Brian Keene of Canton Point Technologies shows some of the new computer and internet equipment destined for Oxford County public libraries, thanks to the Northern Forest Center, the Maine West collaborative and funding from the Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation and the Maine Community Foundation.

SOUTH PORTLAND — As part of its work with the Maine West collaborative, the Northern Forest Center is helping 11 public libraries in Oxford County close the digital gap by providing new computers, broadband equipment, wiring and printers totaling $52,000.

In addition, the project is supported by the Maine State Library, whose technology staff helped each library assess their needs and will provide support and technical assistance through the fall. Each library is contributing 15 percent of the cost of its new equipment.

Installation will take place in June and July, with each library receiving equipment to fit its specific needs. The project will deliver a total of 29 desktops, 19 laptops, nine printers and 17 routers to 11 libraries in Andover, Bethel, Buckfield, Dixfield, Mexico, Norway, Oxford, Paris, Rumford, Waterford and West Paris.

Each library has different needs, ranging from the Waterford Library serving a population of 1,500 to the Rumford Public Library serving 6,000 people. Waterford Library will receive two computers and Rumford will receive six. Many of the libraries, including those in Andover, Rumford, Paris and West Paris, will also receive the latest Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative software suites.

Personalized support and technical assistance will be provided to the participating libraries through the fall.

The project began after the center helped lead a comprehensive Maine West broadband planning process and secured a grant from the Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation in the summer of 2018 to upgrade public computer and internet access services in 11 Maine West area public libraries. The Maine Community Foundation also provided funding for this project.

The center coordinates Maine West, a partnership of local and regional organizations dedicated to addressing systemic rural challenges and enhancing community well-being in western Maine through increased collaboration across the economic, education, health and conservation sectors.

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