The Mid-Peninsula Regional Library Cooperative has made great strides toward addressing what Gary Silver describes as the “long-standing need for a communications process that overcomes our geographic sea of separateness.” Community networking efforts set in motion by Mid-Pen are still in an early stage. As the efforts evolve, Mid-Pen and other regional library cooperatives with community networking experience can perform a great public service by sharing their experience and information. Further, Mid-Pen “drove a golden spike” for telecommunications in the Upper Peninsula. Silver says, “with information infrastructure development and electronic community networking, there are going to be as many golden spikes driven in this region as there are communities needing and willing to drive them. At the grassroots level, each community must discover the mix of action that brings success.”
For the time being, building and maintaining the physical telecommunications connections required for community information and networking services will continue to preoccupy libraries, as it has Mid-Pen. However, Silver notes, Internet access services are a passing thing. In the future, homes will be connected by cable directly to the telecommunications infrastructure. To prepare for the future, he advises, libraries must concentrate on content–on selecting or creating high quality, usable electronic resources–rather than providing access alone.
Small, isolated public libraries will benefit greatly from new products and services being developed by both the commercial and nonprofit sectors to make information available in electronic form. The Interactive Internet Kiosk, for example, while intended to assist the library patron in any setting, can be used in remote locations with no access to trained information professionals. Such products will help connect people to information and to other people, with instruction and guidance built in for those who need it, in ways that would not otherwise be possible.
How will Mid-Pen continue to support the technology growth that will connect more of its constituents? Silver would like to find the funds to expand the distribution of Internet access, develop local content on community networks, save for second-generation library automation systems, and greatly increase training opportunities. Through Mid-Pen, Silver has found innovative ways to sustain the cost of electronic services through some fee-based services, but also through a variety of partnerships and funding coalitions. Leadership with vision has brought to Mid-Pen, its member libraries, and their constituent communities a strong foundation of information access services upon which to build information and communication services for the future.
From the publication Public Libraries, Communities, and Technology: Twelve Case Studies, published by The Council on Library Resources, ©1996. For more information contact
The Council on Library Resources, 1400 16th Street NW,
Suite 715, Washington DC, 20036. Phone (202) 939-3370. Fax (202) 939-3499.