The Power of the Net

Surfing the INTERNET

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A net connection in a school is like having multiple foreign
exchange students in the classroom all the time.  It promotes
active, participatory learning.  Participating in a discussion
group is like being at an ongoing library conference.  All the
experts are Out There, waiting to be asked.

Want to buy a CDROM drive? Send one query and "ask" the 3,000 folks on PACS-L (Public Access Computer Systems list) for advice.  In a few hours you'll have personal testimonies on the pros and cons of various hardware configurations.

Want to see if any libraries are doing anything with Total Quality Management? Ask the members of LIBADMIN and you'll have offers of reports, studies, personal experiences and more.  How do you cope with budget cuts:  personnel
layoffs or materials?  Again, LIBADMIN use allows shared advice.

Here is one story about the power of the net.  At Christmas, an electronic plea came from Ireland.  "My daughter believes in Santa Claus," it began. "And although the `My Little Pony Megan & Sundance' set has not been made in three years, she believes Santa will prevail and she will find one under her tree."  Mom, a university professor, had called the manufacturer in the US, but none were available.  "Check around," they said, "maybe some yet stand on store shelves."  So Mom sent the call out to the net.

Many readers began a global search for the wily Pony as part of their own holiday shopping forays.

Soon, another message came from Dublin.  It seemed that a reader of the original message had a father who was a high-ranking executive in the toy company, and he had managed to acquire said pony where others had failed!

It was duly shipped in time to save Santa's reputation.

Part of the library's mission is to help remove barriers to accessing information, and part of this is removing barriers between people. One of the most interesting things about telecommunications is that it is the Great Equalizer.  It lets all kinds of computers and humans talk to each other.  The old barriers of sexism, ageism, and racism are not present, since you can't see the person to whom you're "speaking". You get to know the person without preconceived notions about what you THINK he is going to say, based on visual prejudices you may have, no matter how innocent.

Well, almost without visual prejudice.  Electronic mail is not always an harmonic convergence of like souls adrift in the cyberspace cosmos:  there are arguments and tirades (called "flames").  Sometimes you get so used to seeing a frequent poster's electronic signature that you know what he's going to say before he says it!


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