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Carroll County Public Library offers Internet access.

The Carroll County Public Library System has dared to go where few PLs have gone before. It has decided to offer Internet access to--gasp!--anyone who wants it. No doubt the service will be popular, perhaps to the point of being overwhelming. [See Michael Schuyler's column in this issue for a taste of what may transpire.]

Beginning this month, residents of Carroll County, Maryland, are now able to obtain individual Internet electronic mail accounts through the Carroll County Public Library (CCPL) in Westminster. The service will enable county residents to send and receive messages, telnet to other Internet sites, copy files from one computer to another using ftp (file transfer protocol), access newsgroups, and search Sailor--the statewide computer network of Maryland's libraries.

To access Internet mail, the library uses Pine, a user-friendly, menu-driven software package developed at the University of Washington in 1989, which is currently mounted on the library system's Ameritech Library Services' IBM Power Server 530H. The library is planning to migrate all Internet functions to an Internet server, Sun's SPARCstation. For the price of $50 per year for county residents or $80 per year for non-residents, the library will provide customers with a virtual 3MB of disk storage space for each e-mail account.

What's Available

Carroll County Public Library has offered access to the Internet through Maryland's Sailor network to dial-in users for just over six months, and to walk-in patrons since December. From personal computer LANs currently mounted with ProComm Plus software in the library's branches, walk-in patrons can search Internet databases of economic, educational, health, recreational, and social information for residents of Maryland, including graphics as well as text files. Available are labor statistics, information for small businesses, local times around the world, U.S. Industrial Outlook, Occupational Outlook Handbook, National Environmental Scorecard, arts and entertainment, music resources, news, legal matters, leisure time activities, sports, online reference books such as a thesaurus and ZIP code directory, and more.

Soon the library will offer all account holders PPP connections to a Mosaic server that will contain access to state and local information, including government data, tourist, and arts and entertainment information in text, graphic, and sound clip formats.

Library as Leader

Providing Internet mail to the public was a natural off-shoot of the other automated services that CCPL provides. "The county government has looked to the library system to provide technical expertise for many county services, including local government access," said Linda Mielke, CCPL's director.

CCPL is not looking at Internet mail to generate revenue, according to Mielke, but rather to help demonstrate to the public that the library is technologically advanced. As a result of the marketing plan the library recently developed, focus groups met and discussed, among other things, new ways that the library could meet the public's expectations. "Developments in electronic delivery, especially access to the Internet and e-mail, were requested by the focus groups," said Mielke.

"The excitement of the public has been tremendous," declared Scott Reinhart, assistant director for automation, support, and technical services, who is coordinating the project. "We are getting dozens of calls every week. But this is also our biggest concern--we are duty-bound to offer good service and support to all of our customers. The most challenging aspect of this venture is that we are being forced to learn a great deal in a short time. There are no true turnkey Internet solutions."

Patrons interested in an Internet mail account simply pick up applications at any CCPL branch and fill them out. They later receive their Internet account information, including login and password, through the mail. Children under 18 may obtain an account only with parental permission.

CCPL provides a Sailor help desk from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays. For more information about Carroll County Public Library's Internet mail access program, call Scott Reinhart at 410/876-6008 or send e-mail to him at

Karen Commings is the automation and technical services coordinator at the Dauphin County Library System in Harrisburg, PA. Her e-mail addresses are and
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Title Annotation:Maryland
Author:Commings, Karen
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Apr 1, 1995
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