The Miami Public Library has received two grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

The Public Access Computer Hardware Upgrade Grant, valued at $5,952, was received in August.

The Wireless Access Grant, valued at $3,622, was received in December.

The two grants totaled more than $9,500 in computer improvements for the local library.

The hardware upgrade grant allowed for the purchase of four new computers for public use.

The wireless access grant allowed the building to have wireless access points installed on all three floors of the Miami Public Library.

“Now that we have the wireless access, I feel that we're almost like Starbucks without the coffee,” Marcia Johnson, head librarian at the Miami Public Library, said with a laugh.

Starbucks, a national coffee chain, has wireless access. Often customers come in and work on their computers while drinking their coffee.

Computers have become a critical part of today's libraries.

“I was a school teacher who loved books and thought becoming a librarian was a natural progression,” Johnson said. “I was at my first program to see if I liked what it entails when the woman leading it said, ‘If you don't like computers, this is not the place for you.'

“I was surprised, but she was right.”

With the new computers, the Miami Public Library has eight public Internet-access computers, all less that two years old.

“I'm looking at adding two more in the near future,” Johnson said.

The first 12 months the library had computers they were used just over 700 times.

During the last 12 months, they were used 18,000 times and Johnson anticipates the usage will go up.

“We have some people who are waiting at the door in the morning to get in the building and get to the computers,” she said. “Often they will used the library's computers to check their Web sites.

“Some come in only to use the computers.”

People have to sign up to get on a computer and have 30 minutes use although they can stay on longer if no one is waiting for it.

“Our long-range plans are to continue replacing the computers as needed,” Johnson said.

The newest computers have programs including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access and Front Page.

Plans are being made for the library to host training on the programs in the spring.