By the year 2000, a college graduate looking to a neighborhood library for career information may be able to do the research from a home computer. The service will be free and will cut to a fraction the time it takes to do such research.

But because many homes will not be computerized in the next 10 to 20 years, state library officials hope to avoid "an information elite," said Maria Pedak-Kari, community relations officer for the Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries. She notes that libraries must remain accessible to children, the elderly and others who may not be able to afford library services.

Availability of computerized library services was among the issues discussed at a recent Maryland Governor's Conference on Libraries and Information Services. The conference, held last week in Towson, brought together about 300 people from throughout the state to consider technological advances in information services and present a platform to guide the state in planning its library system.

Participants spent much of the conference examining the needs of public, private, school and institutional libraries. At the conclusion of the conference, they called for state funding for school libraries that are below state standards; professional librarians and adequate funding for state institutions; a preservation plan for documents; and creation of a task force to evaluate state aid to libraries, develop a state aid formula for public libraries and develop a process for keeping library services up to date.

Public and school libraries must provide massive amounts of electronic information to keep pace with the "explosion of information," said Kitty Hurrey, director of the Southern Maryland Regional Library Association.

Kay Ecelbarger, acting chief of collection development for Montgomery's library department, completed a background paper on the future of the state's electronic library services earlier this year.

She said she felt a "great sense of urgency to update access to information on behalf of patrons in order not to be obsolete by the end of century."

Ecelbarger, a conference participant, predicts that the amount of information found in books and periodicals will continue to decline as the use of computers and optical storage devices becomes more common in research.

But state library officials do not think books will ever become obsolete.

"I don't care what anybody says, we're never going to get rid of the book," Hurrey said. "We're not going to curl up with a computer and a modem."

Much of the conference focused on state school libraries. Most of the libraries in Maryland's 24 school systems have a computerized system for checking books in and out. These school libraries generally have at least one full-time professional on staff and up-to-date material.

But they may not have the capability to go beyond school walls and check information available at other libraries through computerized searches, Hurrey said.

In state-of-the-art public libraries in some schools in the state's wealthier counties, such as Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard, librarians have access to information across town or across the country, Hurrey said.

In such libraries, data base systems are making card catalogues obsolete. Knowing exact subjects or titles no longer is necessary to search for information, she said.

In the meantime, school libraries are lagging in poorer counties. In such facilities, materials sometimes are 10 to 15 years old and in poor condition, Hurrey said. "If they get rid of {their old material} they won't have anything on their shelves."

Libraries that are owned and run privately by companies, government agencies or other organizations may become more integrated into the general network of all libraries, said Nancy Dysart, a librarian with the Transportation Communications Union and a member of the Montgomery County Library Advisory Board.

Because information and materials are expensive, most libraries may have to pool their efforts and resources to have access to a full range of material, she said.

The conference also addressed the need for bilingual services, such as those provided by Montgomery County libraries in four languages: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean, Pedak-Kari said.

"Montgomery County is a reflection of the bigger picture," said Betty Valdes, a delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries next summer. "It is important that we provide the needed resources for these people to learn English, to be more productive to society," she said.