I always wanted to be a policy wonk, part of the community
networking establishment. After all, I'm an academic law librarian, venerating the think
piece, the law review article. My emailbox is stuffed with policy material that I should
read. Material from the American Association of Law Libraries. Material from AFCN.
Material from the Communet listserv. I leave the material in the mailbox, hoping to have
time to read it. I never do. Eventually, with feelings of great guilt, I delete it.
Not only that, my job involves acquiring material for a
law library. Thus relevant material arrives all around me, but I never have time to read
it. So I have abandoned my wish to create policy and to be part of the community
I put my limited time on the building of networks. I've
created them on both ends of my commute. The first one, based on the Free-Net model, was
built in my work community, Akron. It was a true grass-roots effort that took four years
of monthly meetings and the construction of an entire computer system to bring online a
text-based system. The greater Akron area is about 750,000 in population, and the
Akron-Summit County Public Library has assumed the benefits and burdens of running the
The second network is at the home end of my commute. A few
people joined me around a table, and in two years we had a network that included a forum,
which we call SpeakEasy. This time we didn't have to build the system. We just bought
space from an ISP, and we are web-based! CH-UH Community Network is a nonprofit
organization with five intrepid trustees. Its communities are probably about 80,000 in
population, and I am eager to see how the forum turns out.
Do my colleagues on these projects talk about national
policy? Not really. Why? We don't have enough time. We don't have enough information
because we've deleted all of those posts, remember? Should we talk about national policy?
Of course. What would help those of us on the night shift to identify the policy issues,
act sensibly with regard to them, and maybe even get in our two cents to the policymakers?