Are You Experienced?


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

“Crap. My paper is due tomorrow, and I looked all over the web, but I still need two more sources.”

“The arguments in my Facebook feed are breaking my brain. Where can I learn more about this stuff without all the nasty comments?”

“I wonder how many people this issue actually affects. Different websites have different numbers — which one is right?”

If you’ve asked questions like these, you know that the web is a great place to start learning about something, but it’s not perfect. Granted, nothing is truly perfect, but it is possible to get your questions answered quickly and easily. All you need is 5 minutes, your CLP Library card and an internet connection.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. It almost sounds like an infomercial, doesn’t it? Let’s test it out with the African American Experience, one of the online collections the Carnegie Library offers.

Sources Teachers Love 

Let’s say you’re writing a paper about the Black Arts Movement. You’ve found a lot of great websites, but your teacher says you can only use two: everything else has to come from a book, newspaper, magazine, or other print source. You get wrapped up in other stuff (it happens), and suddenly, boom: the paper’s due tomorrow, and the Library is closed. Now what?

Screenshot, The African American Experience - topics section / Black Arts Movement

Screenshot, The African American Experience – topics section / Black Arts Movement

Now you grab your library card, log into The African-American Experience, select your topic from the main page (helpfully grouped in chronological order), and use the drop-down menu on the side to explore further resources. The best part? Because the information here originally comes from print books/encyclopedias, you’re getting what you need and still following the rules of the assignment. There’s even a correctly-formatted citation at the bottom of each source, should you need one.

Problem solved. Next!

No Fighting, No Trolls

You know how, when certain topics come up, suddenly everybody’s an expert? Opinions get heated, comments get ugly and everybody walks away feeling bad. Wouldn’t it be great to get some information that covers controversial topics in a neutral, facts-based way, without having to sift through thousands of search engine results?

One question some people argue about is whether to say “Black” or “African American” in conversation. The African American Experience tackles questions like these in its “Perspectives” section, using a neutral tone, and discussing the topic in an even-handed way.

Screenshot from the "Perspectives" section of the African American Experience.

Screenshot from the “Perspectives” section of the African American Experience.

Each perspective begins with the key question on the table, then offers, via the drop-down menu, the main facts you’ll need to know followed by several perspectives that look at different sides of the question. If you’re in a hurry, you can jump to the closing, which summarizes the perspectives. Finally, the “Investigate” option takes you to a list of resources—both web and print-based—you can use to dig deeper.

Now that you’ve got an objective view of the question and the way it’s been answered historically, you can decide for yourself what you think without all the drama. And you might even have a great response to Uncle Know-it-All next time he says something ignorant, which you can deliver calmly and confidently.

The Numbers Game

Statistics are always tricky, because they can always be counted in different ways by folks who have different agendas. Still, at some point, you’ve got to decide whose numbers are trustworthy enough to make up your mind. So why not generate them yourself?

CLIOView, a chart-building tool within the African American Experience, lets you arrange and compare raw state data on a variety of topics, such as:

  • Number of voters in a given election
  • State population during a given time period
  • Population living below the poverty level
  • Marriage rates

and a lot more!

After clicking on the CLIOView tab, you’ll select which states you want to compare.

Screenshot of CLIOView tool, from The African American Experience.

Screenshot of CLIOView tool, from The African American Experience.

Next you’ll choose which data sets you want to work with. You can compare up to three categories in multiple states, so your search can be as simple or as complex as you like.

Screemshot, CLIOView tool, The African American Experience.

Screemshot, CLIOView tool, The African American Experience.

Once you’ve got your results, you can print them, organized by state or by category. If you need the data to look a little fancier, you can use the Graph tool to create a more attractive design. And if you’re curious about where the raw data comes from, you can click “Sources” to find out. Now your personal curiosity is satisfied, and you know where to go if you ever need those numbers for a presentation or report.

Obviously, using The African American Experience takes a little more of your time than a web search might. But if you’re at the end of your rope and the internet just isn’t delivering, the Library is here for you. Take The African American Experience for a test drive, or ask a librarian to give you a walk-through.

Where do you turn when the internet drives you bananas? Did you know this tool was part of the Library’s online collections? Anything you share will help us help you better, so give us the dirt on the ways you search!

–Leigh Anne


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