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California Public Libraries to improve access to computers and the Internet:
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will support hardware upgrades

Millions of Americans rely on library computers to do research for school or work, to take distance-learning classes, to find health information, to communicate with family and friends, and to keep up with current events. In communities with lower incomes, libraries often provide the only Internet access.

A new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (the Foundation) will help California’s disadvantaged communities by providing opportunities to replace public access computers in the state’s public libraries.

Called the Public Access Computer Hardware Upgrade Grant Program (PAC HUG), the grant will help participating public libraries sustain free, high quality access to computers and the Internet for their customers by upgrading public library computers that the Foundation previously granted to California libraries in 2000.

The California State Library Foundation will receive the grant funds and manage the project, which will enable library customers, regardless of age, race, income, or geographic location, to have free access to digital information by sustaining current computing hardware platforms in California libraries.

“Computer and Internet access has become one of the key services that are in demand,” said Susan Hildreth, State Librarian of California. “It is critical that we have the resources necessary to sustain this service so that our libraries can help California citizens access the information they need to live engaged, successful lives.”

Follow-Up to 2000 Gates Hardware Grant

In 2000, the Foundation gave 3,060 computers to California public libraries. Due to technology advances, upgrades to the software and hardware now are required to ensure that all libraries are able to sustain the initial investment in connectivity for their customers.

The PAC HUG grant will pay for those upgrades. The grant involves over 115 eligible California libraries covering 622 outlets and over 3000 public access workstations. Following the outline of the original grant, large and small libraries will have distinct programs to address their unique needs.

“Libraries deserve to have the necessary resources to provide library patrons with efficient technology,” said Martha Choe, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries program. “It is now important for libraries to receive continued support from the community—government, businesses, foundations, and citizens—to maintain this technology and provide upgrades in the future.”

Related Grant Information

A related grant from the Gates Foundation, Staying Connected, whose funds are matched by the California State Library, helps support technology training and technical support for long-term sustainability of public access computing. Staying Connected’s goals include providing documentation and objective recommendations on support for public access computing that libraries will be able to use in dialogues with governing boards, local jurisdictions and the public at large when discussing funding needs.

Large libraries have already received grant application materials and will be responding directly to the Gates Foundation. Smaller libraries will be contacted in October with information on how to begin the application process and the timeline for activities.

The California State Library Foundation has played a crucial role in acting as fiscal agent for the PAC HUG as well as the Staying Connected grant funds. State budgetary procedures all but preclude private donations to the California State Library directly so the participation of the California State Library Foundation was essential in allowing the California State Library to proceed with the grant application process.





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