County libraries receiving webcams

Published 7:51 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two Covington County libraries are among the 102 in the state that will give Alabama families an opportunity to visually communicate with loved ones deployed overseas, thanks to new computers equipped with video web cams, Gov. Bob Riley announced Tuesday.

Andalusia Public Library and Florala Public Library will participate in the new program, called Connecting Families, which allows Alabamians schedule library time to see and talk to their deployed family members. The program got its start thanks to grant funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Additionally, it is a partnership between the public library service and the Alabama Broadband Initiative that Gov. Riley launched earlier this year.   “We’re grateful not only for our troops but also for the families who serve by their side, even though thousands of miles often separate them,” Riley said. “Like our soldiers, the families sacrifice so much.  Anytime we have an opportunity to help our brave troops and their families back home, we must take it.”

APL director Karin Taylor is especially thankful for the program and what it means for the community. Her own daughter, who is currently stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas, is set to leave in the coming months for overseas duty.

“She is in an armored tank division and really isn’t sure where she’s going yet — either Iraq or Afghanistan,” Taylor said. “So I can tell you firsthand how great I think this program is for our community.”

Taylor said the library signed the agreement earlier this week and will be the recipient of a new iMac computer, whose use will be solely dedicated to the Connecting Families program.

“I look for us to get (the equipment) in pretty quick,” she said. “This is going to be just wonderful for our servicemen and women, especially if they have children and they haven’t seen them in say a year or so. Pictures don’t really tell how much they’ve grown.

“From what I understand this program will allow users to talk and see in real time,” she said. “Just like you’re sitting across from one another. We have so many people here who use the Internet to keep in touch with people over there. I have a feeling (the program) will used greatly.”

Taylor said use of the computer will be on a “first-come, first-serve” basis and will also be available for use by non-military families.

“It’s primarily for our military families, but as long as the person they are trying to talk to has a web cam, it’ll work for everyone,” she said.