Follow the Money
Knowledge is power. Peer into the dark corners where money and Congress meet.
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February 12, 1997|
"Be unique and worthwhile. Give detailed annotations to your links. Avoid exotic HTML dialects. Remember to announce new resources. Concentrate on factual, attributed information. Take advantage of and integrate other cataloguing efforts. Always acknowledge readers' corrections to your site."
So read the "seven golden rules" of management as set out for the "virtual librarians" of the "Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library" (or "Asian Studies WWW VL"), an impressive online compendia of information on Asia. Most of these fifty-five cyber-librarians, volunteers all, have a vested interest in Asian studies: they are either from the country they collect information on or have studied it intensely. The result is a remarkably vibrant online resource -- and community.
Intrigued by Nepal? Mahendra B. Shrestha keeps track of everything from the literature and art of Nepal to the latest on trekking in this Himalayan kingdom. Unsure about the roots of the ethnic turmoil between the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka? Rohan Hettiarachchi's "Virtual Sri Lanka" page boasts an impressive collection of related links. Still wondering where exactly are the now-independent countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan? Anthony and Rebecca Bichel offer a comprehensive Central Asia resources page. Interested in interpretations of the Qur'an? The Asian Studies WWW VL's Middle East link directs you to the Web site of the Middle East Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where you can find a diverse array of links to resources related to the holy book of Islam.
So what is the motivation for others to compile links for the benefit of some Big Brother-like overseer? Obviously those who have expertise in given areas feel that they have something unique to share. Also, virtual librarians who have a financial stake in spreading the word about their country are likely to be eager to promote understanding of their culture. Most important, however, may be the fact that librarians of the Asian Studies WWW VL are part of a virtual information community. "Information wants to be free" is a mantra of many Internet pioneers and futurists; this is an excellent example of how collective information-sharing can build global community and foster cross-cultural understanding.
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.