CLR Case Studies–Jefferson-Madison Regional Library
- Look at the community to see the needs. Find the technology to aid what you needed to do anyway. Then try it.
- You may need to let local groups experiment with technology to find out what they want from it.
- Start on a small and low-key scale. Keep it simple. Too many grants may encourage technical projects to start too large, and they may have to be scaled down.
- Find champions within the community for the project, but be ready to invest your own time and be sure that your institution is willing to invest money in it. Don’t depend on funding from sources that are themselves vulnerable, e.g., state and federal agencies or universities, or from a single funding source. For this reason, the network principals made the conscious choice not to wait for Virginia’s statewide networking initiatives to reach Charlottesville.
- Building grass roots ownership of a community network is an appropriate and well-suited role, if not “the perfect role,” for the library.
- It takes time to build a network, to build leadership among the organizations that support it, and to generate community interest. A long, early planning process may be required. Be patient and stay with the project. You need more than 18 months to begin to see progress. Three-year grants are not long enough to build sustainable projects. State administrations change every four years; consequently, trends in funding technological change may change too. With time, “inevitably there will be a backlash period” against any project, but in six to seven years the pendulum will swing back to favor it. Stay with it.
- The hardest issues are cultural: the people issues, not the financial or technical issues. The technical problems, in fact, will solve themselves eventually.
- Libraries are the best place to find and organize information, to disseminate it in an impartial and non-judgmental way, and to make links to related authoritative material. Librarians are essential for community-based information networks because they are experienced at organizing information appropriate for the communities they serve.