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CLIR Press Release:

subject: Access to Learning Award international library award Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award ATLA 2004 ATLA winner Aarhus Public Libraries China Evergreen Rural Library Service Center

CLIR Press Release:

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Roger Nyhus
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
(+1) 206.709.3400
Alice Bishop
Council on Library and Information Resources
(+1) 202.939.4763


Gates Foundation Awards Libraries in Denmark and China for Providing Free Information Technology to Underserved Communities

Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark and China Evergreen Rural Library Service Center Split US$1 Million Annual Access to Learning Award

BUENOS AIRES-The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today presented its 2004 Access to Learning Award to Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark and China Evergreen Rural Library Service Center for their unique and effective methods of providing free public access to computers and the Internet. The recipients each received US$500,000 to further their innovative work to bring information technology to the public.

“These two organizations have taken courageous steps to connect underserved communities with knowledge and information through computers in libraries,” said Bill Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Community members use these computers to improve their education, search for job opportunities and communicate with friends and family around the world.”

The Aarhus Public Libraries in Aarhus, Denmark, make up a visionary public library system with an impressive commitment to developing library services based on Internet and information technology. A major activity is delivering multimedia library services to a growing refugee and immigrant community. Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city, with a population of 300,000. Nearly 12 percent of the people in Aarhus are refugees or immigrants, which is greater than the national average of 7 percent.

Aarhus Public Libraries recruit volunteers from immigrant communities to teach information technology to residents in a variety of languages, including Persian, Arabic, Somali, French and Turkish. All volunteers must complete an intensive 28-hour training course. Aarhus Public Libraries also helped develop FINFO, a Web site that provides information about social services in Denmark in 13 languages, including information about asylum, housing, work, education, politics and culture.

“We believe the public library can be a cultural rallying ground,” said Rolf Hapel, director of the Aarhus Public Libraries. “We plan to use this award to further promote the idea that public libraries can and should provide free and equal access to information for all, particularly those who are less fortunate. In doing so, we expect to be able to use technology in new and creative ways.”

The China Evergreen Rural Library Service Center is addressing the tremendous need for access to information resources in three of China’s western and one of its northern provinces, where poverty and illiteracy abound. Evergreen works with public high schools to develop and computerize library collections, create computer labs that are open to the entire community, and offer training workshops to students, teachers, librarians and the public. Residents in rural China typically do not have access to such facilities.

“Much of rural China is without any access to information technology. We work with local officials to help public schools become technology centers for the entire community,” said Dunzhi Liu, director of the China Evergreen Rural Library Service Center. “With this award, we plan to help more high school libraries create computer labs and allow libraries to share resources and information. We also hope to leverage the award to obtain increased support from local communities and the Ministry of Education.”

Carol Erickson, senior program officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s international library program, presented the awards at today’s ceremony. The foundation’s Access to Learning Award annually recognizes an outstanding library, library agency or similar organization that provides patrons with no-cost public access to information in innovative and useful ways. Only entities outside the United States are eligible for consideration.

This presentation marks the fifth year of the award. Past recipients include the Smart Cape Access Project of Cape Town, South Africa (2003), the BibloRed library network of Bogot?, Colombia (2002), the Proyecto Bibliotecas Guatemala (Probigua) and the Biblioteca del Congreso de la Naci?n Argentina (both in 2001) and the Helsinki City Library of Finland (2000).

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) administers the Access to Learning Award. An international advisory committee of librarians and information technology experts evaluated the more than 100 applications based on the applicants’ efforts to make technology freely accessible to the public, train the public in using technology, educate staff on technology use and reach out to underserved communities.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ( works to promote greater equity in four areas: global health, education, public libraries and support for at-risk families in Washington State and Oregon. The Seattle-based foundation joins local, national and international partners to ensure that advances in these areas reach those who need them most. The foundation is led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to expand access to information, however recorded and preserved, as a public good. In partnership with other organizations, CLIR helps create services that expand the concept of “library,” and supports the providers and preservers of information. Through projects, programs and publications, CLIR works to maintain and improve access to information for generations to come both in the United States and around the world.

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