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Roberts library computer access tripled

Steve Weber of Shew Consulting recently dropped off four used laptops at the Hazel Mackin Community Library in Roberts. Their $1,000 value counts as an in-kind donation to the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation's matching grant. Photo by Laura Kruse

When one man's trash is four working laptop computers, the Hazel Mackin Library calls it a treasure.

In January, the library received that treasure from Shew Consulting in Lake Elmo. The computers recently started being available to library patrons.

Before the laptops, the library had only two desktop computers available for public use. Only one has Internet capabilities, the other is for the card catalog.

High demand for them kept patrons waiting. But because of the very limited space in the library, only laptops would work efficiently to fill the need.

"I've been asking everyone for laptops," Director Brenda Hackman said. New laptops can cost $1,000 or more, which is pricey for the small library.

When she asked Steve Weber of Shew Consulting if he had any extra, he said he did.

Shew Consulting works with small businesses that don't have a technical person on staff. The company helps businesses install new devices, fix broken machines, monitor networks and provide any other needed technical services. They also provide support to the Roberts Village Hall and other businesses in the Roberts, Hammond and River Falls area, Weber said.

Weber himself has been doing IT work for the library for about five or six years, he said. When small problems arise, like a broken fax machine, he zips over to Roberts to fix them.

The library gets technical support from the Indianhead Federated Library System, but because of the travel time from Eau Claire, they also employ Shew Consulting from time to time, Hackman said.

Weber said his company was given the laptops when a client didn't need them after a system update.

"These work very well for Internet browsing," Weber said.

The Nobilis computers run on Windows with Microsoft Office software and Internet Explorer. They are wireless capable so they can be used from anywhere in the library. Since the library's catalog is available online through the MORE system, patrons can check the status of books with the new computers.

Hackman said she's just begun offering the machines to patrons if the other public computers are full. Unless they're being used, she stores them out of the way.

The computers will also count as a $1,000 in-kind donation toward the library's matching grant from the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation.

Last summer, the foundation awarded the library a $250,000 grant, with an additional $250,000 matching component. Since then, the library's fundraising committee has strived to raise $250,000 to meet the match by December 2009.

"We're happy to continue to support the library's technology and the building of the new library," Weber said.