By Martin Kidston
The Bill Gates Learning Foundation is extending its wealth to allow 110 Montana public libraries to purchase computers, internet access and training for employees, Gov. Marc Racicot announced Wednesday.
The Havre-Hill County Library is on the list.
One of two philanthropic foundations established by software giant Bill Gates, the Learning Foundation, holding nearly $1.3 billion in assets, intends to target libraries that serve low-income populations. By offering funding, the hope is to bridge the digital divide between those who have access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.
Havre-Hill County Library Director Bonnie Williamson said most state libraries qualified for the funds, and that Bill Gates himself set aside the needs and qualifications.
Our library was on his list, Williamson said. He starts this November with training. By next spring, the library will receive equipment and more training.
Williamson said the equipment to be received will include two Pentium 90 or better personal computers with 16 mega bites of RAM, intended for all uses. Of those computers, she said the number dedicated for public use will be one. The library also gets a router a means to connect computer systems across the state.
Williamson, who serves on the networking task force for the state library commission, wrote a grant requesting the funds.
We, the networking task force, act as a board for the Gates foundation, she said. Each of the public libraries that qualified and needed help wrote individual grants, and in November when the training comes, I will further define our own specific needs.
Since its inception in 1997, the Gates Learning Foundation has awarded grants of more the $24 million to 1,600 libraries in 29 states. The foundations five year goal is to reach more than 10,000 American and 1,400 Canadian libraries, and provide them with training by taking an active role in providing information access for future generations.
I think he has the right idea in helping libraries, Williamson said. I appreciate all the training they give us, and to actually come on site to train the staff, thats a great thing.