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August 23, 2013

Google Brings Video Conferencing to Vermont Libraries

By Michelle Nicolson - TMCnet Contributing Writer

A $77,000 grant from Google (News - Alert) will provide video conferencing equipment to 14 Vermont libraries. The equipment will enable library patrons to communicate via Google Hangouts, Google’s free video chat service that enables both one-on-one chats and group chats with as many as 10 people at a time.

"We wanted to test out the fact that you could take standard off the shelf kinds of products, whether it was cameras or large-screen TV and a good microphone, and then use tools like Google Hangout to be able to have video conferencing capability," said Matt Dunne, former state senator and Google executive.

The video conferencing equipment will be accessible to the public, and local librarians are watching to see who ends up benefitting from it the most.

Grant money from Google will help 14 Vermont libraries provide video conferencing capabilities through Google Hangout. (Source (News - Alert): Google)

"I think it's a question of the imagination and creativity of local communities. We expect it to be used by individuals, of course the libraries will use it, civic groups, businesses -- it's wide open. We'll see how it goes," said Martha Reid, the Vermont state librarian.

"We have folks working two or three jobs who don't have this kind of capability in their homes, have to make choices between filling their fuel tank and buying an iPhone (News - Alert). So, having the libraries provide the service to remain connected is going to be very important," said Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

The libraries can use the equipment for more than just video conferencing. For example, the 52-inch HD screen also could show movies as well as be used for a variety of other things. The role of libraries has evolved and the new technology only enhances their offerings, explained Richard Bidnick, director of Montpelier's Kellogg Hubbard Library.

"I don't look at libraries as being libraries anymore," Bidnick said. "They're cultural centers, and cultural centers take on a whole new genre. Basically it means you are not only books, you're not only DVDs, you are programs, you are music, you are literature, you are science -- it encompasses many, many things.”

Edited by Alisen Downey

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