Holiday Gift Guide from Consumer Reports

Doing some last-minute holiday shopping this weekend? Let Consumer Reports help you get the best deals and select the perfect gifts for your loved ones this holiday season!

The Consumer Reports Holiday Gift Guide includes:

  • Holiday Gift Ideas for Every Budget
  • Top Gifts Under $200
  • Top Tech Gifts for Under $100
  • Kitchen Gift Ideas for $50 and Under
  • Best Tool Gifts of 2020
  • Best Holiday Sales on Electronics
  • And more!

It even has a holiday shipping deadline guide for UPS, FedEx, Amazon, and more to help you make sure your gifts will arrive on time.

Shop with confidence by utilizing this great guide from Consumer Reports!

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Real Estate Portal Helpful for More Than You Think

Allegheny County’s Real Estate Portal is an invaluable resource for researching property data within the county. The site offers detailed information on property ownership, building specs, tax info, boundary maps and more. It is especially useful for those researching house/building histories, buying/selling a home, or searching for an address or property owner.

Users can search for property data by address or lot parcel number. In the library world, this search function is really handy when a patron forgets to write down or incorrectly identifies their municipality. Simply search the house number & street name to narrow down municipalities.

Once you find the property you are looking for, you can dive into the data. View general information about the property, including sale data, school district, assessed value from the county, lot square footage, and the deed book & page number which identifies where to locate the deed in the county registrar’s office.

Dig a little deeper when you look under the building information tab. Find what year the structure was built, approximate square footage of the living space, room counts, what type of heating & cooling the building has, etc. This is all helpful information to know, especially when buying/selling a home.

Another interesting feature of the site is that there are images of the structure available. Many images are decades old and can be used to see how homes have changed over the years.

You can also research the previous owners of a home with under the owner history tab. It often lists the current owner & the last two owners of the property. This is a great feature when researching the history of a building. Pair it with a search of the newspaper archive and you can find a treasure trove of information!

Lastly, the map feature is really helpful for when you want to look up general property lines, adjacent building information or get an idea of where county township/borough borders are. The map is interactive so you can move it around and zoom in/out to zone in on the information you need.

Happy house searching!

-Richelle, Sewickley Public Library

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Some (hopefully) New-To-You Titles To Read and Listen to This Winter

Winter is such a generous reading season – it lends itself so well to staying in bed, cozying up on the couch, grabbing a favorite wintery warm beverage and getting lost in a book. While many of us reach for familiar titles and genres (I happily re-read Rosamund Pilcher’s Winter Solstice every winter!) this season, consider trying something out of your normal reading zone. I’ve been participating (loosely, I admit) in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenges for 2 years now and they’ve gotten me into titles I’d never have picked up on my own. Here are a few that may move you into some exciting and unfamiliar territory:

  • Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf. I know, I know, it’s poetry, but stay with me. I know that’s very, very scary. But this is one of the best books of poetry I’ve read in recent years (I’m a poet and I read a lot of it!) and it’s highly accessible. The entire book is about Akbar’s journey with alcoholism. It’s deft, thought-provoking, mysterious and beautiful. This is NOT your high school English class poetry! If you dig that book, try Ada Limon’s The Carrying (available on Hoopla). 
Calling a Wolf a Wolf
  • Some of us read all fiction and some of us read all nonfiction! I place myself in both camps, but if you’re a real fiction lover and want to dip your toe into the world of nonfiction, try World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments. It’s a short book of very beautiful, poetic essays by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (available on Hoopla). Or really lean in and try a graphic novel memoir! You can do this! The Best We Could Do is a perfect entry into the world of comic-strip -form books. It’s a memoir about Vietnam immigrants after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s by Thi Bui. She’s also illustrated a gorgeous picture book, The Pond that I’d highly recommend for both the kiddos and their grownups! And finally, try The Rise of Wolf 8: Witnessing the Triumph of Yellowstone’s Underdog by Rick McIntyre, also available on Hoopla. Fascinating story of the abundant return of the once-rare wild wolves to Yellowstone National Park. 
World of Wonders
  • If you fall solidly in that other camp (geeks unite!), try Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit. If you loved The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (and who didn’t!) you’ll love Savit’s beautiful and heartbreaking Holocaust novel. The audio (which won ALA’s prestigious Odyssey Award for best audiobook for children in 2017) and the e-book are both currently available. In the too-scared-to-go-to-sleep fiction sub-genre, Zoje Stage got some fame for her unnerving book, Baby Teeth (great book!) and her newest does not disappoint. Wonderland is a true wintery tale that will chill you to the bone. Finally, give Ann Patchett a spin. All of her books are heart-eyes! Her newest book, in audio-form, The Dutch House read by Tom Hanks is perfection.
The Dutch House
  • 2020 has been quite a year and there are plenty of suggestions out there on how to soothe and calm yourself during this very trying time. I find listening to and reading children’s books to be one of the most soothing. Remember bedtime stories? Or storytime at the library? I actually never was read to OR taken to storytime (and my father was an English teacher and a librarian, for shame!) but I can imagine how nice it would have been and so I happily create that sensation for myself now as an adult. I recently listened to Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan, a classic children’s book (and a beautiful film starring Glenn Close as Sarah). Close is also the narrator of the whole collection (3 books total) available on Hoopla. The Anne of Green Gables series is another sure-to-soothe set. Various audio versions available here on Libby and on Hoopla aren’t my favorite (truly, the Audible version read by Rachel McAdams is the very best and it’s currently free!) but the others will do in a pinch. Right now I’m listening to Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary read by Stockard Channing (brilliant and available on Hoopla!) I’d also highly recommend Pax by Sara Pennypacker, a sweet little book about a boy and his fox also on Hoopla. Set the handy timer on the Hoopla app and drift off into a dreamy sleep. 

Hope these titles help you create some warmth, delight and joy this winter!

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World Book Online: Now Added to Your eLibrary Lineup!

For those who used the free access to World Book Online during the time it was specially available this year, we have good news! World Book Online has now been added to the regular lineup available through your county eLibrary. World Book, a trusted name in print encyclopedias for decades, now offers an online encyclopedia containing thousands of informational articles with illustrations, videos, interactive maps, research help, and activities for kids, students, and adults.

The initial landing page is divided by audience (Kids, Student, Advanced), making it easy to navigate to the part of the site that is appropriate for your age group.

Far from offering a black-and-white text block, World Book Online is graphically rich and easy to navigate, and includes tons of learning extension. The Kids section in particular includes crafts, puzzles, activities, science projects, and more, to make learning more fun and multi-faceted.

For older students and adults, it is also useful to have a reliable, current resource to point to for accurate information, free of fake news and even deliberately user-sabotaged entries as in other online encyclopedias. The “Behind the Headlines” section in the Advanced module seems particularly useful to this end, and certainly relevant for a time when Facebook is used more to spread misinformation than fact.

In short, World Book Online seems a perfect resource for users of all ages to explore on their own or in conjunction with a specific lesson plan in mind, and we’re glad to have it added to our eLibrary lineup!

— Heather Auman, Western Allegheny Community Library

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