available outside resources of particular types.
The pattern of responses to these questions suggests that respondents' concern regarding links to outside resources and groups was strongest related to the possibility that the government might link to commercial advertising. The high level of concern (56 percent of respondents thought this should never happen) is probably based on the worry that the government's brand would be seen as something that could be bought. Linking to political party organizations was also identified by a larger percentage of respondents as an activity that should probably be avoided or prohibited. Forty-five percent of respondents thought that such links should never be made available as part of a government personalization process.
Respondents expressed a similar, but slightly lower level concern for links to other election campaign-related resources, whether these are provided by interest groups (Mean: 3.55) or the candidates themselves (Mean: 3.67).
Respondents were substantially more likely to approve the appropriateness of providing links to public forums on policy issues (Mean: 2.77), to non-partisan groups that sponsor and report what is said at candidate forums (Mean: 3.0), and, to a somewhat lesser extent, to hypertext links to interest groups that provide policy (but not election-focused) information (Mean: 3.11).
Respondents were most likely to approve linking to material provided by other governments. Nevertheless, a few respondents thought it inappropriate for their government to create hypertext links even to other governments.
The overall pattern of responses suggests that governments are very concerned about the value of their brand. This desire to protect the government by limiting the scope of information that the government will provide is probably connected with two traditional public administration norms: first, that there should be a strict line of separation between policy and administration; and second, that publicly-oriented and commercially oriented activities need to be clearly delineated and kept separate. The majority of the respondents also indicated that they would be extremely reluctant to do in the Web world what they would not do in the physical world; i.e. disrupt the classic separation between politics and administration.
These findings suggest that public administrators are likely to be extremely cautious with regard to tapping into what is widely recognized as the primary feature of Internet-based resources -- their ability to connect to ever-widening and interwoven resources from across the nation and the globe. Essentially, such caution on the part of public managers may result in the public sector remaining a second-class player in the development of Web resources. Rather than accessing the comprehensive range of government-related Web resources from governments themselves, citizens may choose to access these resources from private-sector Internet content creators and syndicates. The danger here is that by protecting its brand and traditional norms too much, governments may cede control over their information and services to outside providers who are better able to provide comprehensive, one-stop services.
An Alternative Delivery Model
In its beginnings, the Internet promised an expansion of virtual public space in a time when physical public space was being depleted by the process of private malls replacing the more public town and downtown spaces. The increased presence of commercially-oriented Web sites does not by itself undermine the value of public sector Web resources to create new public spaces -- unless the commercial Web resources replace public Web resources (e.g. due to their capacity to better integrate the delivery of desired services and information). In this regard, there may need to be a reassessment of the appropriateness of government organizations being centers of information. Traditionally, there has been an effective model for such a role -- the public library. The ethics of public librarianship would likely provide public managers with more leeway to create links from government Web sites to outside resources. Even though libraries are funded by public tax dollars, their "freedom to read" ethics,