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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's U.S. Library Program distributes final round of grant applications

Sixteen states receive state partnership grants

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Carol Rava
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: (206) 709-3100, Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

SEATTLE -- The U.S. Library Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has accepted applications for the fourth and final round of technology grants to state library agencies in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Grants will be awarded and computers installed in libraries in each of these states from summer 2002 through fall 2003.

In each of these 16 states, public libraries that serve communities of more than 10 percent poverty and have not previously been eligible for a grant from the foundation will be invited to apply for a grant from the foundation. Grants support expanding public access to computers, the Internet and digital information in libraries that serve low-income communities. Libraries use the funds to purchase computers, networking equipment, and telecommunications services for Internet access. The grants also provide training and technical support to library staff, covering topics from network administration, computer and Internet applications, and computer systems management. Microsoft Corporation donates software to libraries receiving foundation grants.

As the effort enters its final round, an independent evaluation of the first round published in the February 15, 2001 issue of Library Journal revealed positive effects for libraries and their patrons, many of whom had little or no prior access to digital resources. The evaluation, led by Professor Andrew Gordon from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, found that students and low-income residents were the heaviest users of the new computers. For more than half of the unemployed users who used the library as a resource while looking for work, the library computers were their only source of access. The study also tracked a positive shift in staff morale in libraries that had received computers and training, as well as increased library traffic.

"As we enter this final phase of what has been a tremendous effort to help bridge the Digital Divide, it is rewarding to realize the positive impact it is having on libraries and their patrons," said Richard Akeroyd, Executive Director of Libraries and Public Access to Information at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Started in 1997, the U.S. Library Program was Bill and Melinda Gates' first major philanthropic venture. Since that time the program has made grants to more than 5,800 libraries in the United States, installed more than 25,000 PCs and trained 7,000 librarians. The program is dedicated to providing increased public access to computers, the Internet and digital information to library patrons in low-income communities in the United States. It is anticipated that by the end of 2003, 10,000 libraries in 50 states will have benefited from the $200 million total investment from the foundation.

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