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COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET  November 1994, Week 2

COMMUNET November 1994, Week 2

Subject:

Post Offices vs. Libraries (Al's Speeches vs. Communets and E-Books)

From:

"David H. Rothman" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Communet: Community and Civic Network Discussion List

Date:

Sun, 13 Nov 1994 16:46:52 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (74 lines)

At 12:47 PM 11/13/94 -0500, Linda Kravitz of Libraries for the Future wrote:
>Are you all aware of the raging controversy on PUBLIB, the libra-
>rians' list, provoked by Gore's proposal to place public access
>kiosks in post offices?  The librarians were naturally upset that
>libraries weren't mentioned.  They have been weighing the relative
>merits of libraries and post offices ever since, especially in
>rural areas.
 
     Linda is right to raise the issue here. In my opinion, libraries are
more communet-friendly than post offices would be. Libraries could offer
just the right surroundings for exploring local, national and international
resources online--at leisure. What's more, librarians are in business to
foster curiosity, especially by the young. Last I knew, that was not part of
the job descriptions for overworked postal clerks. Yes, librarians are
themselves stretched thin and could stand more training; but at least the
Net is related to their main mission. Nothing against the clerks, mind you.
Quite the reverse. Why inflict a new task on them? Given the mindset of
postal management, the kiosks might even cost a few lives; remember the mass
shootings by employees driven nuts by working conditions? That's stretching
it. But I hope my point comes through: this is Re-inventing Government at
its most inept.
     What's really amusing is the talk of postal kiosks at a time when
postal rates may go up. If the postal service has the money or a network in
place, perhaps it could share some of these resources with public libraries.
I nothing wrong with kiosks in post offices without libraries nearby, a
great idea, but must POs be the main show? In fairness to Washington, people
there do say that libraries could still access the information and could
have kiosks of their own--but that's no big deal when the original
announcement suggested that POs would lead the way. Washington has already
telegraphed its priorities.
     If any conservatives on this list want to fire off a few salvos against
Big Government, let me join in. Think about it. If the service is available
through postal kiosks, you can bet that the content either will be sterile
or will be Washington propaganda. The current White House area on the Web is
entertaining and very professionally done. But there is no doubt that it has
a  Clinton slant to it, complete with a photo of the sacred JFK-Bill
encounter and an audio from Socks. We don't hear any Republican cats
meowing.  I want folks to be able to explore the whole Net, Usenet and all,
not just the parts that the White House favors.
     Clinton's people might think a little ahead. The voters this month were
pretty uppity. It's just possible that Al and the Bubba might not win
re-election, and if they turn the kiosks into propaganda machines, you can
bet that Bob Dole or Newt might relish the precedent.
     Following the anger that the Clintonian have stirred up with the kiosk
plan, they should immediately make amends by working toward a *focused*
procurement program for schools and libraries. Schoolchildren and other
library patrons need small, affordable, sharp-screened computers fit for
reading, networking, and smart electronic forms. A focused procurement
program could encourage the development of such machines for the commercial
market, not just libraries and schools. It would also help to have a
national library online with thousands of local librarians participting in
the selection of books.
     Bruce Lehman, however, Clinton's intellectual property czar, says that
in the future you may not even be able to dial up copyrighted electronic
library books from home. So what will be left instead for many Americans?
Going to the post office to read informative public documents like the
speeches of Al Gore? I almost wonder if, despite all the populist rhetoric,
the PO-oriented strategy isn't aimed at reducing the importance of public
libraries and favoring the big commercial interests to which Lehman made
love at the NII hearings on intellectual property. Maybe not. But the
Clinton-Gore strategy is most bizarre and hardly the best way for the
Washington to promote literacy or communets.
     White House responses welcome. The communet list has some pretty highly
placed lurkers at time, and I'd love to debate them on this rather basic
issue of  access. Come out, come out, wherever you are :-;.
 
David "Voted for 'Em in '92,
but Not for *This* Mess"
Rothman
 
[log in to unmask]
 
[Feel free to repost]

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