We focus our efforts in four areas that we believe will have the greatest impact.
Research and Innovation
We fund projects and research on public access to information and the Internet, trends that affect how libraries serve their communities, and ways to foster innovation in libraries. These efforts help public library leaders and staff understand and quickly integrate innovative ideas, tools, and services in response to the changing needs of their communities.
Projects in this area include a five-year global study on the impact of public access to the Internet and computers and a study by the Pew Research Center on U.S. public library use, with particular focus on e-books and digital content. They also include a grant to Worldreader, a literacy organization that is piloting the use of mobile devices and Kindles in public and community libraries in Kenya. The devices are preloaded with a wide variety of content in local languages, including reference books, textbooks, fiction, nonfiction, storybooks, and other information.
Training and Leadership
We support efforts to identify strong library leaders and equip them to create high-impact libraries. Through leadership training, they can learn ways to foster a culture of innovation and risk taking, collaborate with others in the library field, create and test new service models, and engage community members and other stakeholders in the design and delivery of library services.
For example, one effort we support is the International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI), a network of library leaders around the world who have skills and experience in developing innovative services for users.
We support efforts to create library programs and services that can be replicated on a broad scale and customized for different settings. Our primary focus is supporting technology access in public libraries on a national scale, particularly in developing countries and emerging economies. We also have a longstanding commitment to U.S. libraries. Each of these interventions focuses on long-term support from governments to ensure financial and service sustainability.
High school students using computers at a public library in Constanta, Romania.
We provide multi-year grants to government institutions or intermediary organizations in countries with a high need for public access to information and a readiness to implement technology access in public libraries. Our grants fund efforts to understand local information and technology needs, purchase equipment for libraries, train library staff, and help libraries build public support for long-term funding. Since 2002, we have supported nearly 13,000 libraries around the world that have provided training to more than 20,000 staff and over 1.5 million users.
In addition to our work in the United States, we have supported large-scale efforts in Chile, Mexico, Botswana, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Moldova, Jamaica, South Africa, and Turkey. We have also worked on a smaller scale, through intermediaries, in Nepal, Bhutan, India, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Impact, Advocacy, and Policy
We work to ensure adequate resources and public policy support for libraries, and we help public libraries, library staff, and the library field measure the impact of public access in libraries and strengthen their advocacy skills.
Our efforts in this area include the creation of a common measurement system for collecting data about how libraries contribute to key development issues such as health, education, and economic opportunity. We also funded a 17-country study in the European Union to measure users’ perceptions about the benefits of information technology in public libraries. In addition, with the assistance of the Global Libraries Advocacy Work Group, an international network of library advocacy specialists, we have developed a training curriculum to help build the advocacy skills and confidence of public library staff so they can ensure adequate funding and resources to meet the information needs of their communities.