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Library receives Mott grant to upgrade technological services, capacity

The Flint Public Library will soon begin ramping up its technological capacity — and ultimately improve services to area patrons — thanks to a one-year, $425,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The grant will help fund four technology-based projects: a children's computer assisted literacy center, a new automated library catalog system, an upgraded patron printing system with new library cards and a new telephone system.

The literacy center will provide special computer stations to help children from early pre-school through second grade develop early literacy skills. Each early literacy station will offer more than 50 software programs full of creative activities that prepare children for reading and learning in school.

"The early literacy stations make learning fun, and that makes it really effective. Even toddlers are fascinated and eager to use these computers," says Cathy Lancaster, children's librarian.

The grant will also allow the library to upgrade its nearly 20-year-old catalog and check-out system, replacing it with a more effective and efficient product.

"In libraries, the 'killer app' is our automated catalog and check-out system," says Kay Schwartz, library interim director. "The catalog helps the public find the books and materials they're looking for and also keeps track of items checked out and due dates. That's our core business."

The new system will enable patrons to easily search for books, music and videos, including digital resources like e-books and downloadable audio books. It will even allow patrons to rate the materials they've read and to post book and movie reviews.

Many patrons rely on the Flint Public Library for printing and copying services, purchasing about 250,000 copies annually. A new pay-for-print system, funded by the Mott grant, will allow patrons to "deposit" funds into a computer-tracked account and have the costs of future prints and copies automatically deducted from their available balance. The new system also will allow the library to offer patrons a more durable but less expensive library card — including a keychain version — reducing the library's long term costs.

Finally, the grant will allow the library to install a new telephone and voicemail system.  Staff notes that telephone access remains key to providing patrons with excellent service.

"Our telephone reference service answers more than a 100 questions every day. Calls come in from students needing homework help, job hunters looking for employer information and senior citizens who want driving directions to a new doctor's office," says reference librarian Randy Farb.

"This is a wonderful show of support from the C. S. Mott Foundation in these tough economic times. The grant will provide some critical updates to our technology that won't have to come from taxpayer funding," says Schwartz.

The Flint Public Library is at 1026 E. Kearsley St.

Visit www.fpl.info or call (810) 232-7111 for more information.

(Note: This report is provided as a service to our readers and a service to the group or individual mentioned in the release. Usually, only minor editing is done. The group or individual is responsible for all information provided.)

 

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