Internet now a basic library service |

Internet now a basic library service

Lauren Theodore

It’s free now to use computers and the Internet at El Dorado County libraries.

Because of grants accepted Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, not only has a $2 per hour user fee been dropped, more computers and software will be purchased for the South Lake Tahoe Branch and the main library in Placerville.

The Gates Learning Foundation awarded two grants worth more than $50,000 as part of an agreement with the county to eliminate fees for “basic library services.”

The Seattle-based foundation found the area surrounding the South Lake Tahoe library had a more than 10 percent poverty level. No other branch in the county qualified.

“Tahoe has an acute need,” said Jeanne Amos, the county library director. She speculated that visitors to the area need access to computers to check their e-mail, for example.

Amos thought the elimination of the fee was overdue. “Charging fees for the Internet would be like charging fees to check out a book,” she said.

Amos said the money will be used to install “the most current computers” and servers that will be “loaded to the brim with Microsoft software.”

“I can’t wait,” she said.

Two employees from each branch will also spend a week in Seattle as part of the grant. They will learn how to instruct computer basics to library users and receive Microsoft network training.

Internet and PC user fees generated approximately $20,000 in revenue per year from the five participating branches, with 50 percent coming from the South Lake Tahoe branch.

The library’s budget will be adjusted. For example, it will now cost 15 cents to print a page off the computer. The old charge accrued only after 10 or more pages were printed. As for other funding sources, “We’ll look into it as time goes on,” Amos said.

The part of the library budget that will be hardest hit by the reduction in revenue is the materials budget, which puts books on the shelves. Amos said unfortunately purchasing books is always the last thing on the list.

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