Blogs: Basic information tools

What is my car worth now if I want to sell it?

I want to buy a used pickup truck. How can I find out what a fair price is?

What is the safest car for my teen to drive?

 

All of these questions and more can be answered with these online resources:

  • The Kelley Blue Book Online gives you timely and accurate prices on new and used cOld Red Truckars based on geography and condition. For most vehicles you can get a good idea of prices for buying a new or used car from a dealer or private seller and also what you can expect to sell one for to a dealer or private buyer.
  • The Car and Driver buyers' guide covers automobiles manufactured in the last two years and can be searched by manufacturer, vehicle type, price range and more.
  • Click and Clack, the comedic brothers from Car Talk, use down-to-earth humor to give you actual car information on buying, selling, and owning a car.
  • CarInfo features car information provided by consumer advocate & auto expert Mark Eskeldson. It includes car buying and leasing secrets, as well as information on used cars, car loans, and insurance.
  • Edmunds Automobile Buyer's Guide has used car prices back to 2000, safety information, and updates on new vehicles.
  • The US EPA Fuel Economy website allows you to compare gas mileage (MPG), greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution ratings, and safety information for new and used cars and trucks. There are also gas mileage tips, a page to search for the cheapest gas in your area, and a page of links to other sites about automobiles, safety, and the environment.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute provides accident facts, results of crash tests, child safety and teen driving brochures, and news releases about safety for cars, drivers, and pedestrians.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a website dedicated to safety. This resource has  information about recalls, crash tests, car seats, drunk driving, and pedestrian safety.
 

In addition to these online resources, the library also has the most current NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book Guides in print at the information desk in each library location.  The Science and Business Desk at the Central Library even has the Kelley Blue Book guides going back to 1999 so you can see what your vehicle was worth in years past.

For a round up of car repair resources available at your library, see the blog post: Get Your Motor Running: This car isn’t going to fix itself.

Buying or selling an automobile can be a complicated process!  If you do not see the resource you need here to answer your questions, please Ask a Librarian.  We will help you connect to the information you seek!  

 

 

Old maps are more than just geographical information presented in an appealing visual format – antique maps tell us about changes in the landscape, for sure, but they also inform us about the human past.  After all, maps are made by people, produced within specific cultural frameworks.

A new study of a 9,000-year old mural in the Turkish archaeological site Çatalhöyük argues that it is, in fact, the world's oldest map, and that it shows an eruption of the nearby volcano Hasan Dağı in progress. (The study offers evidence that Hasan Dağı did actually erupt around the time that the mural was created.) If news of this development has you thinking about old and antique maps, you're in luck! Multnomah County Library has a wide array of books about the history of maps, many with beautiful and thought-provoking reproductions and illustrations.  Take a look at the reading list below for a few of my personal favorites.

Detail of the map of the moon, from the Hand Atlas.Remember, also, that Multnomah County Library actually owns a lot of maps!  Most of the library's oldest maps are kept at Central Library, either in the map collection in the Literature & History room (on the third floor), or in the John Wilson Special Collections.  Most older maps, are of course, reference items that cannot be checked out of the library – but there's plenty of room to enjoy them at Central Library!  Here are a few gems:

One of my favorite old maps in the library's collection is the 1896 Hand Atlas über alle Theile der Erde und über das Weltgebäude.  That's a big, long German title, and indeed, the entire atlas is in German!  But maps are visual things, and even if the place names are in an unfamiliar language, this world atlas is both useful and beautiful – particularly if you're interested in seeing a snapshot of national borders in the 1890s.  The image here is from the very beginning of the atlas, in the section of maps of heavenly bodies.  This one, I'm sure you can see, is of the moon.

Detail of sheet 27, which includes the city of Seaside, Metkser's Atlas of Clatsop County, 1930.Moving forward a bit in time, here's a snippet of one of the property ownership maps in the Metsker Atlas of Clatsop County – it's sheet 27 of the 1930 atlas, showing the town of Seaside.  The library has a large collection of atlases published by the Metsker Co., covering all of Oregon's 36 counties (plus a few Metsker atlases of Washington counties that are near the Portland area). Most of the Metsker atlases were published from the 1920s to the 1970s. They contain lovely, detailed maps showing street names and subdivision names -- often this is interesting, particularly when you look at an older map and can see big changes like the neighborhoods that were present before a freeway was built, or farm and forest land where there is now an urban area.  Larger parcels of land are marked with the owner's name too, which can be most illuminating.

"Car Lines in the Business District, Showing Downtown Loops," from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland, 1944.One great place to look for charming little maps is in the pages of now-out-of-date travel guidebooks, and the library has plenty of examples!  The cutie to the left shows the streetcar lines, trolley car lines ("trolley car" is an old term for an electric bus), and motor coaches (early 20th century-speak for a gasoline- or diesel-powered bus) in downtown Portland, circa 1944.  The map is from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland.

Detail of "London: from 1800 to 1900," from the Mapbook of English Literature.But the library's collection is not limited to maps showing landforms, details for tourists, and property information.  For a different sort of map entirely, take a peek at the lovely Mapbook of English Literature, an elegantly-drawn collection of maps illustrating important literary-geographical connections.  The section of the London map at right, which features literary facts from 1800-1900, shows details from the world of fiction: "The Quips (Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop, 1840-41) lived here;" and biographical bits and pieces about English authors: "Keats was a student here (1815-16) Guy's Hospital."

Do you have a favorite map, or a favorite book about maps?  Share them!

And of course, if you've got a question about maps, the library's collection about maps, or anything else, there's a friendly librarian who'd love to help you!  Just get in touch using Ask the Libarian, or ask at the information desk the next time you're at the library.

Two women at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel operating tickers and stock exchange boards, December 11, 1918.Tracking down a historic stock price can be really easy... except when it’s really hard. And it is a common question that we get during tax season.

Here is an example of an easy stock price search.

1. A stock price is needed for a company for a particular date. (Let’s say Nike on February 13, 2009.)
2. You go to a website with financial information (like Yahoo! Finance or Wall St. Journal’s MarketWatch), search for the company name or ticker symbol, and voila! You have the closing price for that day. (Keep in mind that the closing price may or may not already be adjusted.)

But this only works if the company is still in business and hasn’t changed names, hasn’t been involved in a merger or acquisition, and is still trading on the stock exchange under the same ticker symbol. If any of those situations have occurred, the historic price that you need might not be available online.

Take, for example, Macy’s, which went public in 1922 under the name R.H. Macy, and which for many years traded under the symbol MZ. You won’t easily find historic stock prices from before 1992 for this company on Yahoo! Finance or in other online databases because on that year Macy’s merged with Federated Department Stores. (Thanks to New York Public Library for this example!)

Steps for trickier stock price searches.

So how does someone get a historic stock price from before 1992 for Macy’s, or for any other company whose historic prices aren’t online? There are two steps: first, researching the company history to find out any information about different names, ticker symbols, and listings on stock exchanges; and second, looking in a newspaper or newspaper database for the date that you need. The library can help you with both of these steps.

Step 1: Research the company history.

This step can require a little detective work. It is where you figure out the name and ticker symbol of the company or security at the time of the historic price and the stock exchange which it was trading on. Here are several sources that the library offers for learning about a company’s history (you may need to look at more than one of them in order to get a full sense of a company’s history):

  • Capital Changes Reporter: Lists capital changes (such as mergers and splits) for companies, by date, and includes information about stock exchanges and ticker symbols that the company traded under. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library, or online through the CCH Intelliconnect database.
  • International Directory of Company Histories: Provides detailed corporate histories for many companies, both U.S. and international. There are currently 149 volumes. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • Mergent Intellect: Available through the library website. A database with lots of information about companies, including company histories.
  • Directory of Obsolete Securities: Lists and gives brief info for companies and banks whose original identities have been lost to events like changes in name, acquisitions, mergers, or bankruptcy. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • EDGAR: This is not a library resource, but it is freely available online through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and we can help you if you have trouble using it! It contains many documents that public companies are required to submit to the SEC, including company reports.

Step 2: Look up the historic price in a newspaper or other source from that historic date.

Once you have done some research about the company whose historic stock price you are looking for (and hopefully learned their name, ticker symbol, and the stock exchange they were traded on at the time of the historic price), you are ready to find the stock price in a newspaper or other source from that time. Note that you’ll want to look at a newspaper or publication for the day immediately after the date for which you need the historic price, since the price would not have been published until the next day’s paper. Here are two sources for this, both of which are available electronically through the library website:

  • New York Times Historical (1851-2009): Contains scans of articles from the New York Times, including stock prices. Choose “Advanced Search,” enter the date that you are looking for in the “Publication Date” section, and choose “Stock quote” from the “Document Type” menu. Leave the other search boxes blank, and do your search. You will retrieve a list of articles containing stock prices - to find the major stock exchanges, choose the articles with the most page numbers, then look in them for the company whose stock price you need.
  • The Historical Oregonian (1861-1987): This database will be most useful for stock prices of companies from the Pacific Northwest. Enter the date you are looking for in the “Custom Date Range” box, and then do a search for a word like NYSE or NASDAQ which would appear on the page with stock prices.

In addition to these electronic databases for the New York Times and the Oregonian, the library also has a number of useful resources available in print and on microfilm at Central Library:

So there you have the basic steps for finding historic stock prices. It can indeed be a little bit of a research project sometimes. But don’t despair! Librarians are happy to talk to you about your particular stock price need, and to help you find the information you are looking for. Just get in touch with us using one of the methods on our Contact a librarian webpage. Happy stock price searching!

Looking for consumer reviews for cars and household products? Try checking Consumer Reports - to get reviews and articles from Consumer Reports for free through the library, follow these steps:
graphic showing how to search MasterFILE Premier for Consumer Reports articles

 

  1. Go to MasterFILE Premier
  2. Click Begin Using This Resource, then enter your full library card number & PIN.
  3. Type your topic in the Search box, for example dishwashers.
  4. Type Consumer Reports in the Publications box.
  5. Click Search.
  6. Click on the PDF Full Text link to view your article.

MLA Handbook coverDoes your writing assignment require that you follow a particular style of citation, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago? Or are you writing for a particular discipline, industry or audience? Perhaps you are wondering: why are there so many different forms of citations?!?

A style guide (also known as a stylebook or handbook) is a set of standards for writing and document organization. These are used for different kinds of writing - academic, journalism, business, and so on. Each style guide sets out guidelines for writing and documentation of research in the discipline in question, and (perhaps most famously) they tend to be chock-full of really specific rules for formatting and punctuating citations.

Where to turn for authoritative advice on writing style and citation? Try these guides for writing for specific disciplines:

 

Academic writing tends to be guided by either the MLA, Chicago (or Turabian), or APA styles.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is often used for high school and undergraduate students, while the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing is geared toward graduate students, writers and researchers in the humanities.

The Chicago Manual of Style, created by the University of Chicago Press, is used in editing and publishing as well as academia. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers by Kate L. Turabian (sometimes you'll hear people refer to “Turabian style”) guides undergraduate and graduate student writing, but perhaps more for coursework than for publication. Turabian style is based on Chicago style, and almost identical to it.

The Concise Rules of APA Style is the go-to guide for students and researchers in the social and behavioral sciences, particularly above the undergraduate level and for published work.

 

There are also style guides for different professional writing disciplines.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is the standard used by newspapers and the news industry in the United States.

The Gregg Reference Manual is the style guide for business, both for professionals and students.  

The Elements of Legal Style is a handy guide to legal writing, based somewhat on Strunk and White’s classic text on writing style (see below). Citation in legal writing is complicated, because different courts have different requirements for citation. Most of the various forms of legal citations are based on the Bluebook system, which is described in the book Legal Writing Citation in a Nutshell, by Larry L. Teply.

The Yahoo Style Guide for the Web is a great resource if you’re writing for the web.  

 

Not sure what you need, or perhaps your classes require that you use different citation formats… a guide that covers the different styles might be useful to you:

A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker contains extensive advice about grammar and academic writing style, in addition to citation guides for MLA, APA, and Chicago style.

Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More by Charles Lipson focuses on citations, including many different styles.

Last but definitely not least, try out the OWL - Online Writing Lab from Purdue University. It’s a free online resource that covers academic citations formats (MLA, APA, Chicago) as well as a wealth of information about general writing, grammar, research, job search writing, ESL, and more. In short, it’s rather amazing.

 

Above I mentioned Strunk and White's classic guide to writing, The Elements of Style,​ which is a guide to language usage and form (not citations). It continues to be a great resource, and is freely available online via Bartleby. For other guides to writing, grammar, and composition, see our blog post about improving your writing skills.


As always, please feel free to ask a librarian if you have questions - we’re always happy to help with research, citations, and writing projects!

A 1975 chart of Yaquina Head to Columbia RiverWhat is a nautical chart?

To someone who has not been at the helm of a vessel, a nautical chart might look like nothing more than an oddly detailed water map.  To a boater, a nautical chart is much more than a “road map” of the water.  Instead of roads it details water areas, ports, and coast lines; it also includes information about depth of the sea floor, obstructions, restricted areas, recommended routes, and aids to navigation such as lights and buoys. The main purpose of a nautical chart is to give boaters up-to-date information to avoid grounding or traveling in restricted waters, and to navigate safely for themselves and the vessels around them. 

Where can I find current navigational charts?

The United States Office of Coast Survey (USCS) has been producing nautical charts for more than 200 years, ever since President Thomas Jefferson asked for a survey of the coast in 1807. The USCS has made and maintains over 1,000 charts at varying levels of detail that cover all of the U.S. and U.S. territory coastal waters and the Great Lakes. These charts are conveniently available online for viewing and downloading. They are free of charge and regularly updated.

To find a particular nautical chart, start at the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Charts for U.S. Waters Online Chart Viewer. From the Online Chart Viewer you can select a region to view or navigate using the Graphical Catalog. Also available are BookletCharts for printing to help recreational boaters locate themselves on the water.

The Graphical Catalog shows the outlines of charts that are available on a basic geographical map. As you click on a chart, information to the right of the map show you the coordinates for the selected point as well as the Chart number, panel number, and scale of the chart selected. When you zoom in on an area, more detailed charts with larger scales become available to select. The name of each nautical chart is listed below the map as a Panel Title, as well as the date of the most current edition. Each nautical chart is available to be viewed online, downloaded as an RNC (Raster Navigational Chart), or ordered as a paper chart. In addition to finding nautical charts by browsing the map, you can also find nautical charts by entering the coordinates of the location you are seeking.

In addition to these current nautical charts you can also find nautical charts to view at the library by searching for cruising atlas in the online catalog.

Chapman Nautical Chart No. 1 by the U.S. Coast GuardDid you know that nautical charts may have more than one compass rose printed on them?

A compass rose shows both the true North in the outer circle and the magnetic North in the inner circle, and the difference between the two is called the magnetic variation.  It is important to always use the compass rose nearest the area for which you are plotting directions. For detailed guidance on how to read a nautical chart, check out How to Read a Nautical Chart by Nigel Calder or Chapman Nautical Chart No. 1 from the U.S. Coast Guard.

What did nautical charts and maritime maps look like in the past?

In addition to modern nautical charts, the USCS also has beautiful and detailed historical maps and charts available on their website. Other recommended historical resources are The Charting of the Oceans by Peter Whitfield (an overview of Europe’s charting history) and Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor by Hali Felt (in the 1950s, Marie Tharp turned her husband’s records of sonar pings measuring the ocean’s depth into illuminating maps of the ocean floor that proved for the first time the theory of continental drift).   

Finding these charts can be complicated! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to Ask a Librarian.

The NOAA website includes this note: Use the official, full scale NOAA nautical chart for real navigation whenever possible. These are available from authorized NOAA nautical chart sales agents. Screen captures of the on-line viewable charts available here [on NOAA's online chart viewer] do NOT fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations. 

Old newspapers are a rich resource for satisfying casual curiosity, finding surprising sources of amusement, broadening knowledge of family history, and academic research. Thanks to an enormous effort taking place in libraries around the country more and more of them are available in full online. 
 
The Library of Congress has brought together work from many states in Chronicling America, an archive of newspapers covering 1836-1922. Chronicling America can be searched by keyword, state, or date. It also includes a selection of Recommended Topics where selected articles on subjects such as the Anarchist Incidents,  Lizzie Borden, and Orchidelirium are gathered together.
 
If your interest is family history, try searching for an ancestor’s name and limit by state. You may find an obituary, an election to minor office, a prize for the best yearling colt, or a host of other tidbits that made up their lives.
 
Report on Battle of Gettysburg. New-York Daily Tribune, July 3, 1863.Occasionally these digitized pages provide a raw reflection of our nation’s most difficult days. For example, on the day after the San Francisco Fire, the three newspapers of San Francisco united to publish a joint issue under the name The Call-chronicle-examiner. It is a heartbreaking read.
 
Many states have separate sites to access their content. In Oregon that is Historic Oregon Newspapers  (maintained by the University of Oregon), which includes some newspapers that have not yet been added to the Chronicling America collection, such as selected years of the Oregon Journal
 
Questions? Ask the Librarian!  We are here to help!
 

 

Is it going to snow? Will we beat the record for most days of rain? What was the high temperature on February 28, 2010? This page includes great resources to answer all of those questions, and more.

Forecasts and Observations

Weather Records

Weather Trends

Looking for resources on global warming?

Weather History

Extreme Weather

World Weather

 

 

Are you a hiker, tracker, or hunter?  If so, you've probably used the United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps in your outdoor activities.

They are nice, big maps showing lots of topographical detail, physical characteristics of the land, and the names of roads and communities and bodies of water. Sometimes they're called "topo maps," "7.5 minute maps" or "7.5 minute quadrangles" (because they show 7.5 minutes of lattitude/longitude). You can visit Central Library's map room (on the third floor) and consult the library's collection of USGS maps for the western states.  If you want your own copy, you can usually buy them in outdoor-oriented sporting goods stores.

But did you know that the entire collection of USGS maps, for the whole country, are now available free online? Here's how to get to the USGS topo maps online:

Start at the Map Locator & Downloader (you can browse to this site from the main USGS website: www.usgs.gov > Map Locator & Downloader).

This tool allows you to find maps with a simple search for a place name. For example, if you are looking for maps of the area near Waldport on the Oregon Coast, just type waldport into the search box and click the "Go" button.

Now you'll see a map of the Waldport area.  The map has a grid superimposed on it, with the names of the different USGS maps in each square of the grid.  And, there is a red marker in the part of the grid marked "Waldport." Click on this marker and a little popup shows the maps that are available for that spot.

(If the red marker isn't in quite the right part of the map, click on the map in the spot you want and you'll get a new marker, which will pop up a list of maps for that area.)

To download a nice, high-definition pdf of the map you want, just click on the link that shows the file size. (In the case of the 2011 Waldport 7.5 minute map, the link says "18.1 MB.")

You'll see other maps in the popup list -- older maps and maps that cover a larger area.  And there is usually a link to related maps that focus on topics like mineral resources, elevation, hazards, etc.

 

  Questions? Ask the Librarian.

Have fun browsing and downloading maps from the USGS, and share your observations in the comments!

 

Need to verify a fact? Find a statistic? Locate the source for a quote? The Web has lots of information in it, but it can be tricky to figure out which information to trust. In this blog post I provide links to websites that are great sources of reliable, authoritative information that you can use when you're doing quick research.

www.infoplease.com

Infoplease is short for “Information Please” - which traces its history back to the radio quiz show of the same name which ran on NBC from 1938 to 1952. The creators of the show later began publishing an almanac, and the website has been online since 1998. It features an almanac, an online version of the Columbia Encyclopedia (6th edition), a dictionary and thesaurus, and more.

www.bartleby.com

Bartleby is a website that provides access to books (mostly older books and classics) on the Web, free of charge. They have an excellent selection of books of quotations, which make it a great site for trying to find a classic quote. Note: most of their sources are from the late 1800s and early 1900s - so if you need a more recent quote, you’ll have to try a different resource, like quotes.dictionary.com (or, of course, you could ask a librarian for help). Notable books available on Bartleby include: Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, the King Jame’s Bible, Oxford Shakespeare, Gray’s Anatomy, and Strunk’s Elements of Style.

quotes.dictionary.com

This website from Dictionary.com provides many quotes, including 20th century ones, from the Columbia World of Quotations (1996).

www.merriam-webster.com

Merriam-Webster Online is a great, authoritative online dictionary, based on the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

quickfacts.census.gov

State & County QuickFacts by the United States Census Bureau contains all sorts of easy-to-access facts about people, business, and geography in the United States. The main census site, www.census.gov, contains even more information and - although kind of tricky to use - is also a very valuable tool for statistical research.

www.oregonencyclopedia.org

The Oregon Encyclopedia is a constantly growing encyclopedia of essays on all things related to Oregon. The entries are written by knowledgeable authors and are authorized by editors and fact-checkers before being published. You can even suggest a topic or write your own article!

www.wikipedia.org

In a previous blog post (“I can’t use Wikipedia for my research paper! Or can I...”), I talked about how Wikipedia, though it is not always 100% reliable itself, can be used  to find sources that you can cite when you’re doing research. When you find an article on a topic of interest, look at the “References” section at the end of the article and follow the links there to see where the article is getting its information.

These are just some of many fantastical information sources online. Do you have one that you like that I didn’t mention? Then add a comment! Also, if you are ever stuck in your search for a fact, quote, or any bit of information, remember that you can always ask a librarian for help.

Happy researching!

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