Microsoft Announces Major Philanthropic Initiative: National Program To Bring Libraries Online! to 41 Communities

Brooklyn, NY, October 9, 1996 — Microsoft today announced the launch of “Libraries Online!,” a $10.5 million philanthropic initiative to help library systems in economically disadvantaged communities nationwide provide public access to the Internet and multimedia personal computers.

Based on the success of its pilot program begun last year with the American Library Association (ALA), Microsoft is contributing financial and technical assistance and software to a total of 41 library systems in the U.S. and Canada, bringing the number of communities served to 215.

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden, and Brooklyn Public Library Executive Director Mart[eel1]n Gmez also announced that a public/private initiative will enable Brooklyn to enter the 21st Century with all 60 library branches connected to each other and to the Internet. The Mayor, New York City Council and the Brooklyn Borough President will contribute a total of nearly $5.5 million to maximize Microsoft’s contribution of $2.2 million in cash, software and technical assistance to Brooklyn, the nation’s fifth largest library system.

“Through Libraries Online!, we have seen children, parents, teachers, entrepreneurs and entire communities gain access to a world of technology and information that simply was unavailable to them before,” Gates said. “Today’s national launch builds on our vision of information at your fingers by empowering people with access to the Internet and the World Wide Web. Libraries will play a pivotal role as we enter the 21st Century in providing access to knowledge and opportunities for everyone.”

“New York City is leading the way into the Information Age and programs such as Microsoft’s Libraries Online! help to ensure that everyone has access to one of our era’s most powerful tools, the Internet,” said Mayor Giuliani. “We are grateful for Microsoft’s support in both Brooklyn and Queens, and applaud the example both of these communities have set.”

Library systems receiving grants this year from Microsoft include: Queens Borough Public Library (New York), Elizabeth Public Library (Elizabeth, NJ), Boston Public Library, Miami-Dade County Public Library, Chicago Public Library, San Francisco Public Library, Kansas City Public Library (Kansas City, MO), St. Louis Public Library, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Minneapolis Public Library, San Antonio Public Library, Connecticut State Library, Oakland Public Library, Phoenix Public Library, St. Paul Public Library (St. Paul, MN), Hartford Public Library, Macon County Public Library (Tuskegee, AL), King County Library System (Bellevue, WA), Central Arkansas Library System (Little Rock, AR), Wicomico County Public Library (Eastern Maryland), Nebraska Library Commission, Cherokee Tribal Library (Tahlequah, OK), Multnomah County Library (Portland, OR), York County Library System of Pennsylvania, Richland County Public Library (Columbia, SC), Memphis-Shelby County Public Library (Memphis, TN), Utah State Library, Nisqually Tribal Library (Olympia, WA), Timberland Regional Library (Southwestern Washington state). Canadian sites include: Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Microsoft is also building on its initial $4.4 million pilot project by providing additional funding to the nine original participating library systems to expand their programs. These nine systems include: Brooklyn Public Library, Baltimore County Public Library, Charlotte-Mecklenberg County Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, Mississippi Library Commission, Pend Oreille County Public Library (Eastern Washington state), Seattle Public Library, South Dakota State Library and the Tucson-Pima County Library. ALA will continue to administer the program.

Libraries Online! enables library visitors to access information provided by the host library through an intranet, as well as the world of information available on the Internet through the World Wide Web. Additionally, patrons of the library can use multimedia PCs for word processing, spread sheets, presentation and graphic design, CD-ROM titles and other software. Participating libraries offer training and special programs that engage and educate users.

Success of pilot program leads to roll-out of nationwide program

Begun as a pilot project in October 1995, Libraries Online! was started with financial grants and software from Microsoft to libraries in nine economically disadvantaged rural and urban communities. During the pilot project, the ALA conducted an evaluation and found that Libraries Online! technology is being used at maximum capacity and positively impacting the lives of library patrons. Users include recent immigrants seeking job opportunities, displaced workers, small business owners, students and families.

“Microsoft recognized early on the value of the public library in America and worked with ALA to demonstrate thoughtful leadership in addressing the issue of access to the Internet,” said Elizabeth Martinez, Executive Director of ALA. “We are delighted with the success of our Libraries Online! pilot program. The immediate goal for ALA is to refine the program models and provide information and training to all people, regardless of their age, background or ability to pay. Today, access to electronic information is not a luxury — it’s a necessity.”

Brooklyn goes on-line

“Libraries Online! is providing Brooklynites with the opportunity to connect to the information superhighway,” said Golden. “We are honored that Microsoft chose Brooklyn as the site to announce the launch of Libraries Online! Working together, we will bring Brooklyn into the 21st Century with a library system that is one of the most technologically advanced in the country.”

“We’re grateful to both Microsoft and the American Library Association for creating a relationship that will bring the Internet to the people of Brooklyn,” added Martn Gmez, executive director of the Brooklyn public library. “We are proud that the Brooklyn Public Library is a major participant in this important new initiative. This gift will give us the jump start we need to become a major player in ensuring public access to the information superhighway.”

Technical support and training for Libraries Online! will be provided by the Technology Resource Institute for Public Libraries (TRIPL) of the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), an association of large public libraries and corporations with the common mission of helping libraries best serve the public through problem solving, understanding new opportunities and conducting applied research.

The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Its mission is to advocate the public’s right to a free and open information society and the highest quality library and information services. The association’s 58,000 members are primarily librarians but also trustees, publishers and other library supports.


Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Contact: Lisa Wolford or Judy Corman, Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, 212-484-6100 John Pinette or Greg Shaw (Corp. Public Relations), Microsoft, 206-882-8080 Donald Kaplan, Brooklyn Public Library, 718-780-7839 Linda Wallace, American Library Association, 312-280-4224

Related Posts

Microsoft Kicks Off Windows XP in New York

Microsoft today launched its newest operating system with a keynote address from Bill Gates, appearances from New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and television personality Regis Philbin, and a free concert featuring Sting.

Microsoft Expands Libraries Online! To Canada

Libraries Online! is a key initiative of Microsoft Canada KidReach, a national donations program that encourages computer literacy in Canadian young people. Microsoft Canada KidReach is providing funding and software to the project.