Library Awarded Gates Grant

St. Louis, MO . . . The St. Louis Public Library has been awarded an Opportunity Online hardware grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help provide free, high-quality access to computer workstations for the public. The two-year Opportunity Online hardware grants program will provide funding to replace, and in some cases, add public computers and printers in Branch Libraries, as well as for associated training and tech support.

The Library will provide a 25 percent matching amount during 2010, the first year of the grant, and a 50 percent matching amount during the grant’s second year, 2011. With the local match, this is a $65,000 project for the Library.

The recipient public libraries were selected based on a variety of criteria including the age of existing public use computers. With almost 40 percent of Americans still lacking Internet access at home, libraries are a critical link to technology for many who cannot afford the service on their own. In 2008, over 500,000 people used computers and the Internet at St. Louis Public Library locations to earn long-distance learning degrees, study for their HiSet, start and advance small businesses, find critical health information or jobs, learn English, get e-government information, and much more.

“Computer and Internet access have become essential services for our patrons,” said Diane Freiermuth, St. Louis Public Library Deputy Director. “It is critical that we have the resources necessary to properly maintain these technology tools so that our Library can help all St. Louisans access the information they need to succeed and contribute fully to our community.”

“It is virtually impossible to succeed today without access to computers and the Internet,” said Jill Nishi, program manager of the Gates Foundation’s U.S. Libraries initiative. “Fast, reliable online access can open a world of economic, educational, and social opportunities. It is imperative that all communities acknowledge the role our libraries play in providing this service and give libraries the support they need to continue providing critical technology tools long into the future.”

In 2006, the Gates Foundation awarded the Library a $150,000 grant to upgrade computers previously granted by the foundation. Opportunity Online hardware grants are expected to be the last grants given by the foundation to fund computer upgrades in U.S. public libraries, but the foundation continues to support libraries through investments in Internet connectivity, research, training, and advocacy.

The St. Louis Public Library mission is to provide learning resources and information services that support and improve individual, family, and community life.

For details, call 539-0394.

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