Document Type

Article

Subject Area(s)

Library science, Libraries & the Internet, Libraries & community, Libraries -- Social aspects, Social integration, Internet access

Abstract

In 1994, the Clinton administration had very recently set goals for widespread public access to the Internet by connecting “every classroom, every clinic, every library, and every hospital in America” by the year 2000 (Clinton 1994, 4). The Executive Branch specified its focus on promoting universal access and ensuring public access to government information online and provision of “better social equity for the public” (McClure, Bertot, and Zweizig 1994, ii). It was in this year that Charles R. McClure, John Carlo Bertot, and Douglas L. Zweizig presented the first ever Public Libraries and the Internet report, addressing the report to then President William J. Clinton, with support from the US National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. The Internet and the World Wide Web were quite new to the general public at this time, and the Public Libraries and the Internet report shows tremendous foresight in identifying the role public libraries could and would take in providing the American public with Internet access, training, and socialization. The report notes that, at that time, 20.9 percent of public libraries had Internet connectivity. It also reports that those connected public libraries tended to be in larger communities and that only some offered public Internet access. For the most part, these public libraries were using the Internet for administrative tasks, reference services, and some government information services, not providing direct access to patrons; rather, the Internet was an information tool to be used by information professionals. Total spending for Internet connections and services was estimated to be $14,398,550, a very low figure, leading the report’s authors to express that it was an amount “insufficient and incompatible with the vision expressed by [the Clinton Administration’s] goals.” The report recommends that “policymakers will need greater public debate on the degree to which federal funding should be provided to public libraries to contribute toward accomplishing these policy goals” (McClure et al. 1994, 41).

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