By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Despite a lack of grant funding, the Plattsburgh Public Library’s Community Computer and Employment Resource Center has remained open.
The center, which provides free computer access, workplace-skill development and digital-literacy opportunities to the community, was established in October 2010 through a grant from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Broadband Technology Opportunity Program.
The approximately $240,000 grant covered the salaries of two specially trained workforce advisers for the center, as well as several high-speed broadband computers, printers and online resources; however, it expired at the end of October 2012.
“It was over, and there were no funds to have any employees,” said Plattsburgh Public Library Interim Director Russell Puschak.
AMERICORPS STEPPED UP
Since the funding ran out, however, the library has been able to keep the center open four days a week by staffing it with library employees. And now, the center is once again operating five days a week thanks to help from AmeriCorps for the Adirondacks.
Joanne Weiss, a member of the community-service organization run by the North Country Workforce Investment Board, is serving the library as a volunteer for one year and will help with the Computer Center, as well as with other library functions.
Also a trained librarian, she began volunteering at the library the second week in January.
“We’re very excited,” said Michele Armani, director of the Investment Board’s Special Programs.
But while the library is able to keep the center open with the help of Weiss and its own employees, Puschak said, subscriptions for the center’s online resources — including online courses and resume classes — were funded by the grant and, therefore, will expire over the course of the next year and a half.
Those electronic resources, he said, will continue to be available for public use for as long as their subscriptions are valid.
Once the subscriptions run out, Puschak noted, the program will continue to operate as a public computing center with high-speed, broadband Internet and staff always on hand to answer questions and assist users.
“I think it’s a wonderful resource, and in the two years that the center was funded under the original grant, we served over 7,000 community members,” Armani said.
“The fact that it can continue in some way is very exciting for both of our organizations.”
MORE REFERENCE SERVICES
The Computer Center is currently unable to offer the variety of public classes it did under the grant funding, Puschak noted. However, it has been able to offer a few, including one on ebooks and another on conducting online research, and is in the process of planning more for the future.
And while the center’s current staff has not received the specialized training in digital literacy and resume building that the former employees did, he added, all of those who now assist with the center are trained librarians and able to offer reference services to users.
Previously, reference services, which include assistance with locating the proper sources of specific information, were only available at the library’s Reference Desk.
“So we’ve been able to double our reference services,” Puschak said.
In addition, the center hopes to provide digital literacy training to librarians in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties later in the year.
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