New look, focus for site about all things Maryland

May 08, 2000|By Kevin Washington | Kevin Washington,Sun Staff

Maryland's online public information network has received a digital face lift to help refocus the site's content and links on the state.

Sailor's new face went into cyberspace last month as Web gurus expanded the resources available and made them more easily accessible.

A project of the Maryland Public Libraries, Sailor (www.sailor. lib.md.us) links to more than 1,000 sites, almost all of them Maryland specific.

You can reach sites ranging from the Maryland Electronic Capital to shopping malls by going through the site. Sailor also provides Internet access to schools, state agencies and the state's residents while serving as host to a number of state agency sites, including the Electronic Capital.

"We had had the old look for about four or five years and felt it was time for a change," said Stuart Ragland, Sailor's customer service manager. "We wanted to re-examine the way things were laid out and husband the real estate on the home page a little better."

The new home page has 12 topics from around the state with their own subtopics. Among the topics are kids, science and technology, the law and a calendar of state events.

At the bottom of the page is Sailor's index of linked sites. The links are in alphabetical order and can take you to Web sites for the Annapolis Mall, real-time traffic maps and the history of the Nanticoke Indians.

On the right of the home page are several links including ones to the state's public libraries, Project Gutenberg and the state lottery. Click on the Infotrac button, and you can use the bar code on your library card to access an index of articles from magazines, newspapers and reference books.

Launched in the summer of 1994 and based at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Sailor was the first publicly accessible Intranet in the nation.

The site focused on helping people in the state navigate the Internet to a host of resources. But in the past six years, search engines and even some of the state's libraries have taken on much of that role.

That made the face lift and additions to the SAILOR site more of a mission change than a cosmetic effort. At an April 1999 content conference, "librarians from around the state gathered here and came to the conclusion that the Sailor Web site should focus on Maryland information rather than general information," said Mahvash Shahegh, Sailor's Web master.

But that didn't mean discarding the easy-to-use interface. "We tried to keep the simplicity of the site while cramming a lot of information in there," says Shahegh. "It's almost the same shape it was before."

About 21 million users came to Sailor from April 1999 to April 2000, steady growth from the early days.

Ragland says Sailor plans to do more marketing to get the word out about the site, although search engines easily lead surfers to Sailor when they want to find out more about Maryland. And he points out that a number of people use Sailor as their Internet provider.

"We're in more places in the state than AOL," he says with a chuckle. "We're a local telephone call for every citizen in the state of Maryland."

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