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Steve:
        The nature of this relationship has been getting what little idle
thinking time I have, so I thought I'd respond. First of all, I think your
use of the word "synergy" was apt, since it is now apparent that
community networks are taking diverse forms--with varying scopes and
philosophies of service--mirroring the differences you could see in
scope and philosophy among public libraries. So there does not appear to be
a set answer to the proposition "The role of the public library in relation
to a community newtork is to _________". The answer will vary from locale
to locale.
        Having said that, however, I would also say that, in general, the
community network is better off being a separate entity from the public
library. The public library should be a participant, rather than an administrator,
of the community network for the following reasons:
        --As institutions dependent on tax income, public libraries are
susceptible to censorship battles and vagaries in public funding/support.
        --Often, public libraries do not have the technical expertise on
staff needed to manage and troubleshoot a community network.
        --Public libraries in many cases compete for funding with other
organizations that the community network would seek to include.
       I believe the experience of public libraries attempting to fulfill
the function of community Information and Referral versus a separate I&R
organization would be relevant. In all the cases I know of, the separate
I&R office performs much better.
       Lately, I've been much more concerned about what resources the public
library can bring to a community network over and above the library catalog.
What resouces are uniquely within sphere of the public library, as opposed
to resouces that the community network should recruit from others and/or
develop under its own auspices? I'll send you a second message on that.
                        Jerry Kuntz, Automation Manager
                        Finger Lakes Library System
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