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New laptops boost library offerings

Lincoln County Public Library patrons now have moreopportunities to surf the Internet or handle other business thanksto the donation of 23 new computers.

Officials dedicated the new IBM Think Pad laptop computersduring a brief ceremony Tuesday. Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwellsaid the computers will be a “super asset” to the library.

“They all will be utilized,” said Maxwell, who estimated thevalue of the computers at almost $30,000.

Maxwell and library officials recalled the days followingHurricane Katrina when people came to the library to go online tofill out applications for FEMA assistance. Rebecca Nations, headlibrarian, said about 150 people a day were coming to the libraryto fill out FEMA applications.

“Every afternoon, every one of these computers has been busy,”Maxwell said.

Library Director Henry Ledet said the library only had sixcomputers, with some dating to 1999 and lacking the ability toaccess the FEMA Web site. Ledet said the library was almostoverwhelmed with people needing computers.

“Now we have enough that we can help them,” Ledet said.

Maxwell said residents seemed to be more inclined to use thelibrary for that work rather than computers set up at the Co-LinLearning Lab near the Government Complex.

“They like the atmosphere here,” said Maxwell, adding thelibrary is more conducive for doing research and other computeractivities.

Maxwell said discussions about the need for more librarycomputers arose during a September community officials’ meetingwith Third District U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering.

At Mayor Bob Massengill’s urging, Maxwell said he pursued theissue with Susan Butler, Pickering’s chief of staff. Also involvedin the donation were Nicole Friedman, of the Center forNeighborhood Technology in Chicago, and Aaron Huslage, a Beaverton,Ore., man whose company was not identified.

“These two people were really instrumental in helping us to getthese computers,” Maxwell said.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, Alderman at large Les Bumgarner got abrief lesson on the new computers. He said people who do not haveaccess to computers will benefit from the library additions.

“This really reaches out to a lot of people and fills a greatneed,” Bumgarner said.

Shirley O’Quinn, special assistant to Pickering, said completingthe FEMA application may have been the first time on a computer forsome people.

“It might open a whole new world to them,” O’Quinn said.

Bobby J. Watts, president of the Lincoln County Board ofSupervisors, recalled the bond issue the county approved for thelibrary several years ago. He indicated the computers would furtherimprove library offerings.

“I look at it now, and I’m proud to see how much better off theyare than they were four years ago,” Watts said.

Mentioning a trip to Washington to seek federal help withbusiness park infrastructure needs, Maxwell applauded thecooperative spirit between the city, county and Chamber ofCommerce. Ledet said the new computers can be useful in economicdevelopment efforts.

“This is a real industrial development tool for our community,”Ledet said. “This makes it possible for people to get thosecomputers skills they need to get the higher-paying jobs.”