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The Trend Toward Cooperative Action
Present Networking Activities
Librarians have long shared resources by such means as union catalogs and interlibrary loans. During recent years, encouraged by Federal and state leadership and funding, they have begun to evolve more formal, contractual "systems," "consortia," or "networks,” a few of which, such as MEDLARS,' already benefit from computer and telecommunications technology in the provision of regional and local services from national resources. Typical of evolving networks are the intrastate programs in Washington, Ohio, Illinois, New York and California, and the interstate programs in New England, the Southeast and the Southwest. Increasingly, the search for fruitful ways to share the public knowledge resource crosses geographical, jurisdictional and type-of-library boundaries.
Although none of the existing library networks has reached full potential, a few have demonstrated the viability of resource sharing through electronic networking. An example is the not-for-profit Ohio College Library Center that now serves over 600 library terminals from a single computer at Columbus, Ohio. This system allows participants to access a large data base containing over one-and-a-half million catalog records, for the purpose of producing cards for local library catalogs, locating books in other libraries, and, eventually, providing such other services as search by subject, control of circulation records, and collection of management information.
Barriers to Cooperative Action
(1) The information agencies in the public and private sectors are
growing more diverse, and the components—the libraries, the publishing industry, the indexing and abstracting services, the educational institutions and the various government agencies—have had little experience in working together toward a common na
tional goal. (2) State, local, institutional, and private funding is unstable and in
sufficient, and is not designed to foster interjurisdictional cooper
ation. (3) Traditional funding patterns will need to be changed to make
them equally supportive of both local and nationwide objectives, because the provision of information service in many localities is still limited by taxes supporting a particular jurisdiction.
i Medical Literature Access and Retrieval System.
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(4) No national guidelines exist to ensure the development of com
patible statewide and multistate network services. (5) Many Federal libraries and information centers have neither
adopted a fully-open policy toward serving the general public nor
formed among themselves a Federal network. (6) The attitude of librarians toward the new technologies and new
conceptions of the role of the library in society is often negative. (7) The library work force needed to plan, develop and operate
cooperative networks is not yet being well enough trained to deal with nonprint materials or with computer and communication
technologies. (8) The nation does not yet have an official center to coordinate the
processing and distribution of standard bibliographic records, including not only the records distributed by the Library of Congress, but also those produced by other public and private agencies
in the current complex pattern of bibliographic services. (9) A final obstacle to the sharing of resources is the lack of public
knowledge about their existence and location.
The Recommended National Program
The recommended national program is an overall structure within which current deficiencies can be corrected and future requirements addressed. It would coordinate and reinforce all Federal and state efforts to support local and specialized information services.
(1) Ensure that basic library and information services are adequate to
meet the needs of all local communities. (2) Provide adequate special services to special constituencies, includ
ing the unserved. (3) Strengthen existing statewide resources and systems. (4) Ensure basic and continuing education for personnel essential to
the implementation of the national program. (5) Coordinate existing Federal programs of library and information
service. (6) Encourage the private sector to become an active partner in the
development of the national program. (7) Establish a locus of Federal responsibility charged with imple
menting the national network and coordinating the national program under the policy guidance of the National Commission. This agency should have authority to make grants and contracts and to promote standards, but must be supportive and coordinative
rather than authoritarian and regulatory. (8) Plan, develop and implement a nationwide network of library
and information service. Meeting the above eight priority objectives constitutes the sum of the Commission's proposed program. In some instances, existing programs would be strengthened or reoriented. In other cases, the Commission would initiate new programs, such as the nationwide network. Only by the melding of present and future cooperative systems into a national structure can the rich resources of this nation be fully exploited.
The Nationwide Network Concept
Major Federal Responsibilities
The Federal Government would force no library or other information service to join the network, but would provide technical inducements and funding incentives to state governments and the private sector to strengthen their ability to become effective components of a mutually reinforcing program. (1) Encourage and promulgate standards. The Federal Government
has a major responsibility to encourage and support efforts to develop the standards required to assure interconnecting between intrastate networks, multistate networks and specialized networks in the public and private sectors, i.e., the standards for: (a) computer software, access and security protocols, data elements and codes; (b) bibliographic formats, films, computer tapes and sound recordings; (e) literary texts in machine-readable form; and
(f) reprography and micrographics. (2) Make unique and major resource collections available nationwide.
Institutions with unique resources of national significance, such as the Harvard University Libraries, the New York Public Library, the Newberry Library, the Glass Information Center in Corning, New York, and the Chemical Abstracts Service, would be provided incremental funding to help extend their extramural
services to the whole country. (3) Develop centralized services for networking. While many services
can be better managed locally, others might be sponsored centrally in either the public or private sector. For example, a national audiovisual repository, a national system of interlibrary communication, a national depository for the preservation of microform masters and “best copies" of all works of research value, a national periodical bank, and machine-readable data banks of articles and
abstracts in the fields of language, literature, or musicology. (4) Explore computer use. Computers have become indispensable
tools of network operations, not only for routine clerical tasks, such as the dissemination of bibliographic information, the acquisition of books, catalog card production, and the control of circulation and serial records, but also for the retrieval of knowledge resources in machine-readable form. In addition to dedicated minicomputers for local internal processing, a nationwide network might be expected to employ centralized computer installations (a) for production of bibliographic data for use by local agencies throughout the country, and (b) for searching the knowledge resource itself to learn what is available where, to re
cord new holdings and to arrange interlibrary delivery. (5) Apply new forms of telecommunications. In order to place people
in more immediate contact with the total national information resources, a future telecommunications system might eventually integrate teletype, audio, digital and video signals into a single system. The greatest boon to national access to the public knowledge resource would be free or reduced rates for educational and cultural use of the Federal Telecommunications System and satellite communication channels, at least until the traffic has reached
an economically viable level. (6) Support research and development. A federal program of re
search and development, through grants and contracts, should address such problems as the application of new technologies, the relevance of services to different reader communities, the effects of new information systems on users, and the profession itself as
it struggles with the dynamics of change. (7) Foster cooperation with similar national and international pro
grams. In order to tap the knowledge resources of the world, the national program should support such efforts as those of UNESCO's UNISIST project, the International Standards Office, the International Federation of Library Associations, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Organizational Relationships and Supporting Responsibilities
In addition to the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, key components of the national program are the fifty states, the Library of Congress, and the private sector. Each of the levels in the nationwide program should bear its share of the total financial burden.
Responsibilities of State Governments
The Federal Government would fund those aspects of the network which support national objectives and stimulate statewide and multistate library development. The state governments would accept the major share of the cost of coordinating and supporting the intrastate components of the network, as well as part of the cost of participating in multistate planning. The states could participate most helpfully by enacting or updating library legislation and by establishing or strengthening state library agencies to administer state programs in the context of the national program.
Some of the advantages that would accrue to a state from its participation in a nationwide network are: (1) more information for its residents than it could possibly afford to amass through its own capital investment; (2) reduced interstate telecommunication costs; (3) access to computer software, data bases and technical equipment; (4) compatibility with national programs; (5) matching funding for bringing state and local resources up to acceptable standards; (6) matching funding to initiate network operations; and (7) the ability to invest mainly in immediate state and local needs while relying upon the national network for specialized material and services.
Responsibilities of the Private Sector
The private sector, as a major producer of cultural, scientific, technical, and industrial information, must work closely with the public sector in order to make the national network both useful and costeffective. A new orientation to Federal funding and user economics might be required to harmonize the traditional library information systems with the newer commercial and other specialized information systems. The Commission believes that this area will require intensive study and full collaboration among many different organizations before a meaningful legislative recommendation can be developed.
Responsibilities of the Library of Congress
Although not so designated by law, the Library of Congress is de facto The National Library. The Commission believes that it should legally be so designated. In that role it should accept the following responsibilities in the national program: (1) expansion of its lending function to that of a National Lending Library of final resort; (2) expansion of coverage under the National Program for Acquisitions and