Assistant Dean for Technical Services
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717-0332 USA
v: (406) 994-5311
f: (406) 994-2851
Education, higher; Education, continuing or distance; Research, academic; Economic development; Library; Other (there is some possibility of categorizing as “research, government”, but there was no real research project directly affected)
Innovative or improved ways of doing things More equitable access to technology or electronic information Local commitment to network-based activities
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Since 1982, in its role as the state’s land-grant institution, Montana State University’s Agriculture Extension Service produced hundreds of printed guides for distribution to citizens around the state through Extension agents. These popular MontGuides cover widely varying topics, from watering yards/gardens, crop pests and pesticides, to managing a farm/ranch. Also produced at Montana State University (MSU) is a series called the Beef Cattle Handbook focusing on topics such as nutrition, diseases, breeding, and general management of cattle.
In 1992 thousands of the MontGuides and the Beef Cattle Handbook were made available to MSU Libraries in machine readable form and loaded on the Libraries’ on-line system, CatLink. Catlink is available on campus but also through dial-up and the Internet, making the information easily accessible to anyone.
A rancher lives miles from the nearest town, Twodot, Montana (population of 95), which is over a hundred miles from a population center with a library which might have current agricultural information. But because she has a computer for her ranch record-keeping, along with a modem, she is able to dial into the CatLink system and find information on a variety of topics, including several articles on alfalfa and beef cattle which can be perused. One contains a nutrient table which can be downloaded to a pc and the files manipulated to fit her ranching operation.
While scrolling through CatLink’s MontGuides she discovers an article “Growing Tomatoes in Montana” written by an MSU professor of Horticulture Science. She has never raised tomatoes because of the short growing season, but has been interested in trying. On the screen she is able to browse over 256 pages of the full-text information, including local growing seasons, the proven varieties for the area, common problems, and practical tips.
She also discovers a MontGuide called “How to Collect, Press, and Mount Plants” which would be an excellent source of information for volunteers working as a 4-H project leader or to share with the local science teacher. Written by a Plant and Range specialist, it outlines equipment needed, how to keep a scientific notebook, selecting specimens, verification of plants, and keeping them in a permanent collection.
With the dramatic increase in personal computers in rural homes, long distances from population centers and libraries no longer means that individuals need to be information poor.