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In the San Francisco Bay Area in the 70's and 80's there was a lot of
work bringing together the files of the many I&R providers; some of these
were libraries, some were social service agencies, and others were non-profits
whose main reason for existing was the collection and dissemination (by
non-automated means) of a fairly narrow amount of info or a broad file that
served a small community.  It was the latter that resisted being included
in the larger service, known as BAIRS, Bay Area Information & Referral System
(?). The files were/are held on a Stanford mainframe. Libraries could
access the info by paying the cost of a local call to the Stanford computer,
as long as they had gone through the training.  Social service agencies
felt very strongly that clients should not see the info without
assistance, partly because they wanted to use their expertise to link
the person in need with the right service. Just seeingthe raw data
file would not always help the person get to the right agency.  Libraries
felt that mediation was not needed as much, but that they would certainly
provide it.
 
The California State Library provided grants for public libraries to
automate their I&R files, some of which are quite extensive. At the time,
in the late 80's, that consisted of putting them in Dbase format and
perhaps allowing the public to search on a machine in the public library.
 
Library automation vendors concentrated on selling libraries the software
to mount bibliographic records. That's what all of you see when you go out
on the Internet and search Melvyl or CARL or Cleveland Public Library's
catalog.  Then the demand grew to add I&R or community information, and
this is where there is a big gap (but one that Madeline Gonzalez and
others in the community networking field are closing) between all the
Free-net/Civic networking activity and what has been going on in
public libraries for many years.
 
The library automation systems use, for the most part, a communications
format called MARC to define the different elements of a bibliographic
record. It is very complex, even to librarians who are not involved in
cataloging, and there are large committees that constantly discuss and
make changes to this format.  It is a great example of cross-platform
standardization and should be studied by community system folks as a
lesson to heed.  Recently, there has been study and adoption of how
to include community I&R information inthe MARC format.  This means
you take the fields from your entry on, say, abortion counseling, and
put it into the MARC format.  Why? Because you can include those
files on the same public access system as the rest of the libray
records. For those of you on the Internet, telnet into a CARL system
and look at the Pikes Peak Library in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Maggies Place is a pioneer effort to make community information
available online.  They have about 3 people in that library alone
updating these files. They are thorough, but you see how expensive
it can be do really do it right and maintain community information.
 
The Public Library Association has a whole commitee on community
information, and I have been trying to cross-pollinate some
community networking issues but have not made contact (my fault)
as I should have.  There are other public librarians on communet
who might add other tales of I&R issues. Please speak up.
 
One last note: CARL (Colorado Alliance for Research Libraries) is
doing a graphic interface to I&R information and other community
information.  It puts a nice iconic face on the text files. I
have worked with them on a previous project (Kids Catalog was
an Apple Library of Tomorrow project) and have advised them to
visit Madeline Gonzalez since both are in the Denver area. They
should see what is being done with WAIS and Mosaic, and the
community network people should see what is being done via
commercial, public access catalogs. CARL's project is called
"Everybody's Catalog" and Paula Busey ([log in to unmask]) has
more info on the project.
 
Steve Cisler
Apple Library
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