Rewarding Resources: Lancaster County Historic Structure “Bible”

I caught an article on LancasterOnline (available here) that discusses a digitization project of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County.  One of there somewhat monumental books about historic structures in the county has been made freely available to the public.  Called Our present Past, it is organized by municipality and reasonably exhaustive.  So if you got questions about historic structures, it probably has answers.  You can access Our Present Past at http://opp.hptrust.org/nxtbooks/hptrust/presentpast/index.php.

Keith L Greenawalt, Reference Librarian/Public Services Manager

Rewarding Resources: Big Interview

I recently saw an article (click here to view) on a new state resource for job seekers.  It is called the Big Interview and it allows register users to practice interview questions.  While I have only used it very vaguely myself, it does look like it has a lot of promise. It can be tailored to find your level of experience, age, and even industry.

You do need to be registered with Keystone Job Gateway in order to use this service.  If you have ever registered with CareerLink, you are already set to go with JobGateway and can you your Keystone ID and password.  To access the Big Interview, go to the Keystone JobGateway (click here) and click on the Big Interview link on the lower right-hand side.

My only concern is the need for some slightly more advanced equipment in order to use some of the features.  I do not have a web cam here at my desk at the library, so I was not able to test drive all of the features.  I hope this isn’t a roadblock to anyone!

Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager

 

Rewarding Resources: Tax Information

Here is a bonus Rewarding Resources for February!  It’s a favorite topic of everyone: tax season.

Tax information can be found at the following places:

Federal tax information can be found at http://www.irs.gov.  The IRS provides a menu of ways to get help on tax subjects and they also have a good place to find all sorts of forms.

Pennsylvania tax information can be found at http://www.revenue.state.pa.us.  The state Department of Revenue has tax forms on its website, although it is more difficult to navigate than the IRS forms page.

Lancaster County tax information and forms can be found at http://www.lctcb.org.

If you haven’t heard of VITA Lancaster, check out their website at www.FreeTaxPrepLancaster.org.  VITA, a project of the United Way of Lancaster County, offers free tax preparation to those who meet income guidelines.  In 2014, VITA is at the Ephrata Public Library on Monday, Friday, and Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings.  Call 717-291-5462 or 2-1-1 for more information or to schedule an appointment for an in-person tax preparation at one of their many sites, including the library.

There are goodies at their website, too.  These include a free place to file your taxes online if you meet income guidelines!

Keith L Greenawalt

 

Rewarding Resources: Business Resources

As you may or may not be aware, the Library System of Lancaster County has controversially elected to shutter its business program in order to redirect those funds to other areas of need (Do note that the Duke Street Business Center, a unit of the Lancaster Public Library, is not closing).  In terms of online resources, all of the business database subscriptions that are funded by the Library System will not be renewed unless another funding source can be found. Access to those databases will cease in the next few months, at different times depending on the specific databases.  Some subscriptions have already expired.

While the cancellation of the databases represents a very large loss, the Ephrata Public Library and the other member libraries that compose the Library System still have resources available to assist businesses:

1) First and foremost, we have trained librarians to help you with your information needs!

2) We still have our print and audiobook collections with materials on all aspects of starting and running a business.

3) The Ephrata Public Library still provides access to some online tools that have business applications

-Universal Class has online courses to increase your opportunities for lifelong learning.

-Mango Languages is an online language learning tool to help you master a foreign tongue!

-Zinio provides access to digital magazines on your computer or mobile device, including some business publications like Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

5) We have electronic  resources available through POWER Library, including Business Source Main Edition, which has general interest and business publications, including some company profiles.

6) We also have full-text access to the Lancaster Newspapers, dating as far back as the middle 1990s, through a ProQuest database.

7) Lastly, we have access to downloadable e-books and e-audiobooks through Overdrive.  There are currently 64 ebooks and 55 audiobooks in the “Business and Careers” category.

As you can see, Lancaster County public libraries still have a lot to offer!

If you have any questions regarding these resources, feel free to look me up at the library!

Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager/Reference Librarian

(717) 738-9291 ex 102 or kgreenawalt@ephratapubliclibrary.org

Rewarding Resources: Digital Public Library of America

I recently read about digital initiative called the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) that apparently launched in April of 2013.  The DPLA is an attempt to bring together some of the vast digital resources that already exist.  It seeks to open access to information.  It is a new attempt on what, at least to me, is an old concept.  The Internet Public Library, GoogleBooks, Project Guttenburg and The Internet Archive all have similar missions, albeit with slightly different ways of doing things.  The DPLA has the backing and/or funding from some major players in the library world: IMLS, NEH, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The DPLA will use existing state and regional digital libraries, along with major research and cultural institutions, to provide one single access point.  According to the DPLA, it is not a search engine, but a portal to these various and diverse collections.  Sounds ok to me.  Some of the more recognizable hubs and partners include the National Archives, Smithsonian, NYPL, and HathiTrust.

It is not without its critics.  There are still issues of content and copyright and of duplication of resources with some of its similar projects.  Yet, the DPLA is worth a look, if nothing else.  On a practical level it will not include James Patterson or Danielle Steele, so to a great deal of people it instantly has no interest.  But for those interested in easier access to information that is available,  Much of what is there is in the public domain, but with around 5 million records there is something for everyone.

DPLA will never be able to reach ever library and cultural institutions digital resources.  On some level we will always have to look for some information under every rock and in every nook and cranny.  It’s a start.  I am cautiously optimistic.

Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager

DPLA

Rewarding Resources: PA Library History

This is a site I just had to pass along.  It’s not so much a resource of the type I have reviewed before, but it is a blog about the history of libraries in the Commonwealth.  Pennsylvania libraries have a unique history.  For starters, Philadelphia was the home of the first “public” library in America, a subscription library founded in 1731. Further, in what can be argued is one of the most famous acts of charity in history, Pittsburgh’s own Andrew Carnegie spent a good portion of his wealth building public libraries, including 58 in Pennsylvania.

Bernadette Lear, a librarian at Penn State Harrisburg, has put together a blog that chronicles her research into Pennsylvania library history.  I suggest you give it a look.

Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager

Rewarding Resources: Literature-Map.com

I recently ran across a column on LancasterOnline (Read the column here) about a website called Literature-Map.com.  Literature-Map.com allows you to find author read-a-likes, but in a visual format.  All you need to do is enter an author’s name into the word box on the homepage and you will be given a map of similar authors.  Literature-Map.com results look sort of like a word cloud, but instead of the size of the word it is the distance from the original entered authors name that denoted how similar they are.  You can click on any authors name and it will take you to that author’s map.

Literature-Map.com is an excellent resource for those looking for new authors.  My only criticism is that it does not give you any information about the author beyond the map.  This can be easily rectified by using sites like Shelfari, FantasticFiction, or GoodReads.

Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager

(Below is the homepage and a author map for James Patterson)

Literature-Map

Literature-Map2

 

Rewarding Resources: National Library of Medicine Resources

Health and medical information is I would think that finding decent health information online would be something that most people can do without much trouble.  I think my eyes were opened a little bit when I was visiting a family member at a local hospital.  That family member as a question of her nurse.  I watched the nurse proceed to answer the question with information from Wikipedia of all places.  Here was a medical professional answering a medical question of a patient with Wikipedia.  That patient should expect better answers than an encyclopedia anyone can edit.  This is not only unacceptable, in the right circumstances this could be downright dangerous.

There are certain sets of information you want to be 100% accurate and correct.  Health information is one of those!

I recently sat through an excellent program at the annual Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) convention on public health information and supporting healthy communities that was presented by Lydia Collins of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the National Networks of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM MAR).  She shared some excellent resources that I will in turn share with you.

The following is a list of resources from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.  All are paid for by your tax dollars and reflect the best information available for subject experts.

Medlineplus.gov - This is the best single medical reference site available today.  It has information on many medical conditions and treatments, including drugs and supplements.

PubMed Health - This is the next step up from MedLinePlus.  It has more advanced and technical data on diseases and medical issues, but it still readable and accessible to the general public.

NLM Drug Info Portal - This is a stand alone website devoted to drugs and medications.

PillBox Beta - This site allows you to identify medications based on their appearance.  Find some pills that you aren’t sure about?  Use this!

ClinicalTrials.gov - This is a database of clinical trials on human subject taking place around the world.  It can tell you about the latest in medical research going on now.

NIHSeniorHealth.gov - This is a site devoted entirely to senior health.

Household Product Database - This site has information common household products and their safety warnings.  It also has first aid information to treat incorrect usage of the products.

National Network of Libraries of Medicine Mid-Atlantic Region - NNLM MAR is based at the University of Pittsburgh.

I will also mention that I also use WebMD.com fairly extensively and it is very good as well.  Keep in mind that it is a commercial site and is ad supported.

I will also throw in a shameless plug for the Healthy Lancaster County, a project of the Library System of Lancaster County and several regional health partners.

If you have any questions regarding these resources, please feel free to contact me at the library!

Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager 

Rewarding Resources: The NEW POWERLibrary

Pennsylvania has provided its citizens, through its public libraries, with a suite of databases and other electronic resources for more than a decade now.  As time has evolved, resources within these databases have come and gone, as have many of the databases themselves.  In the past couple of years, other services have been added to this arena of electronic information, such as an archive of digitized documents, newspapers, and photos and a 24/7 virtual reference service were you can get help online from an actual living breathing librarian (I should know, I used to be one of those living breathing librarians while working for another library).  I would also be a terrible librarian if I forgot the state-wide interlibrary loan service and its statewide library catalog.  Those are important too!

So you had these resources with names like AccessPA and  POWER Library and AskHerePA.  They were all vaguely tied together, but they always seemed kind of separate.  Not anymore.

Within the last week, the Commonwealth rolled out a sleek and modern looking new central hub for all of its virtual library services.  Welcome to the new and greatly improved POWERLibrary.org!  POWER Library is the new name for all of these services, now housed in one easy to use place.

All of your main functions of POWER Library can be accessed straight from this portal.  You can find the state-wide library catalog, the digital archive containing virtual items from institutions all over the state, the databases (now called e-resources), and the 24/7 librarian chat feature.  It’s much easier to use and really looks sharp.  I particularly like the use of the the quintessential Pennsylvanian, Ben Franklin, as the new figurehead!

If you have questions or need help with any features, you can reach me at kgreenawalt@ephratapubliclibrary.org.

Take a look.  I think you find this resource rewarding!

Keith L Greenawalt, Public Services Manager

Rewarding Resources: Evaluating Internet Sources

I taught a class this morning that I occasionally offer here at the library on accuracy of information on the Internet.  Evaluating Internet Sources is intended to give some tips to help Internet browsers determine what is and what is not good info.  The following is the handout I use in teaching that class.

If you have questions you can always seek me out at the library.

Keith L Greenawalt

Public Services Manager 

Evaluating Internet Sources:

What’s the Problem?

The Internet is a great source of information, but not all of it is accurate.  There are a number of reasons for this.  It requires little skill or resources to publish online, meaning nearly anyone can say anything on the Internet.  It’s easy to push a particular point of view, often anonymously.  Information online can be out of date as well.  There is a lot of information out there and it can be difficult to sort out the good from the bad.  

Tips: How Do I Know I am Getting Good Information?

It is fairly easy to find information online, whether you went to a website there directly, were linked there through another website, or found it through a search engine.  The following tips are intended to help you determine whether information is credible or not.  Unfortunately, none of the following tips are absolute truths.  You are going to need to rely on your own common sense to determine the value of information.

Domain Names – The main part of a web address is called the domain name.  These can be used to gauge accuracy.  Look at the ending of the domain name.  You can learn a lot just from this.

Ending

Type

Example

.edu

Educational

http://www.millersville.edu

Millersville University

.gov

Government

http://www.pa.gov

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

.org

Organization

http://www.ephratapubliclibrary.org

Ephrata Public Library

.com

Commercial

http://www.google.com

Google search engine

Domain names ending in .com is the most common domain name and are the least likely to provide accurate information.  There is a lot of crossover between these types of domain names, for example the Borough of Ephrata’s web address is http://www.ephrataboro.org.

User Names – Many companies will provide space for, or host, others’ websites.  These websites will have the domain name of the hosting site, followed by a user name: http://www.domainname.com/username.  If a website is hosted at a site like yahoo.com or google.com it should be looked at carefully.

Currency – Information that is out of date can be dangerous.  Does the website indicate when the information was published or place on the Internet?

Authors – Does the website list an author?  Are those authors credentials listed?  Are they an expert, either through education or experience, in the field they are writing on?

Purpose – Ask yourself why this information was put online.  Who put it online and why do they want you to look at it?  Do they have a purpose for putting that information online?

Special Cases

Wikis – Wikis are user created websites that allow contributions from a large group of people.  The foremost example of this is Wikipedia.org, an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. 

Blogs – Blogs, is short for weblog, allows authors, or bloggers, to easily post opinions and other information online.

Search Engines – Search engines rank results using different formulas.  Some websites are designed to appear at the top of any list of search results.  Search engines also post advertiser websites around search results.