Tracking Your Reading

After being asked for book recommendations for the umpteenth time, I finally decided to track my reading all of last year and into this year. Not only do I have access to easy recommendations, but also a genuine sense of accomplishment comes over you towards the end of the year. You can also track daily reading, set goals, and many other options.

You can customize how much time you put into a reading app (I like to log when I read and do ratings at the end!), but there is also a tremendous amount of options for apps and websites to use. Here are a couple I can vouch for, The StoryGraph being my tracker-of-choice.

Option 1 (The Obvious One): Goodreads

Love it or hate it, Goodreads is an integral part of any librarian’s life. Patrons know it, and whether we like it or not, often swear by it (I once had a patron insist I look up the books they were checking out on Goodreads—if it was under 4 stars, back to the stacks with it). Goodreads is free, it is comprehensive, and it has an incredibly active reviewing community. You can attach both your Amazon account and your Libby account to Goodreads to make tracking even easier. Goodreads also offers recommendations and reading stats, along with helpful widgets to add to your email signature, and many more features I am sure I am unaware of.

Goodreads is the vanilla with sprinkles of reading trackers. Well-known and reliable.

Option 2 (The One for Data-Lovers): The StoryGraph (SG)

To be honest, I saw someone who has been a book nerd and writer for their whole lives using SG, and I checked it out. I’ve been hooked ever since. SG is attractive to me because of two things: the pointed questions in a review instead of just a blank space for a paragraph, and the data tracking. For comparison, here’s what Goodreads asks when you review a book:

 Compare this with what SG asks:

The guided reviews are great, but the real star is the content warnings. Eventually, I am sure every service will have some version of this, but SG is leading the way. Additionally, SG focuses on stats throughout your yearly reading journey—tracking what moods you favor, the pace of books, how large they are, genres, and more. That said, there is a paid version of SG that I am wholly unfamiliar with, as I get everything I need from the free version. Here’s an example of a year-end data set:

Other options:

These are the only two I am intimately familiar with, but there are many options out there (including good old-fashioned pen-and-paper tracking/journaling!). Here is a site with a list of helpful suggestions:

What programs/websites/apps do you use? Any tips/tricks you’d like to share? Drop me a line at:

Happy tracking!

Cameron R.S. Smith | Cooper-Siegel Community Library

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Online Tax Resources!

There isn’t a polite way to say this: it’s the beginning of tax season. Here is a list of common lies we tell ourselves about filing our taxes and their associated underlying toxic trait:

  • “I can put this off for now.” (Procrastination)
  • “I’m going to have a great time filing my taxes this year!” (Toxic Optimism)
  • “I would rather build a time machine, go sit in the nosebleed section of the Steelers vs Bills’ game on January 15th, and watch them lose a playoff game 17-31 while only wearing a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts than get audited by the IRS!”

(That’s not a lie, just somehow the better of those two options).

And we all know how agonizingly laborious it can be seeking out the right tax information online, right? Wrong.

Did you think Allegheny County Libraries would just leave you out in the cold? Put your tax filing ambitions on ice? Give you the cold shoulder when you needed help the most? Let your worries snowball until your tax fears bury you in an avalanche of anxiety?!

You’re right, let’s move on.

Let’s start with resources for Pennsylvania State Taxes!

The link you just clicked takes you straight to the PA State government site. You’ll find all kinds of relevant information there as a PA resident (feel free to browse that extra stuff later). For now, you’re looking for the Department of Revenue towards the bottom of the page.

Looks just like this.

This is where you’ll find pretty much everything you need including:

  • Personal income tax forms
  • Property tax/rent rebate forms
  • PA personal income tax guide
  • Info on making a personal income tax payment online, by phone, or mail
  • Info on establishing payment plans
  • A tool that lets you track the status of your PA personal income tax refund
  • Forms for businesses
  • A link to speak directly with a customer service representative
  • More!

You can even fill out those forms as a .pdf and print them or save them for later.

Now for everyone’s favorite department of the federal government: the IRS! (That’s also not a lie, it’s sarcasm).

I’m kidding! (Please don’t audit me).

The IRS website has all kinds of tax information for you!

Here you will find all the information you need to file federal income taxes, including:

  • Forms and instructions for (including but not limited to) the following documents: 1040, W-4, 1040-ES, W-9, 4506-T, 2848, 941, W-2, W-3, 9465, SS-4, and W-7
  • Your IRS website account
  • Your federal tax record
  • Tax withholdings estimator
  • Info on making a federal income tax payment online
  • Info on establishing payment plans
  • A tool that lets you track the status of your federal refund
  • More!

Sure, reliable and easy to utilize tax information isn’t the most alluring resource that your Allegheny County Libraries offers. But, spending practically no time at all visiting these sites will make sure you don’t become so overwhelmed by tax season that you feel…frozen with inaction.

This seems like a good place to wrap up.

Always remember, if you ever have questions about accessing or navigating your digital resources, contact your local librarian!

– Derek, South Park Township Library

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Utilizing ChatGPT for Librarianship

AI has been transforming work, research, and computer usage for years. Its poster child, ChatGPT, has been shining in its own limelight since its release on November 30, 2022. You have most likely heard of ChatGPT in passing news headlines or social media posts, but you may not know exactly what it is or what it can do. Admittedly, I am a late adopter of it – I have been using it in my personal and professional life only the past few months. Though I am still wary (we all remember the Terminator series and SkyNet…), I use it sparingly and to useful effect.

ChatGPT logo

ChatGPT stands for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. It is a chatbot developed by OpenAI. This company was established in 2015 as a research organization determined to develop “safe and beneficial AI.” It has recently been in headlines because of the removal and subsequent reinstatement of its CEO, Sam Altman. The program enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, level of detail, language, etc. This is possible through successive prompts and replies (fancily known as prompt engineering). Example below:

I use ChatGPT for all sorts of queries—from the mundane to the complicated. As an information services librarian, I get all sorts of questions: what’s the best washing machine? What book can I read that is like Fourth Wing? Where is the tallest building in the world? All of these have answers available outside of ChatGPT, but the AI can consolidate answers. To get read-a-likes for Fourth Wing, I would probably check BookList, Novelist, Goodreads, among others (which I still can if I am not satisfied with my GPT results!). I can also further refine results – maybe I do not want a book over 300 pages, or I want one specifically by a female-identifying author. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and ChatGPT’s cutoff of information in January 2022.

Signing up to use ChatGPT is free and easy. Navigate to, and sign up using an email address and password. And you’re in! There are premium features to ChatGPT for $20/month, like a newer model of ChatGPT and access to different tools, the one I’m most familiar with being DALL-E, an image-producing program. For an everyday librarian, though, the free plan works perfectly fine, though it will not have the absolute latest books and information.

Despite any misgivings about the future of AI, ChatGPT, as it exists today, is a useful little tool for everyday library needs.

Do you have any ChatGPT success or horror stories? I’m always all-ears! Drop me a line at:

Cameron R.S. Smith | Cooper-Siegel Community Library

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Exciting New Resource News!

We are pleased to announce that the newest resources from the POWER Library are now live on the Allegheny County eLibrary. Access all the new resource from the Pennsylvania Electronic Library like Britannica School, Cricket Media Collection, MyHeritage, PA Online Learning, and more!

The eLibrary can be your one stop shop for lots of resources from the POWER Library – job hunting, ebooks (on a wide variety of topics), language learning, and genealogy research just to name a few. If you want to do a deeper dive into what some of these exciting new resources from POWER Library have to offer stop in or call your local library to learn more!

Happy Learning,

-Adrianne, Northland Public Library

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