When it comes to the library's computer network, we've been very much like Blanche Dubois, depending on the kindness of strangers. (breathy voice here) Or at least, the kindness of random library supporters. As long as the network was small, with only a scattering of public computers, this has worked – and it has worked for a surprisingly long time.
But we have eight public use computers now as well as some catalog-only computers, a special computer hooked up to microfilm machinery, and all the innards of a staff network: servers, bridges, wireless hubs, and staff PCs. It's time we grew up and asked for a line item in the budget for IT maintenance.
I feel it's important for the county to step up to the plate with support for the library's computer network and we will be presenting our case to the county administrator and the board of supervisors over the coming year. Times are tough and I expect to have to be as persuasive as possible to wring new money out of local government. Eventually we'll get what we need because we have that most compelling of tools: We won't give up.
But I am a great believer in private support as well as public and having that private support goes a long way towards convincing local government that our need is the community's need; that it's valued by they are answerable to. Last month at the Turning the Page workshops in North Carolina, my team came up with a plan that has us so excited we can't wait to start making calls.
For our public access computers--the ones everybody sees--we've developed an Adopt-a-Computer Program. Local organizations, businesses, or even individuals or families can adopt a computer by committing to donating $365 a year for three years. This is just $1 a day and for that we will place a sign on the computer that says it has been made available to the people of the county courtesy of the adoptive organization. They can name the computer in honor of their business, a friend, a family member or in memory of a loved one. The adoptive organization receives a framed Adoption Certificate and twice a year we will send them a report card about their computer – how many hours it's been in use, how many people have used it, any interesting stories of success we have gathered from the users of their computer.
We've put together a packet that includes a folder, contact information, a brochure of Frequently Asked Questions, a pledge form with an addressed envelope and a sample Adoption Certificate. (This took a lot longer than I thought it would – but it's done now. Microsoft Publisher is fun, but it's tedious.) We're scheduling visits with nine organizations to ask them if they'll consider becoming adoptive computer parents, but we've already gotten a tentative Yes from the Rotary and they haven't yet seen the materials.
We're very excited about this project and figure in our case it will generate almost $3,000 a year to support computer replacements. We based our figure on the price of a mid-level PC with a 3 year 24/7 service/replacement contract on it. But we also liked the idea of $1 a day, which makes for an easy amount to remember.
So. I'll let you know how successful we are with this fund raising project and also how well this private support helped us get the public funding we're going to need to keep our other technology equipment in good shape.
Bess Haile, Library Director
Essex Public Library