For county residents who haven't found their way onto the information highway, the Carroll County Public Library has just added another on-ramp.
Last week, the library began offering annual Internet subscriptions with electronic mail capabilities to county residents for $50.
Within a few weeks, subscribers also will be able to send and receive information files through the worldwide computer network.
For $80, people who live outside the county may purchase the new services, which include 3 megabytes of computer space to store messages and other information received through the Internet.
The fee is used to cover the expenses of maintaining the computer mailboxes, library officials say.
"The Carroll County Public Library has always felt that we're the gateway, as the public library, to information," said Linda Mielke, director of the county system. "The gateway to information now is electronic."
Since last summer, when the library joined the statewide computer network called SAILOR, Carroll County residents have had the ability to roam the Internet and electronically visit people in 130 countries around the world, all for the cost of a local phone call.
The Carroll library's new service also will give subscribers an e-mail address where their friends can send messages.
Those who do not have computers of their own may continue to use computers that are available at Carroll library branches, Ms. Mielke said.
"We take our philosophical charge of bringing information to the haves and the have-nots very seriously," she said. "Everyone in Carroll County, whether they have a computer or cannot afford one, should be able to use the services of the Internet."
Information about computer protocols needed to use the system on a home personal computer is available at library branches.