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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Many Faces of Autism

Fact: Recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that a child's risk for being diagnosed with autism is 1 in 150.

We are often confronted by such sobering statistics without being given much advice about where to turn for more information, guidance and assurance.
The growing number of children and families dealing with autism is less of a surprise to those who work in public libraries, as we meet and serve people with special needs on a daily basis. More challenging for libraries is how to best serve those with this disorder.

Veronica Schwartz, head of the Des Plaines Public Library's Youth Services department, heard the statistic quoted above and decided to take action. For her efforts, the library was awarded a grant 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). Funds from this grant will be used to provide library programming and services to benefit individuals with autism, their families and caregivers. DPPL staff will also benefit, by learning more about autism and how to effectively, compassionately provide service to people with autism.

The first program, a presentation on "The Many Faces of Autism," will take place at the Des Plaines Public Library on Monday, February 11, 2008 from 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Linda Hoeck, Autism Coordinator for the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization, will discuss the various aspects of the autism spectrum and address audience questions. The program is free but does require registration - just click here to fill out an online registration form. To register by phone, please call (847) 376-2787. The presentation and question-answer session will take place in the library's first floor Meeting Room A.

Watch our Web site, events calendar and PlainTalk for more programs and services designed to assist those with autism and the people who care for them. It is our hope that the "Special Families Need Special Libraries" grant we've received from the Illinois State Library will be just one part of an ongoing effort to meet the needs of people with autism. Mark your calendars now for a special evening with author Cynthia Lord, whose Newbery Honor winning children's book "Rules" deals frankly with autism and family life. Lord will visit the Des Plaines Public Library on Monday, April 21 at 7 p.m. She will speak of her own family's experiences with autism and how those experiences informed the writing of "Rules." She will also sign copies of her book.

Click here to see what books, audiobooks, DVDs and other materials are available at the Des Plaines Public Library on the subject of autism.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Baby, It IS Cold Outside

So let's talk about what's hot in Des Plaines.

Well, first, let's talk about what is warm in Des Plaines - and we hope it's you. If you or someone you love needs shelter from the cold temperatures we are experiencing, the city of Des Plaines has assistance for you. Click here to see their Web site or call the Emergency Management Agency informational hotline at 847-391-5396. Click on that link to the Web site and you will find a listing of many local warming centers. Please get the help if you need it and advise others who may not know where to turn.

As I'm typing this, the temperature in DP is 13 degrees Fahrenheit, with a severe wind chill warning in effect. I am not looking forward to heading out to my car, so pardon me while I procrastinate with you awhile! If you're fortunate enough to have a warm place to call home this winter, you may still be suffering from the winter doldrums. Let the library help you find a stack of books to while away the dark, frigid evenings. One new and fun way to shake up your reading habits is our "What's Hot In Des Plaines" feature. Go ahead, you know you're curious - so click right here and you'll find the hottest titles, authors and subjects at the Des Plaines Public Library.

When we first tried out this service, we thought we had a pretty good handle on the favorite authors in town. But some of the other "hot" items surprised us: classic authors such as Jane Austen and Gabriel
García Márquez and language searches ranging from Polish to Gujarati. There are a lot of miles between Poland and Gujarat and it's pretty cool (hot?) to imagine those two cultures, along with so many others, living together right here in Des Plaines. So next time you're on our home page, click on the link that says, "What's Hot In Des Plaines."
You may find inspiration for new adventures in reading.

"What's Hot..." isn't the only place to explore new authors and titles. Don't forget about our Staff Picks database, where you can browse by author, title, subject, genre - and even the name of your favorite library book reviewer.

If Staff Picks doesn't quench your thirst for a great read, we've got more: try our Books & Literature Subject Guide. There you'll find databases such as NoveList and Booklist which give you expert reviews and recommendations on many types of literature. You can type in the name of a favorite author, subject, genre, even a favorite book, and these services can help you find similar things to read. Try out these services - if you find them a bit daunting, stop by the Readers' Services desk (3rd floor) and ask for a walk-through. Yes, you can use NoveList and Booklist from the warmth and comfort of home - just have your DPPL card handy since you will need your number to gain access to these databases.

Reading can be good for the spirit, mind and soul, and during these icy winter months, good for the body since a great book is the perfect excuse to stay indoors. Use our Web site (and of course, the friendly help of our professional staff) to find plenty of wonderful reading material to drive away the winter blues.

This blog was written on Wednesday, 1/23/2008 - the photo of Library Plaza above was taken on Thursday, 1/24/2008, just before noon. Temperature? 6 degrees Fahrenheit. And sunny...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Great Reads, Great Movies - Just a Click Away!

We've been focusing all month on ways in which the library can help you make and keep some healthy, positive resolutions for the New Year. Today's post might seem library-focused, but it can help you save time, save money, learn a new language and just spend more time reading -- all of those are great resolutions!

Ever wanted something new to read or watch, but after browsing and searching through our online catalog, you still came up empty-handed? Try our One Click Searches!

The fact is, library catalogs can be elusive and occasionally downright hostile. You know exactly what you want, but the catalog wants to hear it in "library-speak," that mysterious language known to librarians and researchers, not so much to normal people. That's why we created One Click Searches. You find a topic or genre of interest, click on it, and the catalog will run a search for you, finding the latest and greatest in books or video. In addition to searches by topic, we also have One Click Searches by language. Perhaps you are multi-lingual and enjoy reading in a language other than English. Perhaps you have a family member who is more comfortable using his/her native language - that person might really appreciate some library books in that particular language.

Where will you find our One Click Searches? Click on "Catalog" from our home page and then click on "One Click Searches" up in the blue header at the top of the screen. For our One Click Searches in various languages, look for the "Reference" area on our home page. Underneath that, click on "resources for new Americans." Then look for the heading "Books" under World Language Materials. Better yet, I'll put links to both types of One Click Searches down below so you can give them a try. You can then bookmark these pages on your home computer and get to them with - that's right - one click.

Even if you've used our One Click Searches in the past, check back frequently, as we are always adding new topics to the lists and new items to our collections. These are live, dynamic searches, so if you searched for, oh, "Exercise and Fitness DVDs" last year, try it today and you will get all the new items we've added since then. It is, truly, a no-brainer -- good thing, since our brains are a little taxed from this miserably cold weather right now! Here are the links to our One Click Searches - take them out for a test drive. Would you like to recommend a particular type of One Click Search? Type your suggestion here in the "Comments" section (hint: click on the word "Comments" after this post to send me a message), we'd love to hear from you.

One Click Searches by Topic/Genre

One Click Searches by Language

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Finding Help When You Don't Know Where To Turn

Libraries and librarians are very good at finding all kinds of things for people: an exciting new book to read, important government documents, driving directions and resume writing tips and the perfect DVD for a long weekend. Sometimes, however, your information needs are of a more serious, life-changing nature: substance abuse and addiction, an abusive or co-dependent relationship, problems with parenting, financial assistance and shelter during difficult economic times. Did you know you can turn to the library for guidance and referrals to help you weather life's most troublesome situations?

If you have ever entered the library through the municipal parking garage, you have passed by our large community display area. (That's a photo of it at the top of this post, along with samples of some of the posters.) If you've never stopped to browse in that area, you might not realize the valuable information available there. Much of it relates to cultural and artistic performances in the local area. Educational institutions such as Oakton and Harper community colleges display brochures about courses and special offerings.

You will also find posters and informational handouts about a variety of non-profit groups and social services. A sampling of the information available right now:
  • Support groups, self-help and professional help for those struggling with addiction and other psychological disorders;
  • Information on keeping your teenaged children safe and healthy;
  • Assistance for new immigrants and victims of human trafficking;
  • Information on Illinois' sex offender database;
  • Facts about cancer and networking groups for cancer survivors;
  • Courses for people who need to learn how to speak, read and write in English;
  • A wide variety of services for seniors and people with disabilities, including help with housing and transportation issues.
You may be fortunate enough to never need these referrals and services, but perhaps someone you know and care about is struggling and could use a helping hand. Another opportunity lies within these posters and brochures - the always ongoing need for volunteers to provide the services. So next time you enter the library, check out the display area, which is frequently updated. Could your organization use space to display information? Contact Public Information Assistant Margie Borris at (847) 376-2784 to find out if you are eligible for display space in the library.

Need assistance that isn't available in the display area or to supplement what you find there? Don't forget our friendly, professional reference staff. Visit the 4th floor desk any time the library is open. Can't make it to the library or have an information need after hours? From the library home page,, click on "ask a librarian live."You'll be connected with the Ask Away live reference service, available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Finding help is easier than you think. Let your new year be full of brighter mornings and peaceful nights - take advantage of assistance programs and social services that can transform your life and the lives of those you love.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Become a U.S. Citizen - Hágase Ciudadano

The workshop below has passed. However, there will be another citizenship workshop at the Des Plaines Public Library on Saturday, December 5, 2009, from 9 AM to noon. Get more details on this online events calendar.

This Saturday, January 19, 2008, the New Americans Initiative is hosting a citizenship workshop at Maryville's Stein Community Center in Des Plaines.
The workshop is from 9 AM to 12 PM.

Cuándo: Sábado, 19 de Enero de 9 AM-12 mediodía

Maryville Stein Community Center
1150 N. River Road
Des Plaines, IL

Services provided/Servicios que ofrecemos:
Photographs/Fotografias ($10)
Free application assistance/Ayuda para llenar la solicitud de ciudadanía - GRATIS
Free legal consultation, regarding citizenship/Consulta legal sobre la ciudadanía - GRATIS
Registration for citizenship classes/Matrícula para clases de ciudadanía

Who is eligible for citizenship?/¿Quiénes son elegibles para la ciudadanía?
  • Those who have been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. for at least five (5) years, OR,
  • Those who have been a legal permanent resident for three (3) years and are currently married to a U.S. citizen and have been married to that U.S. citizen for at least three (3) years.

  • Personas que han tenido la tarjeta de residencia permanente legal ("green card") por 5 años, O,
  • Personas que han tenido la tarjeta de residencia permanente legal ("green card") por 3 años y han estado casados con un ciudadano americano por lo menos 3 años.

For more information or to make an individual appointment: 312-357-4666

Si no puede asistir al taller de ciudadanía, haga una cita llamando al: 312-357-4666

Click here for an informational brochure with important instructions.
En español.

  • Un giro postal de $675.00 a nombre de: USCIS.
  • Si tiene 75 años o más, un giro postal de $595.00.
  • Su tarjeta de residencia (mica), su seguro social y su licencia de manejar o identificación.
  • Si estudió aquí: el nombre de la escuela y las fechas en que asistió.
  • Una lista de las direcciones en donde ha vivido por los últimos 5 años (con fechas)Todos los lugares y fechas en donde ha trabajado en los últimos 5 años.
  • Todas las fechas en que ha viajado fuera de los Estados Unidos desde que obtuvo su residencia.
  • Sí está casado deberá tener los siguientes datos de su cónyuge: nombre, fecha de nacimiento, seguro social (si lo tiene), número de residencia o en caso de que su cónyuge sea ciudadano, la fecha que en que se naturalizó.
  • Sí usted estuvo casado anteriormente deberá traer la fecha en que comenzó y terminó el matrimonio anterior.
  • Sí su cónyuge actual estuvo casado anteriormente deberá traer la fecha en que comenzó y terminó el matrimonio anterior.
  • Sí tiene hijos: los nombres, fechas de nacimiento, números de residencia y sus direcciones (si no viven con usted).
  • Hombres que vivieron en los EEUU entre los 18 a 26 años de edad deberían tener: el número de Servicio Selectivo y la fecha de registro. Si no se ha registrado con el Servicio Selectivo, llame al (847) 688-6888 y regístrese antes de aplicar por la ciudadanía.
  • Sí alguna vez fue detenido: indicar el motivo, el lugar y la fecha en que ocurrió y los resultados de esa detención.


  • MONEY ORDER, made out to USCIS for $675.00. (For people 75 and older, money order for $595.00 to USCIS.)
  • GREEN CARD (Alien Registration Card)
  • Home addresses for the past 5 years (with dates)
  • Your height (feet/inches) and weight (pounds).
  • If you are/were a student: name of school(s) and dates attended
  • Employer names & addresses for the past 5 years (with dates)
  • Dates when you left the United States and returned (day, month & year)
  • Information about your husband or wife: birth date, marriage date, social security number, Alien (Green Card) number, immigration status
  • (e.g. “permanent resident”). If husband or wife became a naturalized citizen: date and place of naturalization
  • If you or your current husband or wife were married before: information about previous marriages — name, marriage date, divorce date, immigration status of previous spouse
  • Information about your children: full names, date and country of birth, Alien (Green Card) number, current address
  • For men who have lived in the U.S. between 18 & 26, Selective Service number & date of registration. If you have not registered for Selective Service, you must do so before applying for citizenship. (847) 688-6888
Continue the American Dream - Become a U.S. Citizen!
Continue Con El Sueño Americano - Hágase Ciudadano

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Hispanic Catholics, Vicariate I, of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Getting In Touch with Government

Sometimes, getting what you need from our government institutions can be as frustrating as standing at the foot of Mount Rushmore, asking those big stone faces for help. Mountains of paperwork, impersonal voice mail systems, and "spin doctors" more concerned with public relations than public relation-ships can leave you baffled. Well, this year, make a vow to make it easier on yourself by getting help at the Des Plaines Public Library.

How can we help? Well, did you know that local government representatives frequently schedule open meeting times at that library? You can meet with representatives from Illinois Senator Dan Kotowski's office and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky's office. Just check our Events calendar, found on our home page: This month, Ann Limjoco from Congresswoman Schakowsky's office will be here to meet with you on Wednesday, January 16 from 5-7 p.m. Limjoco will meet with residents privately to answer questions about immigration, visas, social security, veterans' benefits, and more. Just drop by; no appointment needed. Janie Morrison from Illinois Senator Dan Kotowski's office will be at the library on Tuesday, February 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. In a private session, she can answer personal questions about senior services, consumer complaints, property taxes, passport problems, veterans' benefits, and other concerns. Again, just drop by; no appointment is ever needed for these consultations. If these meeting times are not convenient for you, keep checking our Events calendar for new dates.

I hate to mention it, but tax preparation time is upon us as well. If you have a computer and printer at home, you can access all of the necessary tax forms from the IRS Web site: But honestly, the site is complex and it's not easy to browse through the forms - plus, why pay the cost of printing the forms at home? The Des Plaines Public Library has one of the largest and most complete collections of tax forms you will find. Come on up to the 4th floor Reference area and get the forms you need, fast and free. We have all the instruction booklets and supplemental publications, too. If you prefer working online to filling out paper forms, you can also use the library's network of computers to file online, both federal and state. We all do our part by paying taxes - eliminate some of the bureaucratic red tape by getting forms and information you need from the library.

Figuring out how to fill in those forms is even a bigger hurdle and while librarians are experts in finding information, we aren't accountants! So while we cannot help you complete your tax forms, the library does host a tax assistance program from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Every Tuesday from now until April 15 - Tax Day - AARP is offering free tax assistance for
tax payers with low to middle income, with special attention to those age 60 and older. Appointments are taken between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays. For more information, call 847-376-2788 beginning next Tuesday, January 15, 2007.

Finally - we reminded you earlier this month that you can register to vote at the library, so keep that in mind during this election year. United States citizens living in suburban Cook County may register to vote during regular library hours. Two forms of ID are required and one of those must list the current address of the applicant. It is too late to register for voting in the February primary, but register now and you can exercise your democratic rights in November. Confused about the candidates? Check out our Election '08 Web guide by clicking here or finding the link on our home page, We think you'll find our election guide informative and well-balanced - unlike much of what you may be finding elsewhere! We will also update the Election guide regularly, so check in whenever you're curious about the future leaders of our country, their political records and platforms.

If you entered the New Year knowing that you needed assistance with government affairs but did not know where to turn - good news: there's help right here in the neighborhood.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Quick quiz for a Monday morning

Q: How do you know that's a fake clip art photo of a woman paying bills?

A: Because she's smiling!

I don't know about you, but I dread the mail this time of year. The credit card bills soar during all that unrestrained Christmas shopping but worst of all is the heating bill. You're probably not thinking about it today, as we enjoy unseasonably warm temperatures in the mid-60s. But you were thinking about your heating bill last week, when we shivered through temps in the teens and 60 mph winds that gave new meaning to the phrase "wind chill."

During those frigid times, it's tempting to crank the thermostat up and chalk up the high bill to life in the Midwest. But more and more, we learn that's not only a waste of money but a drain on natural resources. Blasting the heat all winter not only effects your personal finances but the state of the world's environment. What can the average homeowner do about it? It's a question many of us ask and now the city of Des Plaines is offering answers through its "Deep Green" initiative.

The library is very proud to be connected with "Deep Green" and many of the group's upcoming events will be held right here in the library's meeting rooms. Join "Deep Green" on Thursday, January 17, for a visit from the Energy Detectives. The Energy Detectives are behind a company called "Informed Energy Decisions." The Energy Detectives' years of expertise in building science, architecture, construction and home inspection give them insider knowledge on the ways we waste energy in our homes and commercial buildings, and in this program, they will pass that knowledge on to you. This free program won't cost you a thing except time, and you may just come away with tips and tools to help make your home and opening that heating bill a lot more comfortable. No need to register, just drop into the library's first floor meeting room area on January 17 at 7 p.m.

"Deep Green" is sponsoring an additional program on February 21, also at 7 p.m. in the library meeting rooms. This program is called "Mythbusters," and will feature a presentation highlighting the facts about environmental issues, to help consumers move beyond hype and hearsay. For more information on "Deep Green," or any of these programs, contact Mary Rohde at (847)803-6912.

The library is not only proud to host these programs, but we're also proud of our own "green" efforts. We are already "greener" than you might know. For example, we primarily use CFL bulbs in our lighting - our elevator lights are even timed to shut off when the cars have not been used for 15 minutes. Our building heating zones are set to 68 degrees during the winter months. We use glass/plastic plates and metal flatware in our lunchroom, rather than disposable items which would pile up in a landfill. We also use as many recycled paper products (paper napkins and towels, file folders, etc.) as possible.

You may have noticed recently that we're encouraging you to be more "green" in the library, too, by asking you to recycle the plastic bags we distribute. When you return books to the library in a plastic bag, just place the bag in the stainless steel recycling bin underneath the atrium book drops. Here are some of the library's Green Team members, unveiling the new bag recycling program.

So, if your New Year's resolutions involved going "green," the library has lots of ways we can help you stick with that decision. Of course, the library has useful and informative books on these topics, too. Click on the links that follow to try some of our "One Click Searches" on environmental topics. And stay tuned to PlainTalk for more ways you can change your life and change your world in the new year.


Organic living

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Thursday, January 3, 2008

"I must say that I find television very educational..."

"...The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book."

Why not make a New Year's resolution to spend more time at the library this year and to make better use of our Web site?

If only Groucho Marx (the speaker of the quote above) had known about our reading clubs. The Des Plaines Public Library offers summer and winter reading clubs for kids, teens and adults. If one of your resolutions in this new year is to read more frequently, why not sign up for our Winter Reading Club, which runs until February 24th? For every book you read, you can enter a ticket into our raffle drawing for some nice prizes (TBA). Reading keeps your mind active on a cold winter's night when you've got cabin fever. Books offer far more variety and challenge than television, especially with that writers' strike resulting in weeks of reruns. Later this month we'll tell you more about our Book Discussion Groups, which bring together two of our favorite things, books and good conversation.

I don't need to tell you there's a lot more than books at the library. In fact, you may have reached the PlainTalk blog through our "Virtual Branch," meaning our Web site. Would you like to help us create a new and improved Web site? We are looking for a team of Web site testers. Testing would be done during evening hours and possibly on weekends. We are looking for people with varying skill levels, so you can be a Web novice or a pro. We need testers who can commit to two different testing sessions, and for your troubles you'll receive some gifts from us. Want to learn more? Email me, Karen McBride, at
Please include your full name and tell me a little bit about why you'd like to be one of our Web testers. As soon as we have a pool of interested testers, we will plan some testing dates.

Speaking of our Web site -- a little bit of information about what we can and cannot change concerning our online services. By far, the most frequent complaint I receive about our Web site, from patrons and even our Library Board of Trustees, concerns our Library Catalog. The Catalog is the place where you look up books and movies, place holds on items, find out if you have overdue items, etc. Time and again, people have asked me, "Why do I have to input my library card number and password for every item on which I wish to place a hold?" Library card numbers are long and if you are ordering a dozen items, this process is time-consuming and frustrating. Most of us who use the Web are accustomed to "shopping cart" systems, where we can place everything we want into a virtual "container," then check them all out at once.

The good part about our Catalog is we share it as part of a consortium - a 10-dollar word for a collective group - of 24 libraries. This is a wonderful, money-saving and resource-sharing agreement. If you've ever placed a hold on a book from one of those other libraries and were delighted when you were able to pick the book up at our library just a few days later, you know the benefits of this consortium. also means that all 24 libraries share the same Catalog software product, which we purchase from a vendor. Purchasing as a group gives us a considerable discount.

However, purchasing from an outside vendor means we have little control over how the product works. This is why we cannot set up a "shopping cart" or similar service within our Library Catalog. Believe me, we think it would be excellent, too -- librarians love to borrow items from other libraries! After receiving a number of patron comments on this issue, we've discovered that we may be able to offer a one-time login feature for our patrons, so that you don't have to type your information in repeatedly - stay tuned to our home page, we hope to make this upgrade in service within the next month. In the meantime, one tip that saves some typing: open up Microsoft Word or another text typing application first. Type your library card number there, highlight it and copy it using Edit-Copy from the menu or Control+C on your keyboard. Then everytime you place a hold, you can copy in your card number. You'll still have to type your password, but it's the best workaround we have right now.

We are always trying to bring you the best library resources and services possible.
  • So, join a reading club and get prizes for doing something you love - reading a great book!
  • Get the whole family involved by having the kids sign up for our "Read to Succeed" winter reading club for children.
  • Email me and sign up to be a Web site tester - it's fun, painless, you'll get some gifts for your time and effort and your input will help us develop a great new site.
  • And, keep your comments and suggestions coming! Remember, you can always post a comment here by clicking on the pencil icon underneath each post. If you'd prefer to send an email, click here for a form to send us an email.
Watch for more PlainTalk on "going green," staying in shape, and taking charge of your life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Don't be a lightweight - exercise your democracy

Wake up, smell the coffee and experience the "invigorating" wind chill - it's a new year, Des Plaines! For the entire month of January, PlainTalk's focus will be on making and keeping resolutions for the coming year, maybe even for a lifetime. Why? Because there's no place like a library to explore your options, weigh the benefits and costs of decision-making and build a toolkit for positive change and even adventure.

In case you've been, oh, living in a cave for the last few months, 2008 is a presidential election year in America. That means: it's time to make sure you are registered to vote, if you are legally eligible to do so, and spend time researching the pool of candidates.
Did you know you can register to vote at the Des Plaines Public Library? United States citizens living in suburban Cook County may register to vote during regular library hours. Two forms of ID are required and one of those must list the current address of the applicant. The deadline for registering for the February 5 primary election is January 8, 2008.

So get to the library this week, bring your up-to-date forms of identification and get registered. If you cannot make it by the January 8, 2008, deadline, there is still plenty of time to register for the November elections. Watch for another PlainTalk post later this month to introduce our Election 2008 voting guide. We're gathering the best, informative and bi-partisan Web sites where you can learn more about every candidate. For a preview of one such site, visit,
an organization dedicated to protecting voters from "pollsters, spin doctors, special interests, parties" and yes, sometimes the candidates themselves! It's a great place to find information outside of the mainstream media.

But in the same way that you cannot complain about never winning the Lottery if you never buy a ticket, remember: you've got no right to complain about government if you didn't cast your vote! At this time of year, we often focus on losing weight and renewing our health through bodily exercise. Register to vote and you can renew the health of our country by exercising democracy.