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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

Val Reinhardt of Hankins shows off his “hunt and peck” method of typing for Cindy Menges, director of the new computer lab at the Western Sullivan Public Library.

Challenged by computers? Libraries are ready to help

By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE — January 25, 2011 — It’s the one-stop shop for information. So it was only natural that the libraries of the Western Sullivan Public Library (WSPL) chain would open the doors to the world for the residents of Sullivan County.
Friday, they made it happen.
Public officials, library staff and residents gathered in the community room in the bottom floor of the Jeffersonville branch to officially open the Public Computer Center, the first step in bringing computer literacy to western Sullivan.
The premise is simple: computer classes taught on library-owned computers in library space by library staff to the people. The execution, naturally, has been more complex.
As Library Director Susan Scott explained, computers have long existed in her libraries but they were a resource better used by people coming into the buildings with prior knowledge.
“It was crying out to be done, but we didn’t have the money or staff to do it,” Scott explained.
Then came the stimulus money from the federal government, better known as the Recovery Act, and with it a statewide initiative dubbed “Broadbandaccess@yourlibrary.” Through the state, Scott and the WSPL were able to secure a two-year grant for $240,000. Enough to buy computers for the Jeffersonville, Callicoon and Narrowsburg branches of the library and enough to hire two new staffers, Callicoon residents Cindy Menges and Patrick McCullough.
It’s enough to put Menges and McCullough in the libraries every day of the week, teaching classes to the public. It’s enough to continue the grand tradition of being the free source for information. Every class – from the basics of how to use a mouse up to how to search for jobs online – will be free.
What’s more, they’ll be catering to what people of Sullivan County need. In a county where access to high speed Internet access is still extremely limited and the average age of the population indicates many residents predate the mainstream use of computers in the job market, McCullough and Menges are here to help everyone.
“There’s such a wide array of people with limited computer skills, no computer skills,” Menges explained. “Then there are people who know how to use a certain program but might not know how to use it the proper way.”
To meet the need, the Public Computer Center (PCC) will offer a variety of courses, trying to put a major focus on helping people become better candidates for a job market that has a high demand for technological literacy. But there will also be courses made simply for residents who want to get online and chat with friends via social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or learn to use e-mail proficiently. The goal, Menges said, is to ensure all residents have access.
As Sullivan West Superintendent Ken Hilton said while taking stock of the new educational resource in his district, “We live in a time when an awful lot of people denigrate government and what it does, but this is a good example of making the lives of people better.”
Residents can call any of the libraries to set up an appointment to meet with the PCC staff or get a list of classes at 482-4350, 887-4040 or 252-3360. The class list and center hours are also online at

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