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Email dominates the Internet. That's as true in 2001 as it was in 1992. Despite Spam, accidental forwarding, Outlook viruses, and other problems, e-mail helps us stay in touch, make new acquaintances, solve problems, and take care of business. Shortly after e-mail started to support one-to-one communication, librarians began building distribution lists for one-to-several mailings.
The next step up was list processing--software to support many-to-many discussions. For more than a decade and on several networks before the Internet became widespread, list processors have helped people share perspectives. Library-related lists began in the late 1970s. Today, even though we have many other ways to share information over the Internet, hundreds (or thousands) of library-oriented lists continue to serve our need to share.
Most longtime e-mail users think of an e-mail list as a Listserv, one of the longest-established list-management programs. However, that term is a trademark of L-soft, and many lists use competitive software such as Listproc, Majordomo, or Lyris.
What's the difference between a distribution list you set up for family members or staff in your division and a list such as PACS-L? List processors support larger-scale and multiple institutions, and also provide some or all of the following:
* Automated, platform-independent subscription and removal. You can subscribe to (or leave) any public lists using any e-mail software on any computer. Many lists require approval from the list owner or moderator before names will be added-and some require confirmation from the subscriber, to reduce spam and other problems.
* Managed distribution and response. A processed list can provide more flexible control than simply distributing anything that comes in. Most lists restrict postings to subscribers; some route postings to moderators for approval prior to distribution. When you reply to a list message without modifying the outbound address box, the reply may go to the person who posted the message or the entire list--again …