Based on its successful experience with CamNet, the Camden County Library has some advice to offer other libraries and communities that may wish to establish community and library networks:
- Partnership and cooperation are key. Working together with elements throughout the community is vitally important to the success of any effort to increase a community’s access to electronic information.
- Keep things simple. Sometimes simple ideas are the best ones-and they are usually the easiest to implement and to find partners for.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Many communities have gained experience building networks, so look around, do your homework, and talk to people who have done it already.
- Keep focused on training, which should be the first priority. Good training will enhance the overall use of the system and the ability of staff to teach others how to use it.
- Take advantage of opportunities. Don’t wait for opportunity to call a second time; it won’t. Recognize an opportunity when it presents itself and take action.
- The driving force should be what the customer–the community–wants and needs.
- Believe in what you are doing. Someone should provide the vision and the faith that the job can be accomplished successfully.
- Remember to keep the information “have-nots” in mind and work them into the overall service elements of the network you are building. Make sure you reach underrepresented portions of your community.
The library will serve as Camden County’s “gateway to the world.”
In Camden County, the experience of creating and maintaining CamNet has benefited many people, enhanced education throughout the school system, and brought the library, schools, and the local cable company together in a unique partnership based on the desire to get information into the hands of people who need it the most. It has also had another dividend, particularly for the Camden County Library: it has made the library more important to the community as a whole.
Where will the library go from here? It will continue to move toward fulfilling the goals of its long-range plan and to serve as Camden County’s “gateway to the world.” But it must also forge a new plan, one that deals with the future beyond 1998, incorporates even more integrally the electronic technology that is changing the role of libraries in communities, and takes full advantage of the interactive capabilities of these electronic media. The library is poised to greet the future. With local partners it has moved steadily to build a telecommunications infrastructure linking organizations and individuals across the county. How the library chooses to use these communication facilities and how well it serves the community in its choices will determine the place of the library within the community in the coming years.
This case study was written by the staff of the Council on Library Resources, and is an excerpt from the publication Public Libraries, Communities and Technology: Twelve Case Studies, The Council on Library Resources, c1996. Comments or questions about this project should be addressed to: The Council on Library Resources, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 715, Washington DC, 20036. Phone (202) 939-3370. Fax (202) 939-3499. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Council on Library Resources is a non-profit operating foundation established in 1956 to look toward the future on behalf of libraries, address problems experienced by libraries in the aggregate, and identify innovative solutions. The Council promotes research, organizes conferences, issues publications, and manages collaborative projects to bring about significant changes in its areas of interest. It is supported by grants from other foundations, and it has recently affiliated with the Commission on Preservation and Access, an allied organization working to ensure the preservation of the published and documentary record in all formats. The Council’s current programs are in three areas important to the future of libraries: developing leadership for managing new information technologies, analyzing the economics of information services, and assisting the transition from the traditional to the digital library.