FREMONT - Investments in technology and training are the key to promoting increased use of the nation's cultural and historical resources, the head of a federal agency said yesterday.
Robert Martin, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, said Internet service and other high-tech tools are helping more and more people learn about history, geneaology, and other subjects.
Technology is providing access to material that was previously locked away because of space limits and will eventually unite libraries, museums, and other institutions in a seamless system of information storage and retrieval, he said.
"Ultimately, what we know is the consumers we are trying to serve want access to the resources and don't much care where they are physically, or what you call yourself," Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Martin was in Fremont yesterday to give the first Hayes Lecture on Leadership at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. His address last night, was to be taped for later broadcast by WBGU-TV (Ch. 27).
Mr. Martin's agency, created by the Museum and Library Services Act of 1996, distributes federal funds to museums and libraries to invest in technology, improve access to materials, and recruit and educate librarians.
The institute has a budget of $229.6 million for fiscal year 2004 and has distributed $157.6 million in grants. In his 2005 budget request, which is pending before Congress, President Bush sought $262.2 million for the agency, a record amount.
Mr. Martin said that request, made during a time of warfare in Iraq and deepening budget deficits, reflects a commitment to education.
"The administration's highest domestic priority is education, and museums and libraries are part of the infrastructure for education in this country," he said. "It's very important for us to have strong schools, but schools are only part of the education infrastructure."
Mr. Martin said his agency's funding is a small part of a partnership that includes state and local governments and private groups.
Together, those institutions funded an ambitious program that has equipped virtually all of the nation's public libraries with computers and public Internet access.
Today, Mr. Martin said, 99 percent of branches have such technology, up from less than 30 percent in 1996.
Already, museums and libraries are using the Internet to offer more information and stir interest in history and culture, Mr. Martin said.
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