Program urges 6th-graders to check out public library

Initiative includes Web site, incentives

March 28, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Carroll County's sixth-graders are on the most-wanted list -- for library cards, that is.

"As part of a strategic plan we formed years ago, one of the things we focused on was reaching middle school-age kids," said Dorothy Stoltz, manager of outreach services at the public library, who delivered an early progress report about a new project to the board of trustees last night.

In an effort to make book lovers out of the county's 2,300 sixth-graders, Carroll libraries are beginning a sixth-grade library card campaign this spring.

"We were looking at that particular age as one where they're starting to grow up a little bit," Stoltz said.

"We'd remind them of the services at the public library so they can rediscover things that apply to them, whether it's homework or entertainment or recreation."

The campaign enlists the help of media specialists at all nine of Carroll's middle schools. They will set up an online application process.

The latest initiative follows the lead of the library's 15-year-old kindergarten library card campaign, which generates about 2,000 new cards for youngsters in 29 schools every spring. Puppet programs and tours reward them when they get their new cards.

Though the sixth-graders won't have a show to look forward to, they will have perks.

"It's a challenge to figure out how to make the library cool. We'd like to focus in on providing something special. This age group needs incentives to go to the library," Stoltz said.

This year's group of sixth-graders receives a bonus of four-color pens and colorful key chains on which to slip their cards, provided by a one-time gift of $1,000 from Wal-Mart.

The library is targeting this technically savvy generation by adopting an online application process and providing a Web site called the 6th Grade Clubhouse at www.library.carr.org/6grade.html.

"The Internet is so vast, we want to give them a good starting point," Stoltz said.

Under the Homework Help section, the Web site provides links to databases, encyclopedias and tutoring services. Kids also can use entertainment links to youth-oriented pop culture and sports Web sites.

A section will allow children to sound off about the latest movies and CDs, and send e-mail with suggestions for improving the Web site. They can stretch their creative writing skills in a mystery series.

Children at one school are chiming in.

"They've already decided it needs music," said Blair Reid, media specialist at Oklahoma Road Middle School in Sykesville. "They also have suggestions for the artwork. They're so used to glitzy things."

Stoltz thinks most applications won't be processed until the end of next month.

But Reid had the advantage of a head start. In fall 2000, she tested the online system for the library with 325 sixth-graders.

"I think they like having that library card, that it's really theirs," Reid said. "They're just emerging as independent library users. Maybe at first it's a novelty to them, then it becomes habitual, whether it be at school or at the public library."

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