GLENS FALLS -- On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, there wasn't an empty seat in Crandall Public Library's computer room.
As the 30 or so people worked in front of glowing monitors, officials gathered in the next room to talk about broadband funding that could benefit library computer users as early as next month.
Thanks to a $245,000 stimulus grant, Crandall Public Library will soon add 15 workstations, along with more staff to help individuals improve their computer skills and find jobs.
Crandall is one of 30 New York libraries to receive federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program money, which will be used to create "public computing centers."
In Glens Falls, the funding will beef up many services already offered, while adding new features like video conferencing and vocational counseling.
Computer training classes will cover basic computing, typing, word processing, spreadsheets, publishing and presentations. Job support groups, interview preparation, and career counseling will also be offered.
The grant will create the equivalent of two full-time positions to help provide those services, said library Director Christine McDonald. Crandall will add a part-time information technology position; the rest of the work might be contracted through Northeast Career Planning, she said.
Because the funding was a one-time deal, the services won't go on indefinitely.
The idea is to meet an "acute" need in the short term, said U.S. Rep Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls.
"We hope that after two years we have the economy moving so much that we can pull back on some of the vocational stuff," he said, during the grant announcement ceremony.
According to McDonald, the broadband funding helps meet the library's growing demand for Internet access and job training.
Computer usage increased 150 percent from 2008 to 2009 and continues to climb, she said, as the down economy makes the library a go-to resource for job-seekers.
"When a person loses a job, they lose their office," McDonald said.
Mario Musolino, executive deputy commissioner for the state Labor Department, said that by outfitting the unemployed with new skills, this initiative could, in turn, help the job market.
"There are jobs out there, but to access those jobs today, you need skills in technology," he said at the library on Wednesday.
Crandall was selected for funding because of the demographics and unemployment rate in Glens Falls, the library's strong base of programs, and the willingness of library officials to work within the grant parameters, said Linda Todd with the New York State Library, which distributed the money.
Todd said that, of the grants she manages for the library system, stimulus funding has some of the more demanding reporting requirements to ensure every dollar spent is tracked. In addition, it is awarded on a reimbursement basis, so participating libraries have to be able to front the computing center expenses.
"The stimulus funding is wonderful, but it's a lot of work," she said.
The computing center at Crandall library will be up and running by Nov. 1. New computers will be added to the existing computer and reading rooms, while vocational services will be offered in other parts of the building.
Classes will tentatively begin Oct. 25, and those interested can sign up immediately. The library's computers will not be available on Oct. 13 and 14 due to technical upgrades.
For more information about the library, visit www.crandalllibrary.org or call 792-6508.