Barry-Lawrence Library secures 26 new computers; Grant to replace outdated, broken units in seven branches

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

By Murray Bishoff

Cassville Democrat

Nearly 30 new computers will come to the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library over the summer.

With the use of a 25 percent local match and a purchasing agent for not-for-profit organizations, the library plans to replace and upgrade equipment.

According to Gina Milburn, library director, the local system secured a grant of federal money through the state under the Library Services and Technology Grant. The first attempt to get grant money for another need proved unsuccessful.

"We felt very fortunate," Milburn said. "We're one of only a handful of libraries to get a short-term technology ladder grant."

After adding a local match, the library sought bids for 26 desktop computers and equipment. Software Specialists Inc., of Monett, was the only company to submit a bid and got the job for $26,650. Arrangements were made to make the purchase through TechSoup, a vendor that provides equipment to not-for-profits at a reduced price.

Nine of the computers will go into library offices or for circulation. The remaining 17 will become public-use computers in the Monett, Cassville, Pierce City, Marionville, Mt. Vernon, Pierce City and Shell Knob branches.

"Cassville and Monett are getting the bulk of them," Milburn said. "Cassville has the most. Two of the computers in Monett no longer work. I know our customers will be thrilled."

The need for newer computers became pressing earlier this year, when Microsoft stopped supporting its Windows XP system. All of the computers due for replacement have either Windows XP or Windows Vista, outdated operating systems that will become irreparable in a breakdown. The new computers will have Microsoft Office 13 and a Windows 8 operating system, offering the latest options.

"These computers get a lot of use," Milburn said. "Patrons use them to write papers, take tests, prepare job applications, write email and spend a lot of time of Facebook.

"Social media is a big thing. Some even play games. We don't allow video streaming, though some of it goes on, because it's such a drain on the system due to the lines we have."

The first computers arrived Friday. After installing software and making library settings, Judy Wormington with Software Specialists will begin installing the first computers in Monett.

Milburn said the local firm can solve any challenges with the library's network through the Monett installation, then know the needed steps for the other branches. The Monett computers, Milburn hoped, would all go in place this month and hopefully the other branches would have theirs by the end of July.

Library technology specialist Leann Rosewicz said Wormington may place machines in branches that only need a single unit, like Pierce City, before tackling the bigger installations. The Aurora branch, because of network issues, will receive its computers last.

"We want our customers to fill out a survey to see if new computers will help them," Milburn said. "The link to the survey is in the right hand column of the library's webpage (at http://www2.youseemore.com/blrl). Once the computers are installed, we'd like everyone to do the survey again so we can compare. We need to justify what we're doing to show the grant was needed in the community."

As the library moves into the new fiscal year on July 1, Milburn plans to begin budgeting for the purchase of computer tablets for the entire library system.

"We're looking to jump into the fray with technology," Milburn added.

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