Library's site culls viewpoints

Balto. Co. database offers research aid on hot topics

March 24, 2003|By Jarrett Carter | Jarrett Carter,SUN STAFF

Following in the footsteps of TV shows such as Crossfire and Hannity & Colmes, the Baltimore County Public Library system has begun offering a service that allows users to instantly see both sides of highly charged issues.

"Opposing Viewpoints" is a database that can be accessed through the library system's main Web page. Selecting an item from its list of issues, which ranges from abortion to welfare reform, reveals a summary of the topic, documents with varying viewpoints on it, articles from various publications and relevant Web links.

"It's a one-stop source for perspectives on social issues," said Bob Hughes, a spokesman for the library. "It is a great resource for research."

The database can be accessed at all county public libraries or by home computer at the public library Web site (www.bcpl.info). On the home page, users pull down the Articles, Encyclopedias menu and then select Magazines & Journals to find the Opposing Viewpoints listing. To access the database, they must enter a library card number or library online account user ID.

"We were thinking that the site would be helpful to students that were researching issues for classes," said Kathleen MacCubbin, a library information specialist.

"It's really unique in that those people who are researching important topics do not have to come to the library. They can get the information from their personal computer."

Eventually county library officials hope to link the database with the public schools' library system computers so that students have access to Opposing Viewpoints at school. They hope this will increase use of the database, which has been operating since December.

"It takes a while for information to go through the staff and then to the public," said Jim DeArmey, the library system's information services coordinator, of the database's low profile.

Opposing Viewpoints is provided by the Gale Group, a company specializing in e-research and educational publishing for libraries, schools and businesses. The library rents the research database at a cost of about $15,000 a year.

"We really do want to push this idea," DeArmey said, "because the more promotion we get, the more bang for the buck."

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