Federal program connects library patrons to Internet

By Jocelyn Dickey
The Ottawa Public Library will receive 30 new computers through the federal government’s Connecting Canadians program in a bid to make the Internet accessible to more Canadians.

“To help Canadians take advantage of the Internet, the federal government has created a number of innovative programs designed for public schools, libraries, First Nations schools, the voluntary sector, rural and remote communities, small businesses and recent graduates,” Industry Minister John Manley says in an open letter regarding the program.

One goal of the program is to make the Internet accessible to those who can’t afford it.

The new library computers will be set up as Internet work stations available to the public for free.

Darlene Matheson is new to the Ottawa area and was recently at the Ottawa Public Library using the computers for the first time.

“The library is a place to come get books (and informataion), so it makes sense,” she says.

“It’s good for people who can’t afford computers.”

In partnership with Human Resources Development Canada, the three libraries are getting a grant worth $406,000. They will use it to set up 50 Internet access stations in 10 different branches.

“Through the grant we’re able to provide the public with leading edge information services,” says Vera Yuzyk, an Ottawa library development officer.

The library already has some computers available for public use but the new computers will offer greater opportunities to go on-line.

They will be among the thousands of public Internet access points already established by the government to allow the public to go on-line for free or for a very low cost.

Nepean and Gloucester libraries will also receive new computers.

“In some of our branches we’re installing express machines for people who want to look up something quickly,” says Ottawa Public Library chief librarian Barbara Clubb.

“For Internet access there’s a big demand,” Yuzyk says. “(The computers) are in use from the time we open until we close.”
The library limits each patron’s Internet access to one hour a day to give as many people a chance to use it as possible.

The new computers and new express stations will give even more people the opportunity to surf the Internet.

“We also have a micro room that provides word processing and resume writing capabilities,” Yuzyk says.

“It’s a service provided to the public to help them with job searches and resume writing (but) it’s just at the main branch.”

The main branch also has a job search centre with career and job search materials, and a large periodical section with many newspapers. In conjunction with the internet, it can be invaluable for a person who is looking for work.

Clubb says one of the major reasons for the partnership was to help young people find work by providing access to on-line information and services.

Four Ottawa library branches will get new computers over the next couple of months.

The Main branch will get 14, Carlingwood six, Alta Vista six, and Elmvale Acres four.

“We haven’t purchased them all yet,” Clubb says. “We are getting them over a few months and should have them all by the summer.”

Launched in 1996, the Connecting Canadians program is a federal government initiative designed to make Canada the most connected country in the world.