Lancaster Public Library

Patrons leave the Lancaster Public Library in a file photo from 2013.

Lancaster Public Library is taking the language arts out of the books and into the classroom.

Starting May 4, the library at 125 N. Duke St. will offer twice-weekly classes in basic Arabic.

Foreign languages are new to the library’s programming, says community relations director Heather Sharpe — although the library has offered classes in sign language and English as a Second Language.

“The discussion started a long time ago. We’re always looking to offer different programming in the community,” Sharpe says.

“We have a lot of language-learning materials, but people have often said it’s easier to learn in a classroom setting.”

The 10-week introductory course will run from 6 to 7 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays from May 4 through July 7. The class will be taught by retired professor  Elias George, who is a native speaker of Arabic.

The $40 fee for the course includes a textbook.

“We get frequent requests for language learning in general,” Sharpe says. “Also, we've seen an increase in the number of refugees that use the library, and that contributed to the desire to offer this to the community.”

She is curious to see who signs up for the course. Sharpe says Lancaster has an “active community” of Islamic worshippers who don’t speak Arabic and would like to.

The library may offer classes in other languages, or a more advanced course in Arabic, if there’s sufficient interest, she says.

“It depends on what the response is,” she says. “When we first floated the idea of a sign language program, a lot of people — including me — didn’t think we’d have much of a response. It turned out we had great attendance.

“If we get a really good response and people seem interested, we’ll look at what else we can offer,” she adds. “You never know until you actually have the program and see if people come out.”

Register by calling the library 394-2651, ext. 105, or online at The class is limited to 12 people, and registrations are due by the end of April.

What to Read Next