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Library equipped with Skype, webcam

By Staff
Kim West
Military families are often separated from their loved ones due to far-reaching domestic assignments or overseas deployments.
But thanks to the Connecting Families Project, a partnership between the Alabama Broadband Initiative and the Alabama Public Library Service, local families now have another way to stay in touch with their servicemembers.
The Russellville Public Library was one of only 100 Alabama libraries to receive a CFP grant, which was designed to place computers with broadband capability in public libraries statewide to help families connect with military members who are serving away from home.
Each library participating in the project received a new G5 iMac computer equipped with high-speed Internet capability, a webcam and Skype software, which allows a person to place free video calls to another Skype account.
According to APLS Director Rebecca Mitchell, Alabama is the only state in the U.S. to provide this service.
"Public libraries are the information and community centers for many of our towns and cities," Mitchell said. "The Connecting Families Project, by providing Web cams and computers to be used by the military and other segments of the community, is just one more way that public libraries are proving their worth and devotion to the people they serve, both at home and abroad."
In order to use the free program, families need to find out the best time to reach their loved ones and whether or not they have access to the appropriate technology to place a video call. After these steps are taken, they can call Library Director Deborah Barnett to schedule an appointment to use the computer.
"You can't really dial a (deployed) soldier on a cell phone," said Barnett, whose son, Cobahn, is currently deployed to a region in Iraq where he is unable to use the program. "(Servicemembers) have to call here and get on a computer that at least has a camera, and we really need to find out when it's going to be possible to schedule an appointment."
Barnett said the program is not restricted to only people with a military connection. She suggested it would also be useful for family members who live far apart or even for a doctor to long-distance diagnosis.
"This program might be good for other uses," Barnett said. "For example, if a doctor needed to see patients but couldn't see them in person, or if a grandmother out in California wanted to see her grandchildren here."
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Barnett at 332-1535.