Project GAIN Revisited: Connecting Rural Public Libraries to the Internet
Jean Armour Polly firstname.lastname@example.org
Prior to the early 1990's, it was commonly recognized that the Internet was difficult to use. First, there was the problem of connecting to it. How do you find it? Where is the "Information superhighway," anyway? One could not just open a telephone book and look under "INTERNET" to find an Internet service provider!
Generally, you could connect for free, but you had to have some affiliation with an institution already connected to the Internet. Typically, this would be a large university, or a commercial firm engaged in government research and development. Users had to physically go to a University, and sit down at a terminal connected to their local area network (LAN).
The other choice was to use a home modem (typically 2,400-9,600 baud) to call the University's "modem pool"— a bank of modems capable of supporting remote terminal connections. Once the connection (typically a VT-100 terminal session) was created, users found themselves confronted with a rudimentary "command line interface" which consisted of simple text on the computer screen.
Early Internet users also needed knowledge of many often arcane Unix commands in order to send and receive electronic mail, acquire remote computer files (File Transfer Protocol, FTP), and connect to other computers (Telnet) across the Internet. These instructions controlled the often unfamiliar operating systems on remote computers.
Once you successfully got on the Net, what could you do? Gopher protocol was available, which linked you to hundreds of resources around the world. These were all text-based resources. Audio and graphics were available, but as separate files. Users could get to them via gopher or FTP, but then had to launch a separate program to view them, or listen to them. Sometimes the files had to be expanded from their compressed net-travelling versions, which required another program and knowledge of more mystical commands.
Many library catalogs were available on the Net, as were many "listserv discussion groups"— a type of topic-centric worldwide distribution list via electronic mail. New resources appeared every few days.
SLIP and PPP Connections Emerge
By the summer of 1992, many things had improved. "Client" software had been developed. These applications allowed the user to stay in the "native environment" of her own Macintosh, rather than have to learn "tourist Unix." Clients for MS DOS came into development in late 1994.
Client software worked over SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol) connections. Users needed SLIP (or later, PPP-Point to Point Protocol) communications software. They used this, and their modems, to call a SLIP or PPP server.
These servers and types of computer accounts were difficult to find. Commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) did begin to offer this type of service. Some Universities began to experiment with running their own SLIP or PPP servers as well.
Once the SLIP or PPP connection was established, the user's computer was automatically assigned a temporary IP (Internet Protocol) address, and effectively became a computer on the Internet (as opposed to a "dumb terminal" connected to a host computer that was truly on the Internet). With this type of connection TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), the true underlying protocol of the Internet, was passed all the way to the end user's desktop computer. With the "dumb terminal" connections, TCP/IP stopped at the host computer, and was not extended to the terminals. With TCP/IP all the way to the user's computer, interesting things could happen. And client software instantly made life on the Net much, much easier.
We began to believe that the Internet might have become "friendly" enough for Net novices to use. We wondered what would happen if we got all the equipment and software together, then delivered it to a rural public library. Could the librarians and their users learn to use the SLIP connection? Or would they abandon it in frustration? Were there things of value for them on the Net? Or were "things of value" just too hard to find? These were the questions we asked, and Project GAIN was designed to discover the answers.
What was Project GAIN and who was involved?
Project GAIN was a unique, landmark study which extended Internet connectivity to five rural New York State public libraries, and one Indian Nation school.
Users at these sites included professional and non-professional librarians, library patrons, college students, k-12 students, farmers, tribal leaders, and local government officials.
The acronym, GAIN, stands for Global Access Information Network. We chose it because of the meanings associated with "gain", namely, as in INCREASE-- of knowledge, and of access. We also liked the connotations of "gain" in the electronic amplifier sense: the ratio of increase of output over input. In other words, we hoped the project would have a great and far-reaching impact, beyond the work originally put into it. That has certainly been the case! Other relevant meanings of the word "gain" include EARNINGS; ACHIEVEMENT; and ATTRACTION.
A Description of the GAIN Project
The study was conducted by NYSERNet, Inc. and McClure Associates during 1993 and 1994. It also produced a printed report and a documentary video.
Project GAIN asked: if rural librarians were given the tools and training to use networked information resources, could they do so effectively? Further, how did this improve the quality of service they offered their patrons? Project GAIN sought to determine what would happen to rural communities, typically without access to networked electronic information, when they were linked to a rich and extensive global information environment, the Internet.
This project's implementation objectives were to:
o Connect selected library sites to the Internet.
o Provide the training and support necessary for participants at the various
sites to be able to demonstrate competence in using the suite of Internet
tools provided to them.
o Educate participants as to the resources available on the Internet and how
to discover new ones on their own.
o Integrate utilization of the Internet into the basic activities and services of the library.
o Explore the basic question of whether the Internet (in 1993) was a useful resource for rural libraries, absent cost concerns.
Description of Hardware and Software and the Type of Internet Connectivity Used
Sites were given all the hardware, software, and training they needed to begin to use the Internet. This included:
a Macintosh Color Classic 4/80 CPU; a LaserWriter Select 300 printer; an external CD ROM drive; and a US Robotics Sportster 14.4 kbps Fax Modem.
It is important to understand the type of Internet connection used. It was not typical "terminal to host" or VT100 connectivity. The Internet was reached via a 9600 baud phone connection to a remote SLIP server. This type of connection, which brought TCP/IP (the native "language of the Internet") directly to the computer desktop, was a critical success factor, as it enabled the libraries to use easy software tools with graphical interfaces.
These "client software" applications included:
Eudora for electronic mail; TurboGopher as the gopher client; Fetch for FTP; NCSA Mosaic as the World Wide Web browser, and others. The sites were also given Versaterm Versatilities Admin SLIP to initiate their SLIP connections. Additionally they used ClarisWorks for word processing, database management, spreadsheets, and more.
Most sites had the additional expense of a long distance call to the nearest Internet point of presence on our network. In general, the cost of this was $6.00 -8.00 per hour. These sites received a one -time grant of $800.00 to help defray the cost of the long distance service.
Costs and Funding
The J.M. Kaplan Foundation of New York contributed the main grant for the study; the Apple Library of Tomorrow program (a project of the Apple Library at Apple Computer, Cupertino, CA) contributed the hardware and some software. OCLC, Dublin, Ohio, contributed unlimited First Search™ searches. Addison-Wesley and O'Reilly and Associates, contributed books about the Internet; and U.S. Robotics contributed several modems.
The main grant (from the Kaplan Foundation) was $65,000. This paid for the evaluation, the connectivity, and training. The Macintosh hardware was donated, the rest was purchased as part of the grant. If we had had to buy everything, the cost per site would have been $6,133, as outlined below. Remember, these are prices from Spring, 1993. Current prices would be lower, especially the costs for connectivity.
The total cost of the hardware was $2,590.00 per site.
The total software cost was $393.00 per site.
SLIP connectivity cost $2,350.00 per site (one year of service.)
The grant to cover long distance charges for 4 out of 6 sites was $800.00.
What Happened: Stories From the Sites
Imagine not being able to buy your wife a birthday card because you can't read the message. Imagine not being able to travel because you can't read the signs in airports. This is the story of Glenn Forward, a 51 year old dairy farmer, who is an adult new reader. He had "plateaued" on his skills, and was disinterested in practicing writing "pretend" letters to imaginary people. The librarian wrote to a PUBLIB library listserv, asking for other new readers to correspond with Glenn. He got a lot of mail, from Brazil, from Missouri, from Greece. This contact piqued his interest and he became a mentor to other people learning to read, all over the world. He says it made him feel like he was not alone in his struggle for literacy. As part of the Apple Library of Tomorrow project, he flew to California --alone-- to give a speech. It is on the Project GAIN video, in its entirety. Here is one of the early mail messages about this story.
Hi Steve I am the librarian at Morrisville Public Library, one of the Project GAIN sites. I just wanted to let you know how thrilled Glenn and I were to get your letter. Glenn has been my student for almost five years now and when we started he literally could not read a single sentence...
We have had a good response to our PUBLIB posting and Glenn has hooked up with another new reader from Missouri who also has a lot in common with Glenn. We are both really excited because it is wonderful for Glenn (and"Charles") to have the opportunity to practice their skills without fear of embarrassment, talk to someone in a similar situation, and actually use the knowledge that they have and develop computer literacy at the same time. ...Glenn has only written one other letter before in his life. [He] might not otherwise have the courage or means to do so. >
Best Regards. Beverly Choltco-Devlin
[Beverly is now moderating two listservs at NYSERNet, one for adult new learners to write each other, and one for teachers of adult new learners.]
Collaboration with Peers
The Onondaga Nation school discovered they were the first Indian Nation with their own node on the Internet. This proved to be a way for Indian Country to share information quickly, and find information they otherwise would not have easy access to. The school utilized such diverse sources as the U.S. President's State of the Union Address (right after it was delivered), weather reports, and newsgroups such as the one about Native Americans with AIDS.
They have a particular interest in making sure their culture is represented correctly outside their own community, and to preserve their oral tradition and their language. Here is a sample message about that.
We are the first native nation to be on line .what wonderful news I hadn't realized that we were a first!
[Dr George Baldwin is such] an enthusiastic person --he got everyone there so excited-- it was all native people there at this workshop . we talked about having our own list serve group . he is also staring his own group for native americans .
Making Regional Materials Available Online
Proposal to the Council of Chiefs of the Onondaga Nation
to Make Selected Art Works of Onondaga Nation School Children
Accessible via the Internet
Means: Art works (no larger than 8 1/2" x 11", or photos no larger than this of works larger in size) would be sent to NYSERNet's offices, where they would be scanned on NYSERNet's color scanner and converted to a digital format that can be stored in a computer. These images would be filed in a special section of NYSERNet's computer (known as a gopher). Computer users around the world who are connected to the Internet would be able access these images by browsing through the menus of NYSERNet's gopher, or by doing a keyword search using a tool known as Veronica.
Rationale: There is no question that students at the Onondaga Nation School are producing art of high quality, which many people around the world would be interested in seeing. By making these images available on NYSERNet's gopher, the Onondaga Nation would be able to increase its visibility around the world, and share something of beauty with the wider world. Students at the school would be able to share their art with a much larger audience than would otherwise be possible. This sharing of artwork could open the door for other sorts of communication with others around the world, broadening the horizons of both students at ONS, other residents of the Nation, and people from all over the world. In short, this is one way the Onondaga Nation can make the rest of the world aware of its existence. It would also be possible to include text files in this "virtual art gallery" that told something about the Onondaga Nation and its culture.
Subject: Chautauqua Information Center
I think your idea on creating a "Chautauqua Information Center" on the gopher is a good one. We all like the idea of having more NYS-generated information in the gopher.
Access to Reference Works and Other Resources Over the Net
Some interesting stories include the one about a man with a peculiar rash on his face. His rural doctor could not figure out how to make it go away. The librarian checked the Internet and found several medical journal articles referring to the type of drug the man was taking, detailing the rash reaction from being out in the sun. A Farmer, he was out in the sun all day! He printed the citations and took them to his Doctor, who promptly changed the medications prescribed.
From: beverly choltco-devlin <
Hi Wally! I'm so excited I couldn't wait until tomorrow to send this message to you. Remember a couple weeks back when I sent you the reference question about how to find a newspaper from 1870 and that it was a personal challenge to me. You suggested that I try FirstSearch.
Let me give you a little more background. The patron who requested it is county judge who came to me as a last resort to find this article for a presentation he was doing. I had done a presentation with him on a totally unrelated topic in the spring and at the time I was introducing myself to him had told him about the NYSERNet grant. He called about a month ago and said that he really needed a copy of this original article from 1870 and could I try to help. He had exhausted all other ideas. Anyway after trying a bundle of online university catalogs which I thought have this type of resource and checking through many gophers I sent my letter to you.
I explored First Search several times. (The information that he had given me was sketchy because it had been taken from an original letter from that era.) Finally on Saturday after going through about 750 citations I came upon one that looked like it just might be the one. I was cautiously ecstatic. Not twenty minutes after I found this (and the three libraries where it was supposedly located) this patron comes into the library to see if I had found anything yet and to let me know that the presentation was TUESDAY (tomorrow) I was a little surprised, and he was concerned because the document was what he needed. I told him I would try what I could. So I spent Sunday and this a.m. calling the libraries listed hoping against hope that one of them would be willing and able to check if it was the correct newspaper first of all with the desired article and secondly if they would be willing to FAX it to me. Finally, using my most professional library director voice (I had to keep my excitement about 20 levels lower than it was) I respectfully asked the Reference librarian at the University of Virginia if this was possible. WELL!!!! I had it within a half hour (thanks to a Friend of the Library who let me use her FAX resource.
I looked at the FAXED newspaper page with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. There it was exactly what he wanted. I will tell you that there a few feelings to match the pride, joy and headiness that I felt when I handed that article into his hands when he came in to pick it up this afternoon. The joy on his face was pretty special too. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for enabling me to experience this sense of professional and personal pride and for allowing our small little library to have the capability to provide this service. Best regards,
From a report by Meg Van Patten:
The Baldwinsville Public Library has an Internet connection as part of NYSERnet's Project GAIN, we have been connected since June. The staff has used it for answering reference questions. We do not have the space to keep hard copy of Federal laws and regulations and the Internet has helped with that. I can think of two questions where the patrons were provided with the information they needed, in the past we would have had to refer them to the law library in Syracuse.
The first patron requested information on the Federal Family Medical Leave Act, I did a Gopher search and came up with the statement that President Clinton made when he signed the Act, and via LOCIS I found the bill, its sponsors, amendments, etc.
Another patron needed information on the use of Social Security numbers; the children's librarian found what he needed via a gopher search.
A retired gentleman was looking for information on the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which he worked on during WWII. A search of our collection found a couple of paragraphs, I then searched the Library of Congress and NYS Library catalogs via the Net, and was able to identify a couple of books on the project which I later obtained via interlibrary loan.
I also used Gopher to obtain a list of Presidential appointees for someone who was looking for the current head of a particular government agency. These are all examples where the patrons were grateful, and without the Internet, we would not have been able to obtain the information as quickly, or possibly not at all.
From a letter by Mary Stull, a schoolteacher, to D.J. Stern (Director of Woodstock Library)
Trying to make up a list of the uses of the Internet is difficult, since I am still working at finding all there is to benefit my class. I have used it to make contact with the classroom of the Onondaga Nation School and a private school in Genoa, Italy. We hope to become pen pals with both schools.
Naturally the AskERIC network is extremely useful to a teacher. From it I have obtained lesson plans which I have already used in my classroom The ideas are new and exciting ways of presenting materials to my students.
Our school is working on a new student evaluation form and portfolio assessment forms. AskERIC was a great source of information as to what is being used in other schools, and what research there is on these subjects.
From AskERIC I have also made contact with the services provided by Skywatch, Newton's Apple, and Carmen San Diego. These are all resources I could not have obtained anywhere else in the area.
As I become more familiar with what is "out there" I hope to bring it into the classroom. Our next project will be to find information about other countries and cultures. My students do numerous projects on people from other countries and cultures. This will be an opportunity to have instant and current contact with these people.
By mid-year I hope to be using the White House briefings which are available on the network. Right now my students do not yet possess the skills to work with that type of information.
One project I would like to become a part of is a reading group which concentrates on children's literature. Through the Woodstock Library I have become acquainted with several English and Australian authors. I would like to learn about other children's writers (other than the standard American writers which seem to be present in most classrooms). Through the Internet I can accomplish this, and use these authors in my classroom this year.
The possibilities for the use of the Internet in the classroom seem to grow each time I work my way through any map of the system I'm in. By the end of the year, I'm sure I will have thousands of great ideas for its use in the classroom.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this project.
Teacher, Woodstock Children's Center
Subject: new this week
How's everybody doing?
Well, I've learned much this week and am GAINing new confidence in tip- toeing my way through the network.
I have been able to successfully FTP files from a wide variety of sources: from music, to homebrewing, to stress in the workplace, to Russian archives, and back again..
As I sit in front of the keyboard, people I know will come in the library and ask what I'm doing. Before you know it, I'm helping them access the info they're looking for. I helped a friend find out about Medical Technology classes at Syracuse University. Another friend wanted to know about any interdisciplinary books or research that might be going on. Wow!! Gopher was full of stuff.
I have also met a lot of very interesting people through news groups, and I am interacting with some on a regular basis. It amazes me the number of people out there that not only have the same interests as I do, but their willingness to help.
My horizons are certainly being expanded beyond the vanishing point.
See you next week. In the meantime, SET THE CONTROLS FOR THE SUN!
Why the Project was a Success- Critical Reasons Uncovered by the Study
Project GAIN was an unqualified success. Here are some important
o each site had at least one champion who was enthusiastic about the project
and would "go the extra mile" to follow through and make something work.
o each site had standard equipment and software. This made the job
of our support team that much easier.
o the type of Internet connectivity (SLIP) the sites were given allowed
use of easy communications tools/clients.
o each site had the same initial training, and were required to form a local users
group to support one another. Additionally, all the sites communicated with all other sites via e-mail, so there was a lot of informal sharing taking place.
o telecommunications for long distance calls to the network point of
presence were subsidized. Some people felt that the idea of "the pay meter
running" constrained their exploration of the network, and impaired their
ability to implement the Net into their daily lives. Each long distance site
received an $800 subsidy towards their telecommunications costs.
o support, support, support. The project manager, Wally Babcock, followed
these sites on an almost daily basis, responding to e-mail and phone queries.
If the sites didn't call him, he called the sites to make sure things were
Barriers Identified by the Study
Here are some of the problems libraries felt they still needed to address.
o telecommunications costs. The lack of a local point of presence was a burden. Long distance phone charges kept totaling up. As librarians found more and more reasons to use the Net, they found themselves with less and less money to do so, and it was frustrating.
o equipment- there was only ONE computer, and many people wanted to use it, both patrons and staff.
o lack of time for librarians and staff to explore the Net and find out where the "really good stuff" was.
o need for ongoing training & support.
o complexity of the Internet, lack of resources in full text.
The Impacts on the Library and the Community
Librarians felt that being involved with such a "leading edge" project
o enhanced their status and credibility in their local communities, and in the greater library community.
o attracted new users and support to their buildings and programs.
o enhanced their professional development.
The ability to find lots of resources on the Net increased library loans significantly. This was good because it increased the library's and community's "reach"—but it also translated into greater workload for an already busy staff.
The community enjoyed new partnerships with local schools, partnerships with local governments, and enhanced economic development opportunities, due to the Internet connection.
It also helped enhanced sense of rural community. One participant said "Now I can live in a beautiful country area, and still do the work I want to do, and reach the education, materials, and people that I need to contact."
Project GAIN Update- Two Years Later:
ALL six libraries have found ways to keep some kind of Internet connectivity. Some took library funds they had on hand, and reallocated them to buying connectivity. Others went after- and won- grants from other organizations. Still others stepped down a level and bought VT100 access to the Net— but they all found enough value on the Net that they were loathe to leave it.
Baldwinsville Public Library
Meg Van Patten (Reference/Adult Services Librarian)
Baldwinsville Public Library
43 Oswego St.
Baldwinsville, NY 13027
Meg Van Patten <
Marilyn Laubacher, Director <
+1 (315) 635-5631
After the grant funding ended, they did renew their SLIP/PPP connection with NYSERNet. Now, they are getting a 56KBPS (56,000 bits per second) leased line connection installed. Internet access will be available at a Mac and PC in the public computer lab, and at the reference desk. There will be an e-mail server for staff, and no public electronic mail accounts are planned. There will also be two personal computers in the children's library, but these will not be connected to the Internet. The cost for the Internet connection, the Novell 4.1 local area network software, consulting, and new CD tower equipment is $46,000. They would very much like to run their own web server.
Although they have not promoted the fact that they have an Internet connection, people come in to use it every day. One of the most popular uses is job-hunting with Job Bank, which lists employment available across the U.S.
Library staff still use it for professional development. Two popular listserv discussion groups are PUBLIB and STUMPERS. The first list is for public librarians, and deals with many types of library issues. (I am the co-host of this list.) STUMPERS is about difficult reference questions. When a librarian cannot find an answer, she asks the other librarians on the list if they are able to find the answer. Often the answers are discovered in a few hours, using the collective knowledge of Internetted librarians around the world!
The library notes that on many TV commercials these days, the screen will show a URL address on the web for more information. In the newspaper, movie ads give the home page of the movie. Newspaper stories often give web addresses as part of the newspaper story. The Web is EVERYWHERE. Baldwinsville's librarians have heard a 7 year old child, looking for books on animals, and confronted with a lack of books on the library shelves, said "oh, forget it, I will just look on the Net."
Baldwinsville cautions that the public must learn to evaluate the glut of on-line information resources. After all, it has not been filtered by traditional review sources, and may or may not be true, timely, or useful. The Public expectation is that if it comes in electronic form, the information is true.
Should small public libraries get on the Net? "Absolutely," says librarian Meg Van Patten, "in terms of giving good reference service, and also because they need to communicate with other librarians and libraries." For example, if a library wanted to order a book from the State Library, they used to have to submit their request to the regional system library first. Now they can send their requests to the State Library electronically, and speed up the library user's wait for the book.
The Baldwinsville Public Library's short term goals are to complete the ambitious LAN they have started. After that, they will begin their community's Web page, and begin to investigate dial-up access so that users can call up the Library catalog from home.
Chautauqua--Smith Memorial Library
21 Miller Avenue
P.O. Box 1093
Chautauqua, NY 14722
Helene Yurth (Director)
+1 (716) 357-6296
This library did not renew with NYSERNet after the grant funding ran out. They tried some of the national commercial services. For a while they had American Online, for a while they also tried Delphi. These were both long distance toll calls, so were not satisfactory. It was also impossible to budget for Internet connectivity, since you never knew how many hours you would need to buy each month.
The Library currently has PPP account with Epix (Dallas, PA) It's $18.95 per
month for unlimited use, and they can connect with a local call. It is for
staff use, and for staff use on behalf of the public. However, the local service is already overloaded. "There's usually at least one half day per week when it is not possible to get past a busy signal, and it is not unusual to be unexpectedly disconnected, " said Helene Yurth, the Library Director. "It's our only option for toll-free connection, which is 'light years better' than accessing the net via long distance."
Helene says "There are definitely MORE useful things available (with less search time) now than during the GAIN days. Searching is much easier and more productive now." Helene says that one of the things she finds most useful are the informative web sites of nonprofit organizations, for example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the American Civil Liberties Union, etc. They want to give out their information, and the web gives them a great way to do so. LOCIS (Library of Congress) is useful for verifying bibliographic information. They also still use for the Net for professional development.
What about all the commercial, business sites on the Net? Helene says "I think the Net's pretty great, even the commercialization. Finding online catalogs is like having an 800- number toll-free directory, only better."
Her biggest disappointment is their unreliable access through their service provider, which makes offering public access impossible right now.
Should small libraries get connected to the Net? "If it is reasonably possible, I would recommend getting a net connection," said Helene. "Of course, it is almost ALWAYS a choice between books and connectivity, so I guess it depends on how adequate the book collection is. I would recommend a solidly adequate book collection first, the Net is no substitute. I look at the Net as an entirely new kind of information source. I am personally very excited about the idea of 'many to many' communications—communication without mediation by a publishing or broadcasting company. But I wouldn't want to do 'the book thing' poorly in order to add a new service."
Chautauqua Institution, of which the public library is a department, has a web
site at https://www.chautauqua-inst.org. David Kindervater, from the
Institution's marketing department, and Helene Yurth, from the Library, have constructed and maintain the site. Helene says "I am proud of the fact that it is updated 2 or 3 times each week, but I would like to have the time to incorporate more REAL information and more interactivity. For example, Chautauqua is the home of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC). The CLSC began in 1878 with the goal of bringing a university-level education to people who did not previously have the opportunity—women, people in rural areas, etc. There were selected readings, discussion circles, examinations, and so on. This
continues today, it is sometimes called the oldest continuously operating
book club in America. I would love to have an online CLSC circle. Also two
years ago, Chautauqua reinstituted a junior CLSC, called Young Readers. I
hope to soon include annotated lists of their selected books as aids to
parents or educators looking for suggested reading lists. There are lots
more possibilities, of course. "
Morrisville Public Library
Formerly Director, The Morrisville Library
87 East Main St.
P.O. Box 37
Morrisville, NY 13408
Beverly Devlin <
+1 (315) 684-9130
Beverly Devlin has had the opportunity to testify before committees of both the US Senate and the House of Representatives, in support of Internet connectivity and what it can do for rural libraries.
The Morrisville Library has no web page or gopher site, but Ms. Devlin still operates the LITERACY and LEARNER Listservs.
The Library did not renew after second year, due to costs. NYSERNet allows the SLIP connection to remain, although the Library uses it in a very limited way, because it is a long distance call each time.The Library has limited dial up terminal access through nearby Morrisville College and Mid-York Library System. They also have America Online (AOL) as a result of a grant. Both staff and the public use these connections. The librarian uses e-mail quite frequently with other colleagues from nearby library systems.
Phone charges for AOL are still an issue. The dial-up connection at SUNY Morrisville is free.
The Internet is still an excellent resource for finding government, medical, and current events information, although Beverly notes that "the OCLC First Search service we got for free through Project GAIN made it much easier. There is much more out there on the Net now, so determination of integrity and quality of resources is becoming an issue." She indicated that free Internet search engine improvements occur on a daily basis, which help to access exactly what is needed. However, she warns that users must learn the various features and
limitations of the many search engines available. "Knowing how and what each engine searches for is critical to success, you need time to explore," Beverly said,
"I have found that there is an incredible amount of valuable material out there, the scope of which is nearly unimaginable."
What disappoints her most about the Net? Here is her short list:
o Rampant commercialism.
o Increasing philosophical perspective that it's OK to take from the Net without giving something, like other information or value, back. What happened to the Net as a "circle of gifts"?
o Lack of responsibility in maintaining and updating sites and links.
o Web pages that provide no primary source content but rather only links
to other sites.
Should small rural libraries connect to the Net? Beverly says, "Absolutely!!!!! I feel that the philosophy held three years ago that it is the small libraries that need Internet connectivity the most is even more valid and compelling today. As the information gap grows ever wider, Libraries must fulfill the role of information provision in this new world to those who can't afford it."
As far as how people use the Net at the Morrisville Library, Beverly says, "There is an update on the Glenn story-- the guy who was just learning to read. He passed his commercial driver's license permit test. Took the thing completely on his own, read every word, and now has a truck permit till his road test happens. Seven years ago he couldn't read a single word. I think the experience of reaching out over the Internet to others has helped him not to feel so alone, to realize there are others out there like himself, and the experience of actually reading and writing over the net was much more immediate and real than any exercise we may have worked on. Going to California for the Apple Conference, via plane, by himself, 'put the icing on the cake' in terms of his self-confidence."
"Also, I'm not sure if I had told you this, but the amateur radio operator (who
became deaf and communicated with others by e-mail) passed away last year
at the age of 80+. His son delivered the eulogy at the funeral, and he talked for a full ten minutes about "Fitz's" love for the library and especially the Internet and his hopes to have the library fully automated. I cried like a baby. In fact, Brenda, the new librarian (with the approval of the family) has placed all donations made to the library in Fitz's memory (at his request) in a special fund to provide for full automation."
"Just last month I happened to be in the library when a patron wanted to
know where a less well-known 'Godzilla' movie could be had for purchase or
borrowing. The volunteer at the desk didn't really know, I happened to be
eavesdropping so I offered to check the Net, and there I found 3 sources for the exact movie he wanted. Not earth-shattering (well maybe, because it was Godzilla), but another case of a need being filled. Thinking about this story just made me realize I might rethink my earlier comments about commercialism."
Old Forge Public Library
Isabella Worthen (Director)
Old Forge Library
P.O. Box 128
Old Forge, NY 13420
+1 (315) 369-6008
Isabella Worthen <
Ken DeFillips <
Ken DeFilipps says "A turtle makes no progress until it sticks its neck out."
The Old Forge Library renewed its NYSERNet connectivity for a short time, then discontinued it due to long distance and other costs. The phone company was happy with library use of the Internet, Ken jokes "the phone company sent me a
birthday present, and a ham for Easter!" The library is now connected in a limited way to Mid-York Library System which includes VT-100 terminal access and LYNX as a web browser.
Ken suggests it's better not to focus on specific uses. He says that in general, the
Internet is useful to everyone, for different reasons. "And it's becoming
more than useful, I think it will some day be essential," he says. "However, the fact remains, when you're speaking of rural connectivity, the phone charges make it prohibitive for most people. It's rural areas that need connectivity the most and sadly they are the last to get it. Or should I say they will be the last to get it. And that I feel was the major problem with GAIN. For all the positive
things that happened there -- and there were many-many -- long term progress
was doomed from the beginning, and will continue to be until that long distance phone charge problem is addressed. Between Forestport and Blue Mt. Lake (about 90 miles as the Department of Transportation truck flies) there are only a handful of people online. It's not for the lack of computers. It's the expense of dialing the telephone."
The library Director, Isabella Worthen, said that she would encourage libraries to get on the Net, even in a limited way. Ken, a library user, said "Not that I'm in a position to encourage small public libraries. If I were, I would tell them to buy books. (And I am a strong advocate of 'being online') For the reasons stated above, I think the money would better be spent elsewhere, especially in a situation where money is tight and every penny matters."
Ken went on and said he did not have "one great story" about using the Net at his library. " But in general, I can say that GAIN and the Internet have had a significant effect on my life in general. It caused me to go in directions I might not have gone otherwise. And it has given me the ability to live in the great
Adirondack Mountains while engaging in other ventures 'elsewhere', with the
'rat race' at arm's length. A life-altering effect, you could say. I have a web site going up in about 10 days.(4-28) www.AdirondackTravel.Com "
Onondaga Nation School
Onondaga Nation School
Route 11-A, RR Box 270
Nedrow, NY 13120
+1 (315) 469-6991
Bernadette was rushed for time! The school has been under construction and is in the middle of a move into a new wing of their building.
She told me they do have limited Internet access for the kids and teachers through a text-based, dial-up system, and it continues to be of use and importance to the Nation.
To see how another nearby Iroquois Nation approaches and uses the web, visit the Oneida Nation home page at https://www.oneidaindiannation.com/ I was privileged to help them become the first Native Nation to claim territory in cyberspace.
Woodstock Public Library District
Woodstock: Diana ("D.J.") Stern (Director)
5 Library Lane
Woodstock, NY 12498
+1 (914) 679-2213 [Voice]; +1 (914) 679-8832 [Fax]
They must be the only library in the world with a tie-dyed home page! Their page shows historic and current photos of the library, describes library services, and the library's mission.
After the grant connectivity ceased, the Woodstock Library continued the connection with NYSERNet for a year. After that, they found more options available to them.
They now have two types of connectivity:
o Through a provider called MVH.NET. This connection costs about $400.00 a year, but it includes the storage space for the library's web page.
o The other connection is called Sebridge, and it is run by the regional library system. It is available over the Library's circulation terminals.
All staff have e-mail accounts. E-mail accounts are also available for the public
Professional development continues to be an important use of the Net by staff, although not as frequently used as it was initially. Medical and health information remains a major usage of the Net.
Members of the public now stay on the Net terminals all day looking for ways to make money. This is a problem, as the terminals cannot be used for other things, like collection information.
The Library is frustrated by the amount of "time-wasting, stupid stuff" on the Net, and how you often have to dig quite awhile until you find what you really need. However, they say they are often enticed and excited by browsing the Net- the real information on it is "better than ever."
Recent developments include a non-profit group that is forming to "Save Yasgur's Farm!" The farm was the historic site of the Woodstock Festival of Music and Art, held over 25 years ago (sometimes known as "An Aquarian Exposition, Three Days Of Peace and Music, August 15, 16, 17, 1969." ) It was a significant event in American, and Rock Music history. Using the library Net connections, they developed and mounted a web page on a free Christian server.
Woodstock encourages small public libraries to get on the Net. They emphasize that training is essential, and don't forget that means you need to train your community, too! It takes a lot of staff time. The Director said, "STILL, I WOULD
SAY YES, YES, YES..GET ON THE NET!"
Lessons learned from Project GAIN included these for libraries:
o obtain at least basic connectivity
o once you have it, increase community awareness and promote network literacy
o collaborate with other community organizations: businesses, schools, Chambers of Commerce, governments.
o you will have to redeploy and redirect existing resources. Training and time to explore are essential.
o plan on creating innovative networked information resources
o try to help establish a national training and networking effort that is library-centric. The Net NEEDS librarians!
There was also this short list of lessons learned for network providers:
o reevaluate service offerings for libraries. They MUST be local calls and the service must be stable.
o Librarians must be able to budget for the service, and not pay by the hour.
o Develop and provide a range of training programs.
o Promote evaluation research.
We also wrote a list of lessons for policy-makers:
o Define a Federal role which supports libraries and their move into networked environments.
o Help development of "local Internet dial-tone." This may include helping to incent commercial providers to bring Internet service to rural areas.
o Use public libraries as hubs to disseminate governmental and other public information.
Finally, I believe that sometimes, librarians are their own "worst enemies."
We need to begin to plan how to succeed, not just “how not to fail.” The Project GAIN experience was a risk, an adventure, and a great deal of hard work and fun. Thank you for letting me tell you about it.
How to Find the Full Report
The Project GAIN study remains a landmark in the progress of the acceptance and use of the Internet in rural public libraries.
The printed Project GAIN Report, bundled with a video, outlines the
lessons learned from connecting; details critical success factors
contributing to the overall accomplishments of the project; and offers a
number of recommendations for public librarians, network service providers,
policy makers, and researchers. Appendices include evaluation instruments,
contracts, success stories, and more.
(26:31 minutes, color, VHS and other formats available)
$30.00 NYSERNet affiliates (includes TRANSIT users)
$40.00 others, $75.00 if SECAM or PAL video format is required
Prepayment required. Price includes shipping and handling in the US.
Make check or money order payable to NYSERNet, Inc.
Mail order to: NYSERNet, Inc. 125 Elwood Davis Road Syracuse, NY 13212-4311
Telephone: 315-453-2912 Fax: 315-453-3052
Phone orders will be accepted with credit card purchase. More info: send e-mail to email@example.com.
Individuals may access an electronic version of the report that includes
the text—without figures and appendices —through FTP or the gopher at NYSERNet, for any free educational purpose. Commercial use requires
permission of NYSERNet.
For FTP, FTP to nysernet.org, login as
"anonymous," give your e-mail address as password,
If you have gopher client software, point it at
nysernet.org, port 70. The final report can be found in "Special
Collections: Libraries/NYSERNet Project GAIN Rural Libraries/Project GAIN