SIRS Discoverer (not for Dummies)

The SIRS Discoverer database is designed for elementary and middle school students and is provided through the POWER Library by the state of Pennsylvania.  County library staff have access to the link through, and CLP staff  have access through the CLP site.  This resource has full text articles and images from over 1900 domestic and international newspapers, magazines and government documents.  It also contains content from reference books and over 30000 color graphics, photos and maps.

New to the site are nonfiction books (in PDF format) organized by topic.  Many of them are Dorling Kindersley books (Eyewitness series of books for children).  Also new is the iThink Skills Tutor, a tutorial which helps students, through the use of an animated guide, to select a research topic and create a research strategy.  The Skills Tutor might interest a student new to writing research who might use it once or twice.  It’s more of a novelty than something that might become an essential teaching tool, mostly because it seems to offer the same limited number of potential research topics each time you start the tutorial.

The Skills Discoverer feature is a good way to find reliable information on the web for hundreds of topics, and the interface is easy to navigate with pre-selected topics.  The interface eliminates the need for time-consuming keyword searching within the database.

Educators will like the ability to search a state’s Common Core Standards for any subject area.  The database also provides hundreds of teaching resources for any given standard in a subject area.  There are research articles and activities for potential lesson plans.  The link to this is featured prominently on the site under Common Core Correlations (nice alliteration!)

There is a section of the site with science experiment ideas called Science Fair Explorer.  This is a fun tool if limited in number of potential experiments.  SIRS Discoverer however is a useful resource in and of itself with thousands of references for science education.

Strongest Pro for using SIRS Discoverer:  thousands of reliable websites on a ton of topics in the Skills Discoverer section of the site. Even older students, adults and library staff would make use of this resource.  Although SIRS Discoverer is for students serious about finding research, there are still some fun graphical interactive parts of the site.  (Adults like me who appreciate larger typeface at times will also like the easy-to- read layout of their website).  The additional of hundreds of high quality PDF books also adds to the site’s attractiveness. 

If you’ve used SIRS Discoverer, please give us your review.

Ann Andrews

Reference Department

Cooper-Siegel Community Library











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Gale Biography in Context

Think Phil is the most famous denizen from Punxsutawney?Phil

Searching Gale Biography in Context produces names and biographies of notable people (but not rodents) no matter how big or small your birthplace, worldwide.

From above the search box, click on Birth Place. (You can also search by Occupation, i.e. Meteorologist; Nationality; and Death Place.) Begin to type in your chosen location and autofill will guide you, extremely helpful when you are typing a place like “Punxsutawney”. The search reveals Punxy to be a hotbed for writers and scientists!

Click on the individual’s name for brief reference information and then again on his or her name for more detailed biographical information, which often also includes current contact information – as it does for Crafton native Leroy Newby. Standard Gale tools such as sharing the information via many social media, citation information, and saving or downloading are shown to the right in the detailed information.

Searching Cresson, Pennsylvania, reveals it to be the Birth Place of North Pole discoverer Robert E. Leary!

Spend some time searching for people from your hometown in this terrific database – Mercer, Pennsylvania anyone?


Debi –


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November 2012 Database Training

The final database training of 2012 will be held on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 from 1:00-3:00 at Brentwood Public Library. This 2 hour eResource workshop will focus on literature and biography databases. Specialists from Gale and EBSCO will focus on Literature Resource Center, Biography in Context, Novelist, and other databases available to library users. The workshop will allow staff to become more familiar with when to use these resources and how to get the most out of them.

Registration is required at and the class offers 2 CE credits. Please note that the program will be cancelled if at least 15 people have not registered. For more information, please call Dustin Shilling, Northern Tier Library Director, at 724-449-2665.

Debi Ryder

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Visual Search Feature in GreenFILE

Database search results can be overwhelming.  Especially when users are searching a broad topic.  A search for solar power in EBSCO’s GreenFILE database returned a list of 6,275 results.

GreenFILE Basic Search Results

Thankfully, there is a feature in the left-hand sidebar which allows users to filter by subject to refine their search.  However, users may find that once they choose a subject it is not what they were looking for and must backtrack!

GreenFILE Visual Search

GreenFILE’s visual search feature cuts down on backtracking and makes it easier for users to filter their search results.  In visual search, the results are immediately broken down into subject categories.  This clean display makes it easy for users to browse article titles and their related subject headings in order to choose the best subject filter, or filters.

In visual search, the resulting squares are only big enough to display the article title (or a portion of it) and the publication date.  Clicking on a square lets users view the article title, date, journal, author, and abstract without navigating away from the search results page (pictured below)!

-Kelly R, Sewickley Public Library of the Quaker Valley School District

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