Library will expand schools partnership

Community college to be part of program

October 24, 2007|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun reporter

Howard County library officials are planning to expand their five-year-old partnership with county schools to include Howard Community College, they announced late yesterday at Cradlerock School.

Called the A-Plus Partners in Education, the program has sought to mesh services that the county's libraries offer with public school needs, and now also include students at the college. Estimates are that about a quarter of county public school graduates attend the community college.

"Expanding the A-Plus Partnership with the college serves more comprehensively the students of Howard County," said Valerie Gross, the library director.

"A lot of community college students use the library," said Ann Gilligan, assistant library director. "I think it's ideal. The concept is beyond reading. We have databases that access science and technology online - 8,000 articles. If students know about this kind of resource, they can work on their project at 2 a.m. in the morning."

Tara Hart, division chair of English and world languages at Howard Community College, said the program will formalize connections between the college and the libraries, which will provide library cards to every student who enrolls who doesn't have one.

Under the agreement, college students can keep borrowed library materials longer, Hart said, and both organizations can better coordinate things they offer - such as English language classes for immigrants.

"The basic idea is that there will be a great deal of collaboration and connection," Hart said.

College students can use the library as an extra resource, giving the college a new presence at the libraries, and each institution can advertise the other's programs.

Art and theater students can find performance and display venues in county libraries, Hart said, and the Web sites also will have links to each other.

"Anything that increases resources for our students is good," Hart said. "It raises awareness ... about the college. The library has a wonderful reach."

Meanwhile, a new library-sponsored program - Battle of the Books - has started. It is a game-show style reading competition for fifth-graders that brings together up to 40 teams of three to five students each who will read 15 books. A final competition in which moderators ask children questions about what they've read is scheduled April 18 at Veterans Elementary School in Ellicott City.

As part of the current public school partnership, 5,000 county students have used the library's live homework help line, which offers help until midnight.

Also at the event yesterday, a program to distribute about 20 refurbished computers with free Internet access to county students who don't have one was announced, and trophies were given to several schools for the highest percentage of participants in a summer reading game.

The partnership of county schools, the college, the PTA Council of Howard County and the nonprofit Lazarus Foundation is called PCs 4 Kids. The effort will begin as a pilot program for students at Atholton High School and Cradlerock School, which includes kindergarten through eighth grade. Some Atholton students will serve as mentors.

People who qualify and apply for the program will get computers, software, printers and training and free dial-up service through the library. Recipients will be mentored by high school students and do 10 hours of community service for their school or library.

Cradlerock won the summer reading program trophy in the middle school category. Bushy Park and Triadelphia Ridge were tied in the elementary category, and Centennial Lane Elementary and Burleigh Manor Middle School were finalists, Gross said.

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