Canonsburg library offers free help for trying times

February 22, 2013
Frank Sarris Public Library in Canonsburg

Katie is a high school junior who maintains a busy schedule between school, cheerleading and a part-time job. She’s an above average student but just can’t seem to grasp algebra.

Joe is married with three young children. He lost the job he’s held for 20 years a few months ago and has been working odd jobs to make ends meet while looking for another full-time position.

Katie and Joe both realize they could use some help, but neither can free up the time in their busy schedules, nor do they have the extra money to hire someone to assist them with their problems.

It’s scenarios like these that Peggy Tseng, librarian at Frank Sarris Public Library in Canonsburg, is hoping to resolve through two new online programs that will be offered come April, free of charge.

Tseng said the library recently entered into a three-year contract with Brainfuse, an Internet company that offers 24-7 tutoring and job search assistance.

Brainfuse’s HelpNow/JobNow is unique because library cardholders can assess all services at any time without leaving their homes, Tseng said.

HelpNow provides educational assistance from kindergarten to college in a variety of subjects ranging from math to computer literacy to foreign languages. There is also help available for ACT, SAT and GED test preparation.

JobNow consists of a suite of resources for job seekers, including job coaching, a resume lab and an adult learning center .

Another exciting part of Brainfuse is that both HelpNow and JobNow offer one-on-one assistance from live tutors and job coaches from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., seven days week.

All services are also available on mobile devices through a special app.

“You can get help at your convenience and without a cost,” Tseng said. “You just have to have a Frank Sarris Public Library card.”

Tseng said she believes her library will be the first in the county to offer the program.

Brainfuse is not the library’s first free online service. About two months ago, the library launched Universal Class, which features more than 500 online noncredit continuing education courses, and Zinio, which gives users unlimited access to full digital copies of hundreds of magazines.

“What’s nice is you can access any magazine by computer or smartphone,” she said.

Tseng explained that while hard-copy magazines are still available at the library, they can only be read by or issued to one person at a time.

“This way, you can have 200 people reading the same magazine at the same time,” she said. “And, you don’t have to worry about the magazine being overdue.”

Tseng, who was hired as head librarian in June, has made online offerings a point of emphasis. “I’ll admit, I’m attached to technology,” she said.

People need only provide proof of address and a telephone number to obtain a library card and have full access to all the programs.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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