Magazine article American Libraries

"Virtual Desktop" Spans Digital Divide

Magazine article American Libraries

"Virtual Desktop" Spans Digital Divide

Article excerpt

The city of Houston unveiled a new program August 20 that will give any resident with a library card free access to e-mail, word processing and spreadsheet software, and 25 megabytes of secure storage space for documents. It is the first program of its kind in the United States, the city's Chief Information Officer Denny Piper told American Libraries.

Mayor Lee P. Brown demonstrated the new "virtual desktop" at the Smith branch library, one of the first three sites to run a pilot version of the application suite dubbed SimHouston. The library, which has provided Internet access since 1996, currently has more than 470 public-access terminals where patrons will be able to establish accounts that can then be accessed via any Internet connection. The program received "rave reviews," Piper said three weeks after it had been in place in the three branches, adding that he hoped to have the system installed in all 35 library locations by the end of October.

A contract with Houston-based company Internet Access Technologies (IAT) is still being negotiated; once finalized, it will also require city council approval. …

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