The foundation created by Microsoft founder Bill Gates has given Iowa libraries nearly three-quarters-of-a-million dollars for a computer-related project. State Librarian Mary Wegner says some of that money will be used to help libraries get high-speed access to the Internet on the computers made available to library patrons. “We’re trying to help them get from low-speed to high-speed. Most of our libraries are there but not all of them,” Wegner says. “A second and larger part of this grant is that the State Library will be hosting websites for public libraries and will help the public libraries develop those websites. This is significant because it allows the libraries to becom virtual libraries and to connect with their customers 24/7 from any place that a computer terminal is available.” Two-hundred-93 Iowa libraries have signed up for the program, which will begin in November. The Gates Foundation also provided a grant aimed at helping libraries in rural areas of Iowa. A series of workshops will be held around the state for public library directors. Wegner expects three-hundred library directors to attend and they’ll be writing “action plans” to help raise the status of their libraries in their respective communities — and raise money, too. Wegner says she’s pleased Omaha businessman Warren Buffett announced last week that he’ll be turning over vast amounts of his private fortune to the Gates Foundation. The state librarian says the Gates Foundation has been working with Iowa libraries for the past 10 years. The first Gates Foundation grant to the state of Iowa’s libraries helped by nearly a thousand computers for 376 Iowa public libraries. “The value of those computers was about $3.6 million,” Wegner says. “That’s the reason that 98 percent of our libraries have public access Internet terminals.” There are five-hundred-43 public libraries in Iowa.