A library at your fingertips Home computers will be able to access systems

August 09, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

If you have a library card and a personal computer, the world's libraries can be yours.

Students can research term papers without ever leaving home -- no more asking parents for a ride to the library, waiting for a computer when you get there or standing in line to check out books.

People without easy access to transportation can scan computer listings to find out whether the latest best-seller they want to read is on the shelf and avoid wasted trips to the library.

Researchers can tap into articles in Time, Newsweek or 100 other magazines and print out the articles for future reference.

These services aren't all available in Carroll County, but they will be by the end of this year.

"Managing all this is frightening, but it is coming whether we like it or not," said Scott Reinhart, assistant director for automation, support and technical services at the Carroll County Public Library.

"That's the way of the world," said Linda Mielke, who becomes library director next Monday.

Officials expect the services to be popular with patrons.

Fifteen percent of U.S. households have personal computers, according to the Information Please Almanac for 1993. This is up from 8 percent in 1984.

Last week, the library unveiled new technology that allows patrons with home computers to dial in to the library's card catalog seven days a week, 24 hours a day, at no charge.

Patrons can determine which books are available at which branches and check to see when books they already have checked out are due.

They also can reserve a book, which costs 30 cents.

A check of the best-seller "Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton showed that the library has 31 copies of the book and that 75 people had placed holds on those copies as of last week.

John Horneman already is using the technology from his Eldersburg home. The 10-year-old is dialing up the library's computer through a modem on his IBM personal computer to reserve books about sports and drawing, two of his favorite topics.

He said he likes the reserve service because "I don't take up time at the library."

Before a patron can link up, he or she needs a personal identification number, or PIN, Mr. Reinhart said. The PIN, used with the bar code on a patron's library card, ensures that only the patron has access to his or her library records, he said.

A patron must go to one of the library's branches to obtain a PIN, he said.

The updated technology cost $581,000, Mr. Reinhart said. New equipment includes computer hardware and software for the library's headquarters at the Air Business Park in Westminster and its five branches, and telecommunications equipment and five phone lines to accommodate home computers, he said.

Carroll is one of four systems in Maryland with the new linkup, Mr. Reinhart said.

Howard County's library system, St. Mary's College of Maryland and Western Maryland College also have the system.

This fall, the Carroll library plans to link computers with WMC and Carroll Community College, he said. Public library patrons will be able to tap into the colleges' card catalogs, he said.

Library officials also are talking with the Carroll County Board of Education about linking systems.

Donnadine Bell, supervisor of media for the schools, said the school system is creating a computer network to link media centers at its schools.

Officials are studying whether the schools could hook into the public library system, she said.

"We're at the investigation stage now," Ms. Bell said.

Also in the fall, the Carroll library will be linked into a magazine index, Mr. Reinhart said.

Patrons will be able to scan articles in about 100 different magazines and load the articles they need onto their computer disk to print out.

Later in the year, patrons will have access to the texts of books through their computers, he said.

"That's when it truly becomes a home library," Mr. Reinhart said.

The Carroll library also plans to link with a state library network called "Seymour" and a worldwide network called "Internet," he said.

Carroll patrons will have access to card catalogs from around Maryland and the world, he said.

Networking computer systems is an "equalizer" for Carroll patrons, Ms. Mielke said.

"It equalizes the services we can offer to people in small cities," she said.

For information about the computer network, call the library's headquarters at 876-6008 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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