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Thursday, August 30, 2007

We'd Love To Hear From You

You may have noticed a new link on the library's home page today, a link that reads, "Please take a few minutes to complete our community survey." That link will take you to a quick and easy online survey - just read and click to fill in your answers.

Why a survey? The Des Plaines Public Library Board of Trustees, Library Director Sandra Norlin and the library staff are about to begin the strategic planning process for the next 3 years. We want to be certain that our library's collections and services meet the needs of our community residents. We want to be certain that we draft a strategic plan that gives you, our patrons, top priority. So take a moment to respond. Let us know how we compare to other community services. Tell us what you think the role of a 21st century public library should be. We're very proud to serve the Des Plaines community (as well as surrounding suburbs that use our library) and want to do our best for you. To take the survey, just click here. Or use the link from the library home page, Comments or questions about the survey itself? Please post them here and we'll answer you right away. Thanks and have a fun but safe Labor Day weekend. REMINDER: the Library is closed Sunday, September 2 and Monday, September 3 in observance of Labor Day.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How's Everyone Doing Out There?

What a day. When I arrived in Des Plaines at 8:45 AM Thursday, it was sunny, muggy, a typical August day. I took a late afternoon lunch and the sun was still shining, traffic was light, it was a good day for getting things done. And then it started. Rain, lightning, winds -- by the time I headed back to Des Plaines for the rest of my work day, I couldn't believe my eyes. The traffic backed up for miles as traffic lights from Northbrook to Rolling Meadows shut down - it had taken me about 30 minutes of driving to run an errand at lunchtime, it then took me two and a half hours to get back to the library! Trees were down at Maryville, on Center Street just south of the library, all over Miner/Dempster. A huge tangle of power lines and poles had fallen into a parking lot in Mt. Prospect. Water flooded streets, parking lots, intersections. When I got to the library, about an hour and a half after I'd expected to arrive, I found the doors locked and the building wisely deserted due to the severe weather. Nothing to do but grab my laptop from my office and head back down the road, my trip home taking an additional 1.5 hours.

What's happened to you this week, weather-wise? We know that some residents of Des Plaines are experiencing flooding at home, power outages, and trouble with trees being torn apart or uprooted. Were you stuck in the heart of the storm on Thursday afternoon and evening? Want to share your stories and misery with us? We're listening! If you have photos of the havoc or of efforts to make amends, drop us a line via the Comments section and we'll arrange for them to be posted on the blog. You can view one of our posters photos by clicking here and read her comments below - thank you for sending those, blog lass. Speaking from my personal perspective, this was the worst rain and thunderstorm I have ever experienced and all of us in the library send our concern to the residents of Des Plaines and its surrounding communities. So check in with us, let us know how you're doing and, if you'd like, take a moment to thank someone who helped you out - post anything you'd like here in our Comments section.

Of course, I'm sending this from home, many miles from Des Plaines, and I can't help but wonder if power there has been restored. Let's hope for a peaceful night with some relief from the storms - so get a good night's sleep and share your tales of woe with us tomorrow! And, be careful out there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Croquet? Okay!

Looking back on my childhood, some of the happiest times were spent quietly exploring the shelves and closets my parents had filled up before their four children had arrived. I never knew what I might find in the basement or garage, only that it would be something useful for playtime. A cardboard box full of Halloween costumes and a Santa Claus suit, a very old stereopticon and some sepia-toned postcards for viewing, Mom's glamorous hat boxes, a melodica, a table-top electric organ and any number of kazoos - and the world's dustiest croquet set. The croquet set - colorful wooden balls, mallets and a bunch of wire hoops - always intrigued me. My siblings and I would periodically remove the items from their carrying case, then spend hours puzzling over what we were supposed to do with them. The croquet set was a mysterious messenger of times gone by, as unusual to us suburban kids as if Jay Gatsby had come and stood at a distance, watching us at play as if he was presiding over one of his grandiose parties.

On September 8, 2007, the Des Plaines Public Library invites you to take a trip back in time for our Centennial Croquet Tournament. 2007 happens to be the Library's 100th birthday, and one of our celebratory events is the Croquet Tournament, happening from 1-5 p.m. at the Rose Garden on Thacker Street, across from Central School. The event is cosponsored by the Des Plaines Park District and the G.L. Hills Funeral Homes.

Who can play? Anybody! Sign up in person at the Des Plaines Public Library until August 31, 2007. There are three kinds of teams, Organization, Adult and Family - Family teams must have at least one player under 14. Two players to a team, please. Not sure how to play? No problem - we have instruction sheets ready for you when you register. Best of all, the event is free to participants and spectators and includes refreshments and entertainment by the strolling barbershop quartet, The Chordmasters. A very unusual croquet tournament takes place in Lewis Carroll's masterpiece, Alice in Wonderland, and if you bring your camera to the tournament you can have your picture taken as one of the Alice characters.

So in a world where everything is fast, disposable and high tech (um, like this blog, for instance!), stop and smell the roses while enjoying the old-fashioned, genteel pleasures of a game of croquet. Whether you envision yourself in Victorian England, hitting a masterful stroke before the crowds at Wimbledon (which, after all, is officially named "The All England Lawn Tennis and
Croquet Club"), or strolling an expanse of green in 1920s Long Island with Gatsby as your croquet partner, you're sure to find yourself transported from the hectic pace of modern times. We suspect you'll have some laughs and great memories to share, too. Join us for the Centennial Croquet Tournament, September 8, 2007, from 1-5 p.m.!

P.S. You can probably tell that your Web Services Librarian is a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. That novel also happens to be our September Tuesday Morning Book Club selection, so if you're interested, sign up! Click here for more details. Click here to find The Great Gatsby in our Library Catalog, including print, video and versions in Spanish and Polish.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last night an ice cream cone saved my life

No, not really, but I bet I got your attention with THAT headline. We didn't have much luck getting you to talk about books and movies, so let's go back to food, a topic we simply can't live without!

Since I started working in Des Plaines a few months ago, I've been trying to stick to my typical diet. However, working smack in the middle of a busy, colorful city means that all kinds of food emporiums call out to me as I labor in the glare of a computer monitor - and lately, when they call, they're calling about ice cream.

I blame Kaffeccino's, the neat little cafe located almost right next door to the Library. My coworkers can often be found nibbling on Kaffeccino's hot and crispy panini sandwiches along with all kinds of other treats. Finally, I decided to investigate this business for myself, when I saw it -- the ice cream case in the back of Kaffeccino's, with one item sweetly labeled "Toasted coconut." Kaffeccino's sells a local brand of ice cream called "Homer's," and wow, is it delicious. They also have that wondrous excuse for eating an even larger portion of ice cream, innocently named the "waffle cone." I still recall with fondness bordering on giddiness a waffle cone, crammed with 3 scoops of dulce de leche, caramel sauce AND whipped cream, which I inhaled while shopping in the streets of Monterey, California. I can also recall my first authentic gelato, in a cozy spot in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Sometimes the ice cream ends up being more memorable than a so-called 4 star meal! I have a serious passion for quality ice cream.

Maybe it was all those summer nights, running after the ice cream truck with a handful of quarters. Maybe it's the seemingly endless variety: chocolate chip, bubble gum, French vanilla, butter pecan, rainbow sherbet, cookie dough...Maybe it's the contrast of crunchy cone and creamy cold goodness (your Web Services Librarian prefers a cone to ice cream in a dish, but hey, if you're buying, I'm not fussy). Whatever it is, I can't get enough of it.

Since my accidental discovery of Toasted Coconut Homer's ice cream at Kaffeccino's in Des Plaines, I've made several trips back for "refills," as it were. I see lots of other ice cream spots in Des Plaines - which is your favorite? What do you order - a cone, sundae, shake, banana split?? Who's got the best toppings, or extras, like cookies and brownies? Don't be stingy - spill your ice cream secrets (but not your ice cream) on us. Use the "Comments" section below to give us your recommendations.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I Liked the Book Better...

Nothing sends dread and foreboding into the heart of a book lover quite like the news that a favorite story has been optioned for a film version. Often, it's a good news/bad news situation: it's exciting to imagine what wonders Hollywood, London, or even Bollywood, might conjure up from the novel of your dreams. There's also the possibility the story will be injured beyond recognition, a trail of destruction one can trace in the press releases and previews.

In the last five years, my two favorite contemporary novels both received this honor/indignity (all depends on how you look at it). In 2002, a movie version of A.S. Byatt's lusciously poetic novel Possession: A Romance was released. I scoured the entertainment news for clues on how the production might develop. Good news: the dashing Jeremy Northam, so charming as Mr. Knightley in the 1996 adaption of Austen's Emma, signed on for the key role of Victorian poet Randolph Ash. Iffy news: Gwyneth Paltrow, perfectly delightful in that same version of Emma, given the role of Maud Bailey in Possession - a worrisome choice. Big, bad news: the character of Roland Michell, so utterly rumpled, tea-stained and British in the book, was being rewritten as an American - WHY?? And, perhaps because of Paltrow's star power, the character of Christabel LaMotte, delicately blonde in the novel, became a robust red-head for the film.

Sigh. Still, I saw the movie on the day it was released, which is really saying something as I only see a handful of flicks every year. And you know what? I rather liked it. Even loved a few moments. But I can't help but wonder - why mess around with an award-winning best seller? Why the unnecessary tweaking and twisting?

Things were even dicier for my other favorite modern novel, Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. I felt very unwell when the first press releases named Steven Spielberg as a director - nothing against Mr. Spielberg, but I feared the "Hollywoodization" of this jewel-like story. I feared Gwyneth Paltrow being cast as a Japanese geisha! Spielberg, I believe, eventually became one of Geisha's producers, but direction fell to Rob Marshall, who certainly worked magic with his adaption of the musical Chicago. Sadly, Memoirs of a Geisha had all the visual impact and beauty of Chicago, but none of the guts or heart. It, too, was worth seeing, for the costumes, make-up, the glimpse of Japan's almost-extinct "floating world." Personally, I felt that a Western director, creating art for a Western audience, didn't "get" it. So instead of being faithful to the Japanese culture and traditions so meticulously portrayed in the book, the story became a typically Hollywood "poor girl makes good and gets her man" romance.

Have you ever been disappointed when the film industry got a hold of your favorite work of fiction? What happened? Gripe about it here and get it out of your system - you'll feel better.

Curious about the works mentioned above? Check them out at the Des Plaines Public Library:

Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt
Possession the film directed by Neil LaBute
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Memoirs of a Geisha directed by Rob Marshall
Chicago directed by Rob Marshall

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The August Blues

What is it about August that brings on the blues? Is it the arrival of the "Back To School" department in every retail store? Is it, at least in these parts, the oppressive heat and humidity that often arrive during August? Is it just a wistful longing for a little more summer, when autumn lingers right around the corner? Lots of people take a last-minute trip during August, eager to soak up some sun, or get in a few more hours of shopping, fishing, golfing, surfing: whatever floats one's boat, as they say. But what if you can't swing even a few days away? Are you stuck, wallowing in the August Blues?

Good news: there are lots of things to do right here in Des Plaines that can give you that "summertime and the livin' is easy" feeling, helping you fend off the August Blues for a few more hours, even a few more days. Here are just some of the events going on this month in Des Plaines and our suggestions for making a day in the neighborhood feel more like a mini-vacation.
  1. From Ireland to Greece, almost every European country has a cool, modern Sculpture Garden in one of its cities. Well, for the month of August, so does Des Plaines, as the "Sculpture Invasion" takes over the Oakton Community College campus. From the Web site:
    More than 40 members of Chicago Sculpture International will participate in this juried exhibition, whice features an “invasion” of 14 large-scale outdoor sculptures at the Oakton Sculpture Park on the Des Plaines campus. Thirty-three smaller sculptures and models will be on display inside the Koehnline Museum of Art. Organized in 2004, Chicago Sculpture International has more than 140 members working at all scales and in media ranging from stone and steel, to video and nylon.
    Want to know more? Visit Oakton's Koehnline Museum of Art Web site for details. The "Sculpture Invasion" is in town until August 30, 2007. Combine your visit with a meal at David's Bistro, Wolf Plaza, 623 N. Wolf Rd. Des Plaines, IL 60016 and stop by Pesche's for a beautiful bouquet and you'll feel like you've spent the day in the European countryside.

  2. Hey dere - how 'bout a Door County Fish Boil? When my family wasn't in the Wisconsin Dells, we could often be found summering in tranquil Door County (well, it used to be tranquil - now it often feels like one big traffic jam!). The Des Plaines History Center remembers those old-fashioned summer days with affection, too, so it is once again hosting its annual Door County Fish Boil, on Friday, August 24. Three seatings at bargain prices, and live entertainment is also included. For more information, click here for the Des Plaines History Center's Web site. If you can take the day off, why not walk and play on Chicago's Lake Michigan shores, then return to Des Plaines in time for the fish boil? You'll get that at-ease Door County feeling while only using 1/4 of the gas (and time) it would take to get you up North. While in the city, stroll through Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood for Swedish gifts and goodies that will make Sister Bay and Egg Harbor seem just around the next turn.
  3. This just in - Don't forget the Methodist Camp Grounds this weekend, August 11 & 12. There will be a country fair, along with a Civil War reenactment, crafters, food, entertainment and tours of the camp and an 1870's cottage. So come and step back into time and have some fun.
    Like a weekend in Virginia or Pennsylvania without any of the expense. Thank you, Anonymous poster, for sending us this tip. Keep 'em coming, Des Plaines. :)

  4. Finally, an event that actually takes place in early September, but get your reservations in now - the Library's Croquet Tournament! On Saturday, September 8, from 1-4 PM, join us for an old-fashioned, "Alice in Wonderland"-themed Croquet Tournament at the Rose Garden on Ashland Avenue, across from Central School. Three person teams will play for fun and prizes. Refreshments will be served and live music will fill the air - come out and give it a try or cheer on your favorite team. Teams must register and pick up their information packet in person at the library. Registration continues until August 31, 2007. This event is co-sponsored by the Des Plaines Park District, Graham Hills and the G. L. Hills Funeral Home as part of the library's continuing Centennial Celebration. Stop by the library for more information - we'd love to see you there! Think of it as a weekend trip to a more peaceful, civilized time-gone-by: time to stop and smell the roses.
Now, feel free to share your ideas for beating the August blues - have any favorite roadtrips or end-of-the-summer festivals? Post them in our Comments section below. Want some more suggestions for squeezing out summer's last few, delicious drops? Here are some books, available at the Des Plaines Public Library, for planning short roadtrips in the Chicago area. Click on the titles to see the catalog record and to place a hold on the items.

Chicago's 50 Best Places to Take Children
by Clare La Plante

Chicago Walking Guide
by Jeanne Oelerich

Illinois State Parks: A Complete Outdoor Recreation Guide For Campers, Boaters, Anglers, Skiers, Hikers and Outdoor Lovers
by Bill Bailey

Midwest Marvels: Roadside Attractions Across Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsinby Eric Dregni

The DPPL has many other books to help you plan roadtrips and travel far and wide - just stop by the Reference Desk for help.