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  Archived Posts From: 2013


Q: “Are Zombie Ants real?”

Written on: March 10th, 2013 in ArchivesQ & A's

Q: “I’d like to know if Zombie Ants are real, and what makes them Zombies?”

Fungus turns certain types of ants into zombies

Thank you so much for your great question!   Like you, I had not heard of zombie ants until recently and wanted to find out more.

The fungus that causes certain types of ant to behave in ways that seem zombie-like is called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.  Although it has been around for many millions of years, as reported on ScienceDaily, it was discovered and identified in tropical forests such in Africa, Brazil and Thailand fairly recently   An international research team led by scientist David Hughes of Penn State University, wrote the first paper in 2009 describing the effect of the fungus on an ant.  and to assure us this fungus targets a specific host species, the Camponotus leonardi ant (and does not affect humans).

As Dr. Hughes’ findings show, such as described in Scientific American and ScienceDaily, the fungus spores affect ants’ brains and behavior.  The ant who is infected will typically climb about halfway up the tropical canopy and bite on the underside of a leaf so hard as to be locked there with its mouth open.  This is an ideal location for the fungus to grow and mature, and it usually does by sprouting a stalk out of the ant’s head.  On this, the fungus creates more spores as to keep its own species alive.  “In other words,” reported Katherine Harmon of the Scientific American, “the fungus was transported via the zombie ant to its prime location.”  And in this way the fungus continues to thrive.

More information and images about the zombie ant can be seen on PennState’s ScienceCast (YouTube).

Most recently, Dr. Hughes and his team have reported that Ophiocordyceps unilateralis has its own enemy; another fungi.  According to Discover Magazine online, this fungi is not much help to the ant who is infected, however, since it only infects the Ophiocordyceps after the ant has died.”  Another resource, the Encyclopedia of Life, reiterates the value of keeping this fungus in check.

New discoveries are made all the time and these help us understand ourselves better in ways that will improve health and well-being for all.  It is estimated that there are 8.7 million species on our planet, but that it is very difficult to have an accurate count and as stated on Life of Science in 2011, “all scientists agree that many more species remain to be discovered.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Hughes and his team’s research continues.  The National Geographic’s Daily News (May, 2012 by Christine Dell’Amore) quote the scientist’s thoughts:  “There are lots of these really cool interactions going on daily in the forest,” Hughes added, “and I think we should be studying them in more detail.”

If you would like more information about ants, the Delaware Libraries’ databases offer excellent encyclopedias and  journals for your use, free with a valid Delaware library card, such as Science News, Science Spin, and Scientific American, Earth Science, Science, and more!  If you need help finding the article, magazine or any information you need, please feel free to contact us anytime in person or online through Ask a Librarian Delaware. We love to learn and appreciate your questions!


Q: “I need to find historical events of the 1980s”

Written on: March 3rd, 2013 in ArchivesQ & A's

Q: “Hi! I was wondering what kind of books you would suggest looking at to find the historical context of something happening in the 1980s? Thanks”

Thank you for your question to find out about books that describe the 1980s so you can determine their historical context. President Reagan during the 1980s

I took a look at the books available but also want to offer you other resources from the Delaware Libraries’ databases as well as from some online sources. Let’s start with the books.

In the Delaware Library Catalog you can use the Advanced Search feature to bring in specific search terms. I used “United States, 1980s, history” – similar search terms will bring up similar results.

Through the catalog we can see that there are a few books available for you to request:

1. America in the 1980s
Author: Camardella, Michele L.

2. The 1980s decade in photos : the triumph of democracy
Author: Corrigan, Jim.

3. America in the 1980s
Author: Brill, Marlene Targ. (juvenile)

4. The 1980s from Ronald Reagan to MTV (juvenile)
Author: Feinstein, Stephen.

5. Decade of nightmares : the end of the sixties and the making of eighties America
Author: Jenkins, Philip, 1952-

Another great resource is the Delaware Libraries’ database collection.  Delaware’s includes Ebsco’s many journals and magazine articles. There are quite a few articles when I put in the search terms “decade 1980s” and “US history”. I saw such articles as, “Strategy in the Decade of the 1980s” by Paul Nitze, which focuses upon US foreign affairs during this time period. If you are looking for articles this is a great way to quickly find authoritative information.

To search on Ebsco for yourself, go to ‘eMagazines and More‘ and give the first option a try, the Academic Search Premier.  You’ll need to log in using your 14 digit library card number and PIN.   If you ever have any trouble with this, feel free to chat with a librarian anytime!

I also thought you might also be interested in some online resources. There are a few that are pretty good with history, such as (The History Channel), CNN, and InfoPlease.

CNN offers a visual look at events on their site at:

Here is InfoPlease – a good place to quickly get started with a factual search:

You can also search on InfoPlease for more years, too.

Here is a link to the History Channel’s site about the 1980s:

You might want to compare an historical timeline with the above events, such as through America’s Best History’s timeline for the 1980s .

I hope this gives you enough information for your research question. Please feel free let us know if you need more – in person and online through Ask a Librarian Delaware. We truly appreciate it your support and use of our Delaware libraries!


Q: “What is the most popular color for a car in the U.S.?”

Written on: February 24th, 2013 in ArchivesQ & A's

Q: “Can you tell me the most popular colors people choose for their cars?”

What a great question!  Whether you are thinking of purchasing a new vehicle or just curious about current trends in car color choices, it’s interesting to know that “white/white pearl is the most popular vehicle color on the continent, according to the 2012 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report.  Black/black effect comes in second, with silver finishing third” (AAA World, March/April 2013: p. 17).

The 2012 DuPont Automotive Color Popularity Report provides a global view of automotive color preferences.  White, black and silver dominate most nations’ color preferences, but “in North America, white has been the number-one color from 2007 to 2012,” remarked Nancy Lockhart, DuPont color marketing manager (AAA World, March/April 2013: p. 17).

Forbes Magazine’s online article “Top 10 Most Popular Car Colors” offers more details speculating why, such as due to the influence of Apple’s technology on the current trend, since, according to Lockhart, Apple’s popular products “helped establish white as a hip color of status. Thus, Apple inadvertently helped propel white to prominence in the auto industry.”  She also notes that black and white are often viewed as “as denoting status, luxury and quality.”

One consideration about car color choice and its popularity is for resale value.  The Kelly Blue Book online offers good advice when thinking about purchasing a vehicle in a popular vs. non-popular color:  “Put simply, today’s popular color will probably make your vehicle more popular to a buyer five years from now.”  Further, “…less popular colors depreciate your vehicle’s value. By how much, you ask? That’s the tricky part. It actually can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the vehicle and the color in question.”

For touching up nicks, scrapes and scratches, colors that are popular and standard will be easier to match whether you are inclined to fix it yourself or take it to a automotive service center.

One final resources that you may like:  If you are a Do-It-Yourselfer, the Delaware Libraries ‘ database Auto Repair Reference Center may be of interest to you.  It has step-by-step procedures with schematics for many cs (makes, models, years) that provide you with information about how to fix your car, from wiring and maintenance to major issues.  It can even help you save money when you have your vehicle serviced since you’ll know more about what to expect.  The database is free to use from your Internet-connected computer with a valid library card.  The information received can be priceless!

Thank you again for asking about popular car colors.  We hope this completely answers your question, but if you need more information or have other questions, please feel free to contact us online through our Ask a Librarian Delaware service (it’s 247!) or in person at your any Delaware public library.  We hope to see you online again soon!


Q: “How are meteors and asteroids tracked?”

Written on: February 17th, 2013 in ArchivesQ & A's

Q:  “Hi!  I’m wondering how scientists track meteors like the one that hit Russia a few days ago.  Is there a public notification system?  If so, how reliable is it?”

On Friday, February 15, 2013 we had two historical events:  the meteor that hit near Chelyabinsk, Russia and the fly-by of an asteroid.  This rare double occurrence has generated many questions about the likelihood of  future impacts and concerns for the devastation such can cause.  Let’s take a look at some of the facts about such an event.

I’ve divided this response into four areas:

  1. Brief definition of asteroid, meteor and meteorite, so we know what we’re talking about
  2. Probability of impact and how this is currently tracked
  3. Future technology for tracking
  4. More resources

1.  Definition

Online dictionaries, such as are terrific for quick definitions and meanings.  According to, a meteor is a meteoroid that has hit the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated. If a meteor is big enough to hit the Earth, it is called a meteorite.    Asteroids can be viewed as ‘minor planets‘, most of which “…revolve about the sun in orbits lying mostly between those of Mars and Jupiter.”  Another explanation can be found through LiveScience’s 2/15/13 post by Marc Lallanilla, “What are an Asteroid, a Meteor, and a Meterorite?

There are further details about types of asteroids and meteors which you can explore.  For example, the American Meteor Society offers indepth information on their site, such as for learning about “fireballs” (a type of meteor).

2.  Probability of impact and current tracking procedures

NASA reports that:

“…no human in the past 1000 years is known to have been killed by a meteorite or by the effects of one impacting. (There are ancient Chinese records of such deaths.) An individual’s chance of being killed by a meteorite is small, but the risk increases with the size of the impacting comet or asteroid, with the greatest risk associated with global catastrophes resulting from impacts of objects larger than 1 kilometer. NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small. In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.

An article published by CNN (written by Meg Urry, Israel Munsen professor of physics and astronomy) on 2/16/13 states, “NASA scientists estimate that meteors as large as Friday’s might hit the Earth every decade or two…”  But most are unnoticed, she points out, since they usually land in water (which covers about two-thirds of our planet).

Estimates about the size and weight of the meteor vary a bit, but modern technologies (such as a cell phone camera) have provided ways for audio and visual recording and are assisting NASA and scientists everywhere with ways to refine early estimates.  It is now believed that the Russian meteor was larger than first thought.

There are tracking systems in place to watch for such flying objects coming our way, as noted by University of Texas astronomy professor Dr. Judit Gyorgyey Ries who remarked, “What I am excited about is that we knew it ahead of time. We knew it a year ahead of time that it’s going to happen, which shows that the search programs are really doing their job…”

One major resource you can freely refer to online is from NASA, called the Near-Earth Object Program.  Here you will find more about impact risks and search programs.

3.  Future tracking technology

Although there are excellent tracking systems in place, improvements can always be made not only for tracking asteroids and objects  but also for deflecting any that are on collision courses with the Earth.  Besides the continued work by the world’s top astronomers and NASA, a non-profit organization called the “B612 Foundation” is also dedicated to the understanding and early detection of asteroids.  Among some of the educational information provided on their site, the  B612 Foundation offers an infographic on the Russian meteor. Their mission is to build a space telescope (called “Sentinel”) that will be launched in 2018.  As Dr. Ed Lu states while presenting at a TEDx Talk in Marin, California, “Simply put, its mission is to protect the Earth.”

4.  More resources

Online newspapers are great places for current events.  For example, the New York Times gives a feature article about last Friday’s phenomenon.

The Delaware Libraries’ databases also provide excellent access to newspaper and magazine articles.  With your valid library card, you can quickly explore the deep web by topic, magazine/newspaper name, date, and more.

To learn more about asteroids and meteors, see the list of books and library materials you can check out.

And if you have more questions, please feel free to ask us anytime!  Librarians are online 24/7 through Ask a Librarian Delaware and we have many public libraries all around Delaware that you can use.  Thank you for asking your timely question!



Q: “What is Black History Month all about?”

Written on: February 3rd, 2013 in ArchivesQ & A's

Q: “What is Black History Month and when did it start?”

Thank you for your great question!

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is celebrated in February nation-wide but started as a week-long tribute in the 1920s. The month-long honor officially began in 1976 with a proclamation given by then-US President Gerald Ford. As President Ford stated, “In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Ever since, each February the U.S. President offers a Proclamation.

Further details about Black History Month is described by the Library of Congress, including its development and mission. The Library of Congress offers a teacher’s guide, images and online collections of resources to help us learn more. An additional excellent resource for educators and life-long learners is from The Smithsonian Education’s site.

Another overview is offered by InfoPlease, a freely available online encyclopedia. According to this resource (and others), “We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson.” A biography about Dr. Woodson can be found on’s site.

School-aged children may enjoy Time for Kids. The information about African American History Month includes inspiring stories, biographies, and more.

If you know of any teens/young adults (or are one yourself), you may like the article published by the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association on their blog, the Hub. In this posting dated February 3, 2013, you’ll find titles recommended for teens/YAs and all about African Americans amd Black History Month – with a modern view!

Additional online resources are offered through’s site.

Locally, Delaware’s libraries and museums offer a variety of resources online and inside their buildings, and there are a couple of events you may enjoy:

    With a valid library card, you have access to hundreds of articles on the ‘deep web’ – through the Delaware libraries’ online magazines and journals. These include biographies, news, reports, and more. You can find out more about your favorite heroes or learn about someone you had never heard of who made a tremendous difference for all.

    The Hagley Museum offers events and displays, such as showcasing an exhibit by local artist Edward Loper, Sr. throughout the month. A good overview of Mr. Loper is offered through YouTube’s “intheupperroom.”

    To top it all off, renowned poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou is the featured speaker at the University of Delaware‘s Trabant Center on February 22, 2013. See the University’s site for ticket information and details.

    Thank you again for asking your Delaware librarians. We truly appreciate your support of our libraries! Feel free to ask us anytime in person and online through our Ask a Librarian Delaware service – we’re here to help with your questions!


    Q: “Are digital thermometers as reliable as the older glass standard ones?

    Written on: January 29th, 2013 in ArchivesQ & A's

    Q: “Is there any difference between a regular thermometer and an electronic [digital] one? Someone told me the electronic ones are not very reliable when trying to tell if someone has a fever. Is that true?”

    Thank you for your question about the reliability of digital thermometers when compared to the glass, mercury-filled ones many of us grew up with. It’s important to know if our tools are giving us the right readings!

    One of the best sources for finding information about the reliability of certain products is “Consumer Reports”. Our Delaware Libraries offer free access to this popular magazine online and in our libraries. Online, you just need your library card number (located on the back of your library card) and your PIN to log into the “Magazines” area. Once there, you can search by publication or subject to find articles.

    For your question, I searched on ‘Consumer Reports’ for studies about the reliability and accuracy of digital thermometers and see that the most recent article is titled, “Hottest fever thermometers” (Nov2011, Vol. 76 Issue 11, p7-7). In this article, the authors identify some discrepancies with digital thermometers but emphasize that it is small. They state:

    “The most accurate thermometers were within 0.5 degree of our medical thermometer, and all but one were at least good at repeating a retaken temperature. The exception: the lowest rated Vicks ComfortFlex.”

    Further details, including the ranking of a variety of products, are provided on the article available through the Delaware Libraries, and other information about thermometers is freely available on Consumer Reports’ site.

    The National Institutes of Health and the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) also give excellent information about today’s thermometers. They describe the move from the standard glass, mercury-filled thermometers, how to dispose of these, and what to consider when purchasing an electronic thermometer. If you are looking for a way to get rid of that old standard thermometer, the EPA suggests giving it to your primary doctor since mercury is toxic.

    Batteries are another consideration since they can affect readings when low, and like all batteries, need to be disposed of properly. Not all digital thermometers have replaceable batteries, though. It’s just one more feature you may like.

    One final bit of information that might come in handy is an article on how to take a person’s temperature (orally), on Drug Information Online’s site. This handy article offers suggestions too, such as writing down a person’s temperature and the time taken to keep a record.

    I hope this completely answers your question; please feel free to ask your Delaware Libraries anytime, in person or online using our live, chat library service called Ask a Librarian Delaware. We hope to see you in our libraries and online using our resources soon!


    Q: “Is there a monthly gardening tip resource for our area?”

    Written on: January 20th, 2013 in ArchivesQ & A's

    Q: “Is there an easy way to find out when I need to prune, plant, mulch, weed? I’d like a monthly gardening list that I can use online, and need ideas for making my garden great this year.”

    There are many great resources for our Delaware gardens and landscapes. Let’s start with the Delaware Master Gardener’s tips, giving ideas for what to do and when to do it by week and month.

    Master Gardeners share their expertise through the Cooperative Extension. You can view the Cooperative Extension for Delaware’s information by county, and take workshops that support local learning about plants that do well in our environment, what best grows when and how to diagnose/treat problems and common pests. The CE is committed to sustainable, healthy gardens and landscapes and promotes the knowledge and use of native plants.

    On a Federal level, the USDA offers gardening tips per state and region.

    It’s not too early to think about preparing for spring planting. Mother Earth News gives month-by-month lists for what to plant each month; the planting season begins with February! Many avid gardeners in Delaware enjoy planning their gardens while tending to their yards and landscape even in January– weather permitting. Indoors, seedlings such as pansies can be started for those early spring cold-tolerant plants.

    The Delaware Library Catalog offers many books for planning and organizing year-round planting, pruning, and tending. We find specific resources in print and on DVDs to help motivate and inspire you while you plan out each step of the way toward a beautiful garden. Here are three options:

  1. ‘Four Seasons Gardening: a month-by-month guide to planning, planting, and carding for your garden’ by Ann Reilly
  2. ‘Gardener to gardener almanac & pest-control primer : a month-by-month guide and journal for planning, planting, and tending your organic garden’ by Vicki Mattern

  3. and

  4. ‘Project garden : a month-by-month guide to planting, growing, and enjoying all your backyard has to offer’ by Stacy Tornio.
  5. Before we know it winter will be gone and new flowers and seedlings will be bursting forth!

    Thank you so much for your timely question to our Delaware Libraries. We’re happy to help with all your information needs and library questions, whether it’s in our library buildings or online. We’re here to help make your life a little easier!


    Try the New Delaware Library Catalog

    Written on: January 17th, 2013 in Blog PostsNews

    We regularly receive, and appreciate, the valuable feedback from many of you about searching the library catalog.  We agree that searching should be easier, with better ways to narrow down choices.  And book and video lists should be easy to create, save, edit, and share.

    That is why we are so excited to present the new, easier, and much improved Delaware Library Catalog!  Please try it out and tell us what you think! Like all beta products you might encounter a glitch or two, so let us know if something doesn’t seem quite right.

    Some Highlights:

    • Better Searching – Fuzzy logic, similar to Amazon and Google searches, will improve search results – even when words are misspelled.
    • Easily Filter Your Results – After you enter your search terms, you will be able to narrow down your results by clicking on the various facets of the results. For instance, quickly narrow your search to items from a particular library, in DVD format, on a certain subject!
    • Browse Collections – You can easily view and search just books, eBooks, eAudiobooks, magazines, music, or videos.
    • Share – Email links to items in our catalog, send them as text messages, or build RSS feeds. Use Facebook to tell your friends what you’re reading now.
    • Create Lists – Once you are logged in to your library account, you can search the catalog and save any items you’d like (books, movies, magazines). Your lists are private and you can set up as many as you want or need.  How about a list of what you’ve already read and one for what you want to read next?

    What’s Next?

    We expect to have text messaging alerts for holds and more soon.  And in the next several months, Automatic PIN retrieval.  We all forget our PINs occasionally and we are working to automatically have forgotten PINs emailed.


    Top 10 Blog posts of 2012

    Written on: January 10th, 2013 in Blog Posts

    2012 was a great year for Delaware Libraries!  The new Dover Public Library opened; Bear, Claymont, Frankford, Greenwood, and Wilmington Libraries all started renovations or new building projects; we began lending eBooks & eAudiobooks; and so much more.

    Here’s a look back at 2012 through the top 10 posts on our blog.  Some are favorites that appear year after year and some were new in 2012.

    1. Although posted in 2011, in 2012 tens of thousands more discovered that scratching poison ivy does not make it spread
    2. We learned the world would not end on 12/21/2012
    3. Turns out the average American reads 17 books a year (print book readers average 24 and eBook readers average 15)
    4. Delawareans were understandably interested in how to find flood maps before Superstorm Sandy hit
    5. Another perennial top 10, the 5-second rule? Not true!
    6. Train and ship lovers enjoyed seeing Jackson and Sharp photos online
    7. Buyers and sellers wanted to know how to find property transfer information
    8. There is some interesting research on when the American Flag was first flown in battle and it may not be at Cooch’s Bridge
    9. Want to know the difference between relative humidity and dew point?  You’re not alone!
    10. We launched a genre guide so people could find out what to read or watch next

    Keep following the Delaware Libraries blog to see what we’ll explore in 2013!



    Q: “Can you recommend a good book to read?”

    Written on: January 6th, 2013 in Blog PostsQ & A's

    Q: “I’d like to find something new to read.  Can you help?  I have been kind of stuck in a rut with romance novels for light, pleasure reading, but I want to try something else.  Where do I start looking?”

    The new year is a great time to embrace new ideas and explore different places that good writing can take us.  There are many amazing stories that can capture our attention and lead us into seeing the world and everything around us in ways we never thought of.  Everyone’s taste is unique, though, and librarians can help you define what it is that may spark your interest beyond what you have normally been drawn to, now that you are ready to explore something new.

    To know more about good matches for what you might like, we ask questions about what you have been reading and the specifics — what it is about the stories that you like:   the characters?  the settings?  the way the author unfolds the story?  We may ask what kinds of movies or television shows you’ve enjoyed and those that interest you today.  Maybe we’ll ask about what it is that interests you in life – do you have a hobby, enjoy mysteries, like light reading or something with a message?  Do you like to learn something about the world around us, or are you sparked by a purely made up story, maybe with dragons and elves or beings from another planet?  There are so many options, we want to gain enough clues about what direction you’d like to take as you expand into a new literary realm so as to target some exciting ideas.

    Once you have a general idea, you can break this into genres:  action-adventure, crime, fantasy, Western, mystery, and so on.  Within each of these you can find tons of books, so the next step is to consider the setting and style of writing (modern, classic?), and other details.

    A common way to find good books to read is through bestseller lists, award-winners, and recommendations from others.  The following list some resources for each:

    1. Bestseller lists

    The Delaware Library Catalog features popular and bestselling fiction.  The default view is the New York Times paperback and hardback popular fiction.  You have other options too, such as popular non-fiction and new books, and children’s books are featured as well.  If you click on the book cover image, you are brought to the item within the catalog so that you can learn more about it, and if desired, place a hold (a request for it).

    Also provided by the Delaware Division of Libraries is a list of reading recommendations on the Genre LibGuide.  This offers a vast treasure of options and ideas, and because it is provided by Delaware Libraries, the titles are directly linked to the catalog for easy access.

    2.  Award winners

    There are many well-crafted stories and recognition for these is often specialized by type.  For example, award-winners for mystery books (Poe Award) and for science fiction (Arthur C. Clarke, Nebula, Asimov, and Hugo Awards) are some offered every year.  The National Book Foundation offers another recognized award for well-deserved fiction.

    3.  Reading recommendations

    Generally speaking, recommendations from librarians, family and friends are wonderfully prolific and fruitful.  We can start with The Readers Advisory Link Farm – a directory of links to reviews, bookstores, and lists.  Pinterest is another way to share book recommendations and lists for adult fiction.  Another online social place is Goodreads, which is well-loved by many librarians and readers who share their own suggestions.

    I hope this helps you with ideas for exceptional books for the coming year.  Please feel free to ask a librarian anytime you want to find a good book to enjoy, whether it’s a print book, an audio version, or ebooks.  We’re glad to help and love treasure hunting for books and information anytime!  You can visit us in person or log on to chat (Ask a Librarian Delaware).  We truly appreciate your service!