Bill Gates and Libraries

Bill Gates and Libraries


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



There is no way to avoid the fact that Bill Gates’s money was made by his own work

and effort, and, most of all, by his thinking. He created his billions by building

an enormously productive organization



The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Can Capitalist Organizations Be More than Self-Serving? 


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people’s lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community.  The foundation was created in January of 2000, through the merger of the Gates Learning Foundation, which focused on expanding access to technology through public libraries, and the William H. Gates Foundation, which focused on improving global health. Led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an endowment of approximately $24 billion.

“The Road Ahead,” Mr. Gates’ book, with him standing in the middle of an empty highway in remote eastern Washington. Mr. Gates, the richest man in the world, began a five-year philanthropic effort to put computers in every poor library district in the United States “I thought digital technology would eventually reverse urbanization, and so far that hasn’t happened,” Mr. Gates said. Three years ago, when stock in Microsoft , the company Mr. Gates co-founded, hit an all-time high of $119 a share, Mr. Gates was worth nearly $75 billion in Microsoft holdings alone. Now, he is about $40 billion lighter, on paper.

“My value is still so much higher than I ever expected it to be by a factor of about 50,” Mr. Gates shrugs his losses off. “So the fact that at one point it was say, a factor of 60, well — that wealth is all going back to society anyway.” The charitable group that Mr. Gates started with his wife, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is now giving away $1.2 billion a year. Mr. Gates said he was pleased that its first major philanthropic effort, the library project, had helped to narrow the digital divide. 

Inside the Seattle headquarters of the foundation, a giant map shows the progress of the campaign to give computers to libraries in every state. The campaign started with the poorest regions, mainly in the South and Great Plains, though distressed urban areas are included, too. The foundation has fared much better than Mr. Gates’s personal fortune. Other philanthropies, notably those started by David and Lucile Packard and by Ted Turner, have seen their assets shrink considerably with the stock market collapse. 

By contrast, the Gates Foundation has grown, and now has assets of $24 billion — far more than any single philanthropy in the country. The foundation weathered the storm, Mr. Gates said, because less than 2 percent of its money is invested in stocks, though Mr. Gates said that could rise to 25 percent over the next four years, as it pursues bargains in the market. “They are the only major foundation that is still doing great,” said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

At 47, Mr. Gates has handed out $5.5 billion for global health issues, education and the library project, which is the first major initiative at the foundation to essentially run its course. Critics say Mr. Gates has raised his philanthropic profile at the same time his company has been battling court rulings that found Microsoft to be a monopoly that violated the law in trying to dominate the personal computer market.  Even giving 40,000 computers to libraries is seen by some as simply an effort to create a bigger customer base for Microsoft products.

Patty Stonesifer, the president of the foundation, who started at Microsoft more than 15 years ago, says Mr. Gates was committed to putting computers in every library well before he was labeled a monopolist, and would be committed to it long afterward.  Mr. Gates’s belief that the Internet can have a democratizing effect. Andrew C. Gordon, hired by the foundation to evaluate the library project, found that library use went up and usually not at the expense of books. He also found that most people who used the donated computers were poor, in the income bracket where the digital divide has been greatest.

But the No. 1 thing that people used the computers for was to keep in touch with family and friends through e-mail, Mr. Gordon said. He also found that 22 percent of new computer users in the libraries said they helped them find jobs; whether those jobs were in a different location was never tracked. Staff members of the foundation answer questions and provide support to librarians, but that will be phased out in the next two years.  The biggest question about the project is whether it will sustain itself once the Gates people walk away, after spending about $250 million on the project.

Mr. Gates seems ready to check the library project off his to-do list. His model was Andrew Carnegie, who left hundreds of sturdy libraries standing in small towns as part of his philanthropic legacy. “You know, Carnegie was a pretty hard-core guy,” he said, leaving Main Street here, where the biggest digital sign displays the price for wheat: $4.80 a bushel. “I’d be happy if I could think that the role of the library was sustained and even enhanced in the age of the computer.”

Source: Timothy Egan,  “Bill Gates Views What He’s Sown in Libraries” (NYTimes, November 6, 2002).

About the Gates Foundation

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History & Rationale of Gates Library Initiative

The Gates Library Initiative began in 1997, and is dedicated to partnering with public libraries to bring computers, Internet access and technical training to library patrons in low-income communities in the United States and Canada. The Gates Library Initiative is the cornerstone of the Gates Learning Foundation, which was recently renamed to reflect the foundation’s broadened support for new global initiatives that bridge the gap between those who have access to the power of technology and the Internet and those who don’t

The Gates Library Initiative (GLI) today announced the formation of an Advisory Group to provide counsel to the Initiative on its programs within the United States. The U.S. Programs Advisory Group, made up of nationally respected library leaders, will be responsible for providing GLI with advice and feedback on grant activities and program direction.”Our Advisory Group partners have spent their careers in the library community working to bring access to knowledge to all people, and collectively have a wealth of information and ideas on how we can best meet our Foundation mission within the U.S.,” said Richard Akeroyd, executive director of the Gates Library Initiative. “To effectively bridge the “digital divide” – the gap between those who have access to the power of technology and the Internet and those who don’t—we need to link arms with partners who share our same vision.”Members of the Advisory Group were chosen for their experience in library services, national leadership, and effective outreach to their community. Advisory Group members include: John Christensen, former Minnesota Librarian of the Year and the current Executive Director of the Traverse des Sioux Library System serving 40 public libraries and branches in the nine-county area of south central Minnesota.Ginnie Cooper, past President of the Public Library Association, a member of the governing council of the American Library Association, and the current director of libraries for the Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon.Ken Wiggin, Connecticut State Librarian and former Director of Libraries for the New Hampshire State Library.Luis Herrera, Director of the Information Services Department for the City of Pasadena, a member of the American Library Association council, and past president of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library Service to the Spanish Speaking.Deborah Jacobs, City Librarian of the Seattle Public Library, former Library Services Manager of the Corvallis-Benton, Oregon County Public Library System, and Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year in 1994.Sara Parker, Missouri State Librarian, former Commissioner of Libraries and Deputy Secretary of Education in Pennsylvania, Montana State Librarian and past President of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA).Martin Gomez, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Public Library, member of the American Library Association Executive Board, and member of the New York State Regents Commission on Library Services.The Foundation’s five-year goal is to reach more than 10,000 American and 1,400 Canadian libraries, and provide training for librarians, taking an active role to provide information access for future generations.The highest percentage of people with on-line access are those earning more than $75,000 in urban areas (50.3 percent); the lowest percentage of people with on-line access are those earning between $5,000 and $10,000 in rural areas (2.3 percent).”By making Internet access available at public libraries, particularly those that serve lower-income patrons, the Gates Foundation is carrying on the idealistic and public service role that our libraries have always served, and continuing in the tradition of Andrew Carnegie, another great library philanthropist,” said Secretary Harris

The mission of the Gates Learning Foundation is to bridge the “digital divide” – the gap between those who have access to the information and knowledge found through computers and the Internet and those who do not.

To date, the Gates Learning Foundation has worked with more than 1,600 under-served public libraries in 29 states to bring Internet access and training to their patrons. The Foundation’s five-year goal is to reach more than 10,000 American and 1,400 Canadian libraries, and provide training for librarians, taking an active role to provide information access for future generations.

Further Development of Gates’ Philanthropy

The William H. Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation are coming together as a single organization called the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As Bill and Melinda’s giving increased it became clear that the programs of the two organizations were overlapping. The Foundation will support programs in global health and learning, with the hope that as we move into the 21st century advances in these critical areas will be available for all people.Global health is a major focus of Bill and Melinda’s giving. Recent strategic and collaborative gifts include: $50 million to the Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) to accelerate the development of a new vaccine to prevent malaria; The Bill and Melinda Gates Children’s Vaccine Program, a $100 million commitment to speed the delivery of life-saving vaccines to children in developing countries; Motherhood Mortality Reduction, a $50 million program administered by Columbia University to prevent maternal death in pregnancy and childbirth in the poorest countries; and a $25 million gift to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to assist with the development of an AIDS vaccine.Learning is the parallel focus of Bill and Melinda’s philanthropic work. Recent grants include: a $200 million commitment to bring computers, Internet access, and training to low-income libraries in the United States and Canada; and grants to the Teacher Leadership Project and Smart Tools Academy in Washington state to improve access to technology and training throughout the K-12 system at the administrative levels.The consolidation of the two Foundations reflects increased efficiency and communication between the global health and learning initiatives, and an opportunity to continue to build the asset base for these critical programs well into the next century.The Foundation will be led by Bill’s father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, as co-chairs.Bill and Melinda Gates have increased their Foundation endowment over the course of the last two years, with enhancements of approximately $5 billion in each of the first three quarters of 1999, bringing the total assets of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to more than $17 billion.

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Criticisms of Gates’ Charity


 Bill Gates Earned His Fortune and Has No Obligation To “Give It Back” To Those Who Didn’t Earn It

By Robert W. Tracinski


PC Computing editor John Dvorak carps that giving money to provide computers for libraries and classrooms is too self-interested, that it is mere “marketing” for Microsoft. And, of course, Gates has met with incessant criticism that he is not giving his fortune away quickly enough—that he should give it all away now.

The common theme of these criticisms is that Gates is being too self-assertive—that he is spending the money as he sees fit, to promote his own particular interests and values, and in ways that might conceivably benefit him. In other words, the complaint is that Gates is acting as if this is his money to be given away on his schedule and in accordance with his interests.

But the fact is that it is his money. Gates has earned his fortune by his own effort. His wealth did not come from an inheritance or a government grant. He did not exploit it from his employees, many of whom have become millionaires, or from his investors, who have profited spectacularly. Nor did he gain that money at the expense of his customers, who have gained enormous increases in their productivity.

There is no way to avoid the fact that Bill Gates’s money was made by his own work and effort, and, most of all, by his thinking. He created his billions by building an enormously productive organization, encouraging new innovations, predicting technological trends, and creating new products.

The criticism of Gates comes from the opposite premise: the view that Gates did not create and does not own his fortune. This view is based, at root, on a Marxist premise: that the businessman is a thief who appropriates the wealth produced collectively by “society”—as if “society” sat behind Bill Gates’s desk and did his work for him. Thus, in this view, the businessman has an obligation to “give back” the wealth he has stolen.

On these premises, the criticism of Gates would be justified. If Gates has merely appropriated society’s resources—then he has no right to use those resources in a way that clashes with society’s wishes. If he is merely “giving back” to society the money to which it already has a right—then he has no right to withhold that money for his own purposes. The only course of action fully consistent with the idea that Gates’s fortune belongs to society would be for him to give up everything immediately—and to hand it over to whatever agency steps forward to proclaim itself as the best representative of society’s needs.

Gates himself accepts this basic premise, describing himself as having the “privilege” of being “a steward of some of society’s resources.” But this is in fact a grave injustice, and one that the victim, unfortunately, is cooperating with. Gates is not a steward of “society’s” resources, for the simple reason that “society” did not produce his fortune: he did. Rather, it is the spokesmen for “society” who are acting as parasites when they demand that a businessman take the wealth he has earned and “give it back” to those who did not earn it.

Phrases like “giving back” have a superficial air of benevolence because of their association with acts of generosity toward one’s fellow man. But the actual meaning of the phrase is that the businessman is to be treated as a slave who has no right to the wealth he has produced. There is no other explanation for the fact that Gates has received criticism and hostility as a reward for his unprecedented generosity.

There may be good reasons for Gates to give away his billions. He may decide that it is more money than he could ever managed to spend on his own personal enjoyment, or he may prefer to see the money go to causes that he personally values instead of to heirs who may not deserve it. But we should always remember that it is his money, that it is his choice to give it away, and that he has a right to expect gratitude rather than hostility in return.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

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By W. E. B. Du Bois

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Ancient African Nations

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Related files: Introduction By  R.R. Bowker Carnegie Table  Carnegie Sketch   Method of  Giving  Carnegie  Bill Gates and Libraries

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