Houghton Lake Public Library
Software Donations Help Library Offer Critical Services to Needy Community
The Houghton Lake Public Library serves a rural Michigan community, one of the poorest counties in one of the most economically challenged states. Unfortunately, it has seen a steadily deteriorating budget over the last few years, but it has had to rise to the occasion of providing a lot with a little for its 15,000 users. Those it serves are former auto manufacturing employees, as well as elementary middle and high school students.
In addition to its collection of books, magazines, and newspapers, it offers 32 public-use computers. These resources are constantly used, since even if they could afford it, many of the patrons don't have access to broadband at home, because it's just not in yet. The library also shares a campus with the three local schools, making it a popular choice after school. The area doesn't have a lot of things for kids to do, so they use the computers for Facebook, homework, or finding pictures to use for class reports. Even if these kids are lucky enough to have a computer at home, many people can't afford the color ink for printing. Printouts, scanning, and digitizing, print-only resumes for job seekers are among the library's most popular services.
The library recently received 14 new desktop machines through a state stimulus program, but all software and licensing has come from donations via TechSoup. Microsoft Office is used for writing school reports, cover letters, and resumes while Adobe Premier Elements and Photoshop are used frequently for image editing, posters, and maps for school assignments.
The dedicated library staff is very active in their profession, and they also use the software for creating documents that acquire grants and communicate to other librarians. Without the aid of the donations, there is no way this library could afford to pay for any of it.