This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, January 25, 1995

January 25, 1995 - Internet access, part two

(This is the second of a two-part article on public Internet access at the library. The first appeared in the January 18, 1995 News Press.)

There are two or three emerging "navigational tools" for the Internet. One is called a gopher: it's a fairly simple menu that reduces most Internet connections to a matter of pressing the appropriate cursor control keys. Gophers are easy to use, surprisingly powerful, and run on almost any terminal.

Gophers come in two flavors: client and server. A client just points to gopher servers, and is limited to displaying whatever the server decides to put up. A server has more control over what is displayed, and can also point to other servers.

Using some very smart volunteer help (Scott Krone of Littleton and Bob Wintheiser of Douglas County), the library has managed to get a client gopher up and running. Staff is testing it now, and you'll probably see it in February.

Meanwhile, we're working on bringing up a gopher server, which will enable us to add some new information resources to our public, including (we hope) the full text of articles published by the Douglas County News Press. These articles would then also be available THROUGH the Internet for other folks doing, for instance, genealogical research. We would also be able to include various other documents of potential local interest (local government information, library policies, bibliographies on home schooling, lists of local daycare providers, and much more).

We're also tinkering with a second Internet navigational tool: the World Wide Web. The WWW is characterized by "hypertext links." This means simply that some words in a document might be highlighted. To find out more about that subject, you either tab over to the word (or click on it with a mouse), and you're off into a related document.

WWW also has two flavors: a character-based version called "lynx," and a more graphically sophisticated version called "Mosaic." By the end of the year, we'll have one or the other of these up and running as well.

But here's what the library will NOT be offering in the foreseeable future:

* individual public e-mail accounts. Put simply, the costs for additional storage, network administration staff, and general drag on the system, would be exorbitant. For much the same reason, we don't deliver letters, either.

* USENET newsgroup feeds. There are over 5,000 newsgroups on the Internet. Think of them as electronic bulletin boards. People post questions, answers, opinions, news items; they argue and inform. Some newsgroups are packed with up-to-the-minute technical information. Others are crammed with interesting but hobby-related stuff. Others are mighty racy, and veer into the distinctly bizarre. The traffic of these newsgroups (over 50 megabytes of data daily) could create a monumental drag on our computer.

* dial-in access. When people dial-in to the library now (with a modem and PC or Mac) the usual connection lasts under 3 minutes. When you dial into the Internet, you can spend an hour, easy. The cost for additional lines and ports would again be very expensive, and have little to do with our own resources.

The way I see it, we are not in the commercial Internet provider business, and to enter that business would put us in direct competition for people who charge for such access. All of the above services are available from several sources in Colorado (see sidebar).

On the other hand, there are two kinds of people who do not have access to the Internet now, and the public library makes sense as a logical alternative.

* the "information poor." These people don't have, and can't afford, a modem, computer, and Internet account. But they may need access to similar information. Very soon, the Internet may be the ONLY source for some kinds of data. The Internet is a valid reference tool, and is a reasonable addition to the arsenal of public library resources.

* the "information consumer." Some people can afford all this stuff, but can't imagine why they would need it. The public library can give them a chance to do a test drive, to try before they buy.

If you have opinions about public Internet access, give me a call (688-8752), drop me a line at the library, or send me an e-mail message (jlarue@csn.org). I'd appreciate your reactions to my thoughts so far. When you're laboring on the frontier, it helps to share information about the territory.

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