Public Computers

All Library branches offer workstations with high-speed Internet access and word processing software. Howard County Library System offers computers for public use for the purpose of accessing its collections, searching for information, and performing basic communication tasks, such as IM, email and word processing.

Use Howard County Library System public computers to:
  • Browse the Internet using one of the “best-in-class” web-browsers: Firefox, Chrome or Opera.
  • Work using word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database software from LibreOffice (open, modify, print and save Microsoft Office files and store them in their “native” formats).
  • Message using Meebo, cross-platform instant messaging products which lets IM users sign in with AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and other IM accounts.
  • Manage photographs and images using F-Spot.
  • Play and listen to audio via Real Player (bring headphones or buy a pair from the library for $1) or play one of 88 educational games offered from GCompris or ChildsPlay.
  • With PACs featuring CDRom drives, listen to music using Amarok.
  • Manage your IPod using GTKPod.
  • Access files from the popular USB “thumb drives” (bring one or buy one from the library for $12).

For user guides for all software featured on Howard County Library computers, see the PAC Help Page.

Howard County Library System is committed to using free software whenever possible.

Public Computer Guidelines

To assure smooth operation and equitable access, Howard County Library System has the following procedures:

1. Allowing all to have access – Each of 322 machines at Howard County Library System feature LibreOffice so there is no need to register or reserve a machine. If customers are waiting, staff may ask others, who have been onsite the longest, to give a waiting customer an opportunity to use a computer.
2. Printing by the honor system – The first five pages are free; additional pages cost ten cents each under the honor system. Please pay at the Information Desk at the end of your session.

A few requests of our customers:

Only software approved and installed by Howard County Library System may be used on the computers.
USB devices are available for purchase at the Customer Service desk at a cost of $12 each.
Please report all equipment malfunctions to Library staff, who will strive to move you to a functioning computer and solve the problem.

Read the Policy on Internet Use

Other Computer Resources
Wireless Internet Access

Howard County Library System offers state-of-the-art wireless network service at all six branches, the kind of wireless connections found at some coffeehouses, airports and hotels across the country. Commonly known as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), this service – the first in a Maryland public library – allows customers to turn on their laptops, PDAs, or other handheld devices from any location in the branch and access the Library’s Public Access Catalog or surf the Internet, at very high speeds. Wireless Internet access is offered at all six branches.

Free dial-up Internet accounts

Howard County Library System offers free Sailor Cruise Accounts to Howard County Library System cardholders. These accounts allow free dial-up Internet access from a customer’s home computer; Cruise Accounts are good for 90 days. A Maryland Public Library project, the Sailor Cruise Account service ensures free and equitable access to the Internet for Maryland residents. For more information, pick up a Sailor Cruise Account form at any branch or go to the Sailor web site at