Grants boost library technology

Massachusetts libraries are getting more than $2.4 million in grants to improve their technology and accessibility.

The state's Board of Library Commissioners (www.mlin.lib.ma.us) is dispensing the federal money to more than 80 public, academic, school, regional and special libraries across the state. The money will fund such projects as digitizing historical resources, upgrading network systems and increasing access for people with disabilities.

The money comes from the national Institute of Museum and Library Services (www.imls.gov), which is mandated under the 1996 Federal Library Services and Technology Act to promote access to learning and information resources for all types of libraries and for people of all ages.

"We look for projects that really supplement what a library is supposed to do, especially projects that link libraries with the greater community to improve literacy, or link different types of libraries together though a computer network, or use funds as seed money to create new community-oriented projects," said David Gray, the board's director of communications.

Boston Public Library, for example, is receiving a grant to digitize its collection of images of city and state landmarks, combining them with other digital databases from libraries and institutions around the state.

Public libraries in Palmer and Saugus received grants to participate in the Homework Zone project, which helps public libraries and schools communicate so librarians know what books might be in demand, based on school curriculums.

The board works with the State Advisory Council on Libraries to decide who gets the money. The advisory council is made up of library users, business professionals, trustees and librarians.

Gray said the board tries to provide money to as many of the state's 1,600 libraries as possible.

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