Brian Bannon, whom Mayor Rahm Emanuel chose to replace Mary Dempsey as Library Commissioner earlier this year, formerly worked for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 1998 to 2000 before he served as a branch manager with the Seattle Public Library from 2000 to 2006, Chief of Branches at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) from 2006 to 2011, and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the SFPL. Based in Seattle, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-Chairs William Henry Gates II (William H. Gates, Sr.), William Henry Gates III (William “Bill” H. Gates, Jr.), and Melinda French Gates.
It is under the direction of its three trustees: Bill Gates, COB of Microsoft, Cascade Investments, and the Corbis Corporation; his wife, Melinda Gates (nee French); and their friend and fellow philanthropist, Berkshire Hathaway COB & CEO Warren Edward Buffet. As of December 31, 2010, it had an endowment of approximately $36,700,000,000. As of September 30, 2011, the endowment stood at $33,500,000.
The foundation states, “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.”
From 1994 to September of 2011, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has distributed $26,194,000,000 in grants, rounded to the nearest million. Of this, $3,613,000,000 has been spent on “Global Development,” $15,217,000,000 has been spent on “Global Health,” and $6,236,000,000 has been spent on domestic programs.
The smallest slice of the pie chart was $1,074,000,000 spent on “Non-Program Grants.” These were $71,000,000 spent on “Charitable Sector Support,” $21,000,000 spent on “Employee Matching Gifts & Sponsorships,” and $982,000,000 spent on “Family Interest Grants.”
Bill Gates read Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth. In December of 1994, Bill & Melinda Gates founded the William H. Gates Foundation with an endowment of $94,000,000 to address their concerns with public healthcare on a global scale and community issues in the Pacific Northwest.
In June of 1997, they established the Gates Library Foundation as a sister organization to “bridge the digital divide,” that is, to ensure when one entered a public library one could access the Internet. In February of 1998, Bill & Melinda Gates traveled in a bookmobile and toured public libraries in Alabama, the first state to receive Gates Library Foundation grants to pay for free computer (and Internet) access in public libraries.
Andy Serwer profiled the personal fortune of Bill Gates and two foundations Gates had founded, the William H. Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation in the March 15, 1999 edition of FORTUNE (“ONE FAMILY’S FINANCES: how bill gates invests his money”). Back in 1999, the William H. Gates Foundation had an endowment of $5,200,000,000, which made it #6 on the magazine’s list of the ten biggest American family foundations, the top five being the Lilly Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the bottom four being the Pew Charitable Trusts, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The William H. Gates Foundation was a trust with Bill Gates as the sole trustee. It was purely a grant-making organization. William Gates, Sr., a former lawyer, would screen grant requests and forward them to William Gates, Jr. who would pick which ones he wanted to give grants. [The multi-billionaire’s father and late mother, Mary Maxwell Gates, both led United Way campaigns.] Later Bill Gates, Jr. would make these decisions with his wife Melinda.
By contrast, the Gates Learning Foundation, which had an endowment of $1,300,000,000, was an operating entity, so it acted directly in the field. Led by Patty Stonesifer, a former Microsoft executive who had left the rat race to spend more time with her children, the Gates Learning Foundation gave away over $32,000,000 (mostly in the form of goods and services) to bring computer information technology and Internet access to public libraries in poor communities in the U.S. and Canada.
Bill Gates called this second foundation an “Internet Peace Corps.” They used Census Bureau statistics to identify the communities with the direst need for the kind of outside help they were prepared to give and hooked up public libraries in twenty-eight states, including some Carnegie libraries.
In 1998, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the Gary Public Library a Gates Library Foundation Opportunity Grant of $48,900. In 2000, the two foundations merged into The Bill && Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill & Melinda Gates contributed another $16,000,000,000 to the consolidated foundation, which is supposed to address their concerns in four areas (1) global healthcare, (2) education, (3) libraries, and (4) the Pacific Northwest.
In 2000, the Toronto Public Library installed over 400 Internet workstations acquired through a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At the end of National Library Week in 2002, the Haish Memorial Library in DeKalb, also known as the DeKalb Public Library, unveiled four computers purchased via a $14,995 grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the spring of 2002, the Joliet Public Library’s Media Center received six computers paid for by a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In January of 2001, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave its first library grant to an organization in a foreign country, in Chile. More recently, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave $19,800,000 to the Republic of Latvia’s Culture Ministry to install public computers with Internet access and train librarians in public libraries. In 2003, the original library program ended because virtually every public library in the U.S. was connected to the Internet.
The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) created WebJunction with the Colorado State Library, The Benton Foundation, Isoph, and TechSoup after OCLC received a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2002. WebJunction describes itself as “a learning community working together to ensure that all library staff have the resources they need to power relevant, vibrant libraries.” It has taught over 70,000 library staff members for free since 2003.
In January of 2004, Melinda Gates toured West Virginia’s Sissonville Public Library and announced new Staying Connected grants to support efforts to sustain and improve public access computing in public libraries. That same year, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued Toward Equality of Access: The Role of Public Libraries in Addressing the Digital Divide.
 William H. Gates, Sr. served in the U.S. Army for three years during World War II. He earned his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Washington. A founding partner at Preston Gates & Ellis, Gates, LLP, he served as president of both the Seattle/King County Bar Association and the Washington State Bar Association. Gates served as trustee, officer, and volunteer for over two dozen organizations in the Pacific Northwest, including the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and King County United Way. According to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “In 1995, he founded the Technology Alliance, a cooperative regional effort to expand technology-based employment in Washington.” Gates chaired the Seattle Public School Levy Campaign in 1971 and has served on the University of Washington’s Board of Regents since 1997. Following the death of his first wife, Mary Maxwell Gates, he married Mimi Gardener Gates.
 This included $1,600,000,000 from the first installment of the gift from Warren Buffett recorded August 24, 2006; the second installment of $1,760,000,000 recorded on July 11, 2007; the third installment of $1,800,000,000 recorded on July 1, 2008; the fourth installment of $1,250,000,000 recorded on July 1, 2009; the fifth installment of $1,600,000,000 recorded on July 1, 2010; and the sixth installment of $1,500,000,000 recorded on July 7, 2011.