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Over 95% of Alabama libraries receive grants from Gates Library Foundation to bring computer access to patrons

Foundation announces Bill and Melinda Gates' visit to recognize efforts of first-ever statewide grant recipients

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Richard Akeroyd
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: 206.709.3206

REDMOND, Wash. -- Alabama is on its way to offering computer and Internet access at every public library in the state, as the result of being the first statewide partner of the Gates Library Foundation.

In recognition of Alabama library leadership, the Foundation today announced it will host an event to applaud the hard work of the libraries and announce the next round of state and local grants, all aimed at giving computer access to public library patrons in the lowest income communities in the country.

Nearly every library in Alabama—over 250 altogether—have received a total of over $2.7 million in grants for new computer hardware.

Individual grants have ranged from a modest $80 request by the Oscar Johnson Memorial Library to purchase a memory upgrade for its existing workstation, to over $280,000 to the Birmingham Public Library to build new computer centers at each of its 20 branch libraries.

In addition, each library is receiving 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. Microsoft Corporation has donated software for each grant recipient as well.

In celebration of Alabama's success, the Foundation board of directors and founders will host a reception for library and community leaders next month in Montgomery, including tours of selected library branches by Bill and Melinda Gates. Foundation Directors are Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Foundation, Bill Gray, president of the United Negro College Fund, Gil Anderson, board member for the Seattle Public Library Foundation, and Patty Stonesifer, president of the Gates Library Foundation.

In 1997 and 1998, the Foundation also is funding five student scholarships and internships at the University of Alabama's School of Library and Information Studies. The students will continue the work of TRI in helping the libraries build sustainable, long-term programs.

When the implementation process is finished, over 1000 librarians will have been trained in maintaining their new computer centers, and in making digital information useful for their patrons. The total number of new or upgraded computer workstations installed in the state will be over 1000.

"We are very honored to pay tribute to the difficult and meaningful work being done by the countless number of library staff and volunteers across Alabama," said Foundation president Patty Stonesifer. "Writing the checks was the fun part, but it's the effort being done by the librarians that is making this project really come alive."

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