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Colombia's BibloRed receives the 2002 Access to Learning Award

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards library network USD $1 million grant for innovative efforts to expand access to information, computers and the Internet

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Alice Bishop
Council on Library and Information Resources
Phone: (202) 939-4763
Email: abishop@clir.org

Catalina Ramirez
BibloRed
Phone: +57.1.315.8878
Email: cataramva2002@yahoo.com

GLASGOW, Scotland -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today presented BibloRed (Capital Network of Public Libraries) of Bogotá, Colombia, with the 2002 Access to Learning Award for their exceptional efforts to expand access to information, computers and the Internet for all people. BibloRed also received a USD $1 million grant to expand further the innovative work they are undertaking to provide access to information technology for the public.

"BibloRed has helped link the people of Bogotá with the world of digital information," said Richard Akeroyd, director of International Library Initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We hope that this remarkable project to improve public access to information in Colombia will serve as a model for other countries."

BibloRed is an integrated network of public libraries that offers no-cost access to digital information to patrons in low-income areas who otherwise would have little access to such information. In just four years, BibloRed built three major libraries and upgraded 16 local libraries that now attract an average of 10,000 daily visitors in Bogotá. The libraries are strategically located to serve at least 70 percent of the school-age population and 40 percent of the adult population and to reach approximately 3.4 million people.

"Recognizing that increased access to information and technology helps low-income families increase their educational potential, the City Hall of Bogotá has developed a network of information to reach all people," said Margarita Peña, Secretary of Education, District of Bogotá. "This award will help us expand our efforts and create new opportunities that will improve the lives of many Colombians in the quest for a more equal society."

In addition to providing free access to the Internet, BibloRed has developed valuable training programs to help improve lives, including computer literacy classes for senior citizens and computer training for teachers, children and adults. In a city where two-thirds of the population lives in low-income neighborhoods, BibloRed has provided access to information through up-to-date technology where it was once nonexistent.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award annually recognizes an outstanding library, library agency or similar organization that provides patrons with no-cost public access to information in innovative and useful ways. Only entities outside of the United States are eligible for consideration.

This presentation marks the third year of the award. Proyecto Bibliotecas Guatemala (Probigua) and the Biblioteca del Congreso de la Nación Argentina received the award in 2001. The Helsinki City Library of Finland was the first award recipient in 2000. Each year the award is presented during the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) administers the Access to Learning Award. An international advisory committee of librarians and information technology experts reviewed 131 applications based on efforts to make technology freely accessible to the public, train the public in using technology, educate staff on technology use and reach out to underserved communities.

On the Web:

Council on Library and Information Resources: www.clir.org
BibloRed: www.biblored.org
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: www.gatesfoundation.org

The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to expand access to information, however recorded and preserved, as a public good. In partnership with other organizations, CLIR helps create services that expand the concept of "library" and supports the providers and preservers of information.  Through projects, programs, and publications, CLIR works to maintain and improve access to information for generations to come both in the United States and around the world.

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