I wanted to be the first to tell the library community – the community I’ve been working with for the last forty years – some important news.
The foundation has decided to conclude our work in Global Libraries over the next three to five years. This transition will happen slowly with no programmatic changes to our budgets this year or next year, and we are planning a smooth transition for our staff, grantees and the field. While libraries will continue to change and evolve, we’re confident the legacy of our 20-year, $1 billion investment will help ensure the global libraries field continues to provide opportunities for access for library users around the world.
We are incredibly proud of the quality of the projects we’ve funded, the work of our grantees and staff, and steadfastly believe in the value of public libraries.In 1997, Bill and Melinda created the Gates Library Foundation to bring computers and digital information to public libraries in the United States. When the foundation began this work, less than a quarter of libraries in the United States were connected to the Internet and fewer provided Internet access. Today, thanks to these investments, nearly all U.S. libraries are not just connected, they’ve been transformed to critical community assets for today’s digital world.
And the foundation hasn’t only worked in the United States. Recognizing the power of public libraries, in 2000 we expanded our program to include developing and transitioning countries. To date, Global Libraries has reached more than 13,000 public libraries in nearly 20 countries and has seen the same impact that has been achieved in the United States.
We are incredibly proud of the quality of the projects we’ve funded, the work of our grantees and staff, and steadfastly believe in the value of public libraries. I am personally very proud of my staff, and am on a daily basis impressed by the work of our grantees and partners around the world. Our investments in public libraries both domestically and globally have ensured that millions of people around the world have better access to digital tools that can help improve their lives.
There’s much work to be done in the next few years. I’ll be travelling extensively and along with my team, we’ll have many conversations with grantees and partners. We are committed to cementing the foundation’s legacy to libraries, leaving the field strong, and sharing what we’ve learned to advance the field. This will take time, and we have the time we will need to make sure we do this right.
Having committed my life to public libraries throughout the United States and the world, I believe the foundation has made a truly remarkable investment, the impact of which is seen in the ways public libraries improve the lives of their users every day.