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Public Information and Communication

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 13, 2009

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Christa Burns
402-471-3107
800-307-2665

Gates Foundation Grant Helps Libraries Improve Free Internet Access for Nebraskans

This month thirty-seven Nebraska public libraries became eligible to receive $317,200 in matching grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the purchase of 122 computers that will help improve and sustain free, quality access to computer resources for Nebraskans. The list of Nebraska libraries that qualified and are participating in the Opportunity Online hardware grant program is located at nlc.nebraska.gov/libdev/Gates/gatesfoundationopponlinegrants2009.html. The Opportunity Online grant program, totaling $6.5 million in awards to eleven states, will upgrade computer hardware in public libraries by helping to replace, and in some cases add new public computer workstations in libraries and will finance training and technical support.

Nebraska libraries eligible for the Opportunity Online hardware grant program will match the Gates Foundation funds with local dollars, demonstrating community support for maintaining computer upgrades and community capacity to sustain investments in technology access for the future. The Gates Foundation will fund travel expenses for library staff participating in the grant program to attend Turning the Page: Building Your Library Community, a professional development conference offered by the Public Library Association to help strengthen the skills and confidence library staff and supporters need to increase awareness of the library's value and motivate local support.

"In today's economy, it is critical that people have equal access to the information and knowledge that are available online," said Jill Nishi, deputy director of the U.S. Libraries initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Nearly all public libraries in the United States provide this access, but many struggle to keep pace with advancing technology and rapidly increasing community demand for these services. Communities must commit the local resources necessary to ensure all people have opportunities to benefit from technology.

"We are dedicated to supporting libraries in their efforts to provide the latest in computer technology to their customers, helping open up the world of information for citizens of all ages," Nebraska Library Commission Director Rod Wagner said. This partnership supports public access computing efforts in public libraries and builds on previous Gates Foundation support. The extremely favorable experience of Nebraska libraries during the previous partnerships with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is illustrated by the following comment:

"The major success for this past year was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant... brought more library traffic, as the patrons who want to use the computers also check out our collection while they are here."-Grant County Library in Hyannis

The Nebraska Library Commission is acting as the intermediary on behalf of the foundation for the Opportunity Online hardware grant program and will verify completion of requirements and disperse the grant funds to local libraries. 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."

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The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website, nlc.nebraska.gov, search on News Releases.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org.


For more information, contact Mary Jo Ryan.