Tag Archives: e-Books

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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A Woman’s Prerogative

Ever since childhood, I’ve disliked change. Probably because I fear it.  So I cling to routines. I’m slow to win over and I’m reluctant to try new things, until I either first research a topic to death or circumstances force the issue. Then I’m at peace with it. This is most likely why I’m child-free and why only a job loss could prompt me to leave my beloved home state two years ago. But these life-changing decisions have turned out to be good for me in many ways.

But on a lighter note, I’ve also changed my mind about the following:

1. Vegetables. As a child and teenager, I hated, absolutely hated vegetables. Not even simply lettuce and tomato could tempt me to try them and my mother never forced the issue–it’s a wonder I didn’t get really sick! But upon approaching forty, disliking meat to the point of being repulsed by it, and concern about my poor family health history, I became a vegan. It has been five years and I’ve never looked back. And now I love, love, love vegetables–my mother still can’t believe it.

Home-grown mizuna greens! Author’s photo

2. Historical romance novels. I used to superiorly smirk and inwardly sigh in disbelief–shame on me!–when  asked for those books with the sexy covers. What could be worse for your brain than those books? Or so I thought. Then I started reading my fellow Eleventh Stack bloggers’ posts highlighting some romance novels they enjoyed and decided to just try it. Bite my tongue; I’m now hooked. At their very heart are some wonderfully well-written stories but there’s also a surprising amount of history–eighteenth and nineteenth century England which, as a Jane Austen student, I love. Plus it’s all happy endings and I’ve had enough angst-ridden books in my life and women’s book clubs for a lifetime.

Sherry Thomas is one of several excellent romance writers I’ve discovered.

3. E-books. I now see the appeal of e-books. I will always prefer the feel and look (and smell!) of print books but I have found that there are some titles available in e-book format that the library doesn’t own in print. I also very much like that nobody can see (that I’m aware of!) what I’m reading, have on hold, or checking out from the library.

My Nook e-reader (Author’s photo)

How about you? Are there things you like or do now that you never thought you would?



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A Bibliophile’s Challenge

Mark your calendars everybody. Synch up your Android or I-Phone, charge up the Ereader (or E-Reader), make sure the reading lamp works and double check the library card – the 2012 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Winter Read-a-Thon is almost here.

From Valentine’s Day to the Ides of March – February 14th to March 15th – you read and it counts.  It counts towards your enjoyment, edification and pleasure.  It counts if you read to your kids, sitting in your favorite chair or during the obligatory 30 minutes you need before falling asleep.  It even counts if you listen to a book in your plane, train or automobile.

What counts?  Reading counts, and only for the sake of reading.  This year’s Winter Read-a-Thon has a goal.  We, all of us participating, are going to finish 20,012 pages, and it doesn’t matter if they’re paper, digital or audio; they’re all tomes and they all count.  For convenience sake, attending a book discussion counts too, and even newspapers and magazines figure on the pagination abacus.  Now that I’ve revved you up, where are the details you ask.  Think of this as a sneak preview without the preview.  Details will be forthcoming but they’re not ready yet.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to prep for your winter’s perusing or need some ideas, here are a few easy to find tools to utilize.  We like most of them — we made most of them.

These lists are updated and added to regularly by our librarians and other staff.

  • New Fiction (There will be waiting lists for some of these.)  Take a look at some of the latest additions to our New and Featured Fiction collections! We check in new books nearly every day — check out the First Floor’s LibraryThing account where we log all of our newest arrivals!
  • Nonfiction Additional sub-lists of favorite subjects and genres.
Finally, if you’re skeptical of the tools used (and assembled) by the hoi-polloi, then we can always direct you to the New York Times Best Seller List – all 23 of them – from Paperback Trade Fiction all the way down to Political Books.

So stay tuned, keep coming back to our pages, or call us at 412 622-3114 and ask about the 2012 Winter Read-a-Thon.



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E-books: a love story

As you may have already heard, you can now check out library books on your Kindle!  This means that library e-books are now available on most mobile devices and readers.  Great news for those of you who are already e-book fans.  Prefer print books?  I do too, but as resistant as I was to the e-book craze at first, I’ve grown to love them.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. One word: vacation.  One of the hardest things about packing for me has always been narrowing down the books I’m going to take with me.  Invariably, I wind up being just in the mood for something that didn’t make the cut.  But I can check out ten e-books at a time from the library!  That’s a whole stack of books that I can stick in my carry on luggage.  Sweet. 
  2. (Mostly) instant gratification.  Although e-book popularity is growing steadily, sometimes a print copy of something that I really want to read isn’t on the shelf when I feel like reading it. I can often find it in e-book form, and even popular items that have holds on them often have a shorter hold list in e-book form.  Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine.
  3. An ever-growing list of available e-book titles.  I will admit, that at first I had some trouble finding books I felt like checking out in e-book format when there were so many more options in print.  Of course our print collection is still much larger, but the library is adding e-books to our holdings constantly, and the options are getting better all the time.  It’s been quite a while since I had trouble finding what I wanted.
  4. The portability!  This goes along with reason number one a little bit, but I’ve recently become completely immersed in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, and those books are big!  Too big for lugging around on public transportation, if you ask me.  Maybe I could work on my arm muscles, but instead I prefer carrying around a more portable version of those behemoths. 

I think I will always prefer print books– the feel, the smell, a good paperback tucked into a beach bag- but I’ve definitely come to appreciate a few of the finer points of e-books.  I don’t even feel like too much of a traitor to the printed word.  If you’re new to e-books, the library is a great place to learn more about how to use your e-reader, or find lots of books to check out.


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