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Library plugs Internet use; Technology: New Frostburg facility invites children, adults too, to gain access to the world.


FROSTBURG -- Western Maryland has a new technological outpost -- the Frostburg Community Library, which opened this month with 22,000 volumes and eight public portals into cyberspace.

The hub of an effort to put technology in the hands of children, the 10,000-square-foot facility was constructed and equipped with Internet access in mind. It has eight computer workstations for public use and will serve as the host of a network linking the six public libraries of Allegany County -- including one being built in the town of Lonaconing.

Located on East Main Street, Frostburg's library was built in seven months for $1.92 million.

The state and county each put up $800,000, and local contributions -- ranging from a child's nickel to an anonymous donation of $100,000 -- accounted for the rest, according to Frostburg city administrator David A. Eberly.

It replaces the community's first public library -- a 4,000-square-foot building across the street, built in the early 1960s.

"Two years ago, we offered Internet access to the public using three computers and a very basic system, and the idea took off," said Robert Hall, the Frostburg library's computer systems librarian. "For an area generally characterized as standoffish toward technology, everyone loved the Internet access."

The design is focused on drawing young people into the building. A large portion of the collection consists of children's literature, and many of the furnishings are child-sized.

"Many of the local schools are using the Internet for assignments," Hall said. "By having some workstations at lower tables and with smaller chairs, the children feel less intimidated in using the equipment."

Broad windows overlooking the town and the mountains of western Allegany County bring openness to the children's area.

"There are sections of the building designed to represent local points of interest that the children are familiar with. The story room looks like the local train depot," Hall said.

But the library's appeal is not only to children.

"Some of the senior citizens are very excited about using the computers," said Frostburg resident Lester Parsons. "It will allow many of them to communicate with the outside world rather than being confined to their homes."

It will also be a resource for students and staff from neighboring Frostburg State University.

"For a place with an education major the size of Frostburg State's, they need to have a good public library. The college students can now come here and find what they will need to teach and can interact with the children," Hall said.

"We really are in our infancy. There is so much room for future growth, and the public is ready for it. The amount of traffic we have had in the first week is amazing, as is the number of new faces."

Pub Date: 2/21/99

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