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Bill and Melinda Gates establish library foundation dedicated to bringing internet to libraries

Gates Library Foundation names Stonesifer chairman and president

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

REDMOND, Wash. -- Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda French Gates, today announced the formation of the Gates Library Foundation—a nonprofit organization dedicated to partnering with U.S. and Canadian public libraries to bring computers and digital information to the communities they serve.

The Foundation will provide public libraries in low-income communities with the computer hardware and software required for community access to the Internet, as well as provide support and training for public library personnel throughout the U.S. and Canada.

"Our public libraries represent free and open access to important information and knowledge," said Melinda Gates. "Bill and I are excited to be helping libraries ensure that children and adults from all walks of life will have access to the wealth of information and understanding that computers and digital information make possible."

The Gates Library Foundation will expand upon the work of Microsoft's community affairs initiative, Libraries Online. The program was launched in December 1995 with the support of the American Library Association to bring information technology and training to public libraries in urban and rural locations.

"Since I was a kid, libraries have played an important role in my life. In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to visit many libraries and see first hand how people are using personal computers and the Internet to do anything from look for a job to research a term paper. Witnessing the empowerment this technology has given people underscores my belief that computers can really make a difference in the lives of others," said Bill Gates.

"A new form of literacy is being required of our young people," said United Negro College Fund President and CEO William Gray III, a Foundation board member. "The technology and training being provided by the Gates Library Foundation will ensure that all our young people will have equal opportunity to succeed."

In 18 short months, the Libraries Online pilot program has reached more than 200 libraries in over 40 North American systems with $17 million in cash and software donations. The Gateses' commitment to libraries will expand upon that gift with a cash contribution of $200 million. In addition, Microsoft has pledged to match the Gates' cash grant with software of equal value, bringing the total commitment to $400 million.

"This is an enormous gift to our nation's libraries," said Elizabeth Martinez, executive director of the American Library Association. "It means that potentially every child and adult will have access to global information online at public libraries across America."

The Foundation process for awarding grants is currently being defined, although work is under way this summer and fall with library systems already identified through the Libraries Online initiative.

Stonesifer to lead Gates Library Foundation

Patty Stonesifer, former senior vice president of Microsoft's Interactive Multimedia Division and consultant to DreamWorks SKG, has been named as the Foundation's president and chairman. In addition to Stonesifer and William Gray III, Foundation board members include Bill and Melinda Gates; Gilbert W. Anderson, retired president and CEO of Physio-Control and Seattle Public Library Foundation board member; and Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation.

Christopher Hedrick, who has run Libraries Online at Microsoft since he started, has joined the staff of the Gates Library Foundation as program director. The training and technical support for the Foundation's library participants will be provided by the nationally recognized Technology Resource Institute (TRI), based in Seattle and led by Willem Scholten.

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