Gregory R. Rice
School of Library Science
Southern Connecticut State University
P.O. Box 7001
Groton, CT 06340 USA
v: (203) 433-5692
Innovative or improved ways of doing things
In September 1991, the Connecticut State Library and its Advisory Council for Library Planning and Development (ACLPD) held public hearings that led to a planning project aimed at creating a statewide network to tie the state’s libraries to one another and to the Internet by the year 2000. In preparation for this event and to help Connecticut’s public and school librarians become familiar with the Internet, ACLPD initiated a pilot project which would provide free accounts on the Internet for twenty libraries (fifteen public and five school). In the summer of 1992, librarians with a “sense of adventure, who were comfortable with computers, and willing to share their experiences with others” were invited to apply for the one-year accounts.
On acceptance, participants were invited to an initial workshop, held in September 1992 at the University of Connecticut-Storrs. Here, participants were introduced to the basics of the Internet and the “rules” for using the system. They were also asked to complete a questionnaire and to begin keeping a project activity log.
A second workshop, held in March 1993, served as both training session and discussion period. Participants were invited to share their overall experience, their problems and their successes. Would they recommend a follow-up project with a second group of users? What would they like to see emphasized for the next group?
There were plenty of problems! First, the group expressed their dislike for the access software. It required that they log into the University of Connecticut computer before connecting to the Internet. The result was that often the librarians didn’t know what they were looking for… or at. Nor did they know whether their problems were due to their personal computer, their modem, the university computer, the access software or the Internet.
Long distance phone charges were a concern for some users. Others were concerned about where they could find help maneuvering through the Internet. It had taken them six months to get comfortable using the Internet, and they would have liked to have had a full year of access after the learning period. Many indicated that they wished to continue working with the Internet in their own libraries after the project was over.
What was it that made these librarians want to continue in spite of the problems?
After the March workshop, Gregory Rice, a student at Southern Connecticut State University’s Graduate School of Library Science, contacted participants by e-mail and phone. Rice was trying to learn about how each one used or hoped to use the Internet.
Rice communicated the full effect of the project best by collecting anecdotes. One user, he reports, felt the Internet was the future “telephone” of libraries, a tool that could be used to transfer information easily from one place to another. One school librarian helped a European foreign exchange student “phone home” via e-mail. Another librarian had a request from a person wishing to start a business raising emus. She was able to contact Australia and gather information about emu farming (only to lose the data when trying to download the files!).
All in all, responses regarding the use of the Internet were very positive. Those who used the system were enthusiastic about the opportunity for the retrieval and transfer of knowledge. All recognized, at the minimum, the potential for the Internet in the reference room of the library. Ellen Ensel of the New Haven Free Public Library summed up many participants’ feelings when she said, “I like the Internet because it represents myriad attempts to organize information and presents us with a challenge to find that information and apply it. Communicating with others on such a grand scale creates tremendous potential for sharing resources and ideas.”
This story originally appeared in Connecticut Libraries Bulletin, David Kapp, Editor.
For additional information contact:
Connecticut State Library