Web site keeps residents in the know
BY DANA DESTEFANO
12/17/2006 - The Scranton Times Tribune
MONTROSE - A countywide Web site is bringing new meaning to the word networking in Susquehanna County.
The Community Information Network Web site provides event listings and Internet exposure to anyone from any computer. Anyone may access the site to spread the word about church events, movie listings or local businesses.
"The great thing about the site is its flexibility," said Hilary Caws-Elwitt, public services librarian at the Susquehanna County Free Library Association. "It can be accessed and updated from any computer."
Joann Kowalski, a Penn State Cooperative Extension educator, saw the Madison, N.J., Community Network site, RoseNet.org. She sent letters to people in the community to see if any would be interested in helping to develop a similar site for Susquehanna County.
Mrs. Caws-Elwitt volunteered to design and administer the site.
"It sounded like a great idea," she said. "But it would take a lot of work, and there was no funding available."
Steve and Meg Suraci, owners of Hill View Inc., Union Dale, liked the concept of the site and donated server space and purchased the domain name to get the site going.
Mr. Suraci suggested setting up the site so people could update the content and listings themselves.
"It was basically just me maintaining and monitoring the network," Mrs. Caws-Elwitt said. "If people saw things that were out of date, they could update them, but I had to approve any changes."
Using an open-source content management system seemed like the best option for managing the site. Users could submit updates from any computer, as opposed to other programs where administrators must upload changes from the same computer.
"It is really working so well, we want to get other communities to utilize a network," Ms. Kowalski said. "People are overwhelmed with information... they have a natural resistance to utilizing technology."
Keeping up with advances in technology, the site is getting an upgrade soon. With the help of Penn State, a student is designing a new module that will make searching the site and the Web just a click away, Mrs. Caws-Elwitt said.
"Our goal was to eliminate the lack of communication between local groups," Ms. Kowalski said. "Other communities can benefit from a community network."
If your community is interested in creating its own network, you can find more information at www.susquehannacin.net.
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