World of knowledge coming Tuesday

September 04, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

Come Tuesday, Harford County residents will have computer access to information sources from Bel Air to Brussels.

It's all happening through the Harford County Knowledge Network, which will provide a gateway to other information sources available through the Harford County Public Library.

Users will be able to gain access to information ranging from the 1994-1995 calendar of the Harford public schools to the catalogs of library collections around the world. They'll also be able to scan the Internet, a global network that reaches into 130 countries -- all from their home or office computers or from any computer terminal at the county's nine library branches.

The on-line information network is a cooperative effort of the Harford County Public Library, Harford County public schools, Harford County government and Harford Community College, where users also may obtain access to the networks.

Officials plan a demonstration and ribbon-cutting Tuesday at the county library's administration headquarters in Riverside to introduce the new system to the county executive and network supporters.

"The exciting thing about all this is that it makes Harford County an active member of the global community," says Mary Crisco, coordinator of automation and technical services for the Harford County Library. "It links us to the information highway."

Once users are signed on the system, they can choose among three options to pursue: The Harford On-Line Library Information system, nicknamed HOLLI, which includes the county library branches and the Harford Community College Library; SAILOR, a statewide system of libraries, which also is a gateway to the Internet; and the Harford Community Bulletin Board, which will carry information from county schools, county government and the college.

For many users, particularly those with home computers, the key offering is SAILOR, the network of Maryland libraries, because it provides a seemingly endless supply of databases. Most of Maryland's public and university libraries are available, and one can view the public catalogs of libraries elsewhere with a few keystrokes.

And from SAILOR, so named because it allows patrons to navigate the seas of available information, that users can tap into Internet, a collection of interconnected computer systems heavily used by universities, research agencies and commercial organizations.

SAILOR, which came on line at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore in July, is now accessible to Harford residents 22 hours a day through a single local telephone call. With a home computer and modem, which provides the essential telephone link into the system, countians can cruise the information highway toll-free, says Mrs. Crisco.

Those without computers can use the system during library hours from any of the nine county branches or from the HCC library.

There is no charge to "cruise" the SAILOR libraries or many of the databases of the Internet. When a user does discover a commercial database that requires a membership to search further or interact with other members, information on how to subscribe and the required fees will appear on the computer monitor.

Library officials are blanketing the branches with brochures on SAILOR and HOLLI to acquaint residents with the new information system. The brochures give basic instructions on how to sign onto the Harford network. Home users are advised how to program their communications software and modems.

Not all patrons will want to examine the Australia National University's library holdings or search the Internet for details about the orangutans of Borneo. But library officials are as excited about the communications network that the system will provide in the county as with the access to external resources.

The HOLLI network will allow people to scan catalogs of books, magazines and audiovisual materials owned by county library branches and the college. Users have been able to access these catalogs electronically at the libraries since last fall. But now they can do so from home computers as well.

Now, too, they can determine from home where in the county a particular book or video or magazine article is available, and reserve it. That's something which previously had to be done by a librarian.

HOLLI also will allow easy access to a community information and referral directory of more than 400 local hot line and service resources that can be updated electronically.

"The beauty of the I and R directory is that you can type in a single keyword -- such as abuse -- and get a detailed list of where to go for help," library Director Irene Padilla says.

The third option users can scan, the bulletin board, is perhaps the most unusual part of the network. Harford's is the only library in the state to offer a network created through the cooperation of local schools, libraries, college and government, Ms. Padilla says. "And there are only 13 other counties in the nation with cooperation along these lines."

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