As I write this column, I am housebound during an infrequent ice storm in the Texas Hill Country. My dad is in the hospital here in my old hometown, hence my midweek visit when I should be at my office. But I cannot even get out to visit him, and if I left, I might not be able to get back up the steep road later in the day. I am stuck in the house with my two best friends—my 85-pound hunk of burning canine love, Ringo Bell, and my quirky kitty, Willie. However, I am far from lonely. The main reason for this is my connection with people all over the world via listservs.
I am not in agreement with articles that come out from time to time saying that technology, the computer in particular, tends to isolate people. Au contraire, I find my computers to be vital links to other people, regardless of weather. Thus my topic for this issue: communication. Indeed, I plan to write several columns on this topic, with the first being about listservs. Online communication is an important part of my life, and I celebrate the many ways I am able to be in touch with others via the Internet.
I can honestly say that it is hard for me to imagine my professional life without listservs. My participation dates from the mid-1980s, when I first encountered LM_NET (school library media specialists' network). From the outset, it was a lifeline. Soon after joining the group, my old Sider hard disk (remember them?), holding all my Winnebago circulation data, literally caught fire one fine morning during inventory. I turned to the group for assistance and, within hours, had a spare drive loaned to me from a nearby library where they had already upgraded to that newfangled Dynix DOS-based system. I had backup floppies and was up and going in a short time. Additionally, I had offers from all over the country from other librarians who were willing to mail me a unit. Since then, I have found LM_NET to be my savior for countless reasons. It is my favorite group, but I also profit greatly from others, including EDTECH (educational technology listserv) and TLC (Texas Library Connection), my state group. So, when I began thinking about the benefits of online communication, it is not surprising that my first thought was to write in praise of listservs.
I know that many people, including some of my M.L.S. students, maintain that they cannot afford to join a large online group because it is too time-consuming to keep up with the posts. My answer to this is to be very selective and to use the delete button generously. By doing so, I can go through several days of posts in a short time. My stance is that I cannot afford not to belong to listservs because of the many benefits they continue to offer. Here are some examples.
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