When Sykesville resident Craig Teuber was looking for a quick, inexpensive way to get family news to relatives around the nation, he turned to the Carroll County public library.
Already one of the state's best Internet bargains -- unlimited Internet access for $50 a year -- the library sweetened the deal Dec. 13 by allowing its customers to publish personal pages on the World Wide Web, the multimedia portion of the Internet.
The new feature has never been advertised, yet two of the library's 1,992 Internet subscribers put personal pages on the Web within hours of the service becoming available. Since then, more than 10 subscribers a week have been designing and publishing personal pages using the library connection.
Teuber was one of the first.
Anyone in the world with access to the Internet can call up Teuber's home page -- which he calls "Bubba's Home Page! aka -- The Baltimore Teubers" -- but he designed it for his family.
His father in Chicago, his sister in New York and his brother in Florida can now peruse 12 family photos, including "Joshy's first fish," "Alison at the beach" and "The new pup."
The children's grandmother was alarmed rather than elated, however, when she first saw the Teuber home page. "My God, they know everything about you!" she told her son in an e-mail message.
Teuber admits he is a trifle concerned about being so public with family information. But he says it's unlikely anything bad would come of it. "You pretty much have to know the page is there" to find it, he said. And the joy of sharing instantaneous news and pictures with relatives outweighs his concerns, he said.
He recently returned from a computer show with an armful of new graphics to surround his latest family photos. "It's easy -- anybody can do it," he said.
Creating an interactive cyberspace meeting place for friends and loved ones appears to be one of the chief motivations library customers have for publishing personal home pages.
"We have family members throughout Maryland and throughout the U.S.," said Cheryl McFalls of Manchester, a former member of the county school board. But until now, she said, "family members would rarely see each other except for weddings and funerals."
McFalls' 17-year-old daughter, Sarah, is designing the family Web page with an Alice-in-Wonderland motif to reflect her impression of the Internet.
Sarah, who has a flair for art and plans to combine that flair with computer graphics courses in college, hopes her page will have surprises, twists and turns that delight family and friends.
Like most personal Web pages being developed by the library's Internet customers, the McFalls' page is still under construction.
And it always will be, predicted assistant library director Scott Reinhart. "Personal Web pages will never be done," he said. "People will forever be tinkering."
A case in point is the personal page of Anthony E. Baugh.
Called "Tony's Page," it was originally designed with a star ship motif. Web surfers had to navigate through decks -- observation lounge, main bridge, transportation room, sick bay -- to gain information about Baugh, his friends and interests.
A few days later, the page changed altogether. When opened, the page played jazz. It provided links to entertainment and weather sites on the Web, using a marble-wallpaper background. Most recently, the page was blank except for a "Happy New Year" message that crawled across the bottom.
The library does not censor pages but asks that users abide by its Acceptable Uses and Conditions Policy.
Compliance is largely a matter of trust, said Francis "Chip" Old, Internet administrator for the Baltimore County public library, where personal Web pages have been offered for nearly two years. "We ask that they bear in mind that they are being hosted by a public library," Old said.
Carroll, for its part, is taking a mostly laissez-faire attitude toward individual Web pages. The acceptable-uses policy, for example, says that library Internet users are restricted from using the Internet for profit-making ventures -- yet a couple of the personal Web pages are brazen advertisements.
Technically, that could be construed as a violation of the policy, said librarian Reinhart, who helped establish it. But since personal pages cannot be found under business names, it would be hard to use them to drum up business, he said. For example, the "Martin's Tree Farm" page can only be found through the user's sign-on name -- n3dgk.
The library will not be looking at content, Reinhart said, so much as volume -- the number of times someone lands on a page in cyber space. "Any personal WEB page that experiences a volume of use that disrupts the [library] network is subject to removal," the library warns in its acceptable use policy.
The assumption is that a page that sells something or displays controversial, sexually explicit material or links to pages with that material will have a lot of volume.
Although home page use is just beginning, the library is approaching its self-imposed cap of 2,000 paid users, not including Mount Airy residents, who have to make a toll call to reach the Internet service. The library expects to have a local connection for Mount Airy residents by the end of the month.
Currently, the Carroll library has 1,442 paid users who are residents, 28 paid users who are non-residents, and 522 free connections to schools and government officials. The library also provides home pages free to nonprofit groups such as St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Maryland Chrysalis, and the Carroll County Genealogical Society.
To reach county personal pages, use Web browser to find http: //126.96.36.199/users.html and click on a letter in the alphabet.
Pub Date: 1/12/97