ALA joins Verizon to build online literacy network

Contact: Dale Lipschultz
312-280-3275

ALA News Release
For Immediate Release
March 2001

ALA joins Verizon to build online literacy network

The American Library Association (ALA), has joined with Verizon, the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL), and Reading is Fundamental (RIF) to create the Verizon Literacy Network ( www.VerizonReads.net) - an online network that will provide continuous and instant access to a variety of critical resources that promote a more literate America.

The first phase of the Verizon Literacy Network, which premiered March 19, 2001, is "Ask Verizon Reads." Designed to provide answers to questions about literacy, "Ask Verizon Reads" is powered by Ask Jeeves, a leading provider of intuitive, intelligent question-answering technologies.

Visitors to the Verizon Literacy Network can enter a question about literacy in the "Ask Verizon Reads" question box and instantly receive a comprehensive list of Web sites that contain specific information related to the question. The questions provide the searcher with the most specific and applicable information available. ALA is developing a list of 100 questions about libraries, literacy programs and coalitions based on existing ALA information and materials. When visitors ask questions regarding libraries and literacy, they will be sent to a page on the ALA Web site that answers their question.

"The American Library Association is proud to take part in these two national efforts meant to educate, build coalitions and share resources about literacy," said ALA President Nancy Kranich. "Libraries and librarians have always been at the forefront of literacy efforts, which are essential to ensuring the public can participate in the 21st-century information society."

Question boxes also will appear on the ALA, NCFL, NIFL and RIF Web sites. "Verizon is committed to using technology as a powerful catalyst for positive change," said Verizon Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer Charles R. Lee. "Our vision in building the Verizon Literacy Network is to significantly improve literacy by opening the door to new levels of collaboration between America's literacy providers in delivering valuable information, resources and training over the Internet to millions of households nationwide."

"We are proud that this network of the nation's top literacy organizations have chosen Ask Jeeves to power their online initiative," said Claudio Pinkus, president of Ask Jeeves Business Solutions. "Ask Jeeves' intuitive interface enables people to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for. By understanding and analyzing the questions people ask, we will provide our partners with valuable insight about their users' needs and interests. We plan to help the Verizon Literacy Network stay in close touch with its online users and move it closer to achieving its goals. "

This online network is unique in that it links charitable, public and private resources nationwide to focus on a single societal issue. Resources on the network will include educational information on literacy, local and national organizations providing assistance, literacy volunteer opportunities, distance learning courses and more as the network continues to grow.

Verizon Foundation has committed to invest $3 million in grants for the Network's technology and content, including $1.5 million in grants presented today to the ALA, NCFL, NIFL and the RIF. ALA will use the $250,000 grant and the previous $150,000 they received from Verizon, to create buildliteracy.org, a coalition-building Web site. The Web site will improve the exchange of knowledge, information and resources between existing literacy coalitions while encouraging the development and growth of new literacy coalitions in communities across the United States.

Buildliteracy.org will launch in June 2001 at the ALA Annual Conference.

The Verizon Literacy Network will continue to add features throughout 2001 and beyond. Functionality to be added this year includes: Verizon Literacy University, an online distance-learning program; Online Literacy Directory, a list of literacy organizations; and Provider Administrative Site, which includes information and tools to help literacy providers with administrative functions.

The Verizon Literacy Network was announced during a national launch event in Dallas on March 19, in conjunction with the National Conference on Family Literacy's annual conference. Noted actor and literacy champion James Earl Jones attended to take part in a special reading of The Lion King at the Dallas Zoo.

For more information, visit www.VerizonReads.net.