When the doors of Enoch Pratt Free Library opened yesterday, the public saw the results of what Pratt Director Carla D. Hayden described as "a quantum leap into the 21st century."
The Pratt unveiled a computer system that allows library patrons all over the city to reach the World Wide Web, search the library's collection of 2.1 million books and other resources, and find information from colleges, universities and 3,000 community information providers.
Early reviews were positive.
"I like the new system," said Miguel Diggs, 18, of Rosedale. "It's fast and easy."
Beverly Carter, 15, a student at Southwestern High School, said her school doesn't have many computers and the new system will let her write papers and do research after school.
For nearly 20 years, the library used three information systems, requiring staff and patrons to perform multiple searches to get the information they needed. The system also was so old that it frequently broke down.
In response to those problems, the library's board of trustees raised $350,000 in private funding and the city provided $550,000 to purchase a state-of-the-art library system.
"This new system has been long overdue," said patron Erik Boone, 32, of Baltimore. "With the old system you had to wait around for a long time for someone to help you. Sometimes they couldn't even help because the system was broken down."
The library's 200 new computers use a sophisticated information software system supplied by SIRSI Corp. of Huntsville, Ala.
Hayden made the brief ceremony a blend of thanks and reflection.
"Our staff has been hard at work for almost two years on the careful preparations necessary," Hayden said. "We're ready now to present this gift to our customers, and we are confident they are going to enjoy and benefit from using it."
Hayden and her staff hope that by offering free access to electronic resources, they will bridge the gap between the information "haves" and "have-nots."
"There is no place that you can't go online in this library," Hayden said. "With one simple click you can even go to Australia."
Pub Date: 6/04/97