Thanks for visiting. We aren't actively blogging here anymore. Please visit us on our new site.

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.