HAMPSTEAD -- Teen sleuths like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys would have suspected something.
But to the casual observer, the recent goings-on behind North Carroll Middle School commenced inconspicuously.
Finally, however, the plot was unraveled to reveal work under way on an addition that will become the new home for the school's media center.
"We're excited. It's been long awaited," Principal N. Richard DeLong said of the 5,260-square-foot addition.
On June 1, Craft Construction Co. of Reisterstown, Baltimore County, began work on the $40,000 project, which should be completed about the time school opens Sept. 3.
FOR THE RECORD - In the Going Back to School section of Sunday's paper, the cost of building the media center addition to North Carroll Middle School should have been reported as $400,000.
The spacious center, almost three times larger than the previous unit, includes four separate areas: a media production room, an office, a conference room and a storage room.
"The library will have an automatic check-out system similar to Erol's Video," said DeLong.
A computerized book selection renders the card catalog obsolete. A student can go to one of six computers, key in a subject, and immediately see a list of everything that's available on the topic. The Dewey decimal numbering system remains intact.
Helping DeLong on the planning committee were Nancy Hoskins, the school's media specialist, and Donnadine Spilman, media and technology supervisor. In February, they visitedGeorge Fox Middle School in Anne Arundel County and Patuxent Valley Middle in Howard County to get ideas for the addition.
"This is the first middle school in Carroll County to have an automated catalog and circulation system like that of the public library," said Spilman. The unit is centrally located in the schools, and its many windows will give students an outdoor view while they read and gather information from the 15,000 items on file.
Novel said the center is big enough for two classes to work there simultaneously. While Hoskins instructs, another teacher can use a portion of the room.
Sally Suder, a reading specialist, and Eileen Mayle, president of the school's parent-teacher organization, coordinated the efforts of 25 parents andstudent volunteers who moved the contents of the old media center tothe east gym for storage. Soon the material will be transported to the air-conditioned, carpeted facility decorated in mauve and charcoal.
The previous center has been converted to two eighth-grade classrooms.
"We've gained one classroom, plus storage and office space that will be used for an itinerant teaching area," said DeLong. Closeto 900 students -- up from last year's 842 -- are expected this fall.
In the future, DeLong hopes to add an information-retrieval system with large computer banks.