Dr. Tom Nowak, a retired physician, has been a long-time supporter and patron of the Marysville Library. At the end of 2012, Nowak gave a generous donation to the Marysville Library. He wanted it to be used for something specific, addressing a certain need the library had.
"I like to be involved with my donations to make sure that it lands well," Nowak said.
Coordinating with Angelique Leone, foundation executive director at Sno-Isle Libraries, they found that patrons frequently lined up to use the computer kiosks, Nowak said. The library has plenty of bandwidth, but didn't have desk space to hold more computers.
The solution? Chromebooks.
Google Chromebooks are different than the other laptops available at the library because there is virtually no software on them. Most of the applications used by the Chromebooks are all in the "cloud," the term used for Internet-based applications and data storage. This enabled the library's Information Technology department to easily provide additional access to the Internet for library patrons.
"Our IT staff took the Chromebooks and worked on them, but not to install software because they operate solely on Google cloud," communications director of Sno-Isle Libraries, Ken Harvey said.
While the Chromebooks look like standard laptops, they are different because they automatically connect to the Internet and the library's network. The Chromebooks come with the Chrome Web browser, Google docs, Gmail and various Google applications. Library staff are getting themselves up to speed on the details in order to help patrons.
The Chromebooks are available to check out for in-libary use at the customer service desk for anyone who is 18 years old and over."What makes the Chromebooks appealing is that you can go to a more relaxed atmosphere to access the Internet," library manager Eric Spencer said.
Sno-Isle Libraries are in the midst of an effort to enable patrons to use the latest technology without the large monthly data fees and ownership costs.
A new technology center, expected to be open in September, is being built at the Marysville branch. The Lynnwood Library is also getting a new technology center in the fall.
"What we're finding is that even with the prevalence of personal computing devices, there is still a gap between those who can afford access to those technologies and those who cannot," Harvey said.
The new Chromebooks and technology centers are an attempt to bridge the gap at Sno-Isle Libraries.
"Groups can now come in and create things online, such as an e-book," Harvey said, "Or they can use the technology to do planning for whatever is created."
Harvey hopes that the Chromebooks as well as the new technology centers will level the playing field for people to come in and collaborate on technologies that, perhaps, they could not otherwise afford. The libraries are partnering with local companies in the region who are focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education.
"By providing and working together with a focus on STEM-related things, we are preparing tomorrow's workforce for today," Harvey said.
The technology centers are going to have equipment available to children and adults, and the idea is that with the latest technology, the library can help enable people with the skills necessary to compete in the local workforce.
"As a region we need to ensure that big places such as Boeing don't have to go elsewhere to find the talent," Harvey said.
Nowak tried one of the library Chromebooks for himself.
"People I see using them seem to be able to do what they want," Nowak said.
Nowak was pleased that his donation is being used to meet a need.
"The library seems to serve the strata of society and use the resources I provide well," Nowak said.
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