Information Today
Volume 19, Issue 6 June 2002
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OCLC to Create Computing Portal for Public Libraries

OCLC has announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded it a 3-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 5-year-old U.S. Library Program, which is supplying computers with Internet access to more than 10,000 libraries across the U.S.

"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 CEO. "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, Webcasting, 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 to 1999 and as director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library from 1981 to 1985.

OCLC will work with the following four partners:

The Colorado State Library (http://www.cde.state.co.us/index_library.htm)

The Benton Foundation (http://www.benton.org)

Isoph (http://www.isoph.com)

TechSoup (http://www.techsoup.org)

According to the announcement, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (http://www.gatesfoundation.org) is dedicated to improving 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.

Source: OCLC, Dublin, OH, 614/764-6000; http://www.oclc.org.

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