ERIC Identifier: ED377880
Publication Date: 1994-12-00
Author: McKenna, Mary
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Libraries and the Internet. ERIC Digest.
In his State of the Union Address in January 1994, President Clinton called
for every library in America to be connected to the national information
superhighway by the year 2000. This superhighway, the Internet, is an
international computer network encompassing thousands of smaller interconnected
networks. Various Internet applications for libraries, impacts of Internet
connectivity, and recommendations for future library involvement are described
in this Digest. The responsibility for program and policy support for universal
connectivity needs to come from federal, state, and local governments, and from
all who work within the library community.
INTERNET APPLICATIONS FOR LIBRARIES
Librarians use many
Internet communications and service utilities. Some popular applications
1. Electronic mail (E-mail): Librarians use E-mail to
communicate with colleagues and customers. They participate in electronic
discussion groups, share experiences and ideas with other librarians, and create
and monitor discussion groups of interest to their customers.
Telnet: Librarians use Telnet to connect to remote computer resources. They
explore other library catalogs, access commercial and noncommercial database
services, and share the resources of campus-wide information systems and
File Transfer Protocol (FTP): FTP enables librarians to obtain software
programs, text, images, and sound files from the net and then offer them to
their customers. Librarians and information professionals contribute to the
Internet community by making library catalogs and local databases available on
the network; creating Gopher sites that offer logical, well organized,
menu-driven access to services and resources on the Internet; and establishing
World Wide Web servers that provide graphical user interfaces for browsing the
resources of the Internet.
INTERNET'S IMPACT ON LIBRARIES
Internet services and
resources influence library services. New opportunities and benefits include:
Leadership opportunities. Libraries frequently take the lead by introducing the
Internet to user communities in industry, academia, and K-12 schools, and often
provide training and access for customers as budgets allow. Public libraries are
beginning to offer similar services to the public at large.
Cost savings and time savings. Listservs and other electronic forums facilitate
information exchanges among librarians from all over the world. Librarians now
keep up with advances, challenges, and issues without having to attend expensive
conferences or subscribing to multiple library journals.
Question answering services. AskERIC is a network-based education information
service offering library media specialists (as well as K-12 teachers,
administrators, parents, and students) access to a question answering service.
Another service, Stumpers-L, provides a networking resource for reference
International interlibrary loans. Libraries now have customers from all over the
world. Internet accessible library catalogs assist research endeavors, provide
interlibrary loan verifications, and offer a myriad of reference materials that
enhance local library collections.
Document delivery services. There has been a rapid growth in fee-based document
delivery services that use the network to order and/or transfer documents to
libraries and often to endusers, bypassing libraries completely.
Online transactions. Major bibliographic utilities are experimenting with the
use of real time bibliographic transactions over the network, while already
supporting batch mode transactions.
Government information. Government information can be distributed over the
network to libraries allowing unparalleled opportunities for libraries to inform
communities and constituents about government issues.
Information sharing. Technical standards, such as Z39.50, coordinate the
transfer of information between different systems and formats over the network.
These standards are essential to libraries as automated library systems share
information and streamline processing using the Internet.
Other impacts. Using Internet resources may include some increase in workload
for librarians, but that is offset by the library's increased visibility and
value to the community and the opportunity for the library to become an
information provider rather than a dispensary.
Academic libraries. Academic libraries are on the leading edge of Internet
developments because of the information resources they provide for research.
Distance education degrees and library catalogs available on the Internet
provide a global customer base for academic libraries. Academic libraries often
distribute academic authors' unpublished documents via the Internet allowing
subject experts to be direct sources of information for the user. The roles and
responsibilities of librarians, the library, campus computing services, campus
administration, publishers, and vendors need redefinition in a networked
Public libraries. The public library community has been slow to connect to the
Internet. Public libraries serving large communities, however, are more likely
to have an Internet connection than those serving smaller communities. The cost
of connectivity is the main barrier to a public library presence on the
Internet. Public librarians consider federal government assistance essential for
connection and equipment costs. Staff support, expertise, and training are other
issues that need resolution to ensure Internet access for public libraries and
their customers. Some suggestions for training include "post-MLS certification
and sabbaticals for public librarians to be reeducated" (McClure, 1993).
Special libraries. National Science Foundation policy on what constituted
acceptable use of the network kept corporate libraries wary of connectivity in
the late 1980s and early 1990s. With the arrival of network connectivity
specifically for commercial customers and the enticement of lower cost
connections to commercial database retrieval services, corporate libraries are
becoming an active presence on the network.
School libraries. School library media specialists for grades K-12 are working
hard to bring the Internet into their schools. Resources they introduce include
online catalogs, CD-ROM periodical indexes, full-text encyclopedias and
reference resources, interactive multimedia, and other network technologies.
Funding for equipment, infrastructure upgrades, and connectivity is often
difficult to obtain, however, and educational goals must be coordinated. Working
to coordinate existing school programs with Goals 2000 and National Research and
Education Network (NREN) objectives is one challenge faced by media specialists
Librarians and media specialists need to
have a stake in the development of policies and roles as their communities adopt
Internet technologies. They need to consider the following as they develop
visions for implementing technology:
Librarians need to take an active role during formulation of national policy and
legislation to ensure that libraries receive adequate funding to be major
players in the National Information Infrastructure (NII).
Internet connectivity does not guarantee equitable access to the Internet.
Librarians as a profession need to become network literate and in turn need to
provide programs and facilities so their customers will become network literate.
The services and resources of the Internet need to be created and organized by
librarians. A catalog of network services and resources is essential for
efficient use of the Internet.
Library administrators need to include staff training and practice time in any
budget for Internet connectivity.
Librarians need to take an active role in new legislation being proposed
concerning intellectual property and copyright in an electronic environment.
Librarians need to have significant influence on the evolution of Internet
services and need to be prepared to share their ideas with administrators and
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