Author Archives: virtuallexicon

U. S. Census Fact Finder

The U. S. Census Bureau has an awesome website for getting census statistics. It is American Fact Finder. It is especially great at organizing statistics about a place. Enter a state, county, city, town, or zip code in the search box, and then select one of the following:

2010 Census

2016 American Community Survey

2017 Population Estimates Program

Census 2000

If you need more information, try their guided search.

The website is

Mary Lee Hart, Northland



Research with Ancestry Library Edition

ancestry family tree

Ancestry Library Edition is a powerful tool in our libraries – it opens up a world of records to patrons doing genealogy research and gives us an opportunity to provide a valuable resource and great customer service.

Ancestry Library Edition affords access to billions of historical documents and millions of historical photos.  There are local narratives, oral histories, indexes and other resources in over 30,000 databases that span from the 1500s to the 2000s to library patrons.

Patrons working on their family tree can search Census, Birth-Marriage-Death, Military Records and Immigration-Travel records.  They can do basic and advanced searches, create limiters using family members or life events, exact name matching, search using keywords, gender, race, and so much more.

Although patrons must access Ancestry Library from inside the library, it is very easy for patrons to use and it’s free!   It has an intuitive search interface, detailed search indexes and helpful tools.

CaptureAnother great way to use Ancestry Library – you can recommend it to non-fiction book club patrons reading about historical events or people.  They can use Ancestry Library to learn more about real-life characters and locations from historical and genealogical records.

For in-depth help, ProQuest offers a Libguide on using Ancestry Library Edition.  It provides broad help topics such as:  quick tips, content categories, search tips, sample searches, research tools and lots more.  This is an extremely useful resource for both staff and patrons.

Don’t hesitate to recommend Ancestry Library Edition – it is a comprehensive genealogy resource that we offer to our patrons for free, and it is easy to use.

Lisa DeLucia, Upper St. Clair Twp. Library


World History in Context

Are you a history buff?  Do you have to do a project about an historic event, notable figure, or era in history?  World History in Context is your go-to hub for the best information on historic topics.  You can search for a specific topic, or you can browse all the topics World History in Context has to offer.  (This screenshot shows only part of the list.)

World History in Context 1

I clicked on the link for the Irish Potato Famine to learn more about an event that was the catalyst for some of my ancestors to immigrate to the United States.

Irish Potato Famine 1

The entry provides a brief overview of the Irish Potato Famine, and the “Read More” button takes you to a timeline of other events that took place during the same era.  There are also links to primary source documents, and full text journal articles.  Thanks to this database, I have learned more about the Irish Potato Famine.  No matter what historic event you need information about, World History in Context can provide you with thorough, reliable information.

Kate Straccia, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main

Semantic Search: Talk to Books

Google introduced a demo version of a new semantic search tool: Talk to Books.

TtB is not a traditional search engine in that keyword searching won’t return the best results. It’s better served to type out a whole question (harkening back to Ask Jeeves days!).

The results are culled from the large e-library of Google Books and the results page is easy to take in with its quote pull-outs and cover images.

As it exists, Talk to Books is not a major stop on a research journey–these results pull from all sorts of sources, not taking into account their scholarly nature or whether information is up-to-date.

It is, however, a novelty that presents a new way to interact with searching and finding books outside what you would normally come across. One of the sample search queries is “Why did you do that?,” for example.

Talk to Books is also primed for experimentation. Changing up your search style will bring up a wholly different set of results.



As this resource grows and more semantic-style search tools are developed, the way we interact with our searches (in this case, primary sources) will change for the better.



South Park

Difficult device? Overdrive can help!

Recently I taught a training on using difficult devices with Overdrive: the GOOD (Android and iOS devices), the BAD (Kindle Fire & Nook HD), and the UGLY (Nook Color, Nook Black & White, and MP3 players). If you missed it, or if you need to brush up the next time someone comes to the library with one of these more difficult devices, or if you have one yourself – Overdrive Help Pages are here to the rescue! Start at their “Device Profile” page and go from there for constantly updated, step-by-step instructions for accessing Overdrive (and Libby, if available) on a wide variety of devices.

Image result for overdrive device profiles

Heather Auman
Western Allegheny Community Library

Royal Wedding Fever

Excited about the upcoming Royal Wedding – here are some fun Hoopla videos to watch and get ready for the festivities. Click on the photos to be directed to the site.


English Royalty:  A Guide for the Rest of Us


Harry and Meghan

William And Kate









The Last Royals


The Majestic Life of Queen Elizabeth II

Just never got started with OverDrive?

Why not try it now?

While diving in and just plain using OverDrive yourself to request, borrow, read, and return items is probably the best way to learn it, there are free webcasts available that can help to introduce you to it and/or Libby:

There are several tabs for different subjects — some are upcoming live webcasts, but most are recorded and can be viewed at any time.  The webcasts generally range from 10 to 30 minutes.

If you’re new to OverDrive, you can safely skip anything about Marketplace — it’s basically the store where libraries (or consortia) purchase titles for patrons to borrow.

Christy @ McKeesport