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Keeping Rural Libraries Linked and Wired

Interviews with Albert Joy of the Vermont Library Association and Eric Anderson of the Ohio Valley Association of Libraries.

Albert Joy, of the Vermont Library System and Librarian at the Bailey-Howe Library of the University of Vermont, and Eric Anderson, of the Ohio Valley Association of Libaries (OVAL), are directors of two very different yet both rural library systems and both are deeply concerned with the issues facing the rural libraries as they enter the technological fray.

Durst at the front desk of New Orleans Public Library.

"The first issue is access, access, access, and then the second is training, training, training," , says Albert Joy. "A rural library has to dial long distance to get anywhere," adds Eric Anderson. Both men feel that accessibility is at the center of all the other issues. They stress the importance of telecommunications technology for people in rural -- often meaning remote --areas, and that the Infrastructure must be created to link these remote users in order for the "highway" to be truly functional. As Eric Anderson says, "Right now there is no highway to drive on... The biggest challenge is hooking up the rural libraries on the most basic of levels...The real issue is that everyone have access."

Both men are instrumentally involved in creating workshop type situations for training and user fluency. Eric Anderson brings computers in to library board meetings to try and show them first hand why the computers are important, how to use them, and hopefully set up an expereintail reference point for why and how to fund these things. "Sometimes it's about getting the libraries themselves to make the committment to the technology," Part of the problem lies with library boards who may not be computer savvy, and in these situations Anderson brings computers into board meetings to teach primers on how to use the Internet and why it may be a valuable tool in the public library of the 21st Century. "It's so important to train the librairans to use the Internet so that they can turn around and train the general public..." agrees Joy, thus maintaining the library's role as "a mediator of information."

Albert suggests creating a working group or task force to draw up a 20 year plan -- or even a 5 year plan --. "Do a vision statement," he urges, "You can learn a lot about your library's goals and priorities and begin to then from the long range visions, create funding strategies."

For more information, contact Libraries for the Future.

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