DUBLIN, Ohio – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today awarded the OCLC Online Computer Library Center a three-year, $9 million grant to build a Web-based, public access computing portal for public libraries and other organizations that provide open access to information. The new portal will build on the foundation's five-year-old U.S. Library Program, which is providing computers with Internet access to more than 10,000 libraries across the United States.
"This award is indeed a great honor and we at OCLC, along with our grant partners, understand the significant responsibility it entails," said Jay Jordan, OCLC president and chief executive officer. "We view the portal as a place of continuous online collaboration and learning for public libraries and other nonprofit organizations whose mission includes open access to authoritative knowledge resources. It provides a wonderful opportunity to extend the OCLC library cooperative and continue the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's important mission of helping public libraries and their patrons use computers and navigate the Internet."
To help bring widespread public access to information technologies, the portal will be designed to serve the ongoing needs of public libraries in managing hardware and software, implementing advanced applications, training staff and patrons, and delivering digital library services. It will leverage the installed computing base and trained population already established by the foundation's U.S. Library Program to develop a community of librarians who can share the resources and information necessary to provide ongoing public access computing. Content will serve five critical areas: continuing education, technical support, purchasing, capacity building and community building. The portal will host a range of services and tools, such as online tutorials, training modules, Web casting, message boards and expert assistance that will help libraries manage and enhance their programs.
"This new interactive Web site will be an invaluable tool for the thousands of libraries working to sustain public access computing stations," said Richard Akeroyd, executive director of Libraries and Public Access to Information for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "By providing free, online technical assistance, the site will help libraries of all sizes maintain and even grow their public workstations."
Marilyn G. Mason, a consultant specializing in strategic planning and management for public libraries, will be program director of the portal. Mason served as director of the Cleveland Public Library from 1986-1999 and director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library from 1981-1985. In 1979, she was director of the White House Conference on Library and Information Services, the largest White House Conference ever held in one place. In 2000, President Clinton appointed her to the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science.
OCLC will work with four partners that collectively bring the research, evaluation, governance, e-learning and technology skills needed to successfully design, develop and operate the portal.
The Colorado State Library (www.cde.state.co.us/index_library.htm), part of the Colorado Department of Education, encourages and supports the development of public, school, and college and university libraries to improve library services to the communities these libraries serve. CSL also develops and supports the Colorado Virtual Library providing access to library resources and quality web resources state wide. In addition, CSL serves as a state documents depository, conducts research, and manages libraries at state institutions. The State Library will participate in the development of the portal through its communications with other state libraries and assist in the evaluation of the portal's program and initiatives.
The mission of the Benton Foundation (www.benton.org) is to advance a public interest vision for the digital age and to demonstrate the value of communications for solving social problems. Its focus is on accelerating digital opportunity for all people. The foundation will recommend governance and advisory structures for the portal. Benton will also bring to this project its extensive experience in Web site and portal development and implementation through such programs as the Digital Divide Network (www.digitaldividenetwork.org), and OneWorld U.S. (www.oneworld.net/us).
Isoph (www.isoph.com) develops hosted database applications for growing, sharing and sustaining knowledge. Isoph will provide site design, e-learning course content and learning management systems and standards.
TechSoup (www.techsoup.org) is a comprehensive technology Web site just for nonprofits, powered by CompuMentor. This well-respected resource will provide content evaluation, management and syndication, community building and portal maintenance.
Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, Online Computer Library Center (www.oclc.org) is a nonprofit organization that provides computer-based cataloging, reference, resource sharing and preservation services to 41,000 libraries in 82 countries and territories. OCLC was founded in 1967 to improve access to the world's information and reduce information costs and conducts ongoing research to develop technologies to support that mission. Together, libraries and OCLC have built WorldCat, the world's largest database of bibliographic information. Forest Press, a division of OCLC since 1988, publishes the Dewey Decimal Classification system.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's U.S. Library Program
Started in 1997, the U.S. Library Program was Bill and Melinda Gates' first major philanthropic venture. Since that time the program has made grants to more than 8,000 libraries. The program is dedicated to providing increased public access to computers, the Internet and digital information to library patrons in low-income communities throughout the United States. By the end of 2003, 10,000 libraries in 50 states will have benefited from the $250 million investment from the foundation.
On the Internet:
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, www.gatesfoundation.org
Online Computer Library Center, www.oclc.org
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an asset base of $24 billion.