``We became aware of the desire of the school district for automation in the libraries and we knew this would benefit every school,'' HSA president Sandi Haverstick said last week.
The money - $43,000 to be spent on computer software and bar-coding library materials and $13,000 on additional hardware - came from HSA fund-raising events throughout the year.
Normally, Haverstick said, the middle school and four elementary schools are given separate bundles of cash to spend on their own programs. In the past, the only stipulation has been that some of the funds be spent on cultural activities for the students.
``The principal and the parents' advisory groups in that school decided how to spend the money,'' Haverstick said.
With the funds used in a coordinated way, assistant superintendent Susan P. Mintz said, a student can use library materials throughout the district with a few keystrokes.
``All of the computer terminals will be linked,'' Mintz said. ``This is something we have wanted since 1985 but haven't been able to afford.''
The donation, she added, will pay for the conversion to an electronic library material tracking system, complete with hardware, software and training.
``This is something that is being used in universities across the nation,'' Mintz explained. ``Now our students will be one step closer to being prepared for life in the 21st century.''
Each library will have at least one terminal to access materials throughout the district. A digitized bar code will be attached to every book, compact disc, record, audiotape and videotape so that it can be found in a computerized search.
Eventually, district officials hope to link the system to the county library system and even the Library of Congress.
Charlotte Deaney, media specialist at Memorial Middle School, said the district installed a computer card catalog at Memorial's library five years ago, but said the new system will have several benefits.
``We've had some glitches with our system over the years and the software people were far away,'' Deaney said. ``This new automated system will have a local representative that will come out if we have any problems.''
One day, Deaney hopes, a computer can be placed in every classroom so that students could look up books from there.
``You only have to say the word computer and the kids move toward it,'' she said. ``At our library today, kids will wait in line to use the computer, even though we still have the old catalog.''
And yes, the antiquated index-card catalogs will remain at some of the schools in case the computer system experiences a temporary problem, Deaney added.
The district-wide electronic card catalog system is expected to be up and running by the end of September.