Louisa Worthington      
PLA, Manager of Communication
Allison Davis
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

PLA receives Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to help public libraries build skills and experience needed to increase local support and funding

$7.7 million grant will fund national training program for library staff and supporters    

(Washington, D.C.) – Susan Hildreth, president of the Public Library Association (PLA) announced during the 2007 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded PLA a $7.7 million grant to develop and provide a national advocacy training program for public librarians over the next three years.  

Research shows that the public is often unaware of the contributions libraries and librarians make to the health and vitality of their communities. As a result, libraries—which receive more than 80 percent of their funding from local sources—are often overlooked when scarce state, and local financing are allocated among critical services in a community. To help library staff and supporters counter this trend, PLA’s training program will provide librarians with the skills and resources necessary to seek increased funding, create community partnerships, and build alliances with local and regional decision makers. The training will support libraries that are eligible to receive Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Opportunity Online hardware grants, which require grantees to match foundation funds with local dollars. It will also be available to non-grantees on a limited basis.  

“It is imperative that all librarians and library supporters learn to position their public library as an essential community resource in ways that resonate with local stakeholders and result in increased local funding,” said Jill Nishi, program manager of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Libraries initiative. “This professional development program will give people the skills they need to channel their passion and commitment to libraries into strategic community outreach and communications.”

The training will be offered in sites around the country for Gates Foundation grantees, as well as online and during the PLA National Conference and the PLA Spring Symposium. Foundation grantees will be encouraged to send teams of up to three people to the locally customized training where they will learn about and create advocacy plans grounded in the reality of their local, political and economic environment. Each participant will also receive the PLA publication Libraries Prosper with Passion, Purpose and Persuasion: A PLA Toolkit for Success, which will provide them with step-by-step instructions for implementing their advocacy plan.

Finally, the training will include access to an online community, which will provide original content, managed discussions and ongoing support for libraries engaged in local campaigns to build public support and funding.   

“As outlined in PLA’s strategic plan, advocacy is a priority for our organization,” said Hildreth. “Thanks to the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we will be able to reach thousands of librarians with the training they need to build the skills and confidence necessary to
effectively advocate for increased public funding for their libraries.” 

For more information about PLA, visit PLA’s Web site at or contact the PLA office at 800-545-2433, ext. 5PLA, or PLA is a division of the American Library Association.  PLA’s core purpose is to strengthen public libraries and their contribution to the communities they serve. Its mission is to enhance the development and effectiveness of public library staff and public library services.

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, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. More information is available at: