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Lockport, Nioga libraries planning programs to bridge digital divide

The Lockport Public Library and the Nioga Library System are investing in new programs to assist those being left behind by the computerization of society.

Both entities have received state grants to purchase laptops and make them available for use by individuals and for courses in computer literacy.

The Nioga system, which covers all public libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties, has purchased a cargo van and 15 laptops for a mobile computer lab, said Mary Zangerle, coordinator of "BTOP": "Better Technology, Onsite & Personal."

Jaclyn McLaughlin, project manager at the Lockport Library, 23 East Ave., is in charge of what she calls "KEY": "Knowledge, Employment & You."

It starts with 12 laptops available at the library for use by individuals.

"The whole point of this is digital literacy and work force development skills," McLaughlin said.

The Lockport Library will host courses, beginning Tuesday, on a range of basic computer topics. All but one of them are taken from the Niagara County Community College continuing education catalog, McLaughlin said.

Zangerle said Nioga is getting its act together and taking it on the road. The computer van will visit various libraries in the three counties.

"We come to them instead of them coming to us, so we have a slightly different approach," Zangerle said.

The van's purpose, Zangerle said, is "computer training and access for different populations -- people who are looking for jobs, seniors who just want to have an e-mail address."

Both programs will make stops at Lockport Town Hall as part of a contract with the town under which the Lockport Public Library agreed to provide extra services to town residents in exchange for not having its funding cut.

The Town Board voted in November to ratify a contract to pay the library $15,000 a year. The deal for the additional services came after the board, in a budget work session, had voted to phase out its library subsidy after some members objected that town residents in the Lockport School District already pay taxes toward the library's operations.

"We're hoping to get out to people who don't have access to computers any other way," McLaughlin said.

Zangerle said that besides the member libraries and the Town of Lockport, Nioga has been contacted by Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara about setting up training for its developmentally disabled clients.

She said Orleans County and work force development agencies also have expressed interest in visits from the computer van.

In Lockport, McLaughlin said, the first courses will include Introduction to Computer Basics, Introduction to Microsoft Office and Resume Writing. The last one is the only course not in NCCC's catalog.

Subsequent courses will include Introduction to the Internet, Introduction to Microsoft Word, Business Communication Skills and an "attitude evaluation" program for job-seekers titled "Here's My Resume, Where's My Job?"


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