Case Studies: LM_NET
LISTSERV Educational List Award: LM_NET@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
By Mike Eisenberg and Peter Milbury, LM_NET Co-Moderators
March 31, 2004
We do not believe we are overstating things when we boast that LM_NET is the most successful educational e-mail list in the world, maybe the most successful e-mail list in the world, period. We know that is a pretty bold statement considering the wide range and number of e-mail groups on the Internet. Nevertheless, we are certain that LM_NET would match up to the very best of them based on some very impressive attributes:
Members – LM_NET now has more than 16,000 subscribed members from every state in the United States and over 65 countries – from Azerbaijan to Zambia. There are also thousands of other people who are not officially subscribed but access LM_NET through the posted archives, messages forwarded to local e-mail lists, or by some other means.
Volume – LM_NET is very busy (just ask any member) with 50 or more messages a day. Just think, 50-plus messages traveling to 16,000-plus members. That is close to a million LM_NET messages floating around the Internet every day!
Community – LM_NET is more than just a mailing list; it's a community. LM_NET is a virtual community of people dedicated to improving education through school library and information work. LM_NET members support one another every day but particularly come together in times of difficulty. Examples include the Los Angeles earthquake in 1994, the tragedies of September 11, and the Columbine High School shootings.
Scope – LM_NET covers a wide range of interests, all related to library and information work in education. Recent postings included reading comprehension (computer vs. books/print), comic books in the library, flexible scheduling support, someone looking for the name of a story, computer tampering, hoax Web sites, and online course recommendations.
Substance – LM_NET does more than touch the surface of topics. The interactions result in in-depth treatments of the major concerns, issues and themes of library media work. For example, one of LM_NET's most successful inventions is the "Target-Hit" convention developed to facilitate responding to a request for lots of feedback on a topic. If someone posts a "TARGET->" then members know to respond directly to that person, who will later post all the responses together in a "HIT->".
Clout – LM_NET subscribers are passionate about library and information work and can speak loudly and forcefully when necessary. This includes some of our "calls to action" such as the call in October 1998 for each person to contact a teacher-prep program and offer to present on the role of the library and information programming in learning and teaching. Hundreds of members responded to this. There was also our rallying back in 1994 to send messages to the school board members and superintendent in the San Diego Schools when the jobs of school librarians were threatened.
Netiquette – LM_NET is the most friendly and supportive of e-mail lists. Run by tireless volunteers, the "Hospitality Committee" provides support for members having difficulty using LM_NET and makes sure the conversation stays respectful. Heated discussion is fine, even encouraged, but LM_NET tries to remain "flame-free." The LM_NET netiquette document also encourages members to use highly recommended subject headings, which allows members to handle efficiently the high number of postings to the group each day.
New Ventures – LM_NET is continually seeking ways to improve and better serve the community. A few years ago, we started EL-Announce, an e-mail list for commercial messages of interest to the library media community. There are many commercial members of LM_NET, and they are actively encouraged to participate in the discussion. However, we strive to keep LM_NET itself commercial-free. EL-Announce fills the need for a vehicle for commercial announcements. Another new development is "LM_NET Select" – a regular "Best of LM_NET" posted thrice weekly on EL-Announce.
Celebration – LM_NET participants also take time to celebrate and like nothing more than to get together in "real time and real space." LM_NET members frequently have get-togethers at state and regional conferences. One of the classic LM_NET gatherings was the "Late Night With LM_NET and Mike Eisenberg" sponsored by Linworth Publishing at the 1997 AASL Conference in Portland, Oregon.
What is most pleasing to us about LM_NET is that we are still looking for ways to improve in order to best fulfill our original purpose: to help library media professionals make better use of the services and resources of the Internet and to help them fulfill library media functions. As we said in our introduction to new members in 1992, "LM_NET is a list for practitioners helping practitioners, sharing ideas, solving problems, telling each other about new publications and up coming conferences, asking for assistance or information, and linking schools through their library media centers."
Those were the early days, and LM_NET has continued to grow, to add features, and to extend its involvement in the daily lives of library media professionals. The continually increasing demand for LM_NET, as well as the enthusiastic face-to-face events at regional and national conferences, is our best indications of the strength and success of LM_NET.
Our print book, The Best of LM_NET Select 2001 was a recent effort to expand LM_NET's usefulness and reach. Because there is an incredibly rich base of material in LM_NET, The Best of LM_NET Select 2001 seeks to capture some of the major discussions on LM_NET that took place in 2001. The threads are consolidated and organized in major topics, but the actual content of the messages are presented verbatim, without any editing. Besides being a tremendous resource for professionals in the field and those in library media education programs, this book will serve as the first print archive of the LM_NET community. We do hope to do more of these "best-of" books in the future.
Most recently, in March of this year (2004), we began the search for a new LM_NET logo. LM_NET members want to promote their community with pride – on Web sites, programs, publications, and even on T-shirts and mugs. The contest is nearing completion and the new LM_NET logo should be available any day with products available by late spring.
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