Columbia Online Information Network started as a venture for the community, by the community.

"When it started, there was nothing like it," said Marilyn McLeod, director of COIN. Once a pioneer in information technology, COIN ended its Internet services June 30 but will continue its e-mail service until Dec. 31.

COIN began in 1993 as a text-only Internet provider, and the not-for-profit organization didn't see any real competition until the World Wide Web came into existence in 1995.

The idea originated during talks among the Missouri Research and Education Network, the Daniel Boone Regional Library and the Columbia Public School District. Boone County and the city of Columbia were also part of COIN's early stages.

Elinor Barrett, associate director of the regional library, said COIN served as an introduction to technology that was not familiar to mid-Missouri residents.

"It was really amazing to watch the people who grasped the potential for this technology," said Barrett, who worked on the formation of COIN. "It was a great way to overcome distances between an end-user and information."

And making information available to the community is what it was all about. The organization's home page doubles as a virtual hub for goings-on in the community.

In 1993, the whole idea — a centralized information page and access to text from other people's computers — was a novelty.

"People who saw the benefit of communication jumped on it, especially those who were very computer-savvy," McLeod said.

The regional library now operates COIN and will still offer Web hosting for local businesses and organizations. will also continue as an online information resource.

Bertrice Bartlett, a former member of the regional library board and the Columbia Library District board, said she terminated her COIN Internet service only a few days ago.

"It was more accessible and less intimidating than trying to go to a commercial service, partly because there are so many people at the library that can help you," Bartlett said.

There will be a public farewell reception for COIN from 2 to 4 p.m. July 14 in the Friends Room of the Columbia Public Library.

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