The State Library of Iowa will get nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Microsoft founder’s been a supporter of libraries and literacy for several years now, and state librarian Mary Wegner says he already gave money to local libraries in Iowa. The foundation put about 1,000 computers into 382 libraries, and gave them software for them as well as training in using them. This latest grant of 749-thousand dollars will help the state library with its basic work, supporting the local libraries. It will fund some technical support and some training, and help the libraries that don’t yet have high-speed access to the Internet get it. Another thing the grant will do is help the libraries create new ways to communicate with their patrons. Some libraries already have websites, but for those that don’t yet, they’ll set up sites so customers can learn more about the library, at any hour of the day and night. She says the library can offer “all kinds of useful information” like pointers to finding good information, lists of good books to read, links to other interesting websites and so on. Wegner says the grant will help librarians do their main job — helping Iowans find the information they need. She says there’s a special trick to doing that, in the Age of the Internet. She says it’s an important service, to help Iowans get good at finding the information they need, understanding “when they’ve located the good stuff,” and how to recognize and discard information that’s not accurate. The one-time grant will be used over three years, though its goal is longterm — sustaining public-use computers that everyone in a community can use. Wegner says it’s an exciting time, being able to plan the buying of computers and training local librarians to work with them.
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