Close to $2.5 million in grants and services from the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation Library Initiative will be split among 168
of Oklahoma's 205 public library sites, Gov. Frank Keating and other
officials announced Tuesday.
Microsoft is donating another $1.5 million in software to be used
with new computer workstations.
"Melinda and I believe in bringing opportunity through technology
and education to all people," Gates said. "We are pleased to support
the efforts of so many in Oklahoma to ensure that all people have the
tools they need to learn and work in the 21st century."
The Metropolitan Library System will receive $169,493 at 15 sites,
for eight servers and 52 computers.
Donna Morris, director of public services for the system, said
that all but Bethany, Village and Warr Acres libraries will receive
the grant funding. She said these facilities, in areas above the
poverty threshold, will be eligible for purchasing hardware and
software at a discount to provide standardized equipment for the
entire system. The Spencer extension facility will also not receive
the computer enhancement funding.
Computers are due in the other facilities by mid-December. System
technical personnel will receive training in Seattle, Morris said,
and they will in turn train other personnel.
"Not since Andrew Carnegie has such a tremendous gift been given
to Oklahomans in the form of assistance to libraries," said Keating.
"This gift ensures that Oklahomans will have access to the latest
information technologies through their public libraries."
Carnegie, a major benefactor behind the proliferation of public
libraries early in this century, could never have envisioned an
information system through which people could access libraries
throughout the world, Keating added.
The governor said the grants will enable Oklahoma to be "a member
of the world learning community."
Keating said that one of the challenges facing Oklahoma is to
upgrade the knowledge and access of Oklahomans of all ages "in the
high-speed, digital economy, the information-technology age in which
we live." Though many Oklahomans still do not have personal access,
he said, the state is endeavoring to give its public schools access
through OneNet and other facilities. He said that acquiring such
knowledge and skill is vital to their participation as "citizens of
the world" in the information age.
Robert Clark, director of the Oklahoma Department of Public
Libraries, said that implementation of the grants has already
commenced, with installation and staff training due for completion by
"These new computer workstations will be strictly for the public's
use," said Clark. "ODL has worked to help public libraries in the
state establish Internet access. But many smaller libraries have
only one computer, which may be restricted for staff use. This grant
ensures a public access point at these libraries."
Clark said the gift will benefit all Oklahomans.
"This grant really makes a lot of difference in what we can do in
providing public access, in creating some type of closing of the
`digital divide' that prevents people without the resources to have
computers and Internet access in their homes, to have this through
the library," he added. …