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Whitehall Library strives to keep pace with technology

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Heather Irey helps her husband, Brandon Irey, both of McKeesport, on a computer at Whitehall Public Library.
Ron Augenstein of Baldwin Borough uses a computer at Whitehall Public Library.
Ron Augenstein of Baldwin Borough uses a computer at Whitehall Public Library.
Tutor Rachel Paul (right), a student at the University of Pittsburgh, helps Baldwin High School sophomore Victoria Donatelli of Whitehall with Algebra 1 homework. They are using an iPad tablet to solve math problems at the Whitehall Public Library.

These days, card catalogs and shushing librarians have been replaced by active, involved patrons seeking quick lessons on all things technological. And local directors are eager to oblige.

“We have made a conscientious effort to ramp up our digital services as we head into 2014,” said Paula Kelly, director of the Whitehall Public Library. “Tablets and other mobile devices are more popular than ever, and also, libraries are able to offer more and more e-content for folks to borrow, especially with respect to popular books and magazines — the best-kept secret in town.”

After the holidays, many residents now are owners of some new electronic device. To the library's variety of basic computer classes and its Teen Tech Open Houses, Whitehall's residents can learn about their new tablets.

Also, new staff members have been added: Mary Kay Moran is experienced in teaching technology classes, and Licia Slimon, the digital-services librarian, can better meet customer needs, Kelly said.

Both will be able to assist patrons during 30-minute one-on-one sessions.

“We think that having a mix of structured classes, open-house sessions and one-on-one appointments enables us to offer full-service digital learning for everyone in the community,” she said.

Jane Milner, library program and event coordinator at Jefferson Hills Public Library, has a new instructor in place to assist patrons with their electronics questions. Now, Maureen Edinger, the library's technology coordinator, will take appointments for patrons who need to learn about their laptops, PCs, tablets or e-readers. A quick call to the library will set some time on Edinger's schedule for a one-on-one consultation.

For the last five years, Gill Smith had helped library visitors each Saturday. He has since retired and moved to Florida.

“He was a big help with new laptops, helping to set up emails and learn how to do Internet searches,” Milner said.

The library staff also is capable of giving basic instruction.

All nine computers usually being used by people doing job searches or finding out information about something, said Milner, who has held her position for two years.

Jefferson Hills has the INFOTRAC Testing and Education Reference Center, an online library database. A name and a library-card number are all it takes to learn about colleges and universities, prepare for SAT tests or discover a range of other topics.

And with WiFi wireless in place, people can visit the library and connect with the world.

The Pleasant Hills Public Library continues to update its electronic services.

“Patron response has been very good,” said Sharon Julian-Milas, library director. “Anything to do with technology seems to be popular.”

She anticipates an upgrade to the library's free WiFi because of the increasing use of laptops.

Through the Allegheny County Library Association eCollection, access to e-books, e-audios, e-videos, e-magazines and e-articles is easy and free. Adults, teens and children can download practically anything to a computer or compatible device.

Research information even includes things such as a PBS television series or an independent film. Software installation guides are available.

When vendors update their systems, the library can offer more to its patrons.

“We have to keep up to date,” said Julian-Milas, who is in her seventh year with the library. “There are new devices every year and different levels of knowledge of the patrons and the staff.”

Sometime this summer, a new circulation system will be put in place, and new computers will be installed through eiNetwork consortium.

She also plans to work out a program for patrons who aren't so comfortable with new devices to schedule one-on-one time with an instructor.

“It's about (developing) a level of confidence,” she said of those who are middle age and older, who need “to understand that they can't break a device or ruin something” or outthink the computer.

“If it says it wants your password, and you just put it in, don't sit there complaining, just put it in again,” she said. “Sometimes, technology is smarter than us.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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