Maryland children soon will be able to learn about libraries -- by computer.
A multimedia CD-ROM developed by the Baltimore County library system will be delivered next week to every library and public and private school in the state, giving children an interactive tour through public libraries.
Called "Lift Off to the Library," the CD-ROM allows children to visit "Fictionville" and "Biographyburg" and read, write and listen to stories. A yellow robot named VIRG -- Very Important Robotron Guide -- leads the tour, which is aimed at children ages 4 to 11.
Short videos of library staff explaining areas of the library are interspersed with games, jokes and colorful displays. Children learn library etiquette from such figures as "Bubblegum Joe" and "Runnin' Ron," who demonstrate why it is important not to eat or run in libraries.
"Instead of just telling children what to do, we designed this so they would explore and have fun," said Jeff Lifton, director of the project and the library system's manager of media support services. Library officials say they are unaware of similar products and anticipate selling their CD-ROM to other libraries across the nation.
"The technology is a great way for us to get the kids interested in libraries," said Kathy Coster, manager of marketing and programs at Baltimore County libraries. "If their parents won't take them on their own, we'll get the kids so excited about libraries that they'll force their parents to bring them."
Some of the bugs were worked out at Church Lane Elementary School in Randallstown, where 14 students were given the chance to experiment with the CD-ROM.
"The children have really looked forward to coming to the library and using the CD-ROM," said Church Lane media specialist Joanne Tucker, who has worked the CD-ROM into her curriculum. Church Lane students, who were filmed in a video about the CD-ROM, will demonstrate how to use it at a news conference Monday with county and state officials at the public library's Randallstown branch.
The project was funded largely through an $89,000 grant from the Maryland State Department of Education's Division of Library Development and Services, which pays for about 3,000 copies of the CD-ROM, ensuring they will be distributed to Maryland's elementary schools and libraries.
Pub Date: 4/16/98