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Civic.com magazine article
(c) 1997 Jim Heid Civic.com

Kansas Library Puts Information Online

The State Capitol Building in Topeka, Kansas houses the offices of the Kansas Library Network Board (KLNB), a division of the Kansas State Library. In 1995, KLNB launched Web site and project called Blue Skyways (skyways.lib.ks.us), which provides state government information, access to searchable library catalogs, information about Kansas communities, and Web training to librarians throughout the state.

Blue Skyway's databases and government links are impressive, but its Communities area is downright magical. In it, you can explore Web sites for more than 100 Kansas communities. It's here where you can learn that Cawker City (population: 600) is home to the world's largest ball of twine, and that the Municipal Building in Zenda (population: 96) contains a painstakingly crafted scale model of the town as it existed at the turn of the century.

Most of the community sites on Blue Skyways were created by John and Susan Howells, two tireless volunteers who spend their time documenting the state's small towns and helping those towns establish Web sites that are hosted through Blue Skyways. Susan is a photographer; John is a computer analyst at The Boeing Company's Wichita plant. In January, Boeing granted him "Executive on Loan" status: until this September, he is on full-time assignment to Blue Skyways, working with communities to enable them to maintain the sites that he and Susan have created.

As its name implies, Blue Skyways was inspired in part by William Least Heat Moon's American travelogue, Blue Highways. As Michael Piper, executive director of the Kansas State Library Board, explains, "One of the messages of Blue Highways is that every community has a vitality all its own. In that spirit, Blue Skyways was developed. Part of our job at the state libary is providing leadership and service, and if we can help communities tell their unique Kansas story, then we're doing our job."

Last updated 04/13/01
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