Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards ALA grant to improve Internet connectivity in public libraries

Contact: Bernadette Murphy

ALA Washington Office
(202) 628-8410
For Immediate Release:

September 6, 2006

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards ALA grant to improve Internet connectivity in public libraries

(WASHINGTON) The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) of the American Library Association (ALA) $525,000 in support of the ALA’s efforts to ensure free public access to the Internet in all of America’s public libraries. The three-year general operating grant will allow OITP to help libraries meet increasing demand for public computing and Internet access by supporting libraries’ participation in the federal E-rate program.

“Millions of people in the United States, most of them low-income and disadvantaged individuals, rely on public libraries for their primary access to computers and the Internet,” said Jill Nishi, Program Manager of the foundation’s U.S. Library Program. “It is critical that libraries have the resources necessary to sustain these essential technology tools so that all citizens can access the information they need.”

Although virtually all of America’s public libraries now offer public access to the Internet, many public libraries have difficulty funding necessary hardware and connectivity upgrades to sustain quality services for their patrons. Without continued improvements to technology infrastructure, libraries’ ability to provide quality Internet access to the public is threatened. The foundation estimates that 63 percent of libraries that participated in its original U.S. Libraries Program are vulnerable to having their public computing programs become outdated because they have not been able to maintain or update hardware or have insufficient Internet connectivity.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's generous support means that OITP can expand its efforts to ensure that our communities have free public access to the Internet,” said Rick Weingarten, Director of OITP. “OITP is so pleased to be working with the foundation to close the digital divide by ensuring that all Americans-regardless of income, race, age, or geography- have equal access to online content.”


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