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Sunday, December 6, 1998 Published at 15:27 GMT


£3m for wired libraries

Government drive to put computers in schools, as well as libraries

Libraries in England are to receive £3m to buy computers to turn them into "street corner universities".

The investment in information technology projects for public libraries was announced by the Arts Minister Alan Howarth.

"The government is committed to ensuring that the benefits of an information society are available to all," said Mr Howarth. "Public libraries are the ideal medium for helping this happen."

The government sees the public libraries as becoming a a key means of giving the 'information have-nots' access to the benefits of education and training initiatives.

Joint venture

Under the plans, a fund is being set up between the government and the Wolfson Foundation, with each contributing £2m and £1m respectively.

Libraries will be able to apply for grants to buy computers to put them on the Internet.

The aim of the project is to end the growing gap between the "information have and have nots".

The so-called challenge fund has been running for two years and the cash has gone to libraries working in partnership with public, private and community organisations.

This is the third year the scheme has been running. Last year another £3m was distributed to libraries across England.

"The projects funded last year are continuing this good work and I am confident that we will see a similarly high quality of applications coming forward in this new round," said Mr Howarth.

"I encourage library authorities, either individually or as consortia, to use their enterprise, imagination and knowledge of the communities they serve in submitting applications to the fund."

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