Tag Archives: databases

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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Looking for my Anatevka*

The Marketplace

The Marketplace, Vitebsk, 1917 by Marc Chagall
Click through for source

Many Jews emigrated from the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to escape persecution from the Russian government. The parents of both of my grandfathers (all Jews) came from the same town: Vitebsk in Belarus. My four great-grandparents left about the same time as one of the most famous artists in the world, Marc Chagall.


Over Vitebsk, 1913 by Marc Chagall
Click through for source

Chagall painted many scenes inspired by his home town. He wrote an autobiography titled My Life filled with his fond memories of Vitabsk. I could get a feel for what life was like for my great-grandparents looking through Chagall’s eyes.

I wanted to get a historical perspective of the region, so I consulted one of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s social science databases: World History in Context. There were quite a lot of results to read. The town was decimated in WWII. The Jewish population was wiped out in 1941 by the occupying Nazis in a way typical of that time. Modern day Vitebsk calls itself “The City of Chagall” and is a tourist destination with art and music festivals.

I was then drawn into CLP’s genealogy databases, where I spent hours and hours looking up my ancestors. One of the more interesting and surprising things I learned is that I have an ancestral connection to Pittsburgh that predates my move here from New York to attend college. My great-grandfather was an iron worker who lived in Homestead in 1916, where his youngest child was born. His family, which included my grandfather, moved back to New York City by the 1920 census.

I can trace my roots from Vitabsk to New York City to Pittsburgh, then back to New York City, then back to Pittsburgh!

Find out details of your personal history with the aid of the databases from the Carnegie Library. Most of the databases have remote access, so you can view them at home with a valid library card.


*Fiddler on the Roof – Anatevka 


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CLP Business Research Tools Have You Covered From A to Z

CLP now has you covered from A to Z when it comes to online business and company resources.  Twice.  That’s right, we now subscribe to two database products featuring the catchy name A to ZA to Z Databases and A to Z World Business.   Let’s first spend a moment on the latter product,  A to Z World Business.  Here’s the summary from our web site:

Gauge the risks and rewards of potential investments by using this resource to locate detailed country data on business and trade, current economic climate, statistical rankings, and taxation. Discover whether to kiss, bow, or shake hands during key cross-cultural negotiations. Import or export with confidence after securing detailed trade-compliance information. Find data from the best international organizations-Ernst & Young, The World Bank, World Trade Organization, and others.

If you travel for your business, or are looking to import or export goods, then this product will be worth a look.

If you’re familiar with our two longtime business search products Reference USA and Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database, then you’ll love A to Z Databases!  This exciting new company search product combines the higher download capacity of D&B with an easy to use search interface that allows you to access vital data on 47 million U.S. businesses, 220 million individuals, and 2.3 million available jobs.  The product also allows you to easily isolate lists of healthcare professionals (1.1 million included) and new businesses (2 million at the time of this posting).

Both of these products will appear in our Alphabetical Listing of databases from our Articles, Databases, & More link on the front page of the CLP site.  They’ll also show up in the appropriate Business & Investing sub-lists.   If you find yourself getting confused about which is which, just try to remember that A to Z World Business deals with international business stuff (think “world” = international) and A to Z Databases provides you comprehensive company and other listings (think “Databases” = companies).

Should you encounter any issues with using either of these products, or any other database, you can always Ask A Librarian, and we’ll get you sorted and searching in no time!


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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:

There is also a fee-based service that might be of some help:

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:

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


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In Your Own Backyard

Remember this one? “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, does make noise”?  There’s a library corollary to that; “If we invest in really great resources, and no one knows about them, are they really valuable?”

This question has probably been of concern to libraries for as long as there have been libraries.  If the concern was first about facilities and reference collections, today it’s about electronic resources and databases as well.  Do you really know what it is we have that can make your information seeking, your job search, and your student’s assignment that much easier?

Take a look at our Databases page to see, it’s pretty comprehensive.  We have the arts, business, technology, controversial issues, grants (but you need to use them in-house at the library,) genealogy and more.  Let’s start simple and work our way up a little.  This won’t be an all-inclusive journey but rather a sampling, a mezze platter if you will of quality reputable resources available to you gratis – because you have a library card from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  You can use all of them here, at the library, at your branch library, or you can use most of them on your own PC (or Mac,) wherever you happen to be (with your valid library card.)

For general history and ‘current’ events (when they were current) take a look at Readers’ Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 from HW Wilson.  If you’re at home, you’ll need your CLP library card number, and you will need to select Readers’ Guide Retrospective from the available choices.  You can search an event, place, or people across whatever time period they occupied during the 92 years this database covers.  It beats having to use the printed Reader’s Guide to search year by year by year.  Once you have the citation, the article may be available here on microfilm or in hard copy.  We also have the follow-on OmniFile Mega by Wilson that continues from 1982, and has full-text beginning in 1995.

Don’t forget MasterFILE Premier from Ebsco.  That’s the popular database that we had, lost when the State Library’s budget was reduced, and was picked up again this year by ACLA.  “MasterFile Premier contains full text for nearly 1,700 periodicals covering general reference, business, health, education, general science, multicultural issues and much more. This database also contains full text more than 500 reference books, over 107,000 primary source documents, and an Image Collection of over 510,000 photos, maps & flags.”

For unparalleled information about authors, writing, genres and literary periods, you can’t be without Gale’s Literature Criticism Online and Literary Resource Center. Literature Criticism Online is a massive work based on the Gale’s multi hundred volume print set available at Main Library.  LCO has more than 200,000 PDF essays and commentaries on literature from the Middle Ages to today, from Amos Oz to Herman Wouk.  Literary Resource Center borrows some materials from the Gale literature sets, but also has current web based analysis and reviews from contemporary sources such as the New Yorker, Harvard Review and even transcripts of “All Things Considered”.

Finally (for now,) there’s the Testing & Education Reference Center.  Need to prep for the LSAT, ASVAB or the GED?  This is the resource for you, online with test results.  You do need to register and sign-in, but that takes 20 seconds.

I’ve barely touched on what we have to offer, but these resources are revolutionary in their approach.  These tools are where you are; when you want them. You’re not restricted to where the print copies are (or if there are,) or to when we’re open.  And you don’t need to wait for the red headed kid who got there first to finish.

– Richard

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Research Databases Are No Trivial Thing

Last week, some library staff got together for a pub quiz.  We spend much of our work day helping you find information and we also like to spend our leisure time answering questions.

In previous years of the trivia contest, I’ve been a competitor, studying almanacs, atlases, encyclopedias and the books of Ken Jennings, beforehand.  This year, I helped create questions and fact-check for the quiz.

Did I use Wikipedia?  No.  Did I do random Google searches?  No.  Did I ask Yahoo Answers?  No.

A reputable source from days gone by. Much of this sort of information, old and new, is online now and the library is still the best way to get to it.

I used the library’s research databases because that is where accurate, reliable information resides.

Library databases contain information that you can’t access with Google or other search engines because it is proprietary and the publishers don’t make it freely available on the web.  This is where journal articles that are peer-reviewed can be found.  This is where specialty encyclopedias with expert, editorial oversight can be found.  This is where scholarship in almost any subject can be found.  This is where you can avoid personal rants and commercial sites.

Libraries pay for database subscriptions so you and I can freely get to quality information for serious research.  Or, sometimes, just for trivia.

— Tim

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Every Month Could Be Black History Month…

LAV has declared that 2010 is “The Year of the Database.”  This is the first in a series of posts about the extensive suite of electronic resources available to Carnegie Library cardholders.  We hope the resources explored in this series will enrich and enhance your library experience.

Did you know that your library card grants you an all-access, year-round pass to information about black history and culture?  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh users can read, print, or e-mail materials from The African American Experience, one of the many subscription databases we offer for your recreational and research needs.

Why a subscription database, you ask?  Good question.  The free web does have many credible resources, and it’s getting better all the time.  However, subscription databases contain information a Google search won’t turn up, written and published by companies with high standards for accuracy.  And when you’re trying to learn–especially when you’re pressed for time–do you really want to sacrifice quality for quantity?

Not that The African American Experience skimps on either aspect:  you could spend days browsing the subject headings, which include:

  • Arts and Media
  • Civil Rights
  • Children and Families
  • Literature
  • Religion and Spirituality
  • Slavery
  • War and Military Service
  • Women

The database also bundles information into monthly featured topics like “Jazz Music” and “The Great Migration.”  These spotlight bundles include slideshows, timelines, key works, and links to other resources, so that you can explore a new topic every month with ease.

Other treasures in The African American Experience include:

  • Audio samples of historical African American music
  • Interviews with key historical figures
  • More than 5,000 primary sources, including full-text speeches
  • 4,000+ WPA interviews with former slaves
  • Over 2,500 photographs, illustrations and maps
  • Lesson plans and classroom guides
  • A writing/research skills center for students

The very best part of The African American Experience is, however, the fact that you can use it from any computer that has internet access, provided you have your Carnegie Library card handy.  Whenever possible, we provide 24/7/365 access to our digital resources, so that even when the physical library is closed, you still have access to the very best information.

Think outside the month.  Take a look at The African American Experience and consider making 2010 your own personal Black History Year.

–Leigh Anne

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For the moment, my favorite database in the Library’s Collection is JSTOR, a repository of archival materials of 1000+ scholarly titles on music, humanities, social sciences, art, and science.  It is available for use at the CLP Oakland Library.

JSTOR’s focus is back-issues of titles which are unavailable in many public libraries because of varying demand as well as the ever-increasing costs of storage.  An important value of JSTOR is its provision of full-text articles which in one case dates to the 18th century; in contrast, other databases typically limit full-text provision to materials published after the mid-70s.

In its coverage of nearly 50 disciplines, JSTOR has been a source of information for topics both within and outside the margin of popular, mainstream discourse.  Its inclusion of fifteen titles covering the African American experience, for example, includes Alva Hudson’s comparison (Reading Achievements,  Interests, and Habits of Negro Women) of  the reading habits of poor, middle, and upper-class “Negro” women and is a cornerstone of contemporary studies of intersectionality. Other highlights are Emmett J. Scott’s compilations (Letters of Negro Migrants of 1916-1918, More Letters of Negro Migrants of 1916-1918) of letters to Southern Blacks from friends and family who had moved to the “greener pastures” of the North. More than a million African Americans relocated during the first part of the twentieth century, and few sources relay their hopes and courage and struggles as compellingly as these primary sources. JSTOR holdings supplement the Main Library’s current subscriptions to African-American related journals which include:

American Legacy

Black History Bulletin





Journal of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society


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Happy Winter Solstice

Greetings from Barichara, Santander, Colombia! Being so much closer to the equator, I didn’t get to experience the Winter Solstice yesterday. Here, sunrise and sunset are at the same time through out the year, give or take a half hour or so. And as much as I’m enjoying myself on my vacation, I get a little twinge about missing the shortest day of the year.

The Winter Solstice, and the Summer Solstice, too, are interesting subjects in that there are different ways to think about them, and so information about both is found in a variety of sources. From a scientific perspective, solstice is a term in astronomy that refers to the declination of the sun when at its farthest point north or south of the equator. I learned that by looking it up in Science Resource Center, one of the many databases we subscribe to that is accessible either in the library or from home with an Allegheny County library card. It contains the entire entry on solstices from the Gale Encyclopedia of Science, as well as other magazine and journal articles.

Checking in the library catalog, I found a book entitled Yule: A Celebration of Light & Warmth. This book has a call number that begins “GT,” which puts it in the area for “Manners and Customs.” Of course, that is where we find many books about holidays and celebrations, including the huge one currently looming.

What I am celebrating at Winter Solstice is the beginning of the slow lengthening of the days. I love the feeling that I can see one minute more of light each day until summer. If I were more ambitious, I would look in Medline Plus (a health database from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health) to explore just how important light is to the human body. As it is, I´m just going to go enjoy it for the rest of my vacation.



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Simon Winchester: a man who gives his books excessively long titles*

And yet, I enjoy them all the same. Here’s a rundown of the ones that I’ve read or listened to over the years.

This island no longer exists, alas.

Krakatoa: the Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 – The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Sure, it starts out slowly with some insanely dense geology lessons, but it all pays off when the volcano erupts, levelling the island of Krakatoa and killing nearly 40,000 people. There’s a lot of neat colonial and scientific history here, along with first-hand accounts of the eruption. Available as a book or book on CD.

(Oh, and here’s an amazing article about the eruption from The Atlantic, published in September of 1884!)

It looks like a head but it's really an arch.

The Man Who Loved China: the Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom – The tale of a British biologist, happily married and minding his own business in Cambridge, who falls hopelessly in love with a Chinese exchange student. He then starts to wonder why China seems so scientifically backward compared to the West, and sets out to unearth the history of science in China, cranking out a definitive encyclopedia in the process. Available as a book or book on CD.

book jacket

"The Map That Just Hung There" wasn't as good a title.

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology – Our hero, the son of a blacksmith (and thus decidedly not among the upper class scientific elite) notices the patterns in layers of rock throughout England and Wales, produces a lovely map, and is promptly ripped off by the Geological Society. But fear not; happy endings prevail. I’ll admit that I didn’t find this book nearly as interesting as the others, but that may be because I was listening to it while trying to repair opera CDs. Available as a book or OverDrive downloadable audio book.

book jacket

They really knew how to grow beards back then.

The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary – An American surgeon goes rather batty during the Civil War and offs an unfortunate bloke while vacationing in London. He’s put into Broadmoor for his crime, where he spends many many many years contributing to the illustrious OED. Contains one particular scene that may cause you to drive off the road if you’re listening in your car. Available as a book or book on CD.

(Did you know that the OED is now only available electronically? You can access it in the library. We have an old print version, too!)

Well, that should keep you keep you busy for a while. And if you need more, check out Simon Winchester’s website or look up his other books in our catalog.

Remember kids, learning can be fun!

– Amy, from the land of Film & Audio

* Neither Simon Winchester nor HarperCollins bribed me to write this post; I just like unusual histories. But if they’d care to stop by and say howdy or throw a little blog traffic our way, that would be fine with us. Really.


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