Greek Library Receives US$1 Million International Award for Embracing Technology and Creating Vibrant Community Asset

By Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, PRNE
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's 2010 Access to Learning Award honors Veria Central Public Library as successful model for libraries in Greece and around the world

SEATTLE, August 12, 2010 - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today presented its 2010 Access to
Learning Award of US$1 million to the Veria Central Public Library for its
creative use of information and technology services to meet the economic,
educational, and cultural needs of more than 180,000 people. The library has
emerged as a leader in Greece by offering a range of services and programs
for children and adults, and helping other libraries replicate its success.
Microsoft, a partner of the foundation in its efforts to help public
libraries connect people to the Internet, will provide the Veria Library with
donations of software and technology training curriculum.

The Veria Library realized the power of technology early on. In 1992, the
library's catalogue was already fully automated. In 1996, the library became
the first in the nation to provide its users free access to computers and the
Internet. In 1997, it was the first to have its own website.

"Our library is about making people's lives easier and better, not just
about housing books and information," said Ioannis Trohopoulos, director of
the Veria Central Public Library. "We are a small library that is committed
to offering modern tools and services to help as many people as possible find
new economic, academic, and social opportunities."

The library serves the 50,000 residents of Veria, and 130,000 more people
in the surrounding area. To reach people in distant rural villages, the
library sends out mobile libraries equipped with books and laptop computers.

In addition to offering advanced information and technology services to
its users, the library has become a vibrant community center that promotes
learning and creativity. It places a particular focus on young people with
its new children's area, Magic Boxes, which provides computers, music
stations, indoor and outdoor play areas, and a full schedule of activities -
from storytelling to arts and crafts.

To develop a network of library and information services in the region,
the Veria Library has worked diligently to form cooperative partnerships with
other libraries, programs, and institutions within Greece and around the
world. These relationships have provided opportunities to exchange experience
and knowledge to benefit the communities these organizations serve. For
example, the Veria Library helped more than 60 Greek public libraries develop
their own websites and included them in the Veria Library's public libraries

"The Veria Library is one of the most famous libraries in Greece," said
Apostolos Nestoropoulos, the mayor of Saint Paul Municipality. "We asked them
to help us build our library because they have the know-how."

The library conducts computer courses that teach real-world skills such
as how to use software, create a resume, share videos online, and participate
in social networking. It teaches seniors how to perform online searches and
use social networking sites, helps immigrants adjust to their new homes, and
gives teenagers a safe after-school location to complete homework and meet
with friends.

It has also helped people deal with one of the worst economic climates in
Greece's history. Katerina Heimonidou was one of many unemployed young people
in Greece. When she learned about an open position at a local mobile phone
operator, she took a library training course that taught her how to create a
resume with specialized software, which helped her get the job and gave her a
head start in her career.

"The Veria Library has brought positive change to the lives of the many
people it serves," said Deborah Jacobs, director of the Global Libraries
initiative for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at an award ceremony in
Gothenburg, Sweden. "It's a testament to Veria's ingenuity that such a small
library in the mountainous region of Northern Greece is paving the way for
its users and for others who can and have learned from its innovative use of
technology and exciting programs."

The foundation's annual Access to Learning Award recognizes the
innovative efforts of libraries and similar organizations outside the United
in providing free access to computers and the Internet. It is awarded
by the foundation's Global Libraries initiative, which works to open the
world of knowledge, information, and opportunity to help improve the lives of
millions of people.

The Veria Central Public Library will use its award to expand its network
of libraries, upgrade its IT infrastructure, replicate the Magic Boxes
concept throughout the main building of the library and at all new branches,
and extend its impact beyond the region through websites and social

Note to Editors

For more information about Veria Central Public Library, please visit

    Veria Central Public Library Contact
    Konstantia Georgoudi
    Phone +30-23310-24494

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In
developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them
the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the
United States
, it seeks to ensure that all people - especially those with the
fewest resources - have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in
school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO
Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill
and Melinda Gates
and Warren Buffett. Learn more at or join the conversation at Facebook
( and Twitter

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, +1-206-709-3400, media at

will not be displayed