The North Riverside Public Library last week rolled out eight new desktop computers and more robust access to the Internet, courtesy of a $25,000 grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

The grant is funding expanded computer and online job search training through the first six months of 2013, according to the library’s director, Robert Lifka.

“In addition to the new equipment, we’re going to be offering computer instruction that’s more formalized, where we’ll have people designated for computer instruction and to help people find jobs,” said Lifka.

The library, 2400 Desplaines Ave., has already hired two part-time employees for that instruction, at least one of whom will be available on weekday mornings and evenings and all day on Saturday until June 30.

Those part-timers will be available to help mentor patrons who aren’t adept at using the computer. They’ll be able to help patrons access online job boards, for example, and show them how to build a resume and attach it to an online application.

“We’re operating under the premise that people are not familiar with computers,” said Lifka.

A main thrust of the grant was to replace the library’s aging desktop computers, first installed in 2007. The new Hewlett-Packard computers operate on a Windows 7 platform and have a full Microsoft Office suite, so patrons can use the most up-to-date versions of those applications.

Six of the desktop units can be found in the public access computer room on the main floor of the library. There are two more in the youth services section.

According to Lifka, the computers tend to be in use pretty steadily throughout the day. Anyone wishing to use one of the desktops must register for it at the main desk, using a library card or other photo ID. Sessions are limited to an hour. One of the desktops will be held open for those wishing to check email only. Email sessions last 15 minutes.

The library also used the grant to purchase more bandwidth in order to speed up Internet access not only for those using the eight desktop computers, but also those bringing in their own personal devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

North Riverside Public Library was one of just 15 libraries throughout the state to receive a portion of the $400,000 in grant money available in 2012 through DCEO. Lifka said North Riverside’s library was eligible for participation in the grant, based on free lunch numbers at Komarek School.

It was one of just four Cook County libraries to receive funding from the grant. The others were in Dolton, Flossmoor and Lansing.

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