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Computers for all

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Even if you don't have a computer, you can still participate in the Information Age. Just visit your local library. The Detroit Public Library's Internet Training Lab offers a variety of general-interest Internet courses and offers free public computer access.

With 18 public workstations and 20 training stations, the lab at DPL's Main Library offers access to a variety of Internet applications, including Netscape and Microsoft Explorer for Web-browsing, and ftp, telnet and TN3270 for remote connection.

In addition, the lab offers the full suite of Microsoft Office programs, which were donated to the library as part of a grant from the Gates Foundation. The package includes MS Word for word processing, Excel and MS Access database programs, and the PowerPoint presentation program.

Children are welcome in the lab (those under the age of 8 must be accompanied by a parent), which also has a host of educational computer games.

Internet access is also available at computer stations located throughout the library and at all its branches. The Redford branch features a training lab of its own, and additional labs are under construction at the Bowen, Duffield and Franklin branches.

John Houser, assistant director of information systems for DPL, says Internet access and computer programs will eventually be available at every computer station at the Main Library as the LUIS terminals currently used to access the library's catalogs are replaced with PCs and the library switches to a Web-based catalog system. The library also plans to offer access to online and commercial databases, and is rewiring all library branches to provide high-speed online connections.

Houser says the computer stations offer opportunities for those without computers at home to become active participants in the Information Age. Providing such services, he adds, is just a high-tech version of what the library's always done.

"The information have-nots have always been a focus of the public library and we view provision of Internet access as following directly from that focus," he explains. "It's a new format, but it's not anything new for the public library to provide this type of service."

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