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OVER£1M OF LOTTERY LOOT TO GET LOCAL LIBRARIES ONLINE

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Over a million pounds' worth of state-of-the-art computer equipment will be set up in Wakefield and Kirklees librar...
Over a million pounds' worth of state-of-the-art computer equipment will be set up in Wakefield and Kirklees libraries to let local residents take their first few steps on the learning ladder using new technology.

The New Opportunities Fund, a National Lottery distributor of good causes money, is today allocating£1,030,294 to local libraries under the People's Network programme.

This programme is using£100m throughout the UK to enable local communities to access the internet and a wide range of learning opportunities. By developing the basic infrastructure, such as cabling, the People's Network is fulfilling a vision of local libraries as information centres linking to the National Grid for Learning, and the world wide web - as well as providing books, journals, tapes, videos and CDs.

Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the New Opportunities Fund, said: 'Libraries in Wakefield and Kirklees are hubs of information for their local communities. In the 21st century the internet brings a knowledge base that links people across the globe. Everyone, including disadvantaged groups, should have access to computer technology. The People's Network will do just that.'

Wakefield libraries take a giant leap forward in providing free access to internet, email and other computer activities at all 28 libraries across the district. National Lottery support from the New Opportunities Fund of over two-thirds of a million pounds will see the People's Network up and running by the end of the year.

A broadband network - where internet connections are fast - of over 260 computers will attract all age groups.

The People's Network project in Wakefield will act as a catalyst for other developments, including the environment centre and 'greendesk' facility at the new Normanton library, and the creation of a learning centre at Airedale. This, on completion, will offer a full range of facilities including a library.

Project manager for Wakefield Libraries and Information Services, Philip Winterbottom, welcomed the£696,537 award and said: 'This is excellent news. The People's Network will enable us to re-launch our local library service as a gateway to learning opportunities, addressing social exclusion and encouraging an increase in diverse community participation.'

At Kirklees a People's Network grant allocation of£333,757 will see two sets of video-conferencing kits set up in the two busiest libraries at Dewsbury and Huddersfield.

All 23 libraries will benefit through either additional computers or upgrading of the lines and cabling used by the computers.

A community-based information and communications technology learning centre has already been established, so by pulling together this and the People's Network project, the people of Kirklees will have access to around 1,000 public access computers across the borough.

People with disabilities will benefit from large keyboards, adjustable workstations, and specialised software which enlarges the size of text and converts print to the spoken word.

The Kirklees cabinet member for lifelong learning and deputy leader of the council, Cllr John Smithson said: 'This will help us build on what we have already established in our libraries. Last year, in 2001, we recorded nearly 67,000 internet sessions by members of the public, and the extra computers from the People's Network will help us to meet the steady demand for these services.'

Notes:

Funding for programmes is divided between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on the basis of population weighted to reflect levels of deprivation.

1 Today, under the People's Network programme from the New Opportunities Fund Wakefield libraries are allocated£696,537 and Kirklees£333,757, making a total of£1,030,294.

2 Almost all UK library authorities have now been granted their People's Network allocation.

3 The New Opportunities Fund distributes National Lottery money to health, education and environment projects across the UK. We support sustainable projects that will: improve the quality of life of people throughout the UK; address the needs of those who are most disadvantaged in society; encourage community participation; and complement relevant local and national strategies and programmes. Funding for programmes is divided between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on the basis of population weighted to reflect levels of deprivation.

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