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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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen,

    Great PlainTalk to start the new year! I love the quip by Groucho to start things off -- I'm a Marxist myself (of the Groucho type). Which brings to mind another of his quotes about reading: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." Anyway, here's wishing a great year on PlainTalk.


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