Contact: Denise Davis
ALA Research Director
For Immediate Release
October 24, 2006
ALA receives $2.6 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
grant for library funding, connectivity studies
(CHICAGO) The American Library Association (ALA) today announced it will develop and oversee a multi-year study assessing the extent of Internet access, as well as the impact of funding changes on connectivity and sustainability of computer services in public libraries as part of a $2.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Public Internet access in libraries is now nearly 100 percent, compared to just 21 percent 10 years ago. Wireless access in libraries has doubled in just the last two years. Yet roughly 80 percent of libraries reported flat funding in the past three fiscal years, representing a loss in buying power when coupled with inflation. Seventy percent of libraries reported in 2006 that they cannot afford to upgrade or replace aging workstations.
"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's generous support will allow the ALA to build on our existing research on library funding. Thanks to the grant, we can now conduct additional qualitative research and reach a much wider audience with our results," said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. "The result will be a much better picture of public library funding and, ultimately, increased funding."
The new study will integrate the longstanding "Public Libraries and the Internet" study administered by Florida State University's Information Institute and the ALA public library funding study to create a comprehensive assessment of libraries. In years two and three of the project, the study also will also be used to evaluate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's continuing grantmaking efforts. ALA Office for Research and Statistics Director Denise Davis will oversee the project.
"How public libraries sustain - and innovate - public access computing for the millions of Americans who depend on us has long been a financial and staffing concern," said ALA President Leslie Burger. "We are pleased to be working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to gather the information we need to best plan for the future."
The survey is currently being developed and will be distributed to public libraries before the end of October. Preliminary results from the first year will be available at the ALA 2007 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., June 21-27.
For more information on the ALA Office for Research and Statistics, please visit www.ala.org/ors. To learn more about the 2006 "Public Libraries and the Internet study," log on at Florida State University's Information Institute at: http://www.ii.fsu.edu/. To read about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's U.S. Library initiative, visit http://www.gatesfoundation.org/UnitedStates/USLibraryProgram/.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates. More information is available at www.gatesfoundation.org.