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Alabama libraries team up with Gates Foundation to provide computer and internet access in public libraries

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Joan Atkinson, Director
University of Alabama
Phone: 205.348.4610
 
Pat Ryan, Director
Jefferson County Library Cooperative
Phone: 205.226.3615

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama Public Library Service and the Gates Library Foundation today announced the first statewide partnership that will bring computers and the Internet for use at up to 200 public libraries statewide.

All told, the Foundation will provide grants, technical assistance and training worth between $2.5 million and $3 million to public libraries serving low-income communities around the state.

Implementation of the effort is expected to begin immediately and take place during the next six months.

"The partnership with the Gates Library Foundation allows us to accomplish the goal we've set as a state to provide information technologies to our librarians and library patrons," said Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) Director Patricia L. Harris.

The Gates Library Foundation grants will build upon the progress APLS and libraries around the state have been making to reach their five-year goal of connecting all Alabama public libraries to the Internet by the year 2000.

Harris said she hopes the partnership with the Gates Library Foundation will inspire others in the community to become more involved with public libraries and life-long learning.

"The library leadership in Alabama is dedicated to opening new doors for all library-goers," said Patty Stonesifer, president of the Gates Library Foundation. "We are focused on working with communities who have a definite need and a strong vision for filling that need. Alabama has both. We hope to learn a lot from their successes."

The core of the Foundation's gift will be direct grants to approximately 200 libraries, ranging from $4,000 to $250,000, to be used for public access to computers and the Internet. Foundation representatives will be in Alabama in November, sponsoring a series of grant application workshops for potential recipients. While all public libraries are eligible for a grant, special emphasis will be given to libraries in low-income communities.

Each library will receive technical assistance and training from the Technology Resource Institute (TRI), a Seattle nonprofit organization funded by the Foundation to act as its on-site and over-the-phone technical support arm. In addition to the cash awards, Microsoft Corporation has donated software for each grant recipient.

The Foundation also will fund six new computer training centers at libraries in Birmingham, Mobile, Demopolis, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. Training will focus on technical network administration as well as basic Internet searching techniques, computer applications and trouble shooting for library staff and the public.

In addition, the Foundation will fund five student scholarships and internships at the University of Alabama's School of Library and Information Studies. These students will provide technical assistance and training to the libraries receiving Foundation grants.

As a state agency, the Alabama Public Library Service is charged with improving library services throughout the state to ensure that all citizens have access to quality library and information services. The agency receives and administers federal and state funds for the more than 200 public libraries in Alabama.

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