New Computers Let Residents Surf at Library


John Cowart, whose wife is planning a trip to Minneapolis, was looking for a cheap airline ticket Wednesday morning.

Instead of spending half the day on hold trying to reach the airlines by phone, the 75-year-old Ventura resident went to the E.P. Foster Library and surfed the Web.

Cowart was able to complete his online search because 12 new computers and unlimited Internet access are now available at the downtown branch.


“I’ve heard that you can get bargain air fares on the Web, and these computers are pretty fast because of cable access,” Cowart said.

Cowart was one of the library’s first Internet users. Along with about 30 other community members and local officials, he attended a ceremony at Foster inaugurating the branch’s new technology.

Local officials presiding over the ceremony were ecstatic about the library’s high-tech improvements.

“We’ve got to prepare ourselves for the Internet superhighway,” said Mayor Jim Friedman. “We don’t want to be left behind, and these computers will help us.”

The library acquired the computers and Internet service with the help of a group of local library supporters who raised more than $15,000 in the past year.

Friedman said the catalyst for the donations was the Benjamin Franklin Project, a group of donors that took its name from the founding father who started America’s first lending library.


The project made its donation several months ago, but the county’s interim library director put the project on hold while a new agreement for the system was worked out. The City Council gave the project final approval Dec. 15.

Committee members at the dedication emphasized the importance of public Internet access.

“The role of libraries is changing in unpredictable ways, but we can all agree on one thing: They must provide access to the Internet to those who have no other choices,” said Bill Fulton, chairman of the library advisory committee.

Fulton said the computer project would not have happened were it not for the efforts of David Bianco, who headed the Franklin Project and sits on the advisory panel.

“He stuck to the vision of providing free public access to the Internet at Ventura’s library branches,” Fulton said.

Bianco said he and other supporters of the Franklin Project believe that Internet access is a key not only to learning, but also to the economic vitality of the community.

“When you invest in the learning of the people in your community, you invest in your community’s economic development,” Bianco said.


The first wave of visitors to surf the Web at Foster on Wednesday also found that one can use the Internet for fun.

Brian Schumacher, 11, played games on the Disney Web page. A regular at the library, Brian said he will visit more often now that it’s wired to the Internet.

Ventura’s Avenue Cable donated unlimited cable access to the library, making the computers faster than those using a modem connection.