Attractive Statesville

Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

Gates Computers for the Library

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 3:30 PM by Jenny Levins

Most of you have probably read or heard about Warren Buffet’s decision to give away most of his 40-billion-dollar fortune to charity.  Much of the money is designated to go to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

The focus of the Gates Foundation is on world health and improving United States libraries and schools.  One library that has received gifts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation over the years has been the Iredell County Public Library.

Our library received its first Gates grant in November of 2000.  The library received an $18,000 grant allowing for the purchase of four new computers and a server along with training and free technical support. 

Three of the computers were set up in the Reference Department and one in Youth Services. For a time, these Gates computers made up the bulk of the public access computers that our library had to offer the public

In 1994 when the Internet was first starting 20.9 % of all public libraries were connected to the Internet.  In 2004, 99.6 % were connected, and 98.9 % offered public access.

When our library opened on April 11, 2005 we had 47 Internet computers available in the Reference Department for adult access and 20 in the Youth Services Department for young adult access along with 8 computers with games and learning programs for younger children.

The Harmony Branch Library today has 8 adult Internet access computers and three computers set up for children.

During our first year in the new building our computers were used 101,333 times by patrons.  The public library is the main location in Iredell County for free computer and Internet access. 

Patrons come here to do research, make resumes, create Excel and Word documents, fill out online job applications, send and receive E-mail, and check out the latest news, investment information, weather, sports, and entertainment sites.

The Gates Foundation has continued to give money through various grants to libraries in North Carolina.  In the year 2000 libraries in the state of North Carolina received grants totaling $5,801,080.

In 2005-2006 the Iredell County Public Library received $4,148.82 as part of the Gates Foundation Staying Connected Grant project which allowed us to purchase an additional four new computers.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Americans for Libraries Council recently released a new report entitled “Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes about Libraries in the 21st Century.” 

Overall the report is very favorable regarding libraries.  The survey reported that “Americans view Public Libraries as not only relevant to the 21st Century, but essential to their communities.”

It was noted in the report that while most agencies of government are looked upon with general cynicism by the public the majority say that their local libraries use money well and that they perform an “essential” service in maintaining a productive community.

Two-thirds of those surveyed say that libraries’ top priorities should be having enough books for children, having good reference materials, and knowledgeable, friendly librarians.  At the same time two-thirds say that having enough computers and online services should also be a high priority for their local library.

When asked if their local library were to shut down due to lack of funding 78 % of those surveyed felt such a closure would be an important loss to the whole community and that the money spent on libraries was well spent.

Seven in ten favored wiring libraries so that those who might not be able to afford home computers can learn computer skills and have online access. 

Interviews with nearly three dozen national and community leaders and an in-depth opinion survey found four specific areas where it was felt public libraries should more fully instigate themselves into the life of the community.

The survey found that libraries needed to position themselves as positive “community players” by providing a “safe and engaging place for teens, literacy skills for a strong workforce, a center for community information, and greater access to technology” for the community.

Libraries have always reflected the needs of the community through the services they offer.  The Gates Foundation report said that more than two-thirds of the public (68 %) said that adult literacy programs should be a priority for their local public library with more than half the public (51 %) adding “job search assistance” to the list.

The number of kids under 18 participating in library programs has been rising over the past decade, from 35.5 million a year in 1993, to 51.8 million a year in 2001.  The survey also reported that three-quarters of Americans believe that it is a high priority for local libraries to offer a safe place where teenagers can study and congregate. 

The report can be viewed in its entirety online at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website at under libraries.

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Gates Foundation helped Iredell library to get online” on June 28, 2006