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NREN for All:Insurmountable Opportunityc. 1993 Jean Armour Polly Manager of Network Development and User Training NYSERNet, Inc. jpolly@nysernet.orgThis was originally published in the February 1, 1993 issue ofLibrary Journal (volume 118, n. 2, pp 38-41).It may be freely reprinted for educational use, please let me know if youare redistributing it, I like to know if it's useful and where it's been.Please do not sell it, and keep this message intact.When Senator Al Gore was evangelizing support for his visionary National Research and Education Network bill, he oftenpointed to the many benefits of a high-speed, multi-lane, multi-level data superhighway. Some of these included:— collaborating research teams, physically distant from each other, working on shared projects via high speed computernetworks. Some of these "grand challenges" might model global environmental change, or new therapeutic drugresearch, or the design of a new airplane for inexpensive consumer air travel.— a scientist or engineer might design a product, which could be instantly communicated to a manufacturing plant,whose robotic machine could turn the drawing-board product into reality. One example of this is the capability to digitallymeasure a new recruit for an army uniform, transmit the information to a clothing manufacturer, and take delivery of acustom-tailored uniform the next day.— access to digital libraries of information, both textual and graphic. Besides hundreds of online ...



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Published 08 December 2010
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NREN for All:Insurmountable Opportunityc. 1993 Jean Armour Polly Manager of NetworkDevelopment and User Training NYSERNet, Inc.jpolly@nysernet.orgThis was originally published in the February 1,1993 issue ofILti bmraaryy  bJeo furreneally  (rveoplurimntee d1 1fo8r,  en.d u2,c aptipo 3n8al- 4u1s)e.,please let me know if youare redistributing it, I like to know if it's useful andwhere it's been.Please do not sell it, and keep this message intact.When Senator Al Gore was evangelizing supportfor his visionary National Research and EducationNetwork bill, he often pointed to the many benefitsof a high-speed, multi-lane, multi-level datasuperhighway. Some of these included:— collaborating research teams, physically distantfrom each other, working on shared projects viahigh speed computer networks. Some of these"grand challenges" might model globalenvironmental change, or new therapeutic drugresearch, or the design of a new airplane forinexpensive consumer air travel.— a scientist or engineer might design a product,which could be instantly communicated to amanufacturing plant, whose robotic machine couldturn the drawing-board product into reality. Oneexample of this is the capability to digitally measurea new recruit for an army uniform, transmit theinformation to a clothing manufacturer, and take
delivery of a custom-tailored uniform the next day.— access to digital libraries of information, bothtextual and graphic. Besides hundreds of onlinepublic access catalogs, and full text documents,color illustrations of photographic quality, fullmotion videos and digital audio will also beavailable over the network.In his many articles and speeches touting the bill,Gore often used an example of a little girl, living ina rural area, at work on a school project. Was sheinformation-poor due to her physical location, farfrom the resources of large cities? No— theNational Research and Education Network wouldgive her the capability to dial into the Library ofCongress— to collect information on dinosaurs.Now that the NREN bill has been signed into law(12/91), and committees are being formed, andpolicies are being made, I'm still thinking about thatlittle girl, and her parents, for that matter. In factI've got some "Grand Questions" to pose.1- How will we get access?sTihnec eI nitt'esr nweht ath awse  bheaevne  cianl lpelda cthe en "oIwnt.erim NREN",I'm wondering how the family is going to get to theInternet "dial tone", let alone the NREN, especiallysince they live in a rural area. The informationsuperhighway may be miles from their home, and itmay be an expensive long-distance call to the"entrance ramp".fOror,n tt hyea rsdu, pbeurth itghhewy acya nm'ta ym raukne  riugshet  otfh rito ubgech atuhseeir
they have no computer, no modem, and no phoneline to make the connection. What good is asuperhighway if all you've got is a tricycle?2- What will they be able to gain access to, and willtheir privacy be protected?Beyond the infrastructure issues, I'm concernedabout what kind of things will be available for themonce they do get connected, how the resources willbe arranged, and how they will learn to use thesetools to advantage. Beyond that, how authoritativeis the information in the digital collection, and howdo we know for sure it came from a legitimatesource? How confidential will their informationsearches be, and how will it be safeguarded?3- Who will get access?I'm concerned that even if the infrastructure andresource problems are resolved, that little girl stillwon't be allowed access, because a lot of folksdon't think the Internet is a safe place forunaccompanied minors.4- Does the family have any electronic rights?   Electronic responsibilities?   Are dinosaurs and a grade-school project tootrivial for NREN?Some people think the NREN should be reservedfoorrd isncaireyn tiosntes s.w oWrkhion gw ioll n d"eGcirdaen dw hCahta lcleonnsgteitsu"t, ensot"acceptable use"?5- What is the future of the local public library?
Worse yet, I'm worried that the reason they arephoning the Library of Congress in the first place isthat their local public library has shut its doors, soldoff the book stock, and dismissed the librarian.What can public libraries do to avoid that future?Brief Background: The Internet TodayComputers all over the world are linked by highspeed telecommunications lines. On the other sideof their screens are people of all races andnationalities who are able to exchange ideasquickly through this network.This "brain to brain" interface brings both delightand despair, as evidenced by the following TrueTales from the Internet:— Children all over the world participate in classcollaborations, sharing holiday customs, local foodprices, proverbs, acid rain measurements, andsurveys such as a recent one from a fifth gradeclass in Argentina who wanted to know (amongother things) "Can you wear jeans to school?".— During the Soviet coup in the summer of 1991,hundreds read eyewitness accounts ofdevelopments posted to the net by computer usersin Moscow and other Soviet cities with networkconnectivity. A literal hush fell over this side of thenetwork after a plea came across from the Sovietside. We appreciate your messages ofencouragement and offers of help, it said, butplease save the bandwidth for our outgoingreports!-m Peraonlisf eorantei ocna onf  fidnisdc au snsiicohne  gtroo duipssc uosns  tehve eIrnyttehrinnegt
from cats to Camelot, from library administration tolovers of mysteries, from Monty Python toMedieval History.— Predictably, Elvis has been sighted on theInternet.Besides electronic mail, full text resources may bedownloaded from many Internet host computers.Some of these are religious materials, such as theBible, and the Koran, others are the completeworks of Shakespeare, Peter Pan, and Far Fromthe Madding Crowd.Searchable resources include lyrics from popularsongs, chord tablature for guitar, recipes, newsarticles, government information, Supreme CourtOpinions, census data, current and historicalweather information, dictionaries, thesauri, the CIAWorld Fact Book, and much more.tHhuonsder ewditsh  oaf clicboruanrtys  OsPetA uCpS  atm aCyA bReL  smeaayr cuhseed, andUnCover to find articles of interest, which then maybe faxed on demand.The richness of the Internet changes on a dailybasis as more data resources, computerresources, and human resources join those alreadyactive on the net.But, back to that little girl.How will she get access?She'll need a plain old telephone line, a modem, acomputer, andsome communications software. Will her family beable to afford it?
If not, will she be able to dial in from her school?Her Post Office?The local feed store? A kiosk at K-Mart?At the American Library Association's 1992convention in San Francisco, Gloria Steinem said"the public library is the last refuge of those withoutmodems." I'm sure she meant that the library willact as information provider for those unable to gettheir information using a home computer'stelecommunications connections. But it could betaken another way. Couldn't the public library actas electronic information access centers, providingpublic modems and telecommunications alongsidethe books and videos?Why the Public Library is a good place for NRENaccessThe public library is an institution based on long-standing beliefs in intellectual freedom and theindividual's right to know. Let's revisit ALA'sLIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS, Adopted June 18,1948; amended February 2, 1961, and January 23,1980, by the ALA Council.The American Library Association affirms that alltlihbarta rtihees  faorlleo fwoirnug mbsa fsiocr  ipnofloicrimesa tisohno ualnd dg iudiedaes t, haenirdservices.1. Books and other library resources should beprovided for the interest, information, andenlightenment of all people of the community thelibrary serves. Materials should not be excludedbecause of the origin, background, or views ofthose contributing to their creation.No problem here. The Internet's resources are as
diverse as their creators, from nations all over theworld. Every community can find something ofinterest on the Internet.2. Libraries should provide materials andinformation presenting all points of view on currentand historical issues. Materials should not beproscribed or removed because of partisan ordoctrinal disapproval.3. Libraries should challenge censorship inthe fulfillment of their responsibility toprovide information and enlightenment.4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons andgroups concerned with resisting abridgment of freeexpression and free access to ideas.Again, global electronic communication allowsdiscussion and debate in an instant electronicforum. There is no better "reality check" than this.5. A person's right to use a library shouldnot be denied or abridged because oforigin, age, background, or views.In a public library, the little girl won't be barred fromusing the Internet because of her age. The ALAinterpretation of the above right states: "Librariansand governing bodies should not resort to agerestrictions on access to library resources in aneffort to avoid actual or anticipated objections fromparents or anyone else. The mission, goals, andobjectives of libraries do not authorize librarians orgoverning bodies to assume, abrogate, or overrulethe rights and responsibilities of parents or legalguardians. Librarians and governing bodies shouldmaintain that parents - and only parents - have theright and the responsibility to restrict the access of
their children - and only their children - to libraryresources. Parents or legal guardians who do notwant their children to have access to certain libraryservices, materials or facilities, should so advisetheir children. Librarians and governing bodiescannot assume the role of parents or the functionsof parental authority in the private relationshipbetween parent and child. Librarians and governingbodies have a public and professional obligation toprovide equal access to all library resources for alllibrary users."6. Libraries which make exhibit spaces andmeeting rooms available to the public they serveshould make such facilities available on anequitable basis, regardless of the beliefs oraffiliations of individuals or groups requesting their".esuThe Internet provides the equivalent of electronicmeeting rooms and virtual exhibit spaces. Publiclibraries will offer access to all comers, regardlessof their status.Further, as part of the Interpretation of the LibraryBill of Rights, this statement appears: "The U.S.Supreme Court has recognized that `the right toreceive ideas follows ineluctably from the sender'sFirst Amendment right to send them. . . . Moreimportantly, the right to receive ideas is anecessary predicate to the recipient's meaningfulexercise of his own rights such as speech, press,and political freedom' Board of Education, IslandTrees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico,457 U.S. 853, 866-67 (1982) (plurality opinion)."Clearly, reception and sending of ideas is a FirstAmendment issue. Oral, written, and electronicspeech must be equally protected so that
democracy may flourish.Public libraries also provide "free" services, thoughin fact the costs are just deferred. Taxes, state aidderived from taxes, federal aid derived from taxes,and private funds all pay for the "free" services atpublic libraries. Public libraries may be thought ofas Information Management Organizations(IMO's), similar to Health ManagementOrganizations, where patrons/patients contributebefore they need information/health care, so thatwhen they do need it, librarians/doctors areavailable to render aid.Why NREN in the Public Library is a bad ideaeOxnc tehllee nst uprlfaaccee ,t to hder oppu bIlnict elirbnreatr/yN lRoEokNs  clioknen aenctivity.iLnitberllaericetsu aal rfer eveedriotamb,l ea tned mcpolnefsi doefn,However, most public libraries lack what computerexperts call infrastructure. If there are computers,they may be out of date. Staff may not have hadtime to learn to operate them, and the computersmay literally be collecting dust.There may be no modems, no phone line to share,no staff with time to learn about the Internet and itsmany resources. Money to update equipment, hirestaff, and buy training is out of the question. Publiclibraries face slashed budgets, staff layoffs,reduced hours, and cutbacks in services.Many of these drawbacks are noted in the recentstudy by Dr.Charles R. McClure, called Public Libraries and theInternet/NREN: New Challenges, NewOpportunities.
Public librarians were surveyed about theirattitudes toward NREN in interviews and focusgroups. According to the study, public librariansthought that the public had a "right" to the Internet,and its availability in their libraries would provide asafety net for the electronic-poor.On the other hand they felt that they could notcommit resources to this initiative until they knewbetter what the costs were and the benefits mightbe. They longed for someone else to create a pilotproject to demonstrate the Internet's usefulness, orlack thereof, for public library users.The study describes several scenarios for publiclibraries as the NREN evolves. Some may simplychoose to ignore the sweeping technologicalchanges in information transfer. They maycontinue to exist by purveying high-demand itemsand traditional services, but they may find itincreasingly difficult to maintain funding levels asthe rest of the world looks elsewhere for theirinformation and reference needs. The public librarymay find itself servicing only the informationdisenfranchised, while the rest of the communityfinds, and pays for, other solutions.As the study explains:"While embracing and exploiting networkedinformation and services, [successfully transitionedlibraries] also maintain high visibility and highdemand traditional services. But resources will bereallocated from collections and less-visibleservices to support their involvement in thenetwork. All services will be more client-centeredand demand-based, and the library will consciouslyseek opportunities to deliver new types of