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If you’ve been here in Pittsburgh for the last several months and haven’t had your head in the sand, you’ll have noticed that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has been asking you for money. This is because the library system is in trouble and needs support to ensure its presence throughout the generations. It’s the opinion of many that libraries are a thing of the past and that technology such as Barnes and Noble’s Nook and mobile e-readers like iBooks will replace paper books and render large libraries filled with dusty shelves obsolete and cheap internet service will provide research once done under a librarian’s nose. I don’t know about that. I know plenty of people dedicated to the feel of a new binding cracking when first opened and the musty whiff of an old forgotten tome discovered again and plenty more who couldn’t Google if their lives depended on it.

It’s more my opinion that if libraries keep up with the times they’ll not only solidify their place in the community but ender themselves to a whole new generation.

Take a look at CLP’s Main Branch in Oakland (located right across from Schenley Plaza). In addition to its thousands of books, CDs, videos, DVDs, LPS, magazines and periodicals and more, CLP has jumped on the tech revolution by offering services online and geared for mobile users. I worked for the PPC/CLP downtown branch a few years ago when e-readers were coming out and not all that popular. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh purchased a few of these which could be checked out for a week and had perhaps 10 non-changeable titles at the time. These were heavy, clunky readers costing upwards of $400 or so and frankly, the patrons weren’t so impressed. Later Amazon came out with its Kindle and then the Nook followed suit and these offered great improvements but as they rolled with the times, so did the library.

Today you can order books online from other branches, states or even countries through ILL (Inter Library Loan), renew your items, pay your fines and chat with a librarian. Are you a smartphone user? If you think up a burning question on the bus you can text the librarian at 66746 (subject line askCLP). Do you prefer reading on the go? Borrow an e-book or movie (it’s just like taking out a physical book- it will expire when your loan period is up and simply be unavailable). Depending on your device, some software or app does have to be downloaded for this. There’s even music streaming for those who are looking for something a little more unique than B94…

Do you blog or enjoy reading blogs? The 11th Stack is just one of the CLP blogs available from its homepage. Are you someone who would rather borrow a book than pay for it? There are a few options for you too- add a CLP search box to your browser toolbar or iGoogle homepage. Amazon junkie? There’s a plugin for that! Firefox users can add the Amazon plugin to search the latest and greatest on Amazon and the CLP catalogue to see if it’s available through the library.

There are some decidedly low-tech goodies at the library too that modern users will appreciate. International movies and programmes abound at the branches. Bilingual books for children are available as well as homework help and plenty of teen-only programmes such as poetry slams. Not too good on the computer? There are classes. Need to catch up on reading skills? Of course there are literacy classes. Are you in college and need to study for tests? GMAT, TOEFLL and textbooks can be used in house or borrowed on special loan periods. Writing a report? There are numerous databases you can access at home to use. Don’t have internet access at home? Use the library’s computers or bring your laptop and hook up. And of course with all this tech talk, one gets thirsty. That’s right, CLP Main has it’s own Crazy Mocha right by the circulation desk. Coffee, books and the internet- not too much else one could ask for!

More on library services here. Find your local library here.