Richland library grant buying computers, free Internet

A grant from the Knight Foundation will provide Richland County libraries with more computers and free Internet service.

The $438,000 grant, announced Tuesday, is the largest single grant received by the Richland County Public Library, spokeswoman Padgett Lewis said.

The Knight Foundation's support will help create a job center at the main library to help residents in their job searches. Additionally, the Eastover branch will open for "Tech Tuesdays" to provide computer training and support.

Other branches will get additional desktop and laptop computers to increase access for all users.

"Library staff are knowledgeable and can assist job seekers in numerous ways - but only if there is enough technology available," said library director Melanie Huggins. "This grant will allow our libraries to meet a dire need, helping residents provide for themselves and their families and making the community stronger."

The Eastover branch is closed on Tuesdays now, but Lewis said officials hope to re-establish Tuesday hours by May.

Over the past two years, the library's 11 branches have experienced a 30 percent increase in use, with many residents turning to the library for information they need for job searches, preparing resumes and researching unemployment services, according to a news release from the library.

The local allocation is part of a $5.5 million Knight Foundation initiative benefiting library users in 20 communities across the country, the news release said.

- Dawn Hinshaw