Hed: Ashland library has new asset in computer

Hed: Ashland library has new asset in computer

By Cynthia M. Jeffries

Daily Journal

@sc: ASHLAND – The Robert M. Bond Memorial Library in Ashland may only be one line among a list of Mississippi libraries, but a recent computer addition should at least put the library’s name in bold print.

Earlier this month, the library was given a Gateway 2000 computer as part of a program to help disadvantaged communities by providing public access to the Internet and other computer functions.

Benton County was one of 18 libraries in the state to receive the donation from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the Microsoft Corp. and the American Library Association.

“Benton County is a poor county,” Benton County Library Director Sue Poff said. “Most of our high school students can’t afford a typewriter or a computer at home to do their homework on É

“The computer gives us access to something we have never had before. It means that we can offer better services to our patrons.”

The computer is one of three at the library. There is one strictly for library use and Poff brought her personal computer from her home to help her keep tabs on some library materials.

The new computer is the only one available for public use.

The Bond Library was the only library in Northeast Mississippi to get the free computer hookup under the pilot program.

The computer with its color screen and software cost about $4,000. It came with graphics, electronic encyclopedia, road atlas, resume guideline and more.

“It does just about anything that you want it to do,” Poff said.

Plans are to hook up to the Internet by 1997. The state Legislature will foot the bill the first year. After that, the library is on its own.

Legislators are planning an Internet hookup at each of the state’s libraries, Poff said.

Since it has been placed on a small table to the left of the entrance, many people have used the system to look up the names of song titles, play card games such as solitaire or do their homework.

Seventeen-year-old Robert Jordan scored 100 points on a physics term paper he recently did after looking up information on the computer.

“I would have been kind of limited if I would have had to just use books,” the Hickory Flat High School 11th-grader said. “This is much better than it used to be when you would just have to sit there and spend about four hours looking up information.”

The computer cut his work time to about two hours, Jordan said.

Poff estimated three to four people have been coming in daily to use the new computer. It has been utilized by many Ashland middle and high school students who lost their library to arsonists in April.

The Benton County system operates two county libraries – Bond and a smaller branch in Hickory Flat – on an annual budget of $46,000.

The Bond Library has 40,000-plus books, of which, 18,000 are paperbacks. Assistant librarian Georgia Gerry said all of the paperbacks are donated.

Located at the intersection of Court Square and state Highway 370, the library is more than three times the size of its former location next to Ashland Town Hall, but it is still cramped. Right now, a bathroom doubles as a storage room for old magazines and library supplies.

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