Ohio library offers virtual help in Spanish

The State Library of Ohio launched a Spanish version of its live, around-the-clock virtual information service last week.

The expansion of the library system’s KnowItNow 24 x 7 service coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. About 2 percent of Ohio’s population is of Hispanic origin, according to a press release issued by the state library system.

Under the free KnowItNow service, professional librarians from 50 library systems are available around the clock to help state residents answer reference questions and find information. Residents enter their ZIP codes and then start chat sessions with librarians.

“The librarian pushes high-quality, authoritative online resources to your screen,” according to information on the KnowItNow Web site. “You can watch and participate as librarians skillfully navigate the Internet to find precise answers to your questions. At the conclusion of each KnowItNow session, you will receive a complete transcript of your session via email including links to all the online resources shared during that session.”

Additionally, online tutors are available from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week to help students with their homework. The service is unavailable, however, during some holidays.

With a $936,000, three-year grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, the state initially launched the online service September 2004. The Cleveland and Cuyahoga County public libraries and the NOLA Regional Library System are the three primary partners in the project. More than 107,000 online sessions have been logged as of June 2005.

The state Library Board of Ohio approved $1.12 million for the second year of funding, part of which is being used for the Spanish version.

Librarians targeted the Spanish population in expanding the service. In addition to the online service, a team of metropolitan library marketing directors from around the state will develop a marketing plan to address the needs of Spanish-speaking residents in each region. State library officials are also targeting other populations, including visually impaired, small-business owners, genealogists and late-night users.

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