Public Library Association expands access to technology and digital skills training for rural communities with Microsoft Philanthropies

For Immediate Release
Fri, 06/07/2019


Laurence Deutsch

Manager, Communications

Public Library Association (PLA)

CHICAGO — Today, the Public Library Association (PLA) announced a new effort, supported by Microsoft Corp., to increase digital skills programming and access to technology in rural communities. Through $400,000 donated by Microsoft Philanthropies, PLA will provide hardware and digital skills training and resources to rural libraries, helping rural populations reap the benefits of broadband internet connectivity.

PLA’s program, DigitalLead: Rural Libraries Creating New Possibilities, will accept applications from libraries in select rural counties to help them to establish mobile hotspot lending programs and to initiate or expand digital skills training programs and patron access to computers. At least 50 libraries will be approved to receive new computers and other hardware, training and more. Libraries nationwide will benefit from the training and tools collated by the project and released for use by PLA members and others.

“Many rural libraries lag behind their urban counterparts in technological equipment and services, and they face other challenges like lack of dedicated staff for digital services and a need for training on how to help patrons get online and be successful,” says Monica Dombrowski, executive director of the Sycamore (Ill.) Public Library and chair of PLA’s Digital Literacy Committee. “We’re thrilled to partner with Microsoft on this important project, which builds upon existing PLA programs like and Turning the Page.”

According to a recent Microsoft study, 162.8 million people do not use the internet at broadband speeds, and almost 66 million people have low levels of digital readiness, according to the American Library Association. Libraries provide essential services to populations most affected by these challenges, particularly rural and low-income communities.

Microsoft Philanthropies works to advance the company’s mission by partnering with nonprofits and local governments to make opportunities in the digital economy accessible to all people. In addition, Microsoft is closing the broadband gap through the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which works to provide broadband access to underserved communities.

“Rural libraries provide essential community services and are part of the solution needed to empower rural communities and ensure they are included in the digital economy,” said Corporate Vice President and Lead of Microsoft Philanthropies Mary Snapp. “Microsoft’s support of the Public Library Association will help bridge this access and skills gap in conjunction with our Airband initiative and partnerships with other national organizations including FFA and 4-H.”

The first application period will open during the week of June 17, 2019. A list of eligibility criteria, determined by PLA, will be posted on the PLA website and included with the application instructions. For more information, visit the DigitalLead: Rural Libraries Creating New Possibilities page. Additional information about the DigitalLead project will be shared at PLA’s educational session, The Digital Literacy Frontier: From Broadband Access to Skill Development at the 2019 ALA Annual Conference.

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About the Public Library Association
The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 10,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. For more information about PLA, contact the PLA office at 1 (800) 545-2433, ext.5PLA, or

For more information, press only:

  • Public Library Association, 1 (800) 545-2433 ext. 5PLA,
  • Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,