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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!

Friday, October 12, 2007

"What's new? How is the world treating you...?"

Perhaps it is bad form to use a song lyric from 1939 to introduce some new online services at the library - but every time I tour around our cool "What's New" pages, that song pops into my head.

You may have noticed the "What's New" graphic on our home page. You may also have received a postcard at home, inviting you to give these new services a test drive.
This project was made possible by a grant awarded by the Illinois State Library (ISL), a Division of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), under the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

That grant money went toward software, equipment and staff hours to design services that allow you, our patrons, to find the latest and greatest in the library with a simple click or two - hence the title, "One-Click Searches." The staff members involved in the project also created short, fun tutorials to walk you through the process of finding specific types of materials from the library's Web site. The tutorials focus on finding audiobooks, movies, online magazine articles and reference books, as well as providing instructions on renewing library materials online. You can find them in the "How Do I...?" section of the "What's New" site. Another new service is our "Staff Picks" database, where you can search book reviews written by library staff and find your next favorite read. You can search "Staff Picks" by author, title, genre, library staff names or find the most recently added books, and the database can be found in the Readers' Services section of our Web site as well as the "What's New" section.

We've been overwhelmed, in a happy way, by the response to these new services so far, response we've been assessing through some online surveys included in the "What's New" section. The comments you've sent in, both positive and negative, will help us shape and refine these services. One thing you might like to know about the "Staff Picks" database: each review lists, right at the top, who the "reviewer" is (i.e. which library staff person wrote the review). If you find someone whose taste coincides with your own, then search for that person in the "Reviewer" section. Your other suggestions, such as defining each genre more fully and providing tutorials on advanced searching, will definitely go on our "to do" list. We'll keep adding to the "One-Click Searches," too -- if you don't see a topic of interest to you now (although we think it's a pretty wide list!), check back soon.

Explore "What's New" and then fill out a survey or two - you might just win an iPod Shuffle.

Curious? Click here to visit "What's New" right now.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Get your souvenir croquet pictures, right here

This just in -- our Webmaster, Kathy Kyrouac, took all the croquet tournament pictures and put them on a Web page. Just click here to see a gallery of the photos - click the pictures you want to make them larger, print or save to your home computer. Pretty cool, eh? If you've seen a photo from our Centennial Carnival that you'd like, please email the Web Services Librarian at:

We can email pictures to you or, if there's enough demand, we will also make them into a Web gallery. Enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Recapturing the Magic

I just made a short trip over to City Hall, and a gentleman walking near me commented on how the temperature has dropped 40 degrees between Sunday and today. In a similar fashion, a muted, reflective atmosphere hangs over the library offices and cubicles this week - post-Centennial Carnival letdown? Can you remember that feeling, the day after a birthday or Christmas or some other major celebration, when the gifts were all opened, the candles blown out and life returned to normal? Our year-long Centennial Celebration took months of planning and preparation, and the finale, our Carnival last Sunday, was such a "wow" moment for us, it's a little difficult to let it go.

Luckily for me, my job here at DPPL requires me to relive the good times with you, our community, through this blog, our YouTube channel and other means. We had several staff members (David Whittingham and Gail Bradley) shooting photographs at the Centennial Carnival this weekend, and Monday evening I began the cheerful chore of sifting through the pictures in order to share them with you. I'm not sure how we arranged for it, but somehow the most beautiful, handsome and happy children all converged upon the carnival - they're right there in the pictures. Want to see for yourself? Right here on this screen you can watch a video slideshow of some of the delightful photos from our big day - an attempt to capture some of the magic. I actually get a little misty-eyed when I watch it, because the joy on peoples' faces (despite the record-high temperatures!) says so much about how important it is to celebrate as a community, to set aside the petty and insignificant differences we so often use as excuses to keep us apart. The light in the eyes of the children also speaks volumes about how the simplest things can still bring abundant happiness - root beer, cotton candy, "Bozo Buckets," a brand new book, a breezy ride on a merry-go-round, an oompah band -
even in this age of high-tech gadgets and gizmos (of which I, obviously, am a big fan). Watch the slideshow and see if you agree with that sentiment. You may just find your own family in the pictures.

We're so grateful to everyone who celebrated with us on Sunday. Also, we owe tremendous thanks to all who gave us special help along the way: the Des Plaines History Center, the Friends of the Library, Rotary Club of Des Plaines, Des Plaines Public Works, Target Corporation, Citibank, the Antique Automobile Club of America Cadillac and LaSalle Chapter, Marcia Guti
érrez, Jimmy's Bavarians Show Band, the Prairie Brass Band, the Chordmasters, our fabulous clowns, airbrush artist and stiltwalker, those who tirelessly served food and drinks, ran the carousel - and I'm not even including all of the library staff members who put in countless hours of effort to make this tremendous event somehow appear effortless and easy.

We celebrated our past - now let's create our future. Were you there at the Carnival on Sunday? Please post your comments here - we know we had a wonderful day but we'd love to hear from you, too.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Our Very Own "History Channel..."

...without those silly reenactments featuring modern guys dressed up like cavemen.

With our Centennial Celebration taking place this Sunday, October 7, 2007, (1-4 p.m.) we've discovered that our community has a genuine interest in the history of the library, as well as its future. Keeping that in mind, we thought you might enjoy a short video "tour" of our colorful past - from a time when the Des Plaines Public Library was open 8 hours as week to the present day, when Web services (like this blog) allow us to reach you 24/7.

This history slideshow began life as a Powerpoint presentation, but thanks to technology (and my Macbook - hooray), it reaches you now as this online video. Take a close look at some of the photographs - is that you in our Children's Room or in the lobby of the library that was part of City Hall? Were you one of the Scouts who helped the library move by wheeling books around in grocery carts? Can you spot your Mom, your Grandfather, a good friend? If you recognize yourself or someone else, post a comment here - we'd love to hear from you and find out more about the friendly faces in these pictures. If you want to share your library memories with us in a more permanent way, you can stop by the Memory Book table this Sunday at our Carnival, or click here to leave your memories on our Web site.

So watch the video and learn more about our history, then come out on Sunday afternoon and help us celebrate our Centennial right here in the present. Know that we'll be here for you in the years to come, with the books, computers, meeting rooms, storytimes, events, online resources, CDs, DVDs, and comfy reading chairs you've come to expect, along with new & surprising services and resources we're planning for the future.

This history presentation was written and narrated by library staff member Margie Borris. The photos were edited by our Webmaster, Kathy Kyrouac, and come to you courtesy of the Des Plaines History Center and our own library archives. I did a bunch of technical stuff to make it look & sound pretty, then moved it to its new online home. (You can also watch it on our YouTube channel, PlainTalk TV)

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

City of Destiny, city of big dreams

It seems to me there are four kinds of people. There are those who work hard to make their dreams a reality and there are those who shrug off their dreams and watch them slip away. There are also those who love to lend a hand, a voice, a lift to help someone else's dreams come true. And finally, ugh, there are those who seem to delight in tearing down the dreams of others.

I feel pretty strongly that librarians, library people, fall into the two more positive categories. Library people (I say it that way because not everybody in a library is a "librarian," but nevertheless every "library person" plays a crucial role) are all about helping others reach out and grab onto dreams. Library people can help you apply to a college, get a video to help you exercise or sing or paint, find books for you on everything from world travel to cooking to computer programs. Library people can show you the resources to help you start a business, become a better parent, make a tidy sum on eBay and even how to do the conga.

But library people are also dreamers - they must be in order to ensure that libraries don't become ancient and hollow temples of information, but rather remain relevant, fresh and vital. More than 100 years ago, some Des Plaines residents set to dreaming and those dreams included a library. Andrew Carnegie dreamed about libraries sprouting up in communities all over the world, from England to Australia and, yes, even in Des Plaines. With a $5,000 grant, Carnegie helped make the first library in Des Plaines a reality. The dreaming didn't end there, thank goodness. Every time Des Plaines grew, the library grew right along with it. I've been learning about the history of the Des Plaines Public Library in my first four months on the job, which just happen to coincide with the library's Centennial anniversary. When I see the old black and white photograph of the first librarian, Sarah Weeks, I can't help but wonder: could she ever have dreamed of the amazing library we have now? Could she have imagined the World Wide Web or downloadable audiobooks or even a computer? If someone had told her the library needed a "blog," what on earth would she have pictured? Did she have days when she was overwhelmed keeping track of the library's 725 books and could she have conceived of a four-story library building holding more than 250,000 books? Yet Mrs. Weeks surely had dreams of her own, along with countless other people whose names and faces may be forgotten to time, but whose dedication and perseverance served as stepping stones to the library's present and future.

Another fun aspect of being the new kid in the library during its Centennial year has been participating in many of the special Centennial events. The Centennial planning committee has had the courage to dream big and consequently has been rewarded with incredibly memorable occasions. Over and over again, I hear people saying, "I never would have expected this," or, "This turned out better than I could have ever imagined" -- all part of the power of dreaming, and dreaming big. (Bigly? Is there an adverb for "big?" :) )

And now, the biggest dream for our Centennial Celebration is just around the corner -- our amazing Centennial Carnival. We hope you've cleared your calendar and plan on joining us this Sunday, October 7 from 1-4 p.m. in Library Plaza. Click here to see a schedule of entertainment for the day. We've got everything from clowns and games for the kids, a vintage car show and live music for the grown-ups and a bilingual storyteller the whole family will enjoy. Lemonade, root beer, ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy are on the menu along with lots of souvenir giveaways and prizes - and we're picking up the tab. In fact, we're footing the bill for the whole day, so bring the family, bring your neighbors, your church friends, classmates and coworkers. We're not throwing the Carnival to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done -- we're throwing a party to celebrate the dreamers, from Andrew Carnegie and Sarah Weeks to Paul Jung, John Burke, our director Sandra Norlin and everyone who helped the library grow and stretch to meet the needs of the Des Plaines community, and we're throwing it to thank you, the people who supported the dreaming, through your support, donations, tax dollars and encouragement.

Come out and celebrate with us, Des Plaines. Here's to another 100 years of big dreams in the City of Destiny.