2004 Gates Foundation Award Goes to Libraries in Denmark and China

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will present its fifth annual Access to Learning Award to library systems in Denmark and China August 24 at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This year the $1-million award is split between the Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark and the China Evergreen Rural Library Service Center in Changsha, Hunan province.

The Aarhus Public Libraries have recruited volunteers from immigrant communities in Denmark’s second-largest city to teach information technology to residents in a variety of languages, among them Persian, Arabic, Somali, French, and Turkish. The $500,000 award will help expand this program, according to Library Director Rolf Hapel, and “further promote the idea that public libraries can and should provide free and equal access to information for all.”

The China Evergreen Rural Library Service Center assists high school libraries in providing free information services to the public in China’s western and northern provinces, where public libraries are rare. “With this award,” CERLS Director Dunzhi Liu said, “we plan to help more high school libraries create computer labs and allow libraries to share resources and information.

The foundation has given the international award, which is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources, to organizations in Finland, Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, and South Africa in previous years. The award was established to recognize and assist “an outstanding library, library agency, or similar organization that provides patrons with no-cost public access to information in innovative and useful ways.”

Posted on American Libraries Online on August 20, 2004.