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Jonathan Burman or Tom Dunn at (518) 474-1201






     The Board of Regents today announced that 421 public libraries in high need communities throughout New York will be receiving more than 2,000 new computers through a $4.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. New York State is one of ten states receiving a total of $8.3 million in grants to help public libraries provide quality access to computers and the Internet.

     The new “Opportunity Online” hardware grants are available to public libraries serving communities with high concentrations of poverty and that are at risk of having outdated technology.

     Libraries that will be receiving grants are located in all 62 of New York’s counties. The list of libraries is available at the following link:

     Regents Chancellor Robert M. Bennett said, “These grants will help libraries throughout the State provide their communities with services that are vitally important in our information-driven society.”

     State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, “We live in an age of information, and libraries play a critical role in providing us with access to that information. They are vital to our economy and our communities. They promote literacy and lifelong learning.”

     The grants will be administered through the New York State Library. Libraries are required to provide matching funds to be eligible for the grants. When these matching funds are added to the $4.1 million grant, the value of the grants increases to $6.1 million. The grant period runs through December 31, 2009.

     Many libraries struggle to keep pace with technology and rapidly increasing community demand for these services.  A recent national survey revealed that four out of five public libraries say they do not have enough computers to meet their community’s needs.  With nearly half of the nation’s public libraries reporting decreased or flat public funding in 2006, inadequate technology services persist in many libraries.

       The Opportunity Online hardware grant program is the fourth grant program from the Gates Foundation that has enabled the Board of Regents to secure funding to help New York’s public libraries improve computer and Internet services.  In 1998, 427 public libraries in New York received a total of $16.6 million through a State Partnership Grant from Gates to make computer and Internet technology available to those New Yorkers with no other means of access.   In 2002, the State Library received a $257,700 grant that expanded on the State Partnership Grant program by providing technology training for staff at public libraries. A third grant program entitled “Staying Connected, Phase I and Phase 2” awarded a total of $516,640 in 2003-2004 to the State Library to help public libraries maintain their public access computing services.

        In December 2007, the Board of Regents announced it is receiving $6.2 million in support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Wallace Foundation for work to improve New York State’s high-school graduation rates, college readiness and college completion rates.

       A video statement from Jeffrey Cannell, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education, further explaining the grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is online at the New York State Library website: .