Douglas Announces Gates Foundation Grant for Public Libraries

State of Vermont: OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

For Immediate Release:
December 29, 2009

Contact:  Dennise R. Casey
(802) 828-3333

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Jim Douglas today announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has established a critical grant partnership with the Vermont Department of Libraries and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA)  to help public libraries compete for federal broadband stimulus funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  VTA, in collaboration with the Department of Libraries, plans to submit an application to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) in early 2010.

“I want to congratulate and thank all those who were part of making this grant possible, especially State Librarian, Martha Reid, Chief Technology Officer Tom Evslin and VTA Director, Tom Murray,” said Governor Douglas.  “I also want to thank to the Gates Foundation for recognizing the tremendous effort we are making in Vermont to provide broadband and cell service to every corner of our state.  These matching funds come at a critical time and will allow us to make significant progress on our e-state goal.”

In the letter sent to Governor Jim Douglas from Jill Nishi, Deputy Director of the U.S. Libraries Program at the Gates Foundation states that, “BTOP is an unprecedented opportunity for public libraries” to apply for federal funding to improve access to high quality technology and broadband connectivity. The Gates Foundation, which has provided grants and other funding to public libraries since 1997, selected the Vermont Department of Libraries proposal, along with13 others, from among a pool of respondents to their competitive Request for Interest process, based on “its compelling project concept, demonstrated leadership, and likelihood of successful implementation.”

If the VTA application is awarded federal funding, the Gates Foundation will supply part or all of the required matching money for the portion of the project that benefits Vermont public libraries. The project is designed to bring fiber optic connectivity to selected libraries across the state.

State Librarian Martha Reid, who was in Seattle last week with a team from Department of Libraries to attend meetings with the Gates Foundation said, “We are excited about the potential to improve internet access in our public libraries and are proud of our partnership with the Gates Foundation. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for such a project and the Gates Foundation has given us a big boost in our efforts to secure these federal funds.”

Facts about our public libraries:

  • Vermonters are using local public libraries more than ever before, and have a critical need for quality high-speed internet access. The American Library Association recommends that public libraries offer a minimum connection speed of 1.5 mbps per computer workstation. The Department of Libraries estimates that no more than 20% of Vermont libraries meet this standard, mostly libraries that have only one or two public computers.
  • Vermonters who use public library computers have access to important online content, including job search information, e-government resources, e-commerce sites, and distance learning opportunities;
  • Vermont public libraries require high-speed data connections and increased bandwidth to accommodate growing collections of online and electronic resources available free to citizens of all ages.
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