Every branch in the Spokane Public Library system is getting one or more new computers funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with more coming next year.
“We are looking at a total of $111,800 over two years, including the matching funds component,” said Eva Silverstone, the library’s communications manager. “Some are Internet computers and some are public access catalog computers with limited Internet access.”
The new computers were inaugurated at a recent ribbon-cutting at the Shadle branch.
“There are 50 new computers throughout the system,” Silverstone said. “Some replace old computers, and some let us move older-yet-still-functioning computers to other branches.”
Library director Pat Partovi explained that the Gates Foundation grant is meant to help libraries replace old and outdated technology.
“The Gates Foundation has been providing computers to libraries across the country for many years,” Partovi said. “We had some very old ones. We’d really stretched the life of the ones we had.”
Spokane Public Libraries submitted a technology inventory as part of the grant application and also made a promise to raise matching funds.
“The Gates Foundation had its own formula for who would get the grants, that they didn’t share,” Partovi said. “Somehow the formula was based on income level in the local area and age of the computers we have.”
There was also an unusual amount of flexibility as to how Spokane Public Libraries could spend the money, Partovi said.
The grant assigned $2,600 for one new computer and required a certain number be replaced. Any leftover money could be spent on other technology improvements within the library system.
“Since new computers cost about $1,000 apiece, we were able to purchase more computers than planned,” said Silverstone. The library system also replaced some printers and software user licenses.
The next challenge is to raise $27,300 to match the rest of the grant by 2010.
“It’s a two-year grant and we’re just looking at the first-year component,” Silverstone said. “We couldn’t do this without raising matching grants locally.”