By Cindy Schuchardt, Reference Department
The Internet can be both bane and blessing if you are researching information. While the World Wide Web allows almost immediate access to information around the globe, it also provides the perfect setting for those seeking to dupe a consumer, perpetuate a rumor, create a scare, or push an agenda. It is therefore crucial to evaluate online resources before believing them or using the information they contain.
Evaluating information starts with asking yourself some questions. One way to do that is to turn to the 5 W’s – who, what, where, when and why.
- Who is responsible for the information on the site? Is the site owner clearly identified with contact information provided?
- What does the domain extension for the site tell you about the information owner? A non-profit organization is typically indicated by .org, an educational institution by .edu, a commercial site by .com, a small business by .biz, and a government site by .gov.
- What do you know about the site’s owner or publisher? Is he or she a recognized expert with credentials provided? Does the site represent a particular, subjective viewpoint, or can it be considered a reliable, objective information source?
- What is the purpose of the site?
- What type of information are you finding? Does it seem credible? Is it professionally presented and without obvious typos or grammatical errors?
- Where did the information owner or publisher get his or her information? Are sources cited? Are additional resources cited?
- Where is the organization or owner located? Is there a contact address provided that helps to legitimize the source?
- When was the information written? Is it timely, or is it hopelessly out of date? Has it been recently updated?
- Are any links included still current? Or do they lead you on a wild goose chase?
- Why was the site created? Does the organization state a mission, goal or objective?
A quick run-through of these questions can help you to get a sense for the integrity and usefulness of a website. There are no guarantees, however. The caveat of “buyer beware” or “reader beware” should be kept in mind.
The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Your library can help with your research needs, guiding you to carefully vetted sources of information and free, specialized online research tools.
Use Our Online Resources
If you need help finding trustworthy information on a particular topic, you’re in luck! WCPL has a variety of resources available to help you:
- Our Articles and Databases collection is accessible 24/7, so you can use it while visiting any branch library, at home, or on-the-go. Just use your library card number or password to access remotely. You’ll find resources on the Arts, Education, Health, History, and more.
- The Gale Directory Library features “51 trusted directories on companies, publishers, associations, and more—sources that cannot be found elsewhere on the Internet.” Try using this resource for your business, research and homework needs.
- The Gale Virtual Reference Library has reference e-books and encyclopedias that cover business, cultures, history, literature, science, technology, travel and more. It is similar to the great Reference section that we have upstairs in the Main library, but you can use it from the comfort of your home.
- Our Helpful Websites page features an assortment of free, informative websites that can help you with homework, research, and other informational needs. We did the groundwork for you, so you can start with a list of reliable sources on a given topic, rather than trying your luck with Google.
Take a Free Class (or Two)!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the Internet! Come to our Surfing the Web 101 class to learn the basics. We will introduce you to web browsers and search engines, teach you how to search online, and help you to evaluate what you find there.
Our computer class schedule is published monthly. Just call us or visit the web page to see what we’re offering, when.
Ask a Librarian
Last, but definitely not least, ask a librarian (or a reference assistant). We can help you find information at the library or in our digital collections. You can use our online form, email us with your questions , or call us during regular library hours at 615-595-1243.
By Cindy Schuchardt, Reference Department
The kids are out of school, the temperature is rising, and the world is in bloom. The good ole’ summertime has arrived in Middle Tennessee, bringing with it outdoor fun, visits to the park or pool, and summer camp. Students may also amuse themselves watching TV, playing video games or viewing funny You Tube videos. Seems like we’re forgetting something, doesn’t it? Oh, that’s right! Reading!
Reading can be a fun part of the summer, too! WCPL participates in a Cooperative Summer Library Program that offers programming and reading adventures for all ages (children, teens and adults), and we encourage everyone to participate. It may not seem like it because it’s so much fun, but summer reading also offers some important benefits:
- Helps young children to build foundational reading and language skills
- Prepares school-age children for success by developing their language skills
- Motivates teens to read and discuss literature
- Helps to prevent summer reading loss, a.k.a. the “summer slide”
- Encourages adults to experience the joy of reading
- And, if you’re already a voracious reader, you can win prizes for what you already do!
With this year’s “Build a Better World” program, we invite patrons of all ages to try something new this summer. Read a new book. Participate in our Make-A-Thon on Saturday, June 3. Enjoy our free events. Get out the house, meet new people, and learn how to help our community.
Registration for the children’s program began on May 20 and runs through July 29. Readers and pre-readers alike can sign up to be a part of the fun. A simple activity card for each age group features 25 different activities. When the kids complete any six of the activities, they receive a free paperback book of their choice. After completing six more activities, they receive another prize. There will be free program for kids of all ages on Thursdays in June and July, including an animal show, a magic act, a ventriloquist, and more!
Teens will have their own special program, which will encourage them to read and track the number of books they have completed. After accomplishing some specific goals, students’ names will be entered into prize drawings. There will be three tiers of prizes, and the winners will be revealed at a special “lock-in” celebration toward the end of the summer.
Adults are included, too! All adults who submit a book review will be eligible for a weekly prize drawing. Prizes are donated by local businesses. And hey, we know you have enough to do, so there is no registration required for adults. A handwritten (or emailed) book review is all that is needed to put you in the running for a prize. Free programs for adults will include “Life Reimagined,” “Pet Care,” “Fraud Prevention” and more! Check web site frequently throughout your summer, so you won’t miss out on anything.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a good book at the library, and help us to “Build a Better World.”
By Cindy Schuchardt, Reference Department
“The ‘Little House’ books are stories of long ago. Today our way of living and our schools are much different; so many things have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.”
—Laura Ingalls Wilder
On February 7, 2017, Laura Ingalls Wilder would have been 150 years old. Though she died in 1957, she lives on through her beloved Little House on the Prairie books. This enduring children’s fiction series gives readers a glimpse of life in another time, based on Wilder’s experiences from her birth in Pepin, Wisconsin, to her childhood as a pioneer girl traveling through the upper Midwest, to her life as a young teacher and wife in De Smet, South Dakota.
I was in fourth grade when I first discovered the Little House books. I was in a new school – with a new library – and I remember seeing the books on a shelf to my right as I walked into the room. The cover illustrations by Garth Williams first drew me in, but it was the colorful word pictures created by Wilder that kept me transfixed. I kept returning to the library, reading each book in the series until I had completed them all. We didn’t have American Girl dolls or books in those days, but I think that many from my generation thought of Laura and her sisters Mary, Carrie and Grace as our American girls.
As fictionalized autobiographic material, the books don’t give us an entire or entirely accurate picture of history. This was a limited picture of America (an approach that took on a largely hushed tone about Native American and black history) but one that many still find valuable and enjoyable. I know that Wilder’s words helped me to travel to another time and place, to experience things that I would never experience in my lifetime – from traveling in a covered wagon and living in a log cabin, to churning butter, harvesting maple syrup, and smoking meat. I felt as though I knew the Ingalls family and was right there with Laura (a.k.a. Half-Pint) as she experienced each new task, trial or tribulation.
The story of how Wilder came to write the books is in itself an interesting one. In midlife, Wilder wrote a biweekly column for the Missouri Ruralist, which featured her opinions on country life, housekeeping, and marriage. Her adult daughter, Rose, a reporter for the San Francisco Bulletin and already a published fiction writer, encouraged Wilder to write about her childhood. That autobiography, Pioneer Girl, was rejected by several publishers at the time.
The tide turned when an editor at Harper & Brothers asked Wilder to reframe the autobiographical material into a fictionalized children’s book. With help from Rose, Wilder did exactly that. The editor liked the revised manuscript for Little House in the Big Woods and published it. It was 1932, and Wilder was 65 years old. (For adults who are aspiring fiction writers, this is an especially encouraging fact!)
Wilder’s first book was quickly successful, and she was asked to write more. Rose helped her mother, although the extent to which she served as editor or ghostwriter is a subject of debate among literary experts. By 1943, the core eight novels of the series had been published: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years. The final book in the series, The First Four Years, was published in 1971, almost 15 years after Wilder’s death.
The Little House series opened the doors of history to girls and boys across the country – and later, around the world. Wilder died on February 10, 1957, three days after her 90th birthday, on her farm in Mansfield, Missouri. Yet she lives on today through her literary legacy. About 60 million copies have been sold of Little House in the Big Woods alone, and her books have been published in 30 languages.
In 2014, the South Dakota Historical Society Press published a hardcover edition of Pioneer Girl, the autobiography first refused by Wilder’s contemporary publishers. The text, annotated by Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill, has sold more than 140,000 copies. For 2017, Harper Collins is releasing new, anniversary-themed editions of the books – a testament to their enduring popularity and appeal.
Want to Know More?
The library is a great way to learn more Laura Ingalls Wilder and get acquainted (or reacquainted) with her Little House books. Ask one of our children’s librarians for the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Bibliography,” which lists titles and locations of the original books, as well as non-fiction companion books, and books by other authors based on the lives of Wilder’s female relatives.
Upstairs, in the nonfiction area, we have a variety of writings by Wilder, as well as books about her by other authors. Stop by the reference desk and ask about them. We’ll be glad to help you!