Libraries Offer Interactive Learning, Plug in Deeper to the Web
Wills, Rick, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Justin Thakar's mother was pleased when she was told her 15-year- old son has a good accent when he speaks Japanese.
"He is doing well with Japanese. It's not the easiest language to learn," said Mary Beth Thakar of Mt. Lebanon, who home-schools her son.
Justin works hard on his Japanese, but his mother credits his progress to online language instruction the Mt. Lebanon public library offers its patrons. The library provides "Rosetta Stone," a language study program that she downloaded onto an MP3 player to help guide her son through the difficulties of Japanese and Spanish. The library offers similar programs in other languages, including English as a second language.
"It's great that they are offering these programs. They are costly if you buy them," Mary Beth Thakar said.
Until recently, patrons used library Web sites to search the catalog and renew books, but not much else.
In the past year, some larger local libraries' Web sites have become increasingly interactive by adding online reference capability, comment and suggestion spaces, library-related blogs, online teen book clubs, study groups and downloadable books.
Some libraries feature a link to AskHerePa.org, which features live-chat reference 24 hours a day. The state-funded Web site provides access to librarians, proprietary databases funded by libraries and other information sources. Organizers said that in most cases the site will answer reference questions within 15 minutes.
"If libraries want to stay in the forefront of people in their teens and 20s, they will have to constantly develop what they are doing with computers," said Cynthia Toth, director of the Sewickley Public Library.
Sewickley has a Kids Blog, a Teen Web page and about a dozen online book clubs, covering everything from business tomes to horror stories.
Like Mt. Lebanon, Sewickley is among local libraries making their Web sites more interactive.
Known as Library 2.0, the shift reflects changing technology. …