How I Spent the Morning

Every so often it takes something a little out of the ordinary to recharge the Reference skills. I’ve been filling in this week answering the E-mail reference questions for Tom, who’s on vacation.  Here’s a smattering of what I’ve responded to and in some cases, had to dig for over the last two days. By the way, this service is available for all of you; just e-mail us at info@carnegielibrary.org.

“Love your E-books now that we’ve figured out how to get them, how can we do the same for your e-video content?”

So, I needed to re-familiarize myself with the video offerings in E-CLP, make the acquaintance of Overdrive Media Console, and look over the Overdrive video offerings. What my narration is leaving out is that I’m responding to the user with instructions of “go here”, “click this”, “download and install that”, “go back to this page” and another dozen directions and answers in their original question. Hopefully they were able to jump in and successfully connect all the parts.

“I’d like some information on building and financing a home from scratch.” “I need to know how to find a contractor and sub-contractors, an architect, how to get a mortgage for it, and what else I might need to know.”

My initial response was straight out of the classroom; use the catalog. After some keyword searching to find an appropriate title, I latched onto the following subject heading –  House construction — Amateurs’ manuals – to build the user a healthy selection of reading material.  That should at least cover the planning and contractor stages.  Since I don’t know where she wants to build, I referred her to the City’s Bureau of Building Inspection and the city’s General Guide to Permitting for additional information.  I also informed her that if she was building outside the city, that she’d need to contact the municipality where she wants to build.  Finally I referred her to the local banks, and even real estate agents to find out about the financing for owner built construction, assuming the books I’d referred her to earlier wouldn’t address financing in a local fashion.

“Thank you for the confirmation, I am interested in finding out if any newspaper articles or sports magazines have the line score or box scores for the game for possible recreation of that game? In the microfilms of newspapers for that day can you possibly find out the weather report for Aug.5, 1921? Or do you know of a weather report history site?”

This has been one of our favorite questions, covering several iterations over a few weeks. This originated as an inquiry (the user was referred to us by the Baseball Hall of Fame) into whether there was a recording or transcript of the August 5th, 1921 Pirates game against the Phillies (aka the Quakers in the newspaper articles.)  This game was the first baseball game to ever be broadcast over the radio, by Pittsburgh’s KDKA.  After looking through our Reference Services and PA Dept. resources, and inquiries with KDKA and the Heinz History Center the sad conclusion is that none of us had a record of the broadcast.

To answer the followup questions, I fell back on the tools of a scoundrel, and found a reservoir of historic box scores by searching Google.  My search came up with www.baseball-reference.com, and any box score you could possibly imagine.  I then backed it up with making sure one was available in the newspapers if she wanted.  I spent some additional time in Microfilm viewing the August 6th, 1921 Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, one of the predecessor titles to the current PG.  Besides the box score I also looked at the previous day’s weather, but it was pretty sparse. It gave the high for the day, and that it was cloudy (big surprise there).  Could I find a better answer?

Squirreled away in our closed shelving are about 50 very dark and gritty Original Monthly Record of Observations at Pittsburgh, PA of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau.  Each volume corresponds to a given year, running from 1875 through 1927 or so.  Each month has four pages dedicated to it; two daily recordings at 8am and 8pm, a daily log of minimum and maximum temps, precipitation and details about hail, snow, etc.  The fourth page for each month is a calculation of the mean air pressure, temperature, wind, precipitation and … “Miscellaneous Phenomena” which include high winds, solar and lunar halos, fog, haze, and smoke. Having found the 1921 journal I was able to confirm that the day was seasonably warm, mid 60s and clear in the morning, 80s and cloudy that night.  I also informed the user that she could either request photocopies of the newspaper pages through ILL at her library, or directly from us.

weather page

Obviously not all the questions have such promise. There are the requisite “Is my card expired?” and declamations of perfidy on the part of our bookdrops.  But I will leave you with one last question that I ended up referring to our colleagues at the Downtown & Business Library.

“I am trying to find out the dividend reinvestment price for XYZ Corp, from 1995 to 1999 the period until they merged with Acme Widgets, and then from there the dividend reinvestment price for XYZ Corp until they split in 2005. The help would be much appreciated.”

This called for self-education: I didn’t feel like I knew enough to know whether I should transfer it or not.  I started in the Morningstar Investment Research Center, one of our business databases.  It gave me an introductory explanation in one of the investor discussion forums.  It turns out that a dividend reinvestment price is a different way to calculate a stock’s price (per share) when dividends are automatically reinvested in the same stock.  After some more investigating I determined that there is no register of DRP the way there is for regular stock prices (along with splits and dividend payout dates) but rather it’s something that the investor needs to calculate on their own (isn’t this why Providence invented Accountants?)  However, to cover my bases I did refer the question to Downtown & Business. Our colleague Scott provided the following response to the inquiry.

Dear Mr. Q. Public:

We can provide you with stock prices for specific dates and dividends paid by XYZ Corp. during the period your question mentions, but the Dividend Reinvestment Price is something you will need to calculate yourself. Check this site for a handy calculator:
http://www.buyupside.com/calculators/dividendreinvestmentdec07.htm

There is also a fee-based service that might be of some help:
http://www.netbasis.com/start-now/

As you know, on 5/1/1999 XYZ Corp. merged into Acme.  Shareholders got 1.085 shares of Acme Class B for each share of XYZ Corp. common stock held.  In terms of stock prices, we can furnish you with year-end prices for XYZ Corp. (trading as Acme Class B) for the years 1998 – 2005:

12/31/2005
Acme sheds XYZ Corp.; shareholders of Acme Cl. B received .5 shares of XYZ Corp. Class B common and .5 shares of Acme Inc. (New) Cl. B common.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance to you.

I couldn’t have said it any better.  This does indicate though, not everything is available on the Internet, and not everyone’s needs are best met using digital means.

- Richard

3 Comments

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3 responses to “How I Spent the Morning

  1. This is why I love being a reference librarian: juicy questions that are fun to research!

  2. Karen

    These are fantastic examples on the value of research librarians and the importance of research libraries.

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