Library gets equipment grant from Google

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

August 22, 2013

Williston library patrons have a new tool at their disposal, thanks to a surprise grant from Google.

The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library was one of 14 Vermont libraries to receive videoconferencing equipment from the web giant. Williston’s library received a flat-screen television monitor, a laptop, web camera and accessories, worth about $4,400 in all.

Librarian Marti Fiske said she was surprised to receive the equipment—she was one of several librarians who informally expressed interest in the equipment nearly five years ago.

“It’s one of those things, you never know what seeds you planted when you worked on something several years ago,” she said.

The equipment lets library members connect with and broadcast to the world.

“Getting around in Vermont can be tough,” said Head of Google Community Affairs Matt Dunne in a press release. “These videoconferencing facilities in our libraries are a natural fit. They allow Vermonters to connect with one another without lengthy drive-times. They also allow Vermonters to connect with the diverse cultural offerings that exist outside our borders.”

Fiske said the Library of Congress has videoconferencing-based programming that is available, but the Dorothy Alling Library hasn’t been able to take part in it due to cost. The library will also be able to host virtual author visits from anywhere in the world.

“Entire rooms full of patrons can interact with the person on the other end,” she said.

Individuals can also reserve the room and equipment for personal uses—job interviews, contacting a specialist, research projects or videoconferences with a distant doctor.

“This is one of those exciting little new technology things for us,” Fiske said. “The big libraries have had this for a while, and now it’s finally moving to Vermont.”

The libraries were chosen based on factors including location, population density and Internet speed. The Fletcher Free Library in Burlington also received equipment.

In Williston, the equipment is up and running, and library staff have already been trained.

“We are just waiting for the first opportunity to use it,” Fiske said.