A link among traditional rivals Computers: In an unusual example of cooperation, 23 Baltimore colleges and universities join a World Wide Web site that allows users to share resources.

The Education Beat

November 10, 1996|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

YES, THAT was the president of Morgan State University feeding the meter in the visitors' lot of the University of Maryland Baltimore County on Thursday afternoon.

And what brought Earl Richardson into the den of one of Morgan's rivals? A demonstration of the new Baltimore Collegetown Network World Wide Web site, the latest example of detente in the Baltimore higher education turf wars.

UMBC and Morgan are two of the 23 Baltimore colleges and universities sharing the Web site, an ambitious attempt to bring information and entertainment to students and faculty members at the schools and, for that matter, to anyone on the planet with a computer, a telephone, a modem and access to the Internet.

The Collegetown Network (http: //www.colltown.org) was 2 months old yesterday, and its organizers are still feeling their way. But the implications of the collaboration are staggering -- for student recruitment and enrollment, for sharing of research and academic papers, for public relations and (eventually) for conducting classes in a cyberspace classroom.

The network is not the only evidence of a new attitude among the city's higher educators.

Larry Wilt, director of the UMBC library, told the assembly Thursday that eight private and public college libraries are now fully sharing their holdings. A Villa Julie College student who lives closer to Catonsville can study and check out books at UMBC's new library. A Morgan student who wants to study the classics can go to the Loyola-Notre Dame library (itself a rare example of early cooperation between rivals). And a Loyola student who lives in Northeast Baltimore can study at Morgan's library.

These are hypothetical examples, but Wilt said he encountered a Towson State student checking a book out of his library recently. "She said she lived closer to us than to Towson, so it was much more convenient," he said.

Campuses of the University of Maryland System have a long history of sharing with other UMS schools, but what is significant here is the inclusion of private colleges. Villa Julie, Loyola-Notre Dame, Goucher and Baltimore Hebrew University have joined UMBC, Towson State University, Morgan State and the University of Baltimore in the library pool.

"What makes it exciting," said Wilt, "is that some of these libraries, particularly the private ones, have specialized collections that are now available to the rest of us." Baltimore Hebrew is an example. There, a sophomore at Towson State can check out books in Hebrew or read back issues of the Jerusalem Post.

Wilt estimated that only about 30 percent of the collections in the larger university libraries in Baltimore are duplicated.

The Baltimore schools have a long and inglorious history of squabbling over everything from academic calendars to new programs. The new cooperative attitude has been mothered by necessity. Finances are tight, and tuitions are rising. Why not share resources?

As one participant in Thursday's session at UMBC put it, "It's a liberating thought that we can cooperate without shooting ourselves in the foot."

Pausing to salute educational pioneers

Two anniversaries this week:

Seventy years ago, Aaron Straus, a wealthy but modest Baltimore businessman, and his wife, Lillie, established a foundation for children. The Strauses, who had no children, had established children's camps in Western Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, and Lillie had been the guiding force behind the Central Scholarship Bureau, which has been providing financial aid and counseling to students since 1924.

With virtually no publicity, the Strauses gave -- and gave some more. Both died in the 1950s, Aaron at 93, but both lived long enough to help the first African-Americans attend the University of Maryland schools of pharmacy and medicine.

Second- and third-generation families now send their kids to Camps Airy and Louise, and the the Aaron Straus and Lillie Straus Foundation, with assets of nearly $60 million, continues to invest in dozens of health, education and social service agencies.

Josie G. Smith, who turns 100 Friday, also never had children, but in her half-century-plus in Baltimore City education, she had thousands of surrogate children. She calls them "my chickadees" and says of them, "Some come back to see me after 70 years. These children have been my teachers."

Smith began teaching in the city's segregated "colored schools" in 1914. She ended her career in the 1960s as supervisor of secondary English in a desegregated system. In retirement, she helped build a mission in Panama, studied at Oxford and wrote a book on teaching English. "It was something in my system that had to get out," she says.

Of Smith's biological family, all but a nephew are gone, but her school family will celebrate her birthday next weekend. She might recite one of her poems, a line of which says, "They pass in silent panorama -- my children."

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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