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Oklahoma libraries get $2.5 million

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Computer services at most Oklahoma
libraries will be upgraded as a result of a $2.5 million grant from
a foundation started by Bill and Melinda Gates.

"Not since Andrew Carnegie has such a tremendous gift been
given to Oklahomans in the form of assistance to libraries," Gov.
Frank Keating said at a news conference Tuesday. "On behalf of the
citizens of Oklahoma, I thank Bill and Melinda Gates for their
generosity.

"This gift ensures that Oklahomans will have the access to the
latest information technologies through their public libraries."

Oklahoma becomes the 13th state to receive funding from the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation's Library Initiative.

Jack Faris, director of community strategies, said it was the
foundation's goal to provide funding first with states with high
poverty levels and large numbers of rural areas needing computer
access.

Robert L. Clark, director of the Oklahoma Department of
Libraries, said 168 of the state's 205 library sites will receive
grants.

In addition to the grant money, Microsoft, the computer giant
founded by Gates, is donating $1.5 million in software to be used
with the new computer work stations.

Installation and staff training are expected to be completed by
the middle of next year.

The funds are designed to aid libraries serving populations with
poverty levels of 10 percent or higher. Those libraries will
receive software, technical training and be eligible to buy
computers at a discounted rate.

Clark said his agency had worked to help public libraries gain
Internet access, but many smaller libraries have only one computer,
which may be restricted to staff use.

"This grant ensures a public access point at these libraries,"
Clark said.

Some of the funds will be used to set up four computer training
labs in the state to be located in McAlester, Muskogee, Norman and
Tulsa.

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