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Gates Library Foundation releases grant guidelines for low-income libraries to bring public access to computers and the Internet

1000 libraries receive funds for 1998

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Carol Rava, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: 206.709.3100
Email: media@gatesfoundation.org

REDMOND, Wash. -- The Gates Library Foundation today released its first grant guidelines for U.S. public libraries to help provide public access to computers and the Internet across the country.

During the first round of funding, the Foundation will work with approximately 1,000 individual libraries, with a special emphasis on serving low-income communities. Grants will be used to provide new computers for library patrons, and portions of the grants also will be dedicated to staff technical training and support. Grants will range from $4,000, for a small rural library requiring only one computer, to $30,000 or more for larger library buildings which will receive 10 or more PCs.

The Foundation has targeted libraries in the neediest states and communities, using U.S. Census statistics and a study conducted by the American Library Association on public libraries and poverty to establish eligibility guidelines.

The Gates Library Foundation was formed in June, 1997, with a commitment from Bill and Melinda Gates of $200 million to purchase computers for public library patrons and provide technical training and support for library staffs in low-income communities. Microsoft Corporation will donate software for each computer purchased through Foundation grants.

"Based on what we've learned from library leadership across the country, we developed three programs: first, statewide partnerships; second, an approach for urban library systems serving large low-income communities; and third, a program for individual library participation," said Patty Stonesifer, president of the Gates Library Foundation.

The three categories of grants are:

Statewide Library Partnerships - Statewide partnerships are cooperative relationships between the foundation, state library agencies, schools of library science, and local libraries within a state. The foundation provides broad funding, technical assistance and training to libraries throughout the state. The aim of statewide partnerships is to dramatically expand public access to computers and the Internet and to help build skills of library staff.
For the current round of funding, only those states which, according to the 1990 U.S. Census, had a poverty rate of at least 19 percent are eligible to apply for partnership consideration. Census figures indicate those states are: Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and West Virginia.

The Foundation will enter into three statewide partnerships in 1998.

The first statewide partnership was awarded last week to the state of Alabama. It will reach more than 200 public libraries across the state and will provide a model for the 1998 statewide partnerships.

Urban Library Leadership Grants - Urban leadership grants provide funding for large library systems serving the needs of very low-income communities. Grants expand public access to computers and the Internet at multiple branches and provide technical assistance and training to library staff.
For the current round of funding, only those library systems serving a population of more than 100,000, and which have at least two library buildings serving areas of extreme poverty are eligible. An area of extreme poverty is a library building service area that has at least 40 percent of its population in poverty as defined by the U.S. Census and identified in the recent ALA study. In 1998, 51 large library systems are eligible and 20 systems will be awarded grants.

Opportunity Grants - These grants provide funding and limited technical assistance to libraries serving low-income communities which are planning to expand public access to computers and the Internet. Grants are limited to funding for work at one branch.
For the current round of funding, only those library systems which have at least one library building serving an area of extreme poverty are eligible. At least 20 opportunity grants will be awarded in 1998.

Applications are due Dec. 15, 1997, with the first round of grants to be awarded by February 28, 1998.

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