Electronic Library Kiosk Bound for Iraq

By Michael McNulty
Special to American Forces Press Service

HEIDELBERG, Germany, July 22, 2008 - Camp Victory in Iraq is nearly 2,000 miles from the nearest Army library in Europe. But troops deployed at the sprawling base near Baghdad International Airport soon will have access to a broad spectrum of library resources through an e-Branch kiosk.

A team of movers packed and loaded the kiosk July 14 at the European Regional Library Support Center here for shipment to Camp Victory, where it will be installed at the Victory Education Center.

"The kiosk will have a wonderful home here," Army Staff Sgt. Jimmy Labas, education programs director at Victory Education Center, said.

Labas noted that the kiosk "offers a wonderful array knowledge and research capabilities" for all servicemembers assigned to the camp. "It truly is a key to success," he said. "We are becoming the leading education center in Iraq, and are grateful to have such a useful tool."

Army Europe Libraries also have kiosks at the Pat Tillman United Service Organizations center at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan; the Warrior Transition Unit at Kleber Kaserne, near U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, Germany; and the European Regional Library Support Center here.

The e-Branch kiosks are designed to support educational opportunities for troops and deliver electronic library services and information to customers who can't get to a brick-and-mortar library.

The freestanding kiosks are quick and simple to use, with touch-screen technology and programmed buttons. The buttons mean that servicemembers don't have to remember Web site addresses or search for information. They simply touch the buttons on the screen to go to news, sports, scholarly articles or 24/7 virtual reference services from military librarians.

Users also can access a wide selection of virtual library materials: online books, newspapers, journals, magazines, dictionaries and encyclopedias. Additionally, customers can find free information on topics such as education, business, law, marriage and family, health and fitness, government and travel.

The kiosks are not meant to duplicate what Internet cafes provide, such as quick access to e-mail and social networking sites. Rather, they were designed to help bridge the gap of information, education and recreation services that Army libraries normally supply.

"The kiosks are just one example of how Army Europe Libraries are attempting to reach out and enrich the quality of life for soldiers, no matter where they are," Meg Tulloch, Europe Region librarian, said.

Richard Hanusey, a former Europe Region librarian who died in 2004, earned the Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation's White Plume Award in part for initiating the e-Branch kiosk project. The White Plume recognizes outstanding service and contribution to MWR and family programs. It is the Army's highest medal for achievement in support of Army MWR endeavors.

(Michael McNulty works at the European Regional Library Support Center.)
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