It’s (Always) a Great Time for Consumer Reports

Seasonal purchases. We all have to make them some time. A new string trimmer in the spring, a new air conditioner in anticipation of a hot summer. Don’t forget that you’re in need of a new grill and *BAM*, you’ve already made a list of big commitment purchases.

But this isn’t an advertisement for your local hardware store, oh no. This is a little friendly advice: use Consumer Reports to perform your due diligence before you buy.

As consumer advocates, Consumer Reports publishes their own product testing and consumer-oriented research. Which means you’ll find:

  • Product overviews
  • User reviews
  • Ratings
  • Prices
  • Where to buy
  • Reliability standards
  • Performance scores
  • Safety features
  • So much more

You’ll get all the information on product features and specifications you could hope for. Consumer Reports will be the perfect tool for comparing value and quality among the many brands and styles while in search of that new string trimmer.

If you’re thinking: “Prices and specifications are neat and all, but I’m not an expert in buying lawn care equipment. I don’t even know what to look for in a proper string trimmer!”

Consumer Reports provides a buying guide for every kind of product they review. This is where they explain how they test products, what you should look for to find the product to fit your needs, and things to consider before you buy.

Example of a consumer need: Some people just prefer the smell of two-cycle first thing in the morning.

If you’re wondering: “Is it just appliances n’at?” Great question.

Once you start browsing Consumer Reports, you’ll also notice they have a report on just about everything your money can buy. And I mean everything. Athletic shoes, cars, car wax, diapers, glues, smart watches…

Are you going to make a joke about Consumer Reports even having a report about the kitchen si-

Thanks for setting that up for me.

The bottom line is: Consumer Reports will help you save money. It will help you find something that lasts. It will help you find the right product to fit your needs. Of course, if you ever need help using Consumer Reports, reach out to your local library!

— Derek, South Park Township Library

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Maximizing Your Libby Borrowing Options

This week is more of a life improvement tip than a professional pick-me-up. As (most of us, I assume) are residents of the wonderful Allegheny County, we are entitled to a lot of electronic library resources—particularly the titles available in Libby. Despite the best efforts of the DRC, some titles are simply too popular, and waitlists can sometimes extend into weeks and months. Sure, you could just find another book to listen to/read, but wouldn’t it be nice to have even more options for borrowing?

Enter the Free Library of Philadelphia.

But wait—we do not live in Philadelphia, how is this relevant? To answer, I would like to emphasize this paragraph from the Free Library’s website:

“A Free Library card is available at no cost to anyone who lives, works, pays taxes, or goes to school in the City of Philadelphia. In addition, anyone who lives in the state of Pennsylvania can obtain a Free Library card without charge.”

This would be a great time to mention a user can load several library cards onto their Libby account. My most recent and favorite success is South to America by Imani Perry. Recommended by a coworker, I was disappointed to see the waitlist extending into the double-digit number of weeks. But, with my handy-dandy Free Library of Philadelphia card, all was not lost:

The process for getting the card was simple and painless, and you can get started HERE. Because I am not a Philadelphia resident, the approval took a little longer (a few days) than for a typical Philly-dweller. Having two large libraries’ worth of electronic resources is proving a vast quality of life improvement.

I am curious if you have any hacks you have learned over your years in the greater PA library system! Please email me at if you have any issues getting a Philadelphia card or want to swap tricks.

Happy reading.

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

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Academic Angling

The more hours I put into the Information Services Desk at Cooper-Siegel, the more requests for academic information I field. One particular challenge spawned a wild-goose chase for a specific article from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The article, Atrial Fibrillation by Gregory F. Michaud, M.D., et al., published in 2021, was a specific request from a patron looking for medical advice. So, I cracked my knuckles and dove into the obvious ACLA resources.

My first stop was the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Research Resources page. Full of research materials, I narrowed my search to medical, specifically searching for NEJM. No dice! At this point, I knew searching for a specific and recent article from a major medical journal was going to take some serious Google Fu (desperate, skilled, and persistent online searching).

The next platform of discovery was PubMed. A long-standing, government-run database of over 34 million citations of biomedical literature. PubMed is a great resource for academic, peer-reviewed medical information, albeit anything beyond abstracts (and still, most of those…) are beyond my reckoning. Alas, another roll of the dice and coming up snake eyes on NEJM.

The third stop on this runaway academic search took me to NEJM’s website. Perhaps, beyond logic, I would be gifted with a free preview or something of the like. Unfortunately, like most academic journals, all recent publications were wrapped up tight behind a paywall or sign-up-to-get-X-articles-free account creation. Growing desperate, I turned to an old friend.

The saving grace of many an ill-fated undergraduate research paper, Google Scholar has been there to coddle the most wretched of researchers since 2004. A helpful index of millions of academic articles, Scholar also features a terribly beneficial “cited by” metric, which measures the article’s popularity and usefulness to other academics. I started with the obvious search: “Atrial Fibrillation.” Turns out, this condition is a popular research topic. Then, I tightened my search using the author’s full name and narrowing the date to 2021.


By the grace of the Israeli Association of Emergency Medicine, a file appeared. The full pdf of Atrial Fibrillation (2021)! Breathing a sigh of relief, I downloaded it and swiftly sent it off to the inquiring patron, my quest finished at last.

I wish I had some sort of explanation as to why in the world this specific article was available through this specific organization, and why it popped up on Google Scholar, but, as with all research, it is good to keep in mind: sometimes, you just get lucky.

Happy hunting.

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

P.S. If anyone has any suggestions, recommendations, or advice on how else to tackle the above conundrum or other, similar requests, I am all ears! Don’t hesitate to contact me at:

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Back to School with Consumer Reports

With the school year right around the corner, back-to-school shopping is in full swing! Consumer Reports is a go-to resource to equip people with the credible, trustworthy information they needed to make informed choices. Not only does CR provide reviews, they also have helpful articles on finding the best deals, health advice and so much more. Check out some of the reviews, recommendations and articles they have to help students of all ages have a successful school year!

-Leigha Lamont, Wilkinsburg Library and Eastridge Branch

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