Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

December 26, 2006 > Instant Messaging @Your Library

Instant Messaging @Your Library

On Monday, October 2, the Fremont, Newark, and Union City libraries expanded their channels of access for patrons by offering Instant Messaging (IM). This service is available Monday through Thursday from 3-5 p.m.; patrons can chat in real time with a reference librarian. So far, staff has helped people find full-text journal articles on child development, track down books on Italian immigration for an eighth-grade report, and explain how to set up a free account for our NetLibrary eBooks.

At a recent national library conference, one speaker made the observation that, for libraries to be accessible to young people, "Not having IM is like not having a phone." And, according to the results of a Pew/Internet project, 75% of online teens and 42% of online adults use Instant Messaging.

As we increase publicity about this new service, we expect it to become a well-used tool to reach the library. "As more people choose to connect with us by IM, ideally we'd like to offer it whenever the library is open," said Susan Fisher, Web Services Coordinator, who managed its system-wide implementation

Sign up for your free IM from services such as,, or Follow the instructions provided by the service to download the free software and get your own "screen name". You may also try, which requires no downloading.  So, regardless of your age, when you're online, rather than calling us, just IM!  Reach us at, and then click on the "Ask Us" logo for more information.

Databases of the month: History Resource Center U.S. and History Resource Center World

Students, researchers and those who "just want to know" might find the History Resource Centers useful and fun.  There are two, one concentrating on U.S. history and one on world history.  They both work the same way, but have different content in them. 

There's a "basic search" box where you just type in what you are looking for on the front page of the database.  A search for depression in the US History Resource Center turned up over 200 articles from reference books.  On the left side there was a list of related links, including medical depression, the economic depression of 1893-1897, and the topic I had in mind, the Great Depression of 1929-1934.  Clicking on that link gives you tabbed results: 140 reference articles covering causes, the role of the government, the New Deal, etc., 23 magazine and journal articles, 27 primary sources (letters, speeches and government documents) and 17 images: breadlines, shacktowns and people looking for work. Every article or essay includes a citation to use in a bibliography, if you are required to have one.

There's also a Person Search feature that lets you look for people in history, either by name or by describing them. The most useful searches are by profession (activist, scientist, mayor, etc.), nationality and gender.  For a quick overview of events during a time period, click on the Chronology link underneath the Person/Subject/Advanced search links.  Roll your mouse over the scroll bar and click on the historical era that interests you.  You'll get a page of links in chronological order (oldest first) to short descriptions of domestic events.  This list gives you an overview of what happened during a specific time period and ideas for other topics to research within any given era. 

There are also a couple of nice tools in the bar at the top of the database's front page.  One is a dictionary; click on the little book icon.  You can paste in a word from any of the documents you retrieve and get a definition.  Another is the Research Guide; the icon for that is a small pair of glasses.  In the Research Guide, there's an introduction to historical material, including the difference between primary and secondary sources, how to develop a research assignment, and preparing & writing the paper.

In the History Resource center: World, a search for Stalingrad (a decisive battle of World War II) yielded 6 reference articles, 7 journal articles and 2 images.  A search for ming dynasty resulted in 78 reference essays and 2 journal articles.  This Resource Center also has a dictionary and a Research Guide. 

The material available in these databases is not available on the open web, but you have access to them 24/7 with your library card.  Go to, and click on Articles & Databases listed under Research Guide (the column on the middle of the page on the right).  Click on the topic, History & Biography, and then on one of the History Resource Centers.  You will then have to enter the barcode number on the back of your library card.  If you don't have one, go to, and click on the Get a Library Card link under the Using Your Library heading.  Print out a copy of the registration form and bring it with you to any Alameda County Library branch with some identification showing your name and current address.  You'll be able to use all 50 databases from home or work right away. 

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