The Helsinki City Library has received the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s first annual Access to Learning Award for offering outstanding access for all people to computers and the Internet.
The library offers its patrons a Cable Book Library, which consists of 22 computers that provide free Internet access. Patrons can sign up for one-hour slots or use one of the walk-up terminals for quick searches.
The library also has workstations for the visually impaired and for multilingual patrons. Although the majority of its patrons speak Finnish, the library also provides publications, Web sites and card catalogs in the second official language, Swedish, as well as in English.
There are nearly 180 computers in the Helsinki library system, split between the main library, 38 branch libraries, 18 institutional libraries and two mobile libraries. The library staff has trained more than 880 patrons to use the computers.
The award comes with a $1 million grant, which the library will use to expand its services even further.
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