Libraries of all types are in the midst of attempting to acquire the equipment and connections necessary to provide patron access to the Internet. The 1994 survey of public libraries by the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science indicates that 87.3 percent of all public libraries surveyed do not currently provide public access terminals; yet, informal surveys of library and information science literature, popular literature, and attendance at conferences and workshops indicate there is considerable interest in acquiring connections to the Internet, and many libraries are making concrete plans to do so. Still, libraries involved in the acquisition stage of Internet connectivity may have temporarily set aside consideration of policy issues relating to that access. However, the Internet is far more than merely another format, such as libraries dealt with when deciding to collect videos or CDs; the Internet is a new publishing format, communication tool, repository of information, and art form. It challenges our assumptions and policies regarding censorship, confidentiality, intellectual property, the reliability, stability, and verifiability of information—even our view of (virtual) reality! Providing public access to the Internet can affect every aspect of library policy making and demand new definitions and decisions.
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