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Australian library bags cash from Bill Gates

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The Northern Territory Library – a regional public library in Darwin, Australia – has won US $1million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As part of the ‘Global Libraries’ initiative, the Foundation presented its 2007 Access to Learning Award to the library for its ‘innovative approach to bringing computer and Internet technology to remote indigenous communities’.

Martha Choe, director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative said: ‘The Northern Territory Library is showing the world that people with very limited resources can use technology to increase their quality of life, strengthen their communities, and find new opportunities.’

The library's so-called Our Story database allows local people to preserve and share their cultural heritage by archiving digital recordings and photographs on library computers.

As part of the award, Microsoft will donate US $224,000 in software and a technology training curriculum to upgrade 300 library computers.

The Northern Territory will use the funds to increase training opportunities for its community library officers and library users, and expand Our Story to more communities.

The library will also expand its early literacy program with the goal of helping indigenous children become better prepared to enter formal schooling. Content from the Our Story database will be used to make electronic books using local stories, images, and people.

At the same time, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) also won a US $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Libraries initiative. The funding will support IFLA's work to strengthen awareness of the important role libraries play in developing the information society.