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Friday, December 28, 2007

How did it go?

Still trying to find that one bulb that's keeping the whole string from lighting or have you fallen into a post-holiday funk? The snow today didn't help much, it's just messy and cold enough to be unpleasant rather than picturesque. But here comes another long holiday weekend, and maybe you'll get a chance to wear those fuzzy slippers someone gave you for Christmas or try out that new kitchen gadget that caused you to say, "You really shouldn't have" and actually mean it.

PlainTalk will be back on January 2 with a big kick-off to the new year. Every blog posting for the entire month of January will give you suggestions and tips for creating new year's resolutions and - better yet - sticking with them! You'll find information on voting, staying fit and healthy, taking care of your car, taking care of your soul, paying your taxes and giving yourself a break. So check in with PlainTalk beginning January 2 and find inspiration and practical advice for making 2008 your best year ever.

In the meantime, don't forget the City of Des Plaines "New Year's Eve on the Plaza," beginning at 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve at the Des Plaines Theatre. The entertainment and fun will be spread over many locations in town, including Library Plaza, where you can take a carriage ride, have some free refreshments and enjoy live music. For more information on this event that grows bigger and better every year, click here.

And no matter how you ring in the New Year, make it safe. Get a designated driver and fasten that seat belt. We look forward to seeing you and serving you here in the library next year and for many years to come.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays...

so on that note, your PlainTalk blogger bids you fond adieu for a few days in order to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.

I wish you the best of whatever this time of year means to you: family celebration, spiritual rejuvenation, the merriment created by delicious things to eat and drink, positive wishes for the New Year, o
r, heck, just a day or two off from work to relax. Remember, the library will be closed on 12/24 and 12/25, but the usual smiling faces will be back to greet you on 12/26 at 9 a.m.
Want to leave us a holiday wish? Go ahead and post it here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Morning Movie Mania...

because it's still Monday morning - in California. Sorry, I was a little late getting this out today. Did you go to the movies this weekend? Somebody did, since Will Smith's "I Am Legend" broke December box office records with the biggest opening ever. I found that sort of amusing, since we tend to think of this as the season for light-hearted holiday fare, family flicks and big budget fantasies where good triumphs over evil. Perhaps "I Am Legend" is a big budgeted fantasy during which good triumphs over evil, I do not know. I only know that it involves human beings being consumed by a plague that turns them into vampirish creatures - not exactly what I associate with mistletoe and holly.

But since the radio stations have been bombarding us with holiday music since the day after Halloween, maybe we were collectively ready for a break and a cinematic adventure about a creepy disease taking over the world. Did you see "I Am Legend?" I did not, but I can say that Will Smith is usually pretty darn cool no matter what he's doing onscreen. Or were you feeling nostalgic for both the holidays and the novelty songs of your youth, so you went to see "Alvin and the Chipmunks?" I really dug the Chipmunks when I was little, but a whole movie...I'm not so sure.

The top movies for the past weekend were:
  • "I Am Legend"
  • "Alvin and the Chipmunks"
  • "The Golden Compass"
  • "Enchanted"
  • "No Country for Old Men"
Did you see any of these or watch an old favorite that you rented or, more wisely, checked out from the library? This is your chance to be a blogger and post your movie reviews right here. Remember, you do not have to sign up for a Blogger account, although the accounts are free and it just takes a few minutes to register. You can choose to post anonymously and submit your reviews that way as well. Either way, we'd love to see what people in Des Plaines are watching and get some conversation going here about movies. Feel free to post comments on other peoples' reviews, too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

And above all this bustle, you hear...

Singing Librarians AND a Christmas sweater contest. We thought you might enjoy a chance to see us "behind the scenes" at our all staff holiday breakfast extravaganza. Lots of eating and laughter, some games and crafts, even a little singing - since we're open 7 days a week and have many different shifts to cover, this is a rare opportunity for almost everybody at DPPL to be together in one room at the same time and we make the most of it. Enjoy, and rumor has it, the Singing Librarians might just make an appearance or two at the library during the week before Christmas. You just never know what you'll find at the library...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chess Champions, 2007

Along with that unused croquet set we had in the basement of my childhood home, we also had a very elegant chess set. I liked taking the various figures out of the velvety box and lining them up on the board - but alas, no one had ever taught me how to play the game. So we used it to play checkers.

But right here in our community, we've got some young people who really know how to play chess and they came out for our 2007 Chess Tournament on Wednesday, December 5, 2007. The tournament is hosted every year by our own vivacious and welcoming Mrs. (Elizabeth) Bialobrzewski and in the photo up above you can see this year's winners: Zachary Sztukowski (2nd place Novice), Drew Sztukowski (1st place Novice), Marcus Eng (Intermediate second place), John Gut (Novice Consolation), Deepankar Gupta (Intermediate 1st place), Alexander Romza (Intermediate Consolation). All the participants got a certificate and the lucky winners got prizes.

The library's drop-in chess club for kids will meet on February 6 and March 5, 2008, from 4-5 p.m. and there will be another tournament on April 9. So brush up on your skills and maybe you will be one of our winners next spring!

Congratulations to all of our talented competitors in the Chess Tournament.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ho-Hum for Hollywood?

I just started the "Monday Morning Movie Mania" column in this blog when something boring happened - movie ticket sales went into a funk. The idea was to check in with our DPPL patrons every Monday morning and find out what movies they'd seen over the weekend, giving people a chance to post their own reviews and comment on other reviews. We've had a few responses but not many, and part of me wonders if the box office blahs are part of the problem.

Ticket sales are down 6 percent from this time in 2006, according to What's your theory on that downslide? Too many dopey sequels? Too many formulaic stories being told again and again? Tired of the same actors' faces on the big screen several times a year? Annoyed thinking that your $10 ticket helps some millionaire actor buy $300 socks, $1,000 jeans and endless Botox injections? Is it the economy - with gas prices being so outrageous, are even the budget theaters just not, well, in your budget this time around? (This is a good time to remind you that the library has thousands of DVDs that you can check out for free. Nada. Nuttin'. "Rien," as they say in Paris.)

So, you can still share your movie reviews here - you can also share your theories, rants and raves on why movies aren't worth seeing anymore. I'm running a very democratic blog here, so exercise your freedom of speech when it comes to movies - yea or nay? Just type your comments here and don't forget to check back to see if someone has responded to your comments.

Thousands of DVDs. For free. At your library. (P.S. Plus, if the movie ends up being a stinker, you can just shut it off and pop in another one. Try doing that at the theater.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ringing in the Holidays - Des Plaines Style!

It's my first holiday season working in Des Plaines and I must admit, I am impressed. Several of us were interviewing a candidate for a job at the library this evening and as the sky grew darker, I realized how the downtown area had been transformed by wreaths, garland and festive white lights - nothing garish or overdone, just a nice touch of old-fashioned cheer. I'm a sucker for Christmas lights! Just as impressive as the decor is the full schedule of winter and holiday events in town - Scrooge would never have survived in Des Plaines. 
Tonight was the tree-lighting ceremony in Metropolitan Square. Yours truly is under a deadline time crunch which meant foregoing the festivities -- were you there? Tell us about it, I'm quite curious to know how Mayor Arredia made his "surprise entrance!" If you're looking for other ways to warm your spirit and senses this weekend, here are a few suggestions:

Sunday, at the Library, check out the charming violin concert by the "Magical Strings of Youth." Students from the Betty Haag Academy will dazzle you with their musical virtuosity and make you regret those violin lessons you gave up too soon. The Magical Strings of Youth have performed all over the world, for heads of state and to support children's charities. To learn more and to register, click here -- spots are filling quickly. 

The concert goes from 3-4 p.m., and that gives you plenty of time to stop at the Des Plaines History Center, 781 Pearson Street in Des Plaines, for their Holiday Gala. The gala lasts from 1-4 p.m., with an array of delights ranging from live piano music, hot cider and roasted chestnuts, tours of the historic Kinder House, free crafts for kids, holiday shopping in the Yesterdays gift shop - and, rumor has it, an appearance by some SINGING LIBRARIANS. But don't take my word for it, head over to the History Center on Sunday and find out for yourself. For more details, just click here.

The good folks over at the Des Plaines Park District are going all out for the weekend of December 8 & 9 (that's not this weekend, but next weekend - pace yourself!) and their Lake Wonderland Winter Festival. I'm not even a big cold weather, outdoor activities fan, but this event sounds really amazing. The festival is at Lake Park and the Lake Park Clubhouse and it literally offers something for everyone. For the romantic -- horse-drawn sleigh rides and madrigal singers. For kids -- clowns and cartoon characters, outdoor games in the fresh air and free pictures with that lovable if chubby guy who brings the presents. For the artistic type -- dancers, a bell choir, other live music performances and storytelling, including some of DPPL's own Children's librarians! Siberian huskies for the dog lover, pizza for the cheesehead, decorated trees for the Martha Stewart lurking inside each and every one of us -- when I tell you they have something for everyone, I mean it. So support your park district, support the businesses and community organizations who are making this spectacular Lake Wonderland event a reality and get out there next weekend. To learn more, just click here to visit the park district's Web site.

It's not a holiday show, but don't forget the Footlighters Theatre Company's production of "Grease," at the Prairie Lakes Theatre over on Thacker Street. The show runs December 7-15 with ticket prices between $10-15. Support local theatre and the huge variety of programming made available by the Des Plaines Park District by taking a trip back in time with "Grease." For more details, click here.

Is your community organization, church, school or non-profit group preparing a holiday-related event? If you'd like to see it included here in our PlainTalk library blog, post a comment here or email me at Time allowing and space permitting, we will be glad to inform the city about your event. 

Don't forget...SINGING LIBRARIANS...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

VFW Collection for the Troops - update

We've received a few messages regarding our barrel for collecting personal care and snack items for troops overseas.

When the original PlainTalk posting was made, back on October 17, 2007, we had the blue barrel in our atrium and it was there for several weeks. I just spoke with a representative of our local VFW. Unfortunately, so many people were leaving completely inappropriate items in the barrel that he removed it from our atrium last week. He will bring a barrel this afternoon and we will try a second time. Once again, if you want to help the troops, we have a complete list of items right here: just click, print and go shopping. This is NOT a food pantry collection - however, if you stop by the library's Christmas tree display, you will find a red barrel for the Self-Help Closet and Pantry, and appropriate, non-perishable food items can be left there. Keep in mind that items for the soldiers must be things that can be easily packed and mailed, so bulk food items and large bottles of soda are just not acceptable. Please follow the guidelines listed on our "Help the Troops" page.

In the meantime: if you have items you need to drop off for the collection, we have been told there is a blue barrel at the First Bank, corner of Lee and Ellinwood, or, bring the items to the library and just put my name on them, Karen McBride -- I will personally deliver the items to the VFW. We apologize for any inconvenience caused over the last few days.

Looking for other ways to help people during the holidays? Visit the display of Christmas trees in our lobby - you can leave "Toys for Tots," items for the Self-Help Closet and Pantry, or check out the "Mitten Tree." In a world where shopping and consumerism seem to have gotten the better of us, these are easy yet significant ways to spread joy and bring health and nourishment to others.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Manage to squeeze in any movies between the shopping, eating and football this weekend?

How was the long holiday weekend for you? For many of us, it wasn't really an extended weekend, as we had to return to work on Friday. But either way, perhaps you found a few more hours for family, holiday preparations and fun over the last few days. 

It was hard to ignore football, even for someone like me who is not typically a fan. My high school team, the Driscoll Highlanders of Addison, IL, was unbeaten this year and won their 7th straight state title. Nearer to my present home, the Lake Zurich Bears grabbed the 7A title. And those other Bears surprised us all with an at-home, OT victory over the Broncos. 

But if you didn't catch the drama on the playing fields this weekend, maybe you caught some theatrical drama or comedy at the movies. So let's hear about it - did you watch a holiday favorite like "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (absolutely my favorite Thanksgiving movie: "THOSE AREN'T PILLOWS!!!") at home or head out to the cineplex for one of the latest films? The top five movies this past weekend were:
  • "Enchanted" - A cartoon princess gets exiled to the harsh realities of life in modern New York, courtesy of Disney. 
  • "This Christmas" -- a holiday-themed family reunion story. I know absolutely nothing about this movie, so if you saw it, enlighten me, please!
  • "Beowulf" - Hanging on from last weekend, a technologically enhanced classic tale.
  • "Hitman" - Hmm. Apparently, this is a movie based on a video game. Again, if you saw it, help me out here, I'd never heard of this movie until I saw it in the top five list!
  • "Bee Movie" - Seinfeld and company remain unstoppable with this animated comedy.
"August Rush" and "The Mist" also opened last week, but even if you hunkered down with an old favorite on DVD, feel free to post your movie reviews here. We'd really love to develop "Monday Morning Movie Mania" into a regular feature, but it's no fun if you don't participate. It's your chance to be an Internet movie reviewer! Have a great week - stay warm out there.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Whaddya you mean, you're "too full?"

Coordinator of Public Services Holly Richards-Sorensen reports that her mother, told to bring "only ONE pie" for yesterday's Thanksgiving dinner, still insisted on bringing two. She left one in the car, just in case. Isn't that just how Thanksgiving goes? And personally, I prefer it that way as opposed to the gloomy scenario of spending Turkey Day with someone who's counting calories and carbs and grams of fat every step of the way. I must prefer it that way: it occurred to me while writing this that I not only ate my share of turkey, stuffing, green beans and crab salad yesterday, but also a enormous helping of kolacky, an apple slice, chocolate covered pretzels, dulce de leche cheesecake...

On and on it went. How was your Thanksgiving? Quiet and reflective? Manic and noisy? I started out with a 9 AM church service, then immediately headed to mom and dad's, giving me the edge over my siblings on that platter of kolacky. We dine out on holidays, so there's no kitchen mess, no arguing over the gravy. What did you do? Does your family have any special Thanksgiving traditions - over and above everyone's traditions, like turkey, football and scouring the shopping ads? I did glance over the "door buster" offerings, but knowing I had to work here in the library today, I didn't have much interest in the sales. How about you? Were you buying jewelry, DVD players, digital frames and luggage at 4 AM? (If you were, you are probably sleeping now and not reading this blog.) How were the crowds at the malls and discounters?

Once you've settled into the leftovers tonight, take a few minutes to tell us how your Thanksgiving Day turned out - whether it was a holiday straight out of Martha Stewart's diary or a day full of turkey that wouldn't thaw, relatives that wouldn't stop complaining, a backed-up sink or a frozen 4 AM "let's get elbowed by strangers at Wal-Mart" kind of a holiday. If you've had enough of shopping, don't forget: the library is open all weekend and we won't charge you a thing for all the books, DVDs and CDs you can carry home. It's a "door buster" sale every day!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Time for More Monday Morning Movie Mania

Well, it's Monday again (already??) and that means it's time for Monday Morning Movie Mania. Did you go to the movies this weekend or watch something cool at home? Tell us what you watched and how you liked it. This weekend's top movies were certainly an eclectic grouping:

"Beowulf" - A retelling of the Germanic legend, using "performance-capture technology" to give a bizarre, almost-animated look to stars Ray Winstone and Angelina Jolie, amongst other big names. The movie was particularly popular in special 3-D showings and iMax theatres.

"Bee Movie" - Jerry Seinfeld's animated comedy continues to attract like honey does flies. The film's three week take has been $98.8 million, with the big Thanksgiving weekend still on the horizon.

"American Gangster" and "Fred Claus" are both holdovers from previous weekends, as is the sixth place movie, "Dan in Real Life," which got high marks from our Monday Morning Movie Maniacs last week.

Rounding out the top five movies, however, is a brand new film, "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," a sweet slice of fantasy starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman.

Did you see any of the top five or did you watch an old favorite in the comfort of your living room? Write us a review, and feel free to comment on other reviews as well. Have a great Thanksgiving week - don't burn the turkey, don't ignore your family while you watch the football games and don't knock anybody down to get a cheap gift at one of the discount stores. In fact, if you need a place to escape the avalanche of carbs and the shopping frenzy, put the family in the car and get over to the library. We will be open all weekend, except for Thursday, the Thanksgiving holiday. Come on in and see us this Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

PlainTalk will return on Friday - in fact, let's keep the holiday theme going by sharing our Thanksgiving stories, right here, over the coming weekend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When you need to know - now!

A friend of mine has a favorite phrase: Give up your need to know. For librarians, however, that is almost an impossibility. My co-workers here at DPPL are already razzing me for my habit of pulling out my Sidekick in the middle of conversations in order to look up something. I can't give up my need to know!

Perhaps you are the same way - the type who can't get to sleep at night when you can't remember who sang a particular song, or won an Academy Award for a film about the Vietnam War, or if tomatoes are fruits or vegetables and also if they are part of the Nightshade family. (Botanically speaking, tomatoes are fruit; our government has classified them as a vegetable. Don't ask. According to one Website, the reasoning was that tomatoes were served as part of a meal, not dessert. Wonder what the U.S. Supreme Court thinks of chilled fruit soups? And yes, tomatoes are also Nightshade, but not deadly.)

See? I got sidetracked by my need to know. If you are like me, or, if you are a student who likes to live on the edge - meaning, you are a student who waits until 2 AM to start a research assignment that is due at 8:30 AM, DPPL is here to help. Even at 2 AM.

First of all, if you like to do your own research, just sign into our databases from your home computer. That's almost a no-brainer. Go to, click on "Online Resources," and use either the alphabetical list or our really helpful "Subject Guides" to get started on your fact-finding. These databases often provide full-text articles - meaning you can read and print the entire article immediately - from magazines, journals, newspapers, reference books and other types of resources. All you need to access them is your library card number. It's like having a topnotch library at your fingertips.

But maybe you need more than articles and facts. That's where our "Ask a Librarian" live chat service comes in. "Ask A Librarian" is provided by a consortium of Illinois libraries, including DPPL. The participating libraries provide staff so that this online service is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Click on the "Ask A Librarian" link on our home page, type in your question and get the help you need from an information professional. Try it out any time you have a question, even if it's morning or afternoon. It's especially convenient at times when you are homebound, whether due to illness, bad weather, a malfunctioning car or another of life's curve balls. You don't have to be a night owl to love "Ask A Librarian!"

Speaking of night owls, if you don't have access to the Internet and find yourself in a situation where you need reference help over the phone, don't despair even if DPPL is closed for the day. We also subscribe to the Night Owl Reference Service, and you can call them from 9 p.m. until midnight, Monday-Friday, 5 p.m. until midnight Saturday & Sunday. (Night Owl is closed for several major holidays: 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter and Memorial Day.) As the Night Owl people say, "...many patrons continue to prefer the speed, friendliness and comfort of using the telephone." If you are one of those patrons, make note of the Night Owl number: 847-803-3977.

One last option, because I don't want to use up all my good ideas in one post: for short and sweet answers to basic inquiries (phone numbers, movie times, weather, definitions, driving directions), another fun and free service is Google SMS. SMS stands for "short message service" - in other words, text messaging on your mobile phone. Without having a Web browser on your phone, you can text message Google at GOOGL (46645) and get answers within seconds. You do need to know the lingo in order for this service to work effectively. Here are some examples:

library 60016 -- type that in to find libraries in the Des Plaines area

pizza 60016 -- ditto for pizza places
john smith des plaines il -- directory service for Mr. Smith
movie: theaters 60016 -- movie theaters around Des Plaines
dan in real life 60016 -- movie theaters showing "Dan in Real Life"
weather 60016 -- obvious
define destiny -- when you want to know what living in the "City of Destiny" means

You get the idea. Short messages that bring back short answers. I just learned about this service and love it when I'm on the go. My Sidekick has a Web browser but often it is slow and clunky - Google SMS delivers results almost immediately.

So, don't let your questions (and assignments) keep you up at night. Use our online databases from home with your library card. Try the "Ask a Librarian" live chat service. Give the Night Owl service a call, or send a text message to Google SMS. There's no reason to give up your need to know.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Monday Morning Movie Mania Premieres Today!

Ready for a little Monday Morning Movie Mania? (Or, Monday afternoon, if you, like me, are not a morning person.) Did you head over to Muvico or the Streets of Woodfield to catch a new movie this weekend? Better yet, did you save your cash and check out a great DVD from the library? Maybe you decided to Netflix it. Whatever it was, we'd love to hear about it. This is your chance to be the Siskel, Ebert, Roeper, or Gire of Des Plaines - all you have to do is watch a movie over the weekend, then write your review in our Comments section for the Monday Morning Movie Mania post. We're hoping this catches on and becomes a regular thing - like the Regular Guy who reviews movies on WXRT. But you have to contribute to make this work, so grab a cuppa, warm up your fingers and get to typing.

If you're curious, the Top Five Movies for the weekend of November 10-12, 2007, were:
"Bee Movie" - the animated hit featuring Jerry Seinfeld
"American Gangster" - Denzel Washington stars in this powerful drama
"Fred Claus" - this movie was shot right here in Chicago - I even have friends who star in one of the Christmas scenes!
"Lions for Lambs" - Tom Cruise returns to the big screen in a serious film, also starring Meryl Streep
"Dan in Real Life" - this well-rated charmer features the unlikely combo of Steve Carrell and and Juliette Binoche

Even if you didn't see a new movie this weekend, let us know what you saw and what you thought. You can also comment on other peoples' reviews. Just comment, for goodness' sakes!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dinner and a Movie?

Whatcha doing this weekend? How about a new dining experience right in downtown Des Plaines? Steven Giese, Adult Services Librarian, has been raving about Dung Gia, the cozy little Vietnamese spot on Northwest Highway, just east of City Hall. So Steven is today's guest blogger - and after you've read his review, read on for news on "Monday Morning Movie Mania." If you like movies and like talking about them, this is right up your alley. But first, Dung Gia. Take it away, Steven.

This November brings downtown Des Plaines diners a new restaurant, Dung Gia.

Dung Gia serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine. I love Vietnamese food and I have been waiting anxiously for Dung Gia to open ever since I first saw the small hand-lettered sign that said “Vietnamese restaurant open soon” taped to the storefront window. I missed opening day but on their second day of business I noticed they were open so I sat right down and ordered. It was worth the wait.

If you’ve never had Vietnamese food before and don’t know what to expect, I’ll try to describe it. Like many Asian cuisines, rice or noodles are served with your entrée. It’s similar to Thai food, but with distinctly different flavors and not spicy. You’ll find that Vietnamese food is also very different from dishes you may have eaten in Chinese restaurants. Instead of heavy sauces, Vietnamese dishes are served with clear, light sauces, often served on the side. You may recall that Viet Nam was occupied for many years by the French and there is a subtle French influence on the cuisine. Dishes are flavorful but balanced; only fresh ingredients are used. If you’re a coffee drinker, I encourage you try the Vietnamese style coffee: a strong, rich brew served hot or cold with a dollop of sweetened condensed milk.

Dung Gia is open for lunch and dinner; dine in or carry out. Prices are reasonable; lunch specials are $5.95 and include soup and an entrée. Located at 1436 Miner St (where Joey Tomato’s used to be), phone is 847-803-4402 or 4403.

Thanks, Steven. Great, now I'm starving...

But first, as promised, "Monday Morning Movie Mania!" Starting this coming Monday, November 12, 2007, the Des Plaines Public Library invites you to share your Monday morning movie reviews with us. Each Monday, we'll post a list of the hottest movie releases from the previous weekend. If you've seen one of the movies, write your review and post it here in PlainTalk. You can also comment on other peoples' reviews. Thumbs up, thumbs down, "the feel good movie of the season" or "It STINKS," the reviews are up to you. Consider this a beta test right now. If we get enough reviews every Monday morning, we'll go into full blast and offer prizes throughout the year and will also compile the best reviews into a database you can use when you check out movies from the library. So, hit the cineplex this weekend and on Monday, channel your inner Ebert here on PlainTalk. "Monday Morning Movie Mania" - new at the Des Plaines Public Library on Monday, November 12.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

PlainTalk Prize Patrol Visits Bob!

So, you thought I was bluffing when I said that I had some prizes for the person who commented on either a book they read while waiting at the airport or an iPod playlist, eh? THINK AGAIN. Your Web Services Librarian keeps her promises. On that note, watch our latest video, in which the PlainTalk Prize Patrol visits lucky winner, Adult Services Librarian Bob Blanchard. Want to win the next time? Then add your comments to our PlainTalk blog!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Check out BookChecker - the Cure for Buyer's Remorse

In my never-ending quest to bring you new and interesting services, here is - TA DA - the BookChecker.

"Great," you're saying. "What the heck is it?"

BookChecker is a simple little piece of code called a Java applet. When you visit our BookChecker Web page,you'll be instructed to bookmark the BookChecker by right clicking on it and adding it to your browser's list of Bookmarks, Favorites - whatever you call them. That's all you have to do to access the service.

Now, the fun part. Next time you are browsing for new books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble - most of the major online booksellers - when you find a book that really sounds great, remember that BookChecker is lurking in your Bookmarks menu. Go up to your Bookmarks, click on "DPPL BookChecker" and it will automatically open up a small window and search for that book in our Library Catalog. You'll know in seconds if we have the book, if it's available or checked out, and you can even place a hold on it. I think that's cool. Try it today! We've all made those online, impulse purchases that we've regretted, sooner or later. Borrow the book from us first, for free - then decide if you want to make it part of your permanent collection.

Click here to access BookChecker's information page and bookmark the URL. Or, you can find BookChecker under "Readers' Services" on our home page and on our newly redesigned Catalog home page. If you haven't seen our Catalog today, take a look. We've added links to the Catalog home page, giving you quick and easy access to account information, all of our "What's New" services and tutorials, and the BookChecker as well. Just another way DPPL is trying to make it easier than ever for you to find what you need, fast.

Got comments or questions about BookChecker? Just post them here and I'll get back to you. Have a great weekend, Des Plaines!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Top 10 Hits from Monterey Bay - A wrap-up of Internet Librarian 2007

P.S. That's me in the picture above - well, me and hundreds of other people. I'm standing where the purple arrow is pointing. Hiding by the enormous potted plant. I found a chair soon afterwards, but walked in while someone was talking and thought it more polite to wait for a quiet moment.

10) Be sensitive - Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Not “cries at sad movies” sensitive, but aware of and empathetic to your library patrons. Recognize that for every gadget-loving geek who expects you to have the newest thing, there’s another patron who thinks that even his cell phone is an irritant - and yet another patron who does not have a cell phone, does not have a computer, and is quite satisfied living that way.

9) Be honest - from Sarah Houghton-Jan, Senior Librarian for Digital Futures, San Jose Public Library.(How's THAT for a job title?)
If a Web guru type like Sarah can admit, in all seriousness, that Second Life is a bandwidth-hogger (that’s just for you, Roberta), the Queen Bee of system requirement demanders, and quite possibly a time-waster, then why on earth are you considering it @ your library? Sometimes the next big thing is already yesterday's news or is too big for the average person to grasp very tightly.

8) Be rebellious - from Jeff Wisniewski, University of Pittsburgh.
Figure out which Web site design rules can be broken and then break them, the sooner the better. Look beyond libraries to find the spark of inspiration for designing your Web services. Play with the kids down the block - they might have a new game to teach you.

7) Be surprising - from Erica Reynolds, Johnson County Library Web Content Manager. It is in your power to make your library’s Web services as fun, interesting and unusual as your collections. Get it right and you, too, can refer to your library Web site as “sexy.” Find your inspiration outside of your own four walls - go on a scavenger hunt for inspiration.

6) Be grateful - Librarians from Waco-McLennan County Library, TX. During the exhibit hall reception I introduced myself to two librarians from Waco, Texas, by saying I was from the suburbs of Chicago. I also stated that they’d probably never heard of Des Plaines or the other towns in the area. With big smiles, they informed me that being a librarian in Illinois was their “idea of heaven,” because Illinois libraries have tremendous support from their governments and communities. Some librarians aren’t so lucky and are struggling to serve large populations while understaffed and underfunded. We’ve had a public library in Des Plaines for 100 years because our residents make it so, plain and simple, and I should never take that for granted.

5) Be amiable - Sarah Long, Judy Hoffman, and Debbie Baaske from NSLS, Karen Kleckner from Deerfield Public Library, Teri Hennes from Glencoe Public Library, Mary Auckland from the UK, the man who runs LeBlanc Gallery, my Monterey cab driver...

The journey is shorter and sweeter with a new friend.
Stop talking for awhile and listen to what your colleagues and even strangers have to say - you’re guaranteed to learn something. Being respectful keeps the conversation friendly even when it’s challenging. The person next to you is more interesting than your salad. You might have more in common with your cabbie than you think.

4) Be a storyteller - Jaap, Erik, Edo and Geert and the Shanachie Tour, Otto Schulz from Fannie Mae. Share your stories. Let your library be a place where others can share their stories. Listen to the stories, celebrate each other, celebrate what is good and noble about human experience. Laugh while you work. Sing a song while standing in the great outdoors. Dream big and then make the dreams come true. Play. Be wowed by your kids. Be wowed by beautiful and innovative libraries. Be wowed when people use amazing technology to tell their stories in vivid and life-changing ways.

3) Be yourself - Karen Coombs and Michelle Boule, University of Houston Libraries. Sometimes, just loving what you do and letting it show is half the battle. Presenting your research and projects at a prestigious conference is a career milestone. Presenting it with all your giggling and enthusiasm intact, replete with cries of “You guys rock!” means you have the good sense to know it’s all about enjoying the ride. You guys rock, too.

2) Be willing to admit you’re wrong - Megan Fox from Simmons College Library. Like many librarians and more introspective types, I dislike telephones and mobile phones in particular. Nevertheless, Fox reminded a roomful of us that 3 billion people in the U.S. own and use cell phones - 3 times as many as there are computer owners and Internet users. Wow. So rather than shushing the phone-o-philes, let’s get them on our side by providing reliable and appealing information sources they can access via the mobile phone.

1) Just be. Sea lions, gulls, otters, jellies, sand and shore, mountain and fertile valley, Monterey Bay, California. Figure out what keeps you alive and makes you happy and then just let it be.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

Don't know who "Lunch" is but I'm delighted that he "hearts" me. That's some graffiti I found down on Cannery Row earlier today and I couldn't resist the photo op. I also like to think that I have the potential to do some groundbreaking in my life & career - it's possible I already have, as we just experienced an earthquake here in Monterey, 5.something on the scale. Fascinating.

After dinner a few of us also wandered over to Monterey's weekly farmers' market, which is apparently famous for its...overpriced, faux cashmere scarves? However, I did have fun with one vendor, a funky young woman from LA. She was selling an aromatherapy product that resembles pretty tumbled stones but in a variety of lovely scents. I made a small purchase but told her I had to run back for a program. Her response was priceless: "Please don't tell me you're a LIBRARIAN." I believe her eyes also rolled. I responded in the affirmative. I assured her however that my job is fun, creative and everything I could ever want. She handed me my bag with a shake of the head and just said, "I'm sorry, but you do not look like a librarian."

In a certain sense, that's the point of this whole conference. Not a makeover of the physical appearance of librarians, but a rethinking, a rebirth of our presence, our image - a strong and earth-shaking attempt to NOT "look like librarians," at least not on our Web sites. We can be what we want to be and more importantly, what our communities and users want and need us to be.

Finally, late this morning, the clouds broke and the fabled California sun broke through the gloom. Immediately, one sensed ants in the pants of even the most dedicated resident of Virtual Reality - everyone needed some Real Reality, especially a reality that involved salty sea air and the soothing sounds of waves on the beach. And the manic barking of sea lions.

I took my sunshine break in late morning, after Joe Janes’ keynote, which was funny and insightful, as Janes always is, but was also a rehash of some themes I’d heard him speak on last May at a symposium in Oakbrook, IL. Nothing wrong with that, though - and everybody needs a refresher course in creative thinking about one’s own profession.Janes pulls no punches in telling librarians that the fastest route to extinction is to professional stagnation - digging in our heels and clinging to the remnants of “traditional librarianship” when our patrons and communities are asking us to move along and stay relevant.

I thought one of the best speakers I heard and saw on Monday was Erica Reynolds, Web Content Manager from the Johnson County library. She was talking about how difficult it is to find inspiration for a library Web site redesign (Amen to that, sister!). An earlier speaker, Jeff Wisniewski, also told us that a really bad way to find inspiration for your library Web site was to...look at other library Web sites. Ouch. A mistake that me and my coworkers have made many, many times. But what Jones said she and her Web redesign team did in order to stoke the flames of their collective creativity was to visit an art museum. With that thought in mind, I headed out from the dark and enclosed confines of the conference rooms and out into the streets and piers of Monterey.

I had already felt inspired by my visit, on Sunday afternoon, to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The restful beauty of the sea life and the intelligently designed exhibits, the interactivity and the presence of happy, curious people of all ages not only provided entertainment, but got me thinking about work as well. In fact, I found myself emailing ideas to myself as I walked around! (I tend to do this a lot. It annoys my family and friends, but they’re getting used to it.) Today I gave myself time to walk down Fisherman’s Wharf and then took the Monterey Recreation Trail to Cannery Row, a landmark historic area made famous by the great American writer John Steinbeck. I won’t bore you with my train of thought as I walked, but there’s nothing better for clearing the cobwebs out of one’s brain than a gentle walk, free from the obligations of conversation, free from sound other than seagull and sea lion. I find California inspiring even when the ground isn't shaking, even when I'm not in a hotel banquet room listening to a Web guru of some kind. The scenery is amazing, the marriage of earth and sky, shore and sea. But there's this crazy creativity on the streets, in the galleries, the beaches and museums. Outside of the hotel today, there was a vintage car show with 50s music blasting in the courtyard, the farmers' market, people biking and jogging, sailing and whale watching.Everyone and every thing here seems very, very "green" - even tonight, at our "Gadgets, Gadgets and Gaming!" session, there was a tremendous emphasis on green uses of techology and every one of them got a huge round of applause.

Right now I want to focus on tonight's showcase - after the rousing introduction to gadgets, we're being visited by the Shanachie Tour, 3 Dutch librarians who have been travelling across America making a video documentary of great libraries while on their way here to Internet Librarian. They are fun, they are way cooler than us (we have to admit that) and I'm having a blast listening to them and watching clips of their journey. More soon. Back to ORD via LAX tomorrow.

It's a beautiful day - don't let it get away

Thanks to my coworker Bob Blanchard for posting his "virtual iPod" playlist. "Beautiful Day" is a great song by U2, one of my favorite bands. It's also the perfect description for the weather that finally broke through the clouds and gloom mid-morning, so I will have the song in my head all day for sure.

The Internet Librarians awakened to grey skies and fog hanging over the bay, so everyone pressed on and made it back to Conference Land, fueled by free coffee. The sun graced us with its presence right around the end of this morning's keynote. Today's keynote speaker was Joe Janes, always delightfully off-color, aware and courageous. Courageous because it's not always easy to confront a group of people with the concept that if they don't shape up, innovate and stay relevant, extinction is inevitable. Librarians have an unpleasant tendency to cling oh-so-tightly to the past. Not that we shouldn't respect the longstanding tradition of librarianship - but you can appreciate the Rosetta Stone while preferring and using Google, if you know what I'm saying.

That reminds me - Bob Blanchard also asked, "What is Web 2.0? Library 2.0?" Bad assumption on my part that such library-tech jargon would be meaningful to most people. Brief history lesson: the Internet, the actual network of world-wide computers that can communicate with each other, has been around since the 1960s. It was developed for military usage, to prevent communication breakdown in the event of war, disaster, etc. Not long after, scientists and researchers realized this world-wide network held much promise for them as well, allowing research facilities to share information quickly. Researchers often do their work on university and college campuses, so then those educational facilities got into Internet development too and brought sophisticated tech-geeks along for the ride. Suddenly it was the 1990s, and Tim Berners-Lee and some Swiss physicists created hypertext mark-up language and the World Wide Web and - welcome to the free-for-all. That is the "Internet" as most people know it, the dot.coms, Amazon, eBay, CNN, Wal-Mart online. That is what we now think of as Web 1.0 - the earliest version of the WWW. Web 2.0 resides on the trails we've been blazing in the last few years, not just spaces for getting information and buying stuff, but online interaction and participation. It's YouTube, blogs, Wikipedia, Flickr, and countless numbers of creative online services and applications - many, even most of them, Open Source and free of charge. The conference I am attending, Internet Librarian, is subtitled "Info Pros, Library Communities & Web Tools." In other words, it's a conference to connect information professionals (librarians) with these new Web 2.0 tools in order to better serve their library communities. Web 2.0 will help libraries stay relevant. People in contemporary society want to be more involved with information, they want to contribute to the body of knowledge, they want to share their opinions and expertise. Libraries that continue to function as sacred temples of knowlege where the unworthy come to be enlightened by the genius of librarians are, as Joe Janes suggests, heading dangerously into obsolete-ville. Definitely not where DPPL wants to be, so I'm so grateful and enthused about the opportunities I have, as Web Services Librarian, to bring a new level of interactivity, usefulness and fun to our library patrons.

And that's why I'm here. I have more to tell you, but it's time to get back to the sessions, specifically workshops on creating employee tech training programs and doing screencasting and podcasting on a small budget. I'm having such a great time here, but I really can't wait to get back to work and start using what I'm learning.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Internet Librarians Take to the Streets!

At least that's how it seems - look how quiet it is here at the Monterey Conference Center now. Just myself and two guys, furiously typing on our laptops. I am not a complete wallflower/
couch potato, however - I have just returned from a warm and convivial dinner with some new acquaintances, including our library system director, Sarah Ann Long, and my dining companions proved me wrong on the "Librarians are anti-social" theory. In fact, one of my fellow Illinois librarians, Karen Kleckner of the Deerfield Public Library, made the same observation I made earlier: these Internet Librarians seem particularly clammed up. Too much virtual reality, methinks - maybe some kind of "Hugs for Librarians" movement is in order. Earlier this evening there was a reception when the exhibit hall opened, and while there I met some librarians who actually wanted to talk to someone without using an electronic gadget! I met librarians from Waco, TX, a corporate librarian who works in biotech, and a systems librarian at the Defense Language Institute right here in Monterey. Many vendors are giving away iPod nanos, so I expect the exhibit hall to be a lively place for the rest of the conference, even when the wine and cheese have stopped flowing.

The day began with a keynote address from Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. If you don't know Lee and his work, but you have an interest in how people are using technology on a day-to-day basis, check out Pew (nothing to do with church pews, btw) is an independent, objective, non-profit organization dedicated to research on how people use technology. Maybe that doesn't sound important, but it's tremendously valuable. Consulting the type of statistics that Pew Internet & Family Life generates allows libraries to understand their communities and plan online/electronic services that are valuable and meaningful to people. Rainie's keynote was the kind of information explosion that I love - fast-paced, funny, and nothing but factoid piled upon factoid. I also appreciated his balanced and sensible view of technology - he acknowledges the habits of the "omnivores," those young, techie guys whose lives are dominated by gadgets and applications, but also reminds his audience of those folks who feel harassed by technology and use it only reluctantly, and even those who prefer older media - the people for whom a good quality TV, no cable, is just fine. Since much of the rest of this conference is devoted to the movers and shakers in technology, the early adopters who have 57 new Web 2.0 features on their Facebook pages, it was good to start with an overview of all kinds of users - and non-users. If you're reading this, rest assured, you are not a non-user.)

Rainie also referred to the new digital, technology-driven world as an ecosystem - multimedia gadgets are ubiquitous, "the Internet" is now synonymous with the computer (remember when we used to use computers without being online?), and users are now content creators as well. Large percentages of users are sharing photos, making movies and writing blogs. Rainie went on to describe his user typology with "omnivores" at one end of the scale (8% of Internet users) and unconnected non-users at the other end of the scale (twice as many as "omnivores" at about 15%). For libraries, where meeting the needs of our diverse population is so very important, the challenge arrives as we attempt to provide services for every part of the Internet user spectrum. I think we're up for it.

The rest of my day was filled with presentations on marketing and Web site design. The latter was a focus of mine when I decided to attend this conference, since we are in the beginning stages of a total Web site redesign at DPPL. I now feel more inspired - and more confused. One of the speakers this afternoon shattered many of the long-standing rules about Web design but upheld others, and got me thinking that we need to rethink our redesign before we get too committed to one idea. Yet other speakers seemed to reinforce what I already knew and believed. When it comes to Web sites, one size does not fit all. Nevertheless, judging from the amount of notes I've been taking, I'll be returning to Des Plaines with plenty of ideas and inspiration for Web services, so keep your eyes on!

I'll check in again soon - oh, and thanks to my colleague Sara McLaughlin for catching a typo in one of these posts. When I'm writing on the fly it's hard to stay focused on the details. (I have, however, noticed typos in every single Powerpoint presentation I've seen today - tsk tsk!) And in case you're feeling envious that I am in California, it was warmer in Des Plaines today than it was in Monterey, and we were under thick cloud cover most of the day. Just as well, as it made the seaside seem bleak and uninviting, keeping our minds on wikis and RSS and the acronym-stuffed world of the Internet. Want to know something about the Internet Librarian conference? Drop me a note.

Internet Librarians Descend Upon Monterey

My apologies that this post was so long in coming - the wireless network at the conference and hotel is spotty, at best. I can hardly believe I'm this close to Silicon Valley and yet so unconnected. Downloading the picture above took what seemed like a lifetime.

This morning, the Internet Librarian conference started in earnest. More than 1,500 techie types are here, record numbers. Consequently, and unlike most library conferences, there are lots of men amongst the attendees. The librarian profession still skews heavily female, but that is changing - technology careers skew toward the male side, but clearly that is changing, too. I’m here, along with a lot of other women, and we’re not afraid to wear our gadget-and-Web geekiness on our sleeves. And our sleeves aren't horribly unfashionable polo shirts advertising tech companies, either. :) The wi-fi connection problems may also stem from the fact that everyone is blogging and Flickring and yakking about the conference, online, while also attending it. Never has so much bandwidth been gobbled up by one ravenous pack. Wait 'til the Second Lifers get here...

Our names are around our necks, too: everywhere you look, someone’s wearing a name badge for the conference. The line up above is the queue for lunch at a tiny Italian cafe across the plaza from the conference center. Everyone in that line- up is an Internet Librarian or a speaker, vendor, organizer, as was everyone inside (which is why I felt comfortable taking pictures of complete strangers) with the exception of the very handsome owner/manager and his staff. I got my standard issue chicken caesar salad and caught up on email. Librarians are, in my opinion, endowed with some of the poorest social skills of all living beings. (Not all librarians, mind you -- what I love about my coworkers at DPPL is how outgoing and downright funny many of them are. What a refreshing change from the sad-but-true stereotype.) Suffice it to say it is not easy to strike up conversations and new friendships at these librarian gatherings. I saw someone with an Internet Librarian tote bag at the magnificient Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday, greeted her and she gave me a look that said, “Oh, they let crazy people in here, too. Lovely.” Sometimes just making eye contact sends people scurrying toward the restrooms or gazing glassy-eyed at their laptop screens. Look at the body language in the picture here - yes, it was a little chilly today, but if an image is worth a thousand words, this photo is saying, "I'd probably prefer not to talk with you" in a myriad of ways.

So thank goodness for people who aren’t afraid to say hello. I attended this morning’s keynote (more about that later, but big props to speaker Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet and American Life project for a fantastic keynote address) then a session on using Web 2.0 tools to more effectively market a public library. That session ended and as I approached the banquet room doors, someone called out my name - unusual since I didn’t think I knew anyone here. Turned out to be Debbie Baaske, from our own North Suburban Library System back in Wheeling, IL. She recognized me from my NSLS profile - now I’m glad I took the time to post a picture there. It was just nice to talk to a friendly person, and a group of us from the Chicago area are meeting for dinner tonight. Lunch brought a funnier type of encounter. I had a mouthful of romaine and processed chicken parts (the salad was less handsome than the man who took my order) when the woman eating solo at the table next to mine inquired, “Do you know who Dusty Springfield is?” Since I happen to be a singer as well as a librarian, I told her I not only knew but I admired Springfield’s singing and had just read an article about her in that MOJO magazine I brought on the plane. Turned out this Internet Librarian is a consultant from the UK, one of my favorite places on earth, and we had a nice conversation after that. She asked about Dusty Springfield because she said I reminded her of the singer, which I found quite flattering. It’s fun to be an Internet Librarian and it’s really fun to be an Internet Librarian with a resemblance to Dusty Springfield. (Don’t know Dusty Springfield? Look her up!) I"ll be humming "The Look of Love" and that duet she did with the Pet Shop Boys for weeks.

Speaking of Internet Librarians, the gentleman who opened up the conference with some introductory remarks and information had some amusing things to say about this (I believe he was Tom Hogan, president of Information Today, the company that presents this conference. He was not the keynote speaker, he got things rolling, but my entrance was somewhat flustered due to issues with registration so I missed his name) . He also told us about “retronyms,” new words that become necessary when old words fail us or when definitions change. Examples of some “retronyms:” regular coffee, classical music, bar soap, rotary telephone, dial-up Internet access. There was a time when: all coffee had caffeine, all music was what we now think of as “Classical,” all soap came in a bar, etc. etc. Then he challenged us - what do we call non-Internet Librarians? (My immediate thought: Wireless Librarians. But, that’s confusing...) In fact, he’s given us the tall order of suggesting the best options for a new name for non-Internet Librarians and is even offering a sweet prize. I’ll ponder that later, but for right now, I’m heading back for more sessions at Internet Librarian. I’ll check back in soon.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Killing time at LAX

Hey, Des Plaines! This is your Web Services Librarian, comin' at you from the - is it okay to say this? - deadly boring confines of LAX. I don't know about you, but I grew up imagining LA as the land of the Fleetwood Mac, the home of the blonde. Sit-com central, Hollywood, the Eagles, Brangelina, Britney, what have you. Rufus Wainwright has a charming little song called "California" that lists all the good/bad qualities we associate with a city like Los Angeles: "a thousand surfers, whiffs of Freon, and my new grandma Bea Arthur." And I suppose that's all out there somewhere, somewhere between the palm trees and the smog and the endless curving lines of highway ramps and roads. I'm actually thrilled to be here and on time, given the terrible fires raging in this area for the past week - I might be seeing smog which is a residual effect of those fires, I do not know. But the airport is a bummer, in that it's so typical of any airport, anywhere. I'm not even sure if I can get a smoothie in here. I wandered through The Body Shop for awhile, feeling like it was okay to indulge in their offerings since it's cruelty free and often quite healthfully made and some of the offerings are even fair trade. But I can also go to a much bigger Body Shop in Woodfield, for heaven's sakes.

However, unlike ORD, I don't have to pay for my wi-fi here, and that's fantastic.

LA is not my final destination, however. This is just a layover on my way to San Jose, where friends will then drive me on to Monterey, home of Internet Librarian 2007. In my earlier post, from O'Hare, I snapped a picture of an advertisement that seemed to suggest librarians are lacking in the sexy department. Hey, we're having a conference in Monterey - it beats Boise.

That's me in the picture for this post, just saying hello from Gate 80, LAX, Left Coast. In my post from this morning, I asked you to tell us about a time when a great book got you through a long airport delay - go ahead and post those here, there, wherever. You might inspire us to new heights of collection development (that's Librarian-speak for "the stuff we buy for you to check out") at DPPL. I have to tell you, they often say nobody walks in LA, and I'm concerned that nobody reads in LA, either. Not only am I not reading anything because I am typing this blog, everyone around me is on a computer, a phone, doing a sudoku or just staring at the ugly, overcast sky. Not a single book anywhere. In my list of LA-assumptions, music figured in a big way, but they are actually playing good old-fashioned Muzak in here. What we used to call "elevator music." I'm not sure of the last time I heard anything quite like it, and I certainly expected something hipper in LA. Even O'Hare has that crazy Brian Eno sci-fi walkway between concourses. Music is a critical part of my well-being and on my flight here, my iPod was a sanity-preserver. Wanna tell me what's on your iPod? I'll tell you what I listened to on the way here - maybe you'll find a favorite of your own.

Mystery Achievement - The Pretenders
Is It Any Wonder - Keane
Precious - The Pretenders
Stay (Faraway, So Close) - U2
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - U2
Honestly - Annie Lennox
Missing - Beck
When I'm Gone - Eminem
Just Getting By - Del Amitri
Don't Let It Show - Pat Benatar
Light Up My Room - Barenaked Ladies
Chelsea Hotel No. 2 - Rufus Wainwright
Bright Lights - Matchbox 20
Red Rain - Peter Gabriel
Stop This Game - Cheap Trick
Here is the House - Depeche Mode
Mayday - Shoes
You'll Be In My Heart - Phil Collins
The Verb "To Love" - Todd Rundgren
Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
Union of the Snake - Duran Duran
Promises - Def Leppard
Mo Ghile Mear - Sting with the Chieftains
City of Blinding Lights - U2
Wild Heart - Stevie Nicks

Tell me 10-20 songs that are on your iPod - or, tell us here about a book that made the hours seem like minutes when you were stuck at an airport, anywhere. We'll put all the entries in a drawing and you'll win a souvenir from my California conference. Do it soon - I get back on Thursday, November 1 and will accept no entries after midnight, October 31 (Des Plaines time.).

I'll catch up with you tomorrow, Sunday, when I arrive in Monterey. Have a great weekend. Now I'll go see if the smog has lifted.

On the Road to "Internet Librarian"

I'm sitting at Gate C17 right now, Terminal 1, at O'Hare. I know frequent travellers find the whole airport drill a big pain in the boarding pass, but I confess, I'm still not immune to the thrill of air travel. I've never been in this airport when it wasn't bustling with life, noise, smells and sights. For a few dollars, I've got a wi-fi connection, a caesar salad and bagel for the flight, and most importantly for this fan of sugary beverages, I found the one guy in this terminal who sells Pepsi instead of Coke. Life is good for an Internet Librarian.

I say this because I, your Web Services Librarian at DPPL, am on my way to the Internet Librarian 2007 conference. While I've been to lots of library conferences, workshops and symposiums, I'm really excited about this event. At many library conferences, Web resources and technologies are either an afterthought, or relegated to one side track of the whole event. It's understandable - librarians, this one included, are still enamored of books, so gatherings of librarians tend to focus on publishers, authors, and the millions of ways we can share good things to read with our communities. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm curious about being plunged into a library conference full of bloggers, wiki-builders, Flickr devotees and YouTubers. I'm hoping to come away with inspiration on the best online services to bring to Des Plaines Public Library patrons. In particular, I'm also anxious to hear what's latest and greatest in Web design, since we're in the process of developing an entirely new Web site for you, our users.

But right now, I'm just on the way. Speaking of books, has a great book ever helped you through a long, LONG delay at ORD (or any airport - but it seems like most people who live and work in Des Plaines have had an experience at O'Hare)? While many of the people around me are finding electronic ways to kill the time (we're not delayed, just waiting to board), some still have their noses deep in books, magazines, newspapers. I've got a book, God & Empire by John Dominic Crossan, for the flight, as well as the latest copy of British music magazine MOJO.

If you have any special memories of a wonderful book that made a long delay fly by, post the title here and share your story. Have you ever purchased a book at the airport and been pleasantly surprised? Tell us about it. I'll tell you more when I get to Internet Librarian, in the beautiful seaside community of Monterey, California.

How about that electric sign I saw at O'Hare - the one up above that claims an electronic reading device is "Sexier than a librarian"? I'm hoping the colleagues I meet on my trip prove those sign makers wrong!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kermit Was Wrong!

Way back when, the world's most famous puppet-frog warbled his life's troubles into a little ditty called, "It's Not Easy Being Green."While we sympathize with the plight of bug-swallowing amphibians everywhere (particularly those who are romanced by overbearing blonde pigs...), we respectfully disagree with Kermit the Frog's position - it seems to be getting easier and easier to be green.

By green, of course, we mean environmentally, ecologically green. A green that respects the Earth, the atmosphere, oceans and rivers, forests and mountains. When I was growing up, green living and thinking seemed a little far removed from Chicago, where the greenest thing around was the Chicago River on St. Patrick's Day. (In case you're wondering, they still dye the river green, but now use "secret ingredients" that do not harm the river or the life within it. Let's hope that's not a pile of blarney.) Now, thinking about how our actions impact the environment is becoming second nature, a normal part of our everyday lives.

With this in mind, the Des Plaines Public Library has created a Green Team of 12 employees dedicated to the tasks of environmental efficiency and safety. From simple suggestions, like getting library employees to turn off lights when they are not needed, to steps that involve all of our patrons, such as the reusing of our plastic book bags, the library's Green Team hopes to be a positive influence on our coworkers and the entire city of Des Plaines. One of our first goals is to develop a Green Center on our Web site, a clearinghouse for all types of green information, so keep your eyes on for more details.

The Green Team reflects an interesting truth about today's Green movement - those involved in environmental issues no longer fit just one tree-hugging mold. People adopt environmentally responsible lifestyles for many reasons - to leave a better world to their children and grandchildren, to honor nature, to save money and to tangibly express their religious or philosophical beliefs. Some people even get involved because it's trendy or just because it seems like the right thing to do. Al Gore and Laurie David are familiar faces in the Green movement - but did you know President George W. Bush has recently changed his stance on many environmental issues? Did you know that Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his concerns about the environment?

Green thinking has caught on at City Hall, too. Mayor Tony Arredia and 6th Ward Alderman Mark Walsten have formed an ad hoc committee called "Deep Green": Des Plaines Environmental Efficiency Program. The committee plans on working collaboratively with city government, local businesses and educational institutions to promote the community's environmental efficiency. All of us here in the library are excited about this new development and hope to do whatever we can to promote green thinking and living in Des Plaines and beyond. Last night, Wednesday, October 24, was the first public event sponsored by the Deep Green committee, a seminar on "Building, Remodeling and Designing Your Home With Green." This seminar by the McNulty Design Group featured dozens of practical, effective and even beautiful ways to make a home green. Watch the library Events calendar and city Web site for more Deep Green events to learn how you can save money while you save the planet.

Want to join the Deep Green team? Call Mary Rodhe at (847) 803-6912. Want to learn more about simple practices you can adopt to have a big impact on the environment? Search our Library Catalog and online databases with terms like environmentalism and organic living. Speaking of easy, you can just click on the highlighted terms in that last sentence and our Catalog will do the searching for you, finding books and other library materials on those topics. (Psst...those are called "One Click Searches." Want to see more One Click Searches? Click here.) Place a hold on the items, come and pick them up in a flash. See what I mean? It's just plain easy being green.

And the next time you see Kermit, well, tell him we're sorry.

Monday, October 22, 2007

You talked - we listened

Hello readers. You may recall that back in September, the library asked the Des Plaines community to give us some honest feedback concerning the city, its services and particularly its library. The survey was designed to assist the library's Board of Trustees and department heads in writing new goals and objectives for the next three years. We needed to know how you felt about the library and its services in order to know how to forge ahead and which new paths to consider. We thank the more than 100 residents who took the time to fill out a survey, whether it was a paper survey in the library or the online version.

We have to admit it - you made our collective day with your positive and supportive words about the library. We also took note of any constructive criticism and will seek out ways to improve. We thought you might like to see the community survey results - just click here and you will be redirected to a summary page. Even though this is an online survey summary, all of the handwritten survey data was also inputted, so every single survey result is included. Any comments about the survey? Feel free to post them here. Remember, to write in to our PlainTalk blog, just click on the pencil icon below the specific post. You do not have to have a Blogger account and you can even post anonymously. We always appreciate your suggestions and comments, so think of this as another way to keep in touch with us.

Thanks to staff member David Whittingham for the picture of two DPPL patrons studying. Check out our YouTube page - we often feature slideshows of real Des Plaines library users having fun at library events.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Want to do something to help our troops?

Seems like every time you pick up the newspaper, turn on the radio or TV, read the news on the Web, you are confronted by a situation that makes you think, "I wish I could help." But we're often confounded about where to turn, what type of help is appropriate, and how to discern which charitable ventures are legitimate and which are questionable.

Well, if you've ever wanted to do something in appreciation for our American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, here's your opportunity - and it couldn't be easier. Des Plaines Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Number 2992 is collecting personal items and food to send to soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The DP VFW has been doing this for awhile and these care packages have been greatly appreciated by our men and women overseas. The troops are living in difficult conditions and often without the daily comforts we here at home take for granted. So now you have the chance to brighten someone's day in a meaningful way and it won't cost much or take much of your time.

What is needed? Personal items such as: lip balm, antacid tablets, gel inserts for boots, toothpaste and toothbrushes, cotton swabs, multi-vitamins, etc., along with food items like mints, Power Bars, pretzels, beef jerky, and instant oatmeal. Just click here to see a complete list you can print out and take along while you shop. Once you've purchased the items, all you have to do is bring them to the Des Plaines Public Library. The VFW has placed a bright blue barrel in our atrium, near the security desk. Leave your items there and the VFW will do the rest. If you prefer to make a monetary donation, the funds will be used for postage or to purchase other needed items. The cost to send one package, regardless of weight, is $8.95, so monetary gifts are also deeply appreciated. Send your financial donation to: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #2992, P.O. Box 1702, Des Plaines, IL 60017.

Our local VFW can also do more for you: do you have a loved one, family member, friend or neighbor currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan? Let the VFW know and they'll send a care package directly to that soldier. To contact the DP VFW Post, call (847) 296-9878 or email
(The VFW asks that requests be limited to those troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rest assured that names and addresses of troops will not be shared or published, but only used to send these packages.) Items collected now can get to our soldiers near holiday time and what a nice surprise that will make.

If you, like me, have someone you know and love serving in Iraq at this difficult time, it's nice to also know that our local VFW (and others all across the US) is making this effort to bring a little bit of home to our soldiers. My good friend John Moran has been in Baghdad for over a year and was injured by a bomb attack very soon after arriving. I know that the lovingly prepared boxes of food and other items his mom Cathy sends over there are happy reminders of home, family and community support. So next time you're heading to the drug store or grocery store, take the Soldier's Wish List along with you, pick up some of the items and bring them to the library. It's a simple, but effective way of showing your care and concern for our troops.

The Des Plaines Public Library also collects, year-round, food items for the Self-Help Closet and Pantry of Des Plaines. Many of us donate to food pantries around holiday time, but might not think about it much during the rest of the year. If you visit the library every few weeks, consider always bringing one item of canned food with you each time you visit - wow, what a difference you could make! The collection box for the Self-Help Closet and Pantry is in the library atrium, right next to the blue barrel for the VFW's collection. We'll tell you more about the Self-Help Closet and Pantry in another blog, but don't forget our collection box and don't forget our troops!