Fwd: Public Space in Cyberspace: Library Advocacy in the Digital Age

Becky Albitz (r2a@psulias.psu.edu)
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 10:43:46 -0800 (PST)

Good Afternoon:

Below is an announcement from the group Libraries for the Future, an
organization to which the Video Round Table has lent its support. I have
been asked to forward the following message, and to let you know that the
brochures are FREE, not 9.95 as the message states.

This group is doing a lot of good work promoting public use of cyberspace.
Check it out!

Becky Albitz
Chair, VRT

>**Please re-post where appropriate**
>February 16, 1999
>available! This 32 page booklet outlines the importance of preserving a
>public space in the digital world. It includes profiles of innovative
>public libraries operating computer centers, community computer networks,
>cable access TV centers, and satellite TV equipment. The booklet also
>includes a beginners policy primer on our legal right to the affordable use
>of telephone networks, the Internet, and TV services. It encourages all
>public library and information advocates to work together in promoting a
>communications network for everyone.
>To order a copy, write to Libraries for the Future, PUBLIC SPACE Order, 121
>W. 27th Street, Suite 1102, New York, NY 10001. Please include a check or
>money order made out to Libraries for the Future for $9.95 plus $3 shipping
>and handling. Questions? Contact Jamie McClelland (jamiem@lff.org,
>An online version will be available on Libraries for the Future's website
>(http://www.lff.org) by the end of February.
>Below is a shortened version of the conclusion to the booklet, posted for
>the purpose of sparking conversation on our right to freedom of speech and
>information. Please comment!
>Conclusion: What's the Next Step?
>When advocating for public space in cyberspace, we encounter two seemingly
>insurmountable obstacles. The first is language. How can we convey these
>ideas in a way that people identify with? Mentioning the words
>"telecommunications policy" usually earns the speaker blank stares. The
>second is a lack of perceived need. New forms of communication have been
>promoted in such a consumer-oriented way that electronic communication is
>more often perceived as a privilege that should cost money, than as a
>fundamental part of a democratic society.
>Telecommunications policy is most understandable to the general public when
>it involves issues of censorship and the widely understood First Amendment.
>For example, few telecommunications issues have received as much mainstream
>publicity and understanding as the Communications Decency Act. Because it
>relates to censorship, which is easily associated with our First Amendment
>right to free speech, more people are able to identify with the issue.
>Although promoting a public space in cyberspace is also closely related to
>our constitutional right to free speech, few people are able to make this
>connection, and therefore, fewer people are able to personally relate to
>this important issue. We, as public space advocates, must emphasize this
>connection as one way of overcoming both the problem of language and lack
>of perceived need.
>Recently, Libraries for the Future commissioned a study about fiscal and
>legal aspects of the public library, including the question: Do we have a
>constitutional right to receive information through the public library?
>This study suggests that the slogan "Information is a right" has convincing
>legal standing. Although it focused on the implications for public library
>funding, the study provides a strong argument for public space advocates of
>all stripes. In a range of cases, the Supreme court consistently held that:
>"The right of freedom of speech and press includes not only the right to
>utter or to print, but the right to distribute, the right to receive, [and]
>the right to read ... " (Supreme Court, Grisold v. Connecticut, 1965; a
>full summary of these court cases is included the original conclusion).
>As information rapidly migrates to cyberspace, it is now more important
>than ever to call attention to these First Amendment rights. Increasingly,
>the lack of adequate public spaces in cyberspace may deny many people their
>right to receive, produce and discuss information. Creating innovative
>partnerships that combine Internet access and communications, TV
>production, community forums, and access to library resources is one step
>toward realizing our First Amendment rights. The second step is
>communicating these rights to the public. By raising awareness of these
>issues as constitutional rights, we can build a base for guaranteeing
>public funding to make a sufficient public space in the growing realm of
>"The right of freedom of speech and press includes not only the right to
>utter or to print, but the right to distribute, the right to receive, [and]
>the right to read ... "
>Supreme Court, Grisold v. Connecticut, 1965
>Jamie McClelland
>Access Harlem/Harlem Partnership Center
>Minisink Townhouse
>646 Lenox Ave., 3rd Floor
>New York, NY 10030
>tel: 212-283-7477
>fax: 212-283-7149
>Libraries for the Future
>121 W. 27th Street, #1102
>New York, NY 10001
>tel: 212-352-2330 / 800-542-1918
>fax: 212-352-2342

Becky Albitz
Head Librarian
Penn State Shenango
147 Shenango Ave.
Sharon, PA 16146
(724) 983-2880