Magazine article American Libraries

Annenberg $500 Million Includes Creation of Electronic Library

Magazine article American Libraries

Annenberg $500 Million Includes Creation of Electronic Library

Article excerpt

The widely reported gift of $500 million from publishing mogul and philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg for public education reform--announced Dec. 16 and lauded by President Clinton at a White House ceremony the following day--contains a much less-reported library provision: An unspecified portion of the gift, in the millions, will be used to create an electronic library.

Although articles in the New York Times and other national media did not elaborate on the library aspect of the gift, Brown University President Vartan Gregorian, who has been named project advisor, told AL, "You cannot have school reform without libraries."

Gregorian, who was president of the New York Public Library from 1981 to 1989, stated that he was "not free to tell you at this stage" any of the details of the library plan, which he said will be unveiled in June. "We're talking about a national network," he offered, that will "prevent our public schools from being divided between the haves and have-nots."

Gregorian stressed that the nation's socalled electronic superhighway cannot be allowed to bypass the public. "The time has come to act," he asserted, and to "devise our own demands" as "a major force, not a supplicant."

The money will be administered by the newly created Annenberg National Institute for School Reform, based semiautonomously at Brown University as an extension of the Coalition of Essential Schools, under the direction of Brown professor and coalition chair Theodore Sizer. Fifty million dollars has been allocated for the creation of the institute; $15 million will also go to the Education Commission of the States, and another $50 million to the New American Schools Development Corporation.

To be allocated over five years, the remaining $385 million will go toward trying to duplicate in failing schools the approaches taken in successful ones. At least 20% of targeted schools will be in the nation's nine largest school districts, identified by the institute as those in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Dallas, and Dade and Broward counties in Florida.

"When the time comes," Gregorian said, he will make every effort to communicate details about the project to the library community. "My plea is that librarians should not act as auxiliary but should be central; our libraries are essential, not a luxury."

Gregorian also emphasized that the plan is not about eliminating print material. …

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