Maryland is the first to formally implement a borrowing program that unifies libraries in a statewide system, officials say.

MPOWER: opening a new chapter

MPOWER: taking initiative statewide

April 08, 2005|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

It's like the superhero of library cards: flashy and vibrant in appearance, and able to leap over county borders in a single bound.

Public librarians across Maryland are preparing to unleash the new MPOWER card, which gives the bearer the ability to borrow from any of Maryland's 174 public libraries.

Yesterday, state officials chose the new library in Odenton - a fast-developing part of Anne Arundel County near the Howard County line - as the venue in which to unveil the eye-catching turquoise card, which presents different images as the holder tilts the card at various angles.

"We're on the edge, and you can go to either [county] with the card," said Marion Francis, administrator of the Anne Arundel County Library System. "That's the beauty of it."

Maryland is the first state to formally implement a borrowing program that unifies libraries in a statewide system, officials said. All 23 counties and Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library are involved in the effort.

In theory, libraries across the state have been open for years to people with a card from any jurisdiction, said Irene M. Padilla, assistant state superintendent for libraries. Because that privilege has not been widely known, Padilla said, it is time to bring attention to it.

"This is a marketing initiative to make sure they [library patrons] remember," Padilla said.

Kindergarteners from Odenton Christian School visited the West County Area Library to hear about the MPOWER card. They were joined by Maryland's first lady, Kendel S. Ehrlich, who read the group a story, Come Along, Daisy.

Ehrlich said she supported the "know no boundaries" library card in part because her family travels throughout the state. The 43-year-old mother of two toured the facility and reminisced about the library in Cockeysville, where she read Nancy Drew mysteries as a girl.

Thousands of the cards are being shipped all over the state so public libraries can begin issuing them next week to borrowers of all ages. The initiative is timed to coincide with National Library Week.

While the cards were well received by many in attendance, one Piney Orchard resident and lover of mystery novels said she won't be signing up for an MPOWER card.

Maryanne Shipley, a retired London Fog design engineer, said as she departed, "I'm not getting it. Technology drives me crazy."

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