Arbutus Library To Get Free Net Access

Poorer Neighborhoods Receive Computer Hookup Through Microsoft Grant

April 23, 1997|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

The Family Learning Center -- seven computer terminals offering free access to the Internet, word processing and learning games to some of Baltimore County's more disadvantaged neighborhoods -- is due to go online at the Arbutus library May 1.

"We are hoping to introduce the community to the value of this technology," said Deborah J. Wheeler, manager of the Arbutus branch, one of three in the county getting the technology through a grant from Microsoft Corp. "It's vital because information has always been our business, and this is a way to get information in a much smaller area."

The three Baltimore County libraries are sharing a $250,000 Microsoft grant that is part of a $10.5 million national effort by the computer giant to wire libraries in poor communities. In addition to Arbutus, other learning centers are at Essex, which went online last year, and North Point, which goes online April 30.

In Arbutus, Wheeler and her staff of seven full- and part-time librarians have been trained in computer skills to conduct a series of workshops this summer.

Those workshops will teach community residents how to run new programs such as Encarta, the Microsoft encyclopedia; the Magic School Bus science quests; and a baseball and basketball guide. Computer time is free at the center, but it will cost a dime per page for all printed information, Wheeler said.

County Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Democrat who represents the area, said the learning center will reach residents of Arbutus and Lansdowne who might not have other exposure to computers.

Statistics show that almost 17 percent of area residents have incomes of less than $17,500, and in one area 58 percent of residents over age 25 are high school graduates.

"The area that the library draws from includes some of the most beautiful homes and some of the poorest individuals that live in Baltimore County," Moxley said.

Wheeler said it is hard to estimate how popular the center will be at the 75,000-book Arbutus branch. She hopes it will draw teen-agers, many of whom avoid libraries. "We don't know what our response will be," she said. "But I think we'll be overwhelmed."

Pub Date: 4/23/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.