Monday, September 28, 2009

You Could Even Say It Glows

It may only be September, but one of our more recent reference questions gave us a hankering for hot chocolate and stop-motion animated TV specials!

On Saturday afternoon, a patron asked us if we could provide her with some information about the history of the popular Christmas song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." After fine-tuning our search strategy within our online catalog, we zeroed in on a book that looked like the perfect resource: Ace Collins' Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas. In it, a small section devoted to the history behind everyone's favorite rosy-nosed ruminant mammal comprises the book's 24th chapter.

Thankfully, the item was checked in on our shelves and we, along with our patron, were able to take a gander at the quality of its contents. We were pleased to find that not only was the book helpfully informative, but it was entertaining to boot! According to Collins' work, Bob May, an advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward, was the man behind the famous Christmas tune. In 1938, May was struggling to provide for his cancer-stricken wife, Evelyn, and small daughter, Barbara. When his daughter climbed up into his lap one night after visiting Evelyn in the hospital and asked "Why isn't my mommy just like everybody else's mommy?," May was inspired to find a creative way to comfort his daughter and reassure her that being different wasn't always a bad thing.

May used his copywriting magic to create the tale of Rudolph, a reindeer with a large red nose who often felt out of place because of his unique appearance. The story turned out to be a hit with Barbara and its retelling became a nightly ritual within the May family's household, with the plot and characters becoming more elaborate with each evening's recount. Since he was unable to afford an expensive Christmas gift for Barbara that year, May crafted his story into a homemade book for the little girl and presented it to her on Christmas morning in 1938. Barbara was expectedly delighted, and it wasn't long before May's co-workers found out about his heartwarming creation. They encouraged him to share the story at a Montgomery Ward holiday party, which attracted the attention of the head of the company. The generous CEO bought the rights to May's homemade book and had tens of thousands of its copies printed and shipped to Wards stories across the nation just in time for the 1939 holiday season. By 1946, the store had given away six million copies of May's Rudolph, and every major publishing house in the country was clamoring for a chance to print a new version of the story. The rights were given back to May, who had since remarried after Evelyn's passing, and the struggling copywriter experienced a tremendous amount of wealth after the book's mass-market release that year.

Rudolph became an instant best seller, inspiring dozens of toy and product deals shortly after its commercial release. It wasn't long afterwards that May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, who had written music for a handful of major recording stars during that time, suggested that the story be turned into a song. After Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, and a few other popular artists passed on the demo that Marks eventually created, Gene Autry, who was looking for a follow-up tune to his earlier Christmas hit, "Here Comes Santa Claus," finally gave the song a chance. At the urging of his wife, Autry recorded the song for Columbia Records in 1949 and the rest, as they say, is history. Gene Autry's version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" became the second best-selling Christmas song of all time, just behind "White Christmas."

In the immortal words of Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story!

Monday, September 14, 2009

You Say Crostata di Ricotta, I Say Cheesecake

...and we're back!

We apologize for the delay, loyal readers (all three of you!). What with the furlough we experienced in mid-August and the back-to-school rush that has kept our Reference Department hopping for the last three weeks, we haven't had much time for blogging. But we're back, and we'll continue to provide you with the quirkiest and/or interesting and/or interestingly quirky reference questions our patrons bring to us. We promise.

Today's post comes courtesy of a culinary-inclined gentleman who approached our desk over the weekend. He told us that he needed the recipe for Joyce Goldstein's Italian cheesecake which was, as he explained, available online. Could we track it down for him, he asked?

Track down a cheesecake recipe on the Internet? No problemo, we thought. With sites like Recipezaar,, and AllRecipes reigning over the Interwebs, surely Ms. Goldstein's recipe would be documented somewhere.

But alas, our confident searching slowed to a snail's pace when we discovered that the ingredients for this scrumptious dish were nowhere to be found. Sure, we found references to it on BigOven and But the recipe itself was never listed.

So we searched. And searched. And searched a little more. We tried different search terms, strategies, and sources, but the elusive cheesecake recipe (which was starting to sound more and more delicious by the second) seemed just beyond our reach.

It was after we began to peruse a course schedule from the Oregon-based In Good Taste Cooking School that we started to sense some progress. Apparently, Ms. Goldstein taught a cooking class called "Italian Slow and Savory" at the In Good Taste Cooking School back in 2004, and guess what was on her menu? You guessed it! Only instead of calling it "Italian cheesecake," it was called crostata di ricotta. No wonder we were coming up empty: we weren't using the right search terms to conduct our research.

Within just a minute or two, we found the recipe -- in its original form! Thanks to the ever-helpful GoogleBooks, we were able to print out the authentic recipe for crostata di ricotta* and even placed a hold on the cookbook in which it originally appeared (Cucina Ebraica, available via SearchOHIO) for the kind gentleman who was so eager to bake this delicious dish.

This reference transaction was a humbling reminder that we're only as effective as our search strategies. Google may seem all-knowing and all-powerful, but yes, it has its limits. That's where your librarian steps in!


...who's in the mood for some cheesecake?

* ETA: While we had no problems accessing the recipe in its entirety over the weekend, Google Books is now only allowing us to view page 189; the ingredients for crostata di ricotta, however, appear on pages 188-189.

We're currently searching for a solution to this problem. In the meantime, if you're interested in ordering Cucina Ebraica, click here!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Awesomely Twangy?

Seems like our patrons just can't get enough of their country music trivia these days! Hot on the heels of last week's Conway Twitty query was a reference question about the good ol' Statler Brothers. But not just the Statler Brothers. No, our patron wanted to know the name of Harold Reid's (the bass singer's) mother.


Where does one search for this type of information, you ask? That's what we were asking ourselves as we racked our brain for possible resources. Since Harold Reid's mother isn't really considered a celebrity, the likelihood of finding her name in connection to her famous son's band was slim. Perhaps her name would be included in an album's liner notes, but even if Harold wanted to thank his mama for her love and inspiration, it's doubtful that he'd use her first and last name to correspond with his words of gratitude.


After doing a little extra digging, we found that Harold Reid's brother, Don S. Reid, was also a member of the Statler Brothers. (Wonder why the band wasn't called the Reid Brothers?) Both brothers are listed to be in their mid-60s (thanks, IMDB!), so we began to wonder if Mama Reid was still alive. If she wasn't, there was likely an obituary floating around out there that confirmed her first and last name along with her connection to Harold and Don Reid.

Off to we went. A really helpful feature there is their advanced search of the United States Obituary Collection, where you can conduct searches using a deceased person's survivors' names. Since we knew Harold and Don's names, and since we knew that the Reids were natives of Virginia, we plugged that information into the engine.

Sure enough, after scanning a few pages of search results (ten, to be exact), we found her! Frances Craun Reid Shiflett, aged 92, of Staunton, Virginia (home of Harold and Don Reid) passed away on May 23, 2004. Harold and Don's names are listed in the obituary along with a lovely tribute to their mother's life and family.

(And no, this particular Frances Reid is not to be confused with the Frances Reid of Days of Our Lives!)

Another completed reference question in the books! Please excuse us while we prepare for our next shift at the Reference Desk by reading biographies about Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hello, Darlin'...

Yes, we really do get asked about everything here at the Reference Desk. And when we say everything, we really do mean...well, everything.

Including whether Conway Twitty was cremated or buried.

One of our patrons must have allowed her morbid curiosity to get the best of her yesterday when she decided to enlist in our Reference Department's investigative services. And thankfully, we didn't have to look far for some details surrounding this country crooner's final resting place.

First, we turned to the rarely used but always helpful FindAGrave website, which (seriously) houses a database containing photographs of thousands of famous gravesites around the world (yes, we mean it). After doing a grave search there, we were pleased (and intrigued) to find a grave record for the man in question. It turns out that Conway Twitty, also known as Harold Lloyd Jenkins (who knew?), passed away on June 5, 1993, and is buried at Sumner Memorial Park in Gallatin, Tennessee. Pictures of the gravesite are included. (You can take our word for it if you'd like.)


We really do get asked about everything around here!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eye of the Tiger, Anyone?

Not all reference questions have to revolve around "serious" topics like genealogy, local history, or nuclear physics*.

No, sometimes we receive questions that are actually pretty entertaining. Today, for instance, one of our regular patrons strolled up to the Reference Desk, greeted us with her typical grin, and told us she wanted, and we quote, "Michelle Obama arms."

Without missing a beat, we directed her to the section of our nonfiction area devoted to health and fitness (for all of you Dewey enthusiasts, that would be the 613s) and quickly found Sculpting Her Body Perfect by Brad Schoenfeld. It was the perfect fit for our patron, who does not own a DVD player and was thus unable to take advantage of our great selection of fitness-related DVDs. To supplement her book, we were surprised to find a plethora of online articles dedicated to copying Mrs. Obama's biceps: Fitness magazine, Woman's Day, and even CNN all provided readers with step-by-step workout plans to emulate the First Lady's physique.

Whatever the motivation, we're happy to help our patrons find materials that will contribute to their health and fitness goals. Keep pumping that iron!

(Or at least listening to the soundtrack to Rocky!)

*Just kidding on the nuclear physics; we haven't received those types of questions...yet!

Monday, July 13, 2009

With Two Cats in the Yard...

A patron wandered into our Reference Department today and asked us if we could give her a little bit of information about the house in which she's currently living. While we initially jumped at the opportunity to tell her a bit about our fantastic genealogy services and our house history classes offered every few months, we quickly learned that she wasn't interested in learning about whether or not her house could be haunted. No, she needed information that was much more straightforward and much easier to retrieve: its current value!

In a flash, we directed her to the Stark County Auditor's website; from there, we guided her to the real estate search and then simply plugged her address information into the site's search engine. Within seconds, we were given the land value, the building value, and the total value of her house as of 2006.

Did you know that valuable resources like this one were hidden away in the shadows of your Google searches? Your librarians do -- and we're happy to help you find them!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Super Sleuth!

After all of the books have been turned upside down, after all of the websites have been carefully explored, and after all of the other viable research options have been probed to no avail, librarians have to sometimes travel even farther down the Road of Resourcefulness to find an answer to a tricky reference question. Somewhere near the intersection of At Wit's End Boulevard and Lightbulb Moment Avenue is a little alleyway we like to call Inference Lane. And we just got back from a short journey!

A few weeks ago, the fabulous Margy Vogt visited our Reference Department with an old Washington High School class photograph (not unlike this one) she was considering using in her upcoming book. The only problem? The picture was undated. Would it be possible, she asked, for us to track down an approximate year?

One of our reference assistants, Teressa, handled the query like a true detective. From simply looking at the picture itself, she reasoned that the styles of hair and clothing worn by the students in the photo dated to the 1920s or 1930s. When Teressa began hunting through the MPL's collection of old WHS yearbooks in an attempt to match Margy's photo with one that was published in a yearbook, she discovered a gap in our archives: a yearbook for 1932 did not exist. Hmm. What would cause such an omission, she wondered?

It didn't take long to put two and two together. The Great Depression, of course, was in full swing by the time 1932 rolled around, and it was likely that WHS could not afford to publish a yearbook. Not wanting to deprive its students from a simple class photo, the administrators probably arranged for a photographer to visit the high school and snap a few group shots to distribute to the students. While Margy's photograph never made it into an actual yearbook, it was, in fact, an official WHS class photo. Teressa verified this by checking class pictures in the 1931 and 1933 yearbooks and matching up the teenagers to the ones present in the mystery picture. Sure enough, they matched, and the elusive puzzle piece finally dropped into place.

Kudos to Teressa for cracking this case and for proving, once again, that reference librarians are a force to be reckoned with!

Monday, July 6, 2009

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True...

We've all seen them before, whether they're in the form of a flashing banner at the top of our favorite website or in a piece of junk email that somehow escapes the filter of our inbox. "Make money the easy way!" the ads proclaim. "Fill out surveys online and earn big bucks!"

And while most of us have dismissed the exclamatory promises of easy money along with the likes of Matthew Lesko, one of our patrons approached the Reference Desk and wanted to learn, for once and for all: are any of these companies -- or their offers -- legitimate?

After perusing a few helpful online articles devoted to consumer protection against Internet scams, our answer to the above question is: probably not. If it sounds too good to be true... well, you know the rest.

While we wish we had more encouraging news for our patron, we tried to accentuate the positive by directing them to helpful reports like "Get Paid to Read This Column!" from the Consumer Reports' WebWatch organization, "A Smart Job Search Is a Safe Job Search" by the folks at, and "Internet Crime Prevention Tips" from the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Reading these articles won't guarantee you fast money, but taking a gander will increase your awareness about Internet scams, so they'll prove their value in the long run.

The economic climate seems impossible right now, we know. But try to keep the faith and look out for yourselves!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Find Your Rep!

If our gratitude could be expressed in a mathematical equation, it would definitely include the symbol for infinity!

In other words, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU one zillion times over for your fantastic support in reponse to Governor Strickland's proposal to drastically cut the Public Library Fund. We love serving you and we hope to continue to serve you with the same levels of quality and consistency that you've grown to expect from our library.

Today, one of our Super Patrons was in the middle of writing a letter to her local legislators in support of public libraries and called our Reference Desk with a question that I'm sure has popped up in a few Ohioans' minds over the last few weeks.

The question?

How do I know for sure who my State Representative is? Especially for you folks who live on the edge of municipalities, sometimes it's difficult to discern just who you should contact when you want to make your voice heard. The Ohio House of Representatives has a nifty tool on their website that allows you to do a search for your Rep by your zip code. Simply log onto the House website and in the right-hand side of the screen, under "Quick Member Search," enter your zip code (+4), select "search," and voila! Your very own State Representative will greet you on the next screen with all the information you could ever want or need.

Again, thank you for your wonderful support, encouragement, strength, and hope. We can do this!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Save Ohio Libraries!

Emergency call to action!

The state legislature is working to finalize Ohio's next biennium budget by June 30.

At a news conference on Friday, June 19, the Governor proposed a cut to state funding for public libraries of $227.3 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 as part of his plan to fill the $3.2 billion gap in the budget that must be balanced by the Ohio General Assembly's Conference Committee by June 30. This will mean a more than 50% cut in funding for many of Ohio's public libraries. Libraries could close or face significant reductions in operations as a result of the Governor's proposal. This cut is in addition to the 20% reduction in funding that libraries are already facing, because their funding comes from 2.22% of the state’s declining General Revenue Fund.

With some 70% of the state's 251 public libraries relying solely on state funding to fund their operations, the reduction in funding will mean that many will close branches or drastically reduce hours and services.

The Governor's proposed funding cuts come at a time when Ohio's public libraries are experiencing unprecedented increases in demands for services. In every community throughout the state, Ohioans are turning to their public library for free high speed Internet access and help with employment searches, children and teens are beginning summer reading programs, and people of all ages are turning to the library as a lifeline during these difficult economic times. Ohio's public libraries offer CRITICAL services to those looking for jobs and operating small businesses. Public libraries are an integral part of education, which Governor Strickland says is critical to the state's economic recovery. But it is unlikely that many of Ohio's public library systems, especially those without local levies, can remain open with these proposed cuts.

About 30% of Ohio's public libraries have local property tax levies that supplement the state's funding. However, with the Governor's proposed drastic cuts in the state funding for libraries, even those libraries will face decisions regarding substantial reductions in hours of operation, materials, and staffing.


Contact your legislators!

Let your state legislators and the governor know what your library means to you!

Massillon-area residents can call or email below to contact their elected officials:

  • Governor Ted Strickland

Phone: 614-466-3555

Contact online:

  • Senator Bill Harris, President of the Senate

Phone: 614-466-8086


  • Senator John Carey, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee

Phone: 614-466-8156


  • Senator J. Kirk Schuring, 29th District

Phone: 614-466-0626


  • Representative Armond Budish, Speaker of the House

Phone: 614-466-5441


  • Representative Vernon Sykes, Chairman of the House Finance Committee

Phone: 614-466-3100


  • Representative Todd Snitchler, 50th District (Brewster, Navarre)

Phone: 614-466-9078


  • Representative W. Scott Oelslager, 51st District (Massillon/Jackson)

Phone: 614-466-2473


  • Representative Stephen Slesnick, 52nd District (Canton)

Phone: 614-466-8030


Spread the word!

After contacting your legislators, help us spread the word to your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Here are some suggestions:

  • Update your Facebook or Twitter status to read:
    _____ contacted my elected officials to help save Ohio libraries and you should too. Find out more:

  • Send an email to your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues:
"Ohio libraries are in jeopardy. I contacted the governor and my legislators to let them know what my library means to me. Find out how you can help, too:"
For more information, please visit:

Save Ohio Libraries

OLC News: Governor's Budget Proposal Cuts the PLF by 50%

Governor's Proposed Budget Framework

(Special thanks to Sherie Brown, Head of Reference Services at the Massillon Public Library, for organizing and composing the information provided in this posting!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Just Like Heaven

Most of you have probably used the phrase "in seventh heaven" when describing one of your life's particularly happy moments. You might have even watched an episode of the television variety on the WB back in the late '90s. But did you ever wonder about an eighth heaven? How about a ninth? Do these celestial spheres even exist in religious belief systems?

That's exactly what one of our patrons asked us last week. The night before, she had experienced a vivid dream that ended with a deep voice bellowing, "you have reached the ninth level of heaven." Unable to shrug off the glaring details of her slumber vision, she approached our desk for help. Essentially, she wanted to know if a ninth level of heaven was ever mentioned in religious history or if the phrase only existed in her dream.

We immediately began scanning dream dictionaries, celestial guides, and various materials dedicated to Judaism (from which the term "seventh heaven" is derived) and world religions for any mention of a hierarchy of heavenly spheres, particularly a ninth heaven. Coming up empty-handed after a solid twenty minutes of searching, we turned to the Internet and tried our luck with the sometimes valuable/sometimes unreliable force of Wikipedia.

In its entry for heaven, Wikipedia includes a reference to Tuamotus, a Polynesian chief who, in 1869, penned an illustration of the universe according to his culture's system of beliefs. In the drawing were nine spheres of heaven, each linked to a stage of the earth's evolution. This definitely looked promising to our weary eyes!

After printing out a copy of Tuamotus' work of art, we probed the Polynesian religion a bit more for answers. The illustration we found was a great starting point, but it proved somewhat futile until we found a bit more information about its origins and for what certain symbols stood. After a bit more digging, we discovered that the Journal of the Polynesian Society devoted an entire article to an explanation of the drawing's nine spheres of heaven in volume 28, issue 112 of their publication. We were convinced that the article, penned in 1919, would not be available online (or with free access!), so imagine our surprise when we found the text in its entirety!

We breathed a sigh of relief, our patron clapped her hands with excitement, and our Reference Department found itself with one more tricky reference question under its belt!

Everything Old Is New Again!

Faithful blog readers (or casual passersby), we need your help!

Massillon's very own Margy Vogt is hard at work on her next writing endeavor and seeking to obtain historical pictures of the city that she can include within its pages. If you (or anyone you know) have access to such images and wouldn't mind sharing them with her, please email Margy at

Thanks for your assistance!

(Photo courtesy of L. R. Shipman via

Monday, May 18, 2009

IMDB to the Rescue!

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB for short) has been on most reference librarians' go-to lists of resources for film- and TV-related questions for quite awhile now. With just a few snippets of information and a couple of clicks of the mouse, we're able to find everything from memorable Godfather quotes (it was Peter Clemenza who uttered "Leave the gun, take the cannoli") to actor trivia (did you know Bea Arthur was a qualified medical technician?). And today, we discovered yet another use for this fantastic Internet resource, thanks to one of our daily reference questions!

A patron called our Reference Desk today inquiring about some audiovisual materials devoted to Boone Hall Plantation, Brookgreen Gardens, and the Jefferson Davis Plantation -- all long-standing Southern landmarks. She requested that we find DVDs or videos that would give her a better mental image of these places than simple pictures could provide, noting that even if we weren't able to track down items that were specifically devoted to these structures, a Hollywood film including one of these landmarks as a backdrop would suffice.


When we were unable to produce any location-specific DVDs within our own collection at the MPL, we turned to IMDB for some help in finding movies that were set within these locations. Using their advanced search function limit for location, we found that the North and South miniseries, along with The Notebook and Queen, used the Boone Hall Plantation as one of their filming locations. We also discovered that Vicksburg, Mississippi, which is a city near the Jefferson Davis Plantation, was used as a backdrop for O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Mississippi Burning. In all, we were able to locate five movies with the settings our patron requested using the Internet Movie Database.

IMDB: it's not just for (wannabe) movie buffs anymore!

Friday, May 8, 2009

When All Else Fails...YouTube!

Every once in awhile, our Reference Desk comes face to face with a question that resists even our most resolute research efforts. After trying a handful of trustworthy sources and repeatedly coming up empty, we like to take a step back and put a fresh spin on our usual reference M.O. And you know what? Sometimes a new approach makes all the difference when it comes to solving the tricky requests that are part of our day's work.

Case in point: our Head of Reference Services, Sherie, was asked to supply a patron with the lines to a poem that a patron recalled as having a title similar to "Beauty Is What Beauty Does." The poem was showcased, the patron vaguely remembered, during an old Mickey Mouse Club episode.

After doing a little detective work, Sherie found out that the poem was actually an old song that was once sung on the original Mickey Mouse Club back in the mid-1950s. "Beauty Is As Beauty Does" was a unique MMC tune that was part of a "Words to Grow By" segment in which each female cast member was asked to participate at some point during her tenure. Since the Mickey Mouse Club was (and is!) such a pop culture icon, one would assume that tracking down the lyrics to one of its recurring songs wouldn't be very difficult.

Not so!

It turns out that the lyrics to "Beauty Is As Beauty Does" are harder to track down than Waldo and Carmen San Diego combined! Sherie checked a wide variety of both electronic and print sources and kept running into that frustrating Wall of Unanswer that every librarian encounters from time to time. Taking a step back from the question, she cleared her thoughts and settled on a new plan of attack: YouTube.

It turns out that YouTube isn't just handy for looking up videos of dramatic chipmunks and montages of LeBron James' greatest plays; it's also quite the go-to resource for reference questions involving obscure song lyrics! With just a few clicks, Sherie found a 41-second Mickey Mouse Club episode clip in which cast members Jimmie Dodd and Doreen Tracey offer a charming rendition of "Beauty Is As Beauty Does." Sherie simply listened carefully to the lyrics and transcribed them by hand.

Sometimes a fresh approach is really all you need!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A New Way to Go Green!

Is there a Doogie-Howser-era computer lurking in the corners of your office? Reluctant to pitch it in the trash, have you resorted to using its clunky monitor as a makeshift coat rack/Post-It Note depository/glorified beverage coaster?

Why not recycle it?

This wonderful idea was posed to our Reference Desk a few weeks ago when one of our patrons asked us to point him in the right direction to recycle an old PC. It turns out that the state of Ohio has its own computer recycling program (who knew?) appropriately titled Ohio Computer Recycling. Formed in 2004, it's a service that allows Ohioans to safely and properly dispose of their electronic equipment at various unloading centers across the state. More information about the service, including drop-off locations and information about the disposal process, is available at

Enjoy that extra office space -- we're sure you'll find another spot for all of those Post-Its!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Workin' at the Car Wash...

It's no secret that as a modern society, we take many of our luxuries for granted. We don't think twice before picking up the phone, turning on the TV, or powering up our wireless laptop that allows us to surf the Internet from any location we wish. That's why we we found the following reference question so refreshing!

A patron recently asked us if we could provide her with an explanation as to how car washes work. She didn't need the information for a school project or a research paper; she simply found herself marveling at the complex automation involved in the process of the car wash and was driven to find an answer simply for the sake of learning!

Fortunately, we were able to scrounge up a pretty comprehensive overview from a handy site called How Stuff Works, a resource that explains the science behind hundreds of subjects, from car engines to CD drives to even marriage (yes, seriously!). The overview explains different types of car washes, the science behind the automation of the system, and the step-by-step process (drive in, soap up, scrub, blast, and rinse). It was exactly what our patron was looking for!

Happy learning!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Extra, Extra!

Our Reference Department has big news! (Pun intended!)

Just last week, we invested in a subscription to Heritage Microfilm's Newspaper Archive, an online database that houses literally millions of newspaper pages (in an oh-so-handy searchable PDF format) from 1759 to the present. Included in the collection of newspapers from across the country are old issues of the Canton Repository, Massillon's own Independent (with complete coverage between 1869-1975), and Tuscarawas County's Times-Reporter and now-defunct Twin City News.

The product itself is revolutionary for reference services because it makes researching the past much more convenient, available, and expeditious for librarians and the public alike. Before our subscription to Heritage's services, our staff and patrons were heavily reliant upon microfilm, which is not indexed (save for obituary files) or easily searchable, for much of our local history research. Now, whether you're searching for your parents' engagement announcement in The Independent, your grandfather's World War I records in The Repository, or old advertisements for a Uhrichsville dairy in the Twin City News, you can do so with ease from the comfort of your own home!

To connect to Heritage Microfilm's Newspaper Archive, click here and select NewspaperARCHIVE. You'll be authenticated through our library's subscription and taken to the site's home page. Select the Advanced Search tab at the top of the page to begin searching!

We hope you'll enjoy this new and exciting service!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Name That Tune!

Law enforcement officials do so much for our communities; a simple "thank you" doesn't seem like nearly enough to express the gratitude some residents feel for these special people. So, to go a little further in showing their appreciation, one local church is taking it upon itself to host a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, complete with a themed compilation of songs about life in blue.


How exactly does one go about finding songs about law enforcement?

By calling one's local library, of course!

Our staff was able to track down a fairly comprehensive list of appropriate songs for the church's celebration by using Jeff Green's The Green Book of Songs by Subject. This hefty print resource, available for perusal in our library's Reference Department, is a directory of songs listed by subject -- a characteristic that came in pretty handy when browsing for tunes dedicated to law enforcement! Under the heading "Law & Order," we found nearly 100 applicable songs, ranging from John Cougar Mellencamp's "The Authority Song" to Kenny Rogers' "The Long Arm of the Law" to Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock."

We hope our local officers enjoy the celebration -- and music -- on their special day!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Shortest Distance between Two Points

You know you've found yourself thinking it.

You're in the middle of preparing for a roadtrip to visit your best friend from college, who just so happens to live in Nashville, Tennessee. As you gaze at your steering wheel and contemplate the seven-hour trek that will consume the majority of your waking hours for the day, you wonder: "why can't we just meet in the middle?"

Today, we discovered a neat little tool called Meet In Between, a handy device for all of us who have loved ones scattered across a drivable radius. Simply enter your address and the address of the person you're planning on visiting, and voila! Travelers are given the exact location of the halfway point, along with a plethora of suggestions for meet-up locations (restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, golf courses, bars, etc.) and addresses of each.

Safe (and convenient!) travels to you!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Signs of Summer...

It may still be April, but it's obvious that our patrons have warmer weather on their minds!

Today, a gentleman approached our Reference Desk and asked us for a step-by-step set of instructions that would aid him in replacing the convertible top of his 1971 Oldsmobile. As we got to work, he mentioned that he had learned everything he knew about cars just by visiting our library's Reference Department. "I figured one more question wouldn't hurt," he laughed.

While our library boasts an impressive collection of Chilton auto repair manuals and even provides patrons full access to the ever-helpful ALLDATA online database, none of our conventional reference sources provided the step-by-step guidelines our patron needed.

Enter, a website dedicated to the southern California aftermarket auto parts company that shares its name. On one of their product resources pages, we found an incredibly handy how-to guide for installing a convertible top. After reviewing the printout we provided him, our patron nodded and confirmed that it was exactly what he was looking for.

We're glad we could keep the tradition of automotive assistance going in our library!

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Timothy K. Hamilton.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Time After Time

We received a particularly fun information request today that inspired us to pull out our old Ace of Base cassette tapes!

A visitor from Solon, Ohio, approached our Reference Desk and asked us about our microfilm capabilities here at the library. (Note: our Reference Department houses virtually every issue of The Massillon Independent from 1863 to the present day; we also offer three microfilm readers that are free and available to the public.)

It turns out that this particular gentleman was a graduate of Fairless High School and was crowned prom king back in his heyday of 1994! He remembered his picture appearing in an issue of The Independent but forgot to save himself a copy, so he turned to us for some help in tracking down that long-lost article.

After some careful investigation of some early May 1994 issues of the newspaper, we reunited the former prom king with his royal write-up, picture included. And, proving once again that we're hurtling towards immersion in the digital age, we offered to email our visitor a copy of the scanned article as a .jpg email attachment.

Reuniting the past with the present and rekindling old memories -- yet another service your library happily offers!

Monday, April 6, 2009

When in Rome...

Today, our Reference Department received a call from the friendly folks at Progressive Chevrolet in Massillon, proving that yes, everyone can make good use of their local library, even local auto dealerships!

One of Progressive's staff members found himself in a quandary when he stumbled upon the Roman numeral MCMXLII during his work day today. Joking that he must not have been paying attention when Roman numeral conversion was taught in grade school, he asked if we could decode the letters for him.

Using the handy Roman numeral converter available at IV, we discovered that the year in question was actually 1942.

We hope we helped Progressive with today's information pursuit! Thanks for thinking of us!

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Nice Tall Glass of...Contaminants?

Ever wonder about the possibility of invisible contaminants residing in your drinking water, holding the potential to make you really sick? (Or really paranoid?)


One of our patrons did; she asked us for some help in tracking down a comprehensive list of contaminants and their MCLs (maximum contaminant levels) earlier this week. We pointed her in the direction of the good ol' Environmental Protection Agency's website, where we found an extremely helpful PDF that included a list of the National Primary Drinking Water Standards. Everything from arsenic to vinyl chloride (!) is covered, along with the corresponding potential health effects if the exposure goes over the maximum contaminant level. Common sources of the contaminant in regular drinking water are also provided.

Knowledge is power, so look out for yourselves and be safe!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Treasure from Trash?

Difficult economic times call for creative moneymaking endeavors, like recycling old newspapers and cardboard boxes in exchange for some extra cash!

But just how much cardboard does the average person have to cough up at the recycling center to see a substantial profit?

This question was posed to us at the Reference Desk last week by one of our patrons, and we were able to find an answer in a November 2008 article from the Akron-Beacon Journal. According to Bob Downing's "Price of Recyclables is Down in Dumps: Cardboard, Metals Only Haul in a Fraction of What They Did in August; Disposal Rates Might Increase":

"Recycled newspaper has plummeted from $175 a ton to about $60 a ton. A hard mix of cardboard from cereal-box paper has dropped from $80 a ton to nothing. Tin has gone from $510 a ton to $50 a ton, copper from $3.50 a pound to $1.25 a pound and aluminum from $1.03 a pound to 40 cents a pound. Platinum, which is found in vehicle catalytic converters, has shrunk from $2,000 per ounce to $826 per ounce. Stainless steel has dropped from $1.70 a pound to 20 cents a pound, if it's delivered to Pittsburgh."

Sadly, it seems as though even recycling centers are feeling the force of the economy's hard blows, at least for the time being. But if you have a few tons (!) of newspaper or tin on hand and would like to make it a profit on them, feel free to call your local Waste Management District at (330) 874-2258 or visit the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste Management District website.

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All About the Benjamins? Not So Fast...

Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase "honesty is the best policy," right?


When a patron called our Reference Desk last night to confirm the author of the famous saying, we were surprised with the result after consulting Burton Stevenson's The Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Familiar Phrases. According to this hefty text of quotations and their origins, Archbishop Richard Whately is the man behind the phrase. In part II, chapter 18 of his Thoughts and Apothegms, he wrote, "Honesty is the best policy, but he who acts on that principle is not an honest man."

To learn more about Whately, click here! Or click here to reserve a copy of his biography, A Protestant in Purgatory: Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin.

Happy learning!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

Quite appropriately, one of our patrons asked us to provide the exact time of this year's vernal equinox (the official onset of spring).

After consulting the always-reliable Farmer's Almanac, we discovered that the first minute of spring for the northern hemisphere occurred at 7:44AM EDT on March 20, 2009.

Learn more about equinoxes and other weather- and nature-related information here! Enjoy the season!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Your Mark, Get Set...

Why do races (runners, horses, cars, dogs, etc.) all run in a counter-clockwise direction?

This particular question recently found its way to our Reference Desk, prompting us to scratch our heads for a moment before plunging into a search for an answer. After doing some digging, we found two different answers from two very credible sources.

According to the USA Track and Field Association, their organization arbitrarily made the decision to race in a counter-clockwise direction in 1912 and have kept things the same ever since.

Hmm. Probable enough.

But according to NASCAR, the origin of the counter-clockwise direction in racing comes from the earliest horse races. In 1780, American tracks were set counter-clockwise because breeders were still angry at the British, whose racing tracks ran clockwise.

Hmm. Very convincing!

Which answer is correct? We'll let the Track and Field Association duke it out with NASCAR for winner's rights; in the meantime, we'll just point you in the right direction, counter-clockwise or not!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pots o' Gold in the Buckeye State

The familiar St. Patrick's Day images of leprechauns, rainbows, and requisite pots of gold must have encouraged a few of our patrons to think outside of the box this year. Yesterday, we received a question about where to pan for gold in Ohio!

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers a very helpful fact sheet that covers the bases on where and how to find gold in our state (map included!). To learn more, click on the PDF document available here.

The state chapter of gold prospectors in Ohio also boasts its own website (found here) filled with useful facts (some of them borrowed from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' aforementioned fact sheet); interested parties even have the option of joining the Buckeye chapter of the Gold Pan Racing Association (GPRA), which hosts its own meetings and panning excursions. Learn more about this unique organization here!

Best of luck to you as you search for your own pots of gold!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

O.B.I.E.'s Origins

Where did the famous Massillon mascot, O.B.I.E., get his name?

That's exactly what one patron was pondering one fall afternoon when he called our Reference Desk for some help. A proud member of Washington High School's class of 1930 (!), he recalled a contest in which his fellow students were invited to suggest ideas for their new mascot's name; the most clever submission of the bunch would be the one bestowed upon the tiger cub. One of his female classmates won the contest with her entry for O.B.I.E. (which stands for Orange and Black Is Excellent, of course!). However, after all these years, our patron seemed to have forgotten the winner's name and asked that we provide him with it, if possible.

So we got to work! We scoured all of the old Washington High School yearbooks from 1926-1930 for any mention of a contest or a winner. We combed through old newspaper clippings from The Massillon Independent. We sifted through pages upon pages of materials from our collection dedicated to the history of Massillon football, like Massillon Memories: The Inside Story of the Greatest Show in High School Football and The Massillon Tigers Story: The First Hundred Years. Alas, despite our best efforts, we found no mention of the mystery girl behind O.B.I.E.'s namesake.

Enter Junie Studer, Massillon Booster Club historian and former president. When we called Mr. Studer at home the next day, his initial response to our query was a familiar laugh; this question had obviously been posed to him many times in the past. He told us that the winner of the naming contest, held in 1926, was Viola Black, a member of the WHS graduating class of 1927. Success!

We were happy to wrap up this reference question by sending our patron a letter with the information he requested, along with a copy of a page of the 1927 edition of a Washington High School yearbook that included Ms. Black's senior picture. Now our patron can put a face to a name that was attached to a fond recollection from his past. We hope he enjoyed that trip down memory lane!