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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is the Sun Closer to the Earth in the Summer or the Winter?

“We have a bet riding on this question. Is the sun closer to the earth in the summer or the winter?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff found this to be an interesting question, considering how much snow we have been getting this December.
Our staff member Googled “sun closer to earth in winter or summer” and found several websites which seemed to supply the information we needed. The Library of Congress’ site has a section called Everyday Mysteries [] where the question “Why is it hot in summer and cold in winter?” is answered. The sun is closest to the earth in January and furthest in July. It explains though the sun is closer in the winter than the summer, because of the tilt on its axis, the sun’s rays hit the earth at a shallower angle with more atmosphere to go through.This causes less energy to hit any given spot on the surface and factoring in the shorter days and longer nights the earth does not stay as warm. Our staff informed the patron, who was happy that he was going to be a little richer.

Researching further for this article, we went to the website There we discovered that while the information given in the Library of Congress article was correct, in relationship to the seasons, it is only true for us living in the Northern Hemisphere. As explained, the seasons are determined by the tilt of the earth’s axis, not the distance from the sun. Hopefully this will not void our patron’s winning since in December the earth is always closer to the sun than in July, no matter what the season or hemisphere.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can You Help Me Figure Out Who This Person Is?

The lady on the phone asked, “Can you help me? I got a Christmas card, I can’t read the signature, and I don’t recognize the return address. I tore off the label and my dog ate it. All I can remember was her first name was Ruth, and she lived on [names changed to insure privacy] Clinton Avenue in Paddle, Oklahoma. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t figure out who this person is.” The Newton Falls Public Library staff was not sure if they could find the answer to this woman’s question.

We began our online search, at Using the reverse address search, we typed in the street name, city, and state. There was only one Ruth living on Clinton Avenue in Paddle. Our patron was still confused as why she would be getting a card from her. Our staff said the site gives approximate ages and the names of household members, including a man’s unusual name which was familiar to our patron. We also gave the caller some of the other information listed on the site; mentioning a middle name and a maiden name. Now, the card sender was sounding more familiar. Our caller went and got the card to reexamine the almost illegible signature. She happily realized that the card had been addressed and labeled by the out-of-state daughter of a close friend who has Parkinson’s disease

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What is a Pie Bird?

“I was looking at a magazine and I saw this little ceramic bird stuck in the middle of a pie. Can you tell me anything about it?”  Some members of the Newton Falls Public Library staff were familiar with this cute item known as a pie bird, but having some personal understanding about a topic does not always supply the complete information needed by a patron.

We were successful in discovering information in the first two items we examined.  Warman's Flea Market Price Guide, 2nd edition by Don Johnson & Ellen T. Schroy describes them as “little birds with their beaks wide open . . . designed to act as a vent for a pie with a top crust. . .” [p.265]. Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie and Pastry Bible, seems to have very strong feelings about pie birds. Beranbaum states on page 670, “The purpose . . . is to create and maintain a fanciful opening in the upper crust of the pie for the steam and bubbling juices to vent.  I find they are impractical, as they displace too much of the pie’s filling . . .”  Both resources said that many people considered them to be collectibles.

There are also websites dedicated to this interesting piece of kitchen equipment. shows the birds as one of a type of pie funnel, which have been used since Victorian times. Besides pie birds, the funnels include people and other animals.  The June 8, 2010 posting Brief History of Pies and Pie Birds on the blog Civil War Reenacting and Cooking [] also refers to these birds as whistles and chimneys.

Our patron thought that these would make delightful Christmas gifts for her family members who bake.  Her next question concerned where she may purchase them and how much they cost.  Searching online, we discovered multiple sites offering pie birds for sale, listing of local stores which had them, and prices ranging from $1 to almost $135.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Do I Clean a Hartco Floor?

“I’m cleaning for the holidays, and I need to know how to clean a Hartco floor.” The staff of the Newton Falls Public Library was not familiar with this type of floor. The patron did not know if it was hardwood or laminate flooring.

We began our investigation online since this question was about a specific brand. The Internet search revealed that Hartco is a hardwood flooring product of Armstrong World Industries, Inc. Their website,, has a section titled Flooring 101: Floor Care. Our patron was able to watch a short online video about the flooring, as well as see the products available to care for it. There was also an extensive section on Easy Care Steps for Cleaning Hardwood Floors. It included DOs and DON’Ts; Quick Fix Tips covering spills & dirt, spots caused by food, water or animals, grease/lipstick/crayon/ink and heel marks, chewing gum and candle wax, minor abrasions/scratches, and deep scratches/gouges; and Initial and Periodic Hardwood Floor Care and Maintenance.

Our patron had all the information she needed to prepare for properly cleaning her floor.