Issachar Osirupho-El wasn't at all intimidated yesterday as he sat down to show the Baltimore County executive his stuff on a computer at Essex Library.
With Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and librarian Kathy Sladek peering over his shoulders, the 10-year-old click-clicked the mouse, popping up movie clips on the screen from a computer program called "Cinemania."
A fifth-grader at Sandalwood Elementary School, Issachar was among the first to try out "Libraries On-Line" in the new Family Learning Center, a seven-terminal computer bank donated by Microsoft Corp. in its first venture into national philanthropy.
'A little nervous'
"I was a little nervous but I did my best," Issachar said later.
Seattle-based Microsoft and the American Library Association chose Baltimore County among nine library systems nationwide for the $3 million project. (Systems already are operational in Seattle and Los Angeles.) In turn, the county chose Essex Library as part of its Community Conservation Program to provide more resources to upgrade the area, where buying a computer is beyond many people's pocketbooks.
Although children were the first to jump on the keyboards yesterday, the center is not only for them. It has full access to the Internet and Internet graphics, along with 14 CD-ROM fun-and-information programs. The center has such instantly practical programs as the state job availability list and the capability to produce professional-quality resumes for job-seekers.
Computer-literate librarians, such as Ms. Sladek, will be available to teach people and classes how the Family Learning Center can be used. A computer training center has been set up in the basement.
"Essex has been through some very tough times, but the spirit is strong and we're going to help," Mr. Ruppersberger said as he opened the center at the library branch at 1110 Eastern Blvd. in Middlesex Shopping Center.
For Nick Richison, 13, from Stemmers Run Middle School, the center further opened a door he discovered when he received a PC for Christmas. Nick said his set-up doesn't have all the advanced programs of the library's system, so he'll spend more time at the library.
About a third of American homes have access to a personal computer, said Christopher Hedrick, 33, Microsoft's senior program manager for corporate contributions. The company decided to address the have- and have-not gap in computer access, with "Libraries On-Line as one answer," Mr. Hedrick said.
Baltimore County's library was selected because of its community involvement, strong management and commitment to technology, Mr. Hedrick said. The Microsoft executive said the company will evaluate the program after a year and decide whether to expand it and where.
Mr. Hedrick said, "Everyone should have access to computers," and Microsoft felt a company obligation to try to help that as much as possible. However, he said, success will require community and business commitment and he challenged the county: "If you do this and make it work, you can be a model for all of America."
Requests were denied
E. J. Woznicki, manager of Essex Library and a native of the area, said that in the past the staff has had to deny countless requests from people who wanted access to the library's computer, telling them that "maybe later" a public-access system would be available.
"The future is now today," Mr. Woznicki said. "We have the tools and training to unlock the mysteries of the computer age."
Pub Date: 3/19/96