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Public Information and Communication

April 1, 2001


Mary Jo Ryan

Nebraska Library Commission Notified of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Funding

Nebraska is one of sixteen states scheduled to benefit from funding through the U.S. Library Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Grants will be awarded and computers installed in libraries from summer 2002 through fall 2003. Public libraries that serve communities with more than ten percent poverty that were not previously eligible for a grant from the foundation will be invited to apply. Grants support expanding public access to computers, the Internet, and digital information in libraries that serve low-income communities. Libraries use the funds to purchase computers, networking equipment, and telecommunications services for Internet access. The grants also provide training and technical support to the library staff, covering network administration, computer and Internet applications, and computer systems management. Microsoft Corporation donates software to libraries receiving foundation grants.

As this fourth and final round of technology grants gets underway, an independent evaluation of the first round published in the February 15, 2001 issue of Library Journal reveals positive effects for libraries and their patrons, many of whom had little or no prior access to digital resources. The evaluation, led by Professor Andrew Gordon from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, found that students and low-income residents were the heaviest users of the new computers. For more than half of the unemployed users who used the library as a resource while looking for work, the library computers were their only source of access.

The study also tracked a positive shift in staff morale in libraries that had received computers and training, as well as increased library traffic. "As we enter this final phase of what has been a tremendous effort to help bridge the Digital Divide, it is rewarding to realize the positive impact it is having on libraries and their patrons," said Richard Akeroyd, Executive Director of Libraries and Public Access to Information at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Started in 1997, this program was the first major philanthropic venture for Bill and Melinda Gates. Since that time, the program has made grants to more than 5,800 libraries in the United States, installed more than 25,000 personal computers (PCs), and trained 7,000 librarians. The program is dedicated to providing increased public access to computers, the Internet, and digital information to library patrons in low-income communities in the United States. It is anticipated that by the end of 2003, 10,000 libraries in fifty states will have benefited from the $200 million total investment from the foundation.


As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, bringing together people and information. The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission home page. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. See Led by William H. Gates, Sr. and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an asset base of $21 billion.

For more information, contact Tessa Terry.