development.
The grant was made up of $3,761 in federal funds, Walker said. This grant, combined with funding from United Way and the City of Brewton, allowed the purchase of the new computers and software.
The new software for adults includes programs for resume writing tips, job skills necessary in today's work force, as well as Internet access to job opportunities. Educational software is available for parents and their preschoolers to get a basic knowledge of what is expected when their child enters school. Jump Start software is available for babies, toddlers and students up to age 12.
Though the library's computer system is improving, Walker has a wish list for new technology that would benefit the library and its patrons.
"I would like to one day see the library wireless since that's the way technology is going," Walker said. "That's my hope for the future. But I know tomorrow there will be something newer and more exciting.
Another useful service now being offered by the Brewton Public Library is introductory computer classes.
Almost 40 people have registered for the classes so far, and they will be offered twice on Tuesdays and twice on Thursdays.