Adding Value to Community Networks: Libraries and Community Networks

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Joan Durrance, Don Beagle, Martha Dexter, Kaye Gapen and Jamie McClelland

In this session, five librarians addressed an audience predominantly of librarians about the relationship between libraries and community networks (CNs). It was unfortunate that more community network people did not attend. Many of the items raised were of importance to those solely interested in community networks.

Joan Durrance, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, said that over the years librarians have learned to be strong collaborators. Specifically in terms of community networks, librarians "have helped to get community networks [developed]." Being in the business of information service, librarians are in the position to raise public awareness and support. Durrance presented a list of things that librarians have done and can do to develop CNs:

Librarians can:

Durrance gave the audience a tour of the Community Networking Page developed by Durrance and some of her graduate students.

Martha Dexter is the Manager of Educational Services for the National Digital Library Program at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Dexter began by noting that we can add value to community networks through content. "Content is very brings people to the community networks." Dexter said that the Library of Congress's primary community is Congress, but she expands the community boundaries via computer technology. The Library of Congress has set up several web sites to serve the larger United States community. Dexter gave a virtual tour of the Library of Congress. The LOC web sites include:

Don Beagle, the Head of the Main Library in Charleston, South Carolina and the Managing Editor of the Charleston Multimedia Project, presented Charleston's Multimedia Project web site. The web site is a collaborative WWW guide to the history, architecture, and culture of Charleston. "Local history is important to local community... history is a cottage industry in Charleston," said Beagle. The web site carries reflects Charleston's love of history. The web site includes text and many colorful photographs of Charleston architecture and historical sites. The web site is organized into a guidebook, a topics section (e.g., the civil war) and a curriculum development section.

Jamie McClelland, the Technology and Policy Specialist for Libraries for the Future, presented on libraries for the future. Like Durrance, McClelland noted that "community networks and libraries have to work together." McClelland noted that many community networks and libraries share a similar mission statements -- provide an information service to a community, etc. He went on to note that if two organizations have very similar mission statements the institutions are not sustainable. McClelland sees community networks and libraries "converging into a new institution."

Kaye Gapen, the President of Northern Lights, Inc.- a consulting and educational firm, presented on a project conducted with the Council on Library Resources, Inc. The Council is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) foundation established in 1956. Gapen presented on the Community-Based Information Systems Project. One of the major goals of the CBIS Project is to increase our understanding of the development and evaluation of networked community based information systems. Gapen sees as one of the biggest contributions that a library can make is to move toward community problem solving. Librarians through CN can help provide information to help others solve community problems. More information can be found at

Reported by William Hart.