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Friday, February 29, 2008

What's Happening in March at DPPL

Watch our latest video and you'll get a warm welcome from Becky Wenzel from our Circulation department. You'll also learn about 5 great programs and events at the Des Plaines Public Library in March, 2008.

Remember: our library's Events Calendar is available to you 24/7 from our Web site, Just click on "Events" in the left-hand menu. Use the Events Calendar to learn more about events and programs, including links to Web sites for speakers and performers you see at the library. You can often register for events through the Calendar, and also sign up for e-mail reminders. - a great place to search for books, movies, and music, but also so much more!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Library databases - have you tried them?

Have you ever searched high and low to find the perfect gift for someone, only to have them open it with a shrug that says, "What the heck is that?"

As librarians, we work hard to choose the most useful and appropriate resources for you, our patrons. Those resources include dozens of online databases - convenient search tools that allow you to access newspaper/magazine articles, directory information (phone numbers, addresses, and more), investment and business information, biographies, auto repair manuals, practice tests for students at all levels -- honestly, it's pretty amazing stuff. Our fear? That you may not even be aware that we offer these services through our Web site!

So, here's a short, sweet survey to help us learn more about you and how you use our library databases. Short - just 6 questions, some of which are optional. Sweet - your results are completely anonymous, no need to enter any contact information, and you can fill out the survey online, when/where it's convenient for you.
Click on this link to take the survey

If you have never tried our databases but would like to give them a whirl before completing the survey, click on this link to browse our Subject Guides. Pick a topic area, then you'll get a list of appropriate databases to search. Used to doing your searching on Google? You may be pleasantly surprised. We can offer you magazine/newspaper articles from thousands of publications, all at the touch of a button. Many of the articles go back several decades, some as far back as 1849 (Chicago Tribune). You will find consumer-level information but also information geared toward the professional. Reference USA compiles databases of US and Canadian businesses, health care professionals as well as residential directory information. Morningstar is a top-notch investment resource that's also easy to use. If the kids need homework help, try our variety of online encyclopedias and reference books. If anyone in your household is taking an important, standardized test, explore our Learning Express Library of practice tests.

Almost all of the databases are available from outside the library, if you have a DPPL card. When you want to log-in from your home or office computer, have your card handy and click on the house icon to the right of the database name.

Try the databases, take our survey. Help us provide the best resources for you and also let us know the best ways to keep you informed about what we have available and how to use our resources. Thanks. We will post the survey results and comments here in PlainTalk.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

You Asked - We Listened

If you've clicked into our Library Catalog during the last four days, you may have noticed something new up at the top of the screen. You can see a picture of that something new just up above these words - the blue log-in screen? I've been the Web Services Librarian here in Des Plaines for eight and a half months. During that time, the number one complaint I've received from patrons has been: "When I use the Library Catalog and I want to place holds on several items, WHY do I have to enter my library card number and password every single time?" It's a hassle, it's a time-waster, and now -- it's history. Welcome to our new, multiple-hold log-in service!

If you're the type who knows you might place holds on several books or DVDs at once, you'll love this new service. From the basic search screen in our Catalog, find the log-in boxes at the top of the screen. HINT: If you log in through the "My Account" feature, you will still have to enter your library card number and password for every hold. Log in at the top, in the blue page header, for multiple holds.

Fill in your library card number and your password. HINT: Everyone has the generic password patron - we advise that you change your password if you tend to use the library's computers to order your materials. This will protect your privacy. To change your password, log into "My Account," then click on "User Password Change." Pick something easy for you to remember.

Once you've typed in your library card number and password, you are free to search our catalog for books, CDs, DVDs and other materials, not only within our library but all of our consortial, partner libraries as well. You have dozens of libraries at your fingertips. Find an item you want? Click the blue "Place Hold" button.

  • If the item is at one of our partner libraries, they'll send it here to DPPL and we'll call you to tell you it has arrived.

  • If the item is checked out, you'll be entered into the system (in a line known as a "queue") and when it's your turn, we'll hold that item just for you. You will be notified that the item is being held and you will have four days to pick it up.

  • NOTE - our Circulation department advises that if you want us to hold a Des Plaines Public Library item for you, the fastest and most efficient way to do this is to call the library at (847) 827-5551. Your call will be directed to the appropriate floor of the library, someone will check the shelf for the item, pull it for you if it is available, and you have that day plus three business days to pick it up on the first floor. If you place a hold on a Des Plaines Public Library item through the Catalog, it won't be pulled until the next day and someone may check it out in the meantime. If you need it, fast, give us a call.
With the new, multiple-hold log-in, you can do this over and over again during a session, without unnecessary retyping of your card number and password. And we think that's pretty awesome.

Now - a caveat, because of course technology can never be simple! The multiple-hold log-in can tell by your library card number which library issued the card. For example, even if you are on DPPL's Web site, if you enter a Niles Public Library card number, the log-in will take you to the Niles library Web site and only allow you to place holds to be picked up at that library. In that case, your other option is to continue to place holds the "old-fashioned" way: one at a time. We wish we could customize our system to work with all library cards, but because our Catalog is shared between many member libraries, we have to work within the consortial agreement.

We hope you enjoy our new, multiple-hold log-in service. Please - if you have questions about the service or if you try it and encounter difficulties, let us know. You can post a comment here by clicking on "Comments." You can email me directly from this link: Email the Web Services Librarian, or use the following link to email our Webmaster through our Web site: Email the Webmaster

Monday, February 18, 2008

You are hungry now but will be satisfied...

That's sort of my fortune cookie wish to myself right now. It's a very frigid night in Des Plaines. The temperatures have been in the teens all day, but don't let that fool you - if you read the fine print, the weather report says it feels like a big, fat ZERO out there. I don't know about you, but when I'm cold, I like to eat. Makes sense: calories are energy and you need energy to stay warm. One of my favorite cold weather cuisines is Chinese. Steamy hot, loaded with carbs, some sweet/salty soy sauce for dipping and dunking, plenty of crispy fried goodness. My American dream of Chinese food probably isn't very authentic, but it sure tastes good and gives you that warm, stuffed feeling.

So - where to go in Des Plaines for Chinese food? For fabulous, crisp egg rolls and crab rangoon? For tender lo mein noodles sharing an overcrowded platter with bbq pork or chicken or veggies? When one needs to call a summit with General Tso and have a whole lotta Chow Fun - where does one go in Des Plaines? I hope you'll post here and tell me about your favorite Chinese restaurant here in town - you can even fudge a little bit and name a place in Mt. Prospect, Niles or Park Ridge. But not too far afield, I'm looking for a perfect lunch spot. :)

To cast your note, just click on the word "Comments" down below and let your voice be heard. If you can include some address/location information for the restaurant, that's even better. Give as much detail as you'd like - you can name your favorite menu items, tell us about the lunch combination specials, even describe the decor. I'm all ears (of baby corn), and my chop sticks are standing by, waiting to try your recommendations. Don't let me down!

Friday, February 15, 2008

"She's an old maid. She never married."

"She's just about to close up the library!" If you are not a librarian, or someone who loves a librarian, your only impressions about the profession may come from popular culture. Poor, dowdy spinster Mary - instead of marrying the gallant and selfless George Bailey, she's forced into a bleak existence, apparently devoid of femininity and fun. She's a librarian. Stephen King wrote a short story, "The Library Policeman," in his collection Four Past Midnight, which paints librarian-types as crazed, demonic figures obsessed with overdue materials. So it seems the world views librarians as one of two extremes: devils or duds.

The list of commonly-held stereotypes about librarians is as long as the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. We wear cardigans, buns in our hair, unfashionable eyeglasses and unflattering jumpers. We "shush" people all day and delight in it. We catalog our sock drawers (Mr. Lavalie, any comment on that?). We are socially inept and trollish. We are mostly female but only in terms of genetics. People even think that everyone who works in a library is a librarian. Perhaps more strangely, people often think that working in a library means being allowed to read all day. The only people who get paid to read all day are editors.

Keeping all that in mind, the latest U.S. News & World Report offers justice for librarians - for "Librarian" has just been named one of the "Best Careers for 2008." What makes for a Best Career? How about strong outlook and high job satisfaction? Want to read what U.S. News & World Report has to say about Librarians? Click on this link:
Best Career - Librarian Want to see the full list of careers? Click on this link: Best Careers (No surprise - "Editor" is also on the list. Those lazy people! They just READ all day! KIDDING, KIDDING! But now you know how it feels to be a Librarian!)

A few library mythbusters:
  • 28% of library workers are male - when you look specifically at Information Technology in libraries, the number jumps to 71% (source: Chronicle of Higher Education, February 20, 2007). We have 3 male librarians at DPPL and dozens of other male employees. In the same way a library's collections must be balanced and represent many points of view, a library's staff should be balanced, too.

  • Librarians do have to shush people on occasion, but I think I speak for many of us in saying there is no joy in it. We're much happier doing what we're trained to do, which is helping our patrons discover resources of information and entertainment. Besides, public libraries are lively, stimulating places. When I walk into a library and it's deathly quiet, I wonder what they're doing wrong...

  • With all sympathy for George Bailey, the wonderful ol' building and loan might have crumbled without him, but it's unlikely Mary would have led a lonely librarian life (once she ditched that hat, anyway). Most of my librarian friends have fulfilling and even hectic personal lives. Many of our librarians are married or have long-time partners and many have children. They sail on Lake Michigan, play in rock bands, work in church ministry, travel all around the world, cheer on the Chicago Wolves, ski the Colorado slopes and obsess about "Dancing With the Stars." In other words - librarians are just like you.

  • Helping people at the busy public service desks, answer calls, responding to online reference questions, updating our Web site and our events calendar, planning programs -- these things take time and energy. The only opportunity we have for reading while we're in the library comes during our lunch and dinner breaks.

  • More likely, however, is that our meal times evolve into a large group conversation, punctuated with laughter and not a small amount of rowdiness. We talk passionately about politics, the arts, food, family, sports. Librarians seem to have an opinion (usually a well-educated one) on just about everything, including designer shoes and exotic facial moisturizers. We would suggest that Mary grow out her hair, get some highlights, buy some new frames or even contacts, and maybe put on a touch of pink-brown lip stain. And ditch that hat.

  • The majority of people working at the Des Plaines Public Library, and in most libraries, are not librarians. Being a librarian usually requires a Masters' Degree in Library and Information Science (or a similar degree). The people who help you every day in our library include security monitors, circulation clerks, Readers' Services/Reference assistants, technology pages and the building management team. People working behind the scenes include processing clerks, delivery people, administrative assistants, graphic designers, a Webmaster, a public relations pro. And - yes - librarians. While we'd love to take the credit for all the wonderful things that happen in this library, we're just one part of it.

  • I am frequently frantic while getting dressed in the morning because I cannot find any matching socks.
Kudos to U.S. News & World Report for finally getting it right and letting the world know our little secret - librarians are often fun, fashionable, creative people and we love our work. I invite my colleagues here at DPPL to post their comments below and share why they think "Librarian" belongs under the heading of "Best Careers," not just this year but every year.

Follow this link and watch a classic, 1940s video on making libraries your life's work. It's corny, at times quite hilarious, and yet, you know what? They get a lot of it right in terms of why the librarian profession is important and meaningful. Looking at the technology in the video (the wonder of microfilm!), I'm extra glad to be working in the 21st century. And wow, the librarian assisting the scientist is feminine and just a little sassy! I do wonder what the Children's Librarian is saying in this video to cause such a sour facial expression on her young patron. :)

And say, here's a quartet of fellows that REALLY knows how to win a gal's heart. Thanks to Dennis Norlin for finding this clip from The Four Freshmen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You think that people would have had enough of...

come on, finish the line...silly love songs! Okay, so maybe that song was one of Sir Paul McCartney's weaker moments. He also wrote "Baby I'm Amazed" and dozens of great love songs during his years with The Beatles, so we can forgive him. Besides being a librarian, I am also a musician and you'll meet no bigger sucker for a love song than yours truly. I listen to my iPod almost every day during my commute, so if you're next to a Ford Focus and the driver is weeping uncontrollably (and looks like me), I've fallen under the sway of some smooshy ballad by Dan Fogelberg (may he rest in peace), the Moody Blues, Keith Urban, Steven Curtis Chapman, Martina McBride, Amy Grant, it just goes on and on.

With Valentine's Day a mere 13 hours away (still time to do some shopping, guys!), I'm here to talk about love songs. I polled the library staff and asked people to send me their favorite love songs. Much like the love stories I requested earlier, results were few. Does the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator demonstrate that lovers do not make for good librarians? :) Perhaps library types are just shy, and unwilling to reveal such a personal preference.

At any rate, I did get a few and here they are. Reference Librarian Joanie Sebastian figured the first song that popped into her head must be a favorite, so she's sticking with "We'll Be Together Again" as recorded by Chicago's own jazz stylist Anita O'Day. Two of our staffers chose different songs by the same artist. Readers' Services Assistant Laura Adler and Head of Public Information Heather Imhoff both chose Bruce Springsteen, but Laura likes "Incident on 57th Street" while Heather is all about "Thunder Road." Who knew The Boss was such a romantic?

Children's Librarian Kelli Phillips picked a sentimental favorite by a singer whose style (and swivelin' hips) made many a gal swoon: "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley. Marge Scholl, in Administrative Services, chose a more recent classic, "Through the Years" by Kenny Rogers. Dan Klobnak in IT Services named an artist known more for razor-sharp wit and a healthy dose of sarcasm, Joe Jackson. Dan particularly likes Jackson's song, "Fools in Love," from the 1979 album "Look Sharp." (Is it still okay to say "album?") Veronica Schwartz, Head of Youth Services, is torn between two love songs. First, there's Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," a song immortalized for many of us by the cinematic splendor of John Cusack, hoisting that boombox over his head in the pouring rain during "Say Anything." (Don't get me started - I love that movie."You used to be warped and twisted and hilarious.") For cold, wintry nights, Veronica is digging Michael Buble's rendition of "Fever." Ah, love. What a lovely way to burn.

Now, technically, since I started this mess, I ought to include my own favorites. Got a few days? Seriously, for me to name a favorite of any type of song is like trying to explain why I like breathing - music keeps me alive. But I'll toss out a few, mostly in hopes of stimulating, YES, YOU GUESSED IT, some Comments here in our blog! This blogging thing would be a whole lot more fun if you'd pitch in with your comments and observations. You can even do it anonymously, without having to set up an account or sign in. So think about it - what's your favorite love song? A memory from Senior Prom? The first dance at your wedding? The song you heard on the radio the night you got engaged?

A quick survey of my favorites would include: "Be My Downfall" by Scottish rock band Del Amitri, "I Was Brought to My Senses" and "Mad About You" AND "Desert Rose," all by Sting,"Tonight It's You" by Cheap Trick (part of me will always be 10 years old and in love with Robin Zander), "Where The Streets Have No Name" and "Mysterious Ways" by U2, and "Until the Night", "This Is the Time," and "This Night" by Billy Joel. I have to stop, or this will end up in the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Blog Post EVER. And I haven't even mentioned James Taylor, Joni Mitchell or songwriter Leonard Cohen (a trio of amazing songwriters who also happened to be lovers, at least for a time - Taylor with Mitchell, but Mitchell also with Cohen).

So cut me off at the pass and send us your own cherished love songs. Post 'em here. And, if you haven't seen it yet, watch our Valentine's Day video right here in this blog window, or see it at our YouTube channel:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Isn't It Romantic?

Valentine's Day
is one holiday guaranteed to prove whether you are a lover or a fighter. No one can deny that an entire segment of the retail industry has flourished because of this observance - greeting cards, those inexplicably omnipresent and yet tasteless candy hearts, chocolates in enormous, heart-shaped boxes, glow-in-the-dark roses and fuzzy wuzzy teddy bears...Valentine's inspires the shopper in us, but tastefulness is not necessarily part of the scenario! Since the nature of romantic relationships is fleeting and often filled with heartbreak, it's not surprising that an anti-Valentine market has sprung up as well. (Don't believe me? Check out "Bittersweets," touted as "Valentine's Day Candy for the Rest of Us.")

Being something of a hopeless romantic myself, I was curious to find out where my library colleagues stood on this whole Valentine's thing. I sent out an All Staff memo, inquiring about my coworkers' favorite love stories and love songs. Given the small number of responses I received, I guess library folks fall more into the "fighter" category. :) Still, I thought I'd share the favorite love stories and songs of our library staff with you and encourage you lovers out there to send in your own choices. Since the hottest book search subject in the city of Des Plaines is, you guessed it, Love stories, I know there are some romantics out there! Don't let me down!

For those of you weighing in on the cynical side, you may enjoy the video available up at the top of this post. It's definitely a 21st century look at love with all its pitfalls and flaws. So, feeling ironic this February 14th? Watch our video. (Watch it anyway - it should make you laugh.) Feeling idealistic? Read on for our favorite love stories, then type in your own in our "Comments" section. By the way, the blue links below will take you to those items in our Library Catalog - place a hold, pick up your item and share our faves with us! We'll tackle our favorite love songs later this week - after all, we don't want to spoil all the romance in just one day.

Love Stories: I really thought a building full of LIBRARIANS would come up with some classic love stories, but alas, submissions were few. And how's this for strange: our new Head of Public Information, Heather Imhoff, chose the same novel I would have picked, Possession: A Romance by English author A.S. Byatt! (Heather knows greatness when she sees it, which makes me doubly glad we have her on board.) Since I don't want to seem a copycat, I will also nominate Emily Brontë's Gothic masterpiece,Wuthering Heights and a contemporary favorite, Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. Hmmm. I seem to like my love with a heaping helping of "doomed."

A different member of the Bronte family, Charlotte Brontë, wrote the novel Jane Eyre, the choice of Readers' Services staffer Laura Adler. Youth Services Librarian Kelli Phillips says that her choice is Dr. Zhivago, a novel by Boris Pasternak made into a classic film starring Omar Sharif. Even the name Omar Sharif sounds romantic, doesn't it? Marge Scholl, in our Administrative Services area, admires a real life love story, that of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and George VI. Bowes-Lyon is better known to all the world as Britain's beloved Queen Mother Elizabeth, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 101.

One thing I never expected: that our male staff members would be so outspoken in proclaiming their true love. Both Dan Klobnak, IT Services, and Bob Blanchard (or is that Neil?), Reference Librarian, said that their favorite love stories are their own: when they met and fell in love with the women that they married. Awww. Dan describes his as such:
The magic of stepping off a plane in Florida, approaching the baggage claim, start chatting up this very attractive woman who it turns out was in town for the same conference, who somehow found me appealing (despite my "trying to smuggle hash out of Turkey in 'Midnight Express' sweat issues with the humidity), found out she lives in Illinois, hung out all the time, fell in love and got married (there's a few gun battles to keep the guys interested in this chick flick premise).
Awww. Bob sums up the new beginning he made with his wife with some selected lines from Dante Alighieri ("La Vita Nuova," found in The 100 Best Love Poems of All Time.):
In that book which is
My memory ...
On the first page
That is the chapter when
I first met you
Appear the words ...
Here begins a new life.
What's your favorite love story? Click on "Comments" down below and let us know. Stay tuned later this week when we talk about our favorite love songs.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

DPPL People!

In my never-ending quest to bring you something new and unusual in our PlainTalk blog, welcome to the first edition of "DPPL People" (with "DPPL" pronounced "Deeple," of course).

This monthly blog post will put the spotlight on one staff member of the Des Plaines Public Library. Some will be faces you know, and perhaps even love, from our public service areas. Some will be the hardworking people behind the scenes. Each featured employee will answer a series of 19 questions, based on the well-known "Proust Questionnaire." The answers will give you, our patrons, some insight into our work, our love for books and other forms of expression, and a brief glance into what motivates us and inspires us to work in a library.

Our first featured staffer is Roberta Johnson. Roberta was recently named the library's Head of Adult Services, after serving many years as the Readers' Services Manager. You may have encountered Roberta working at the Readers' Services and Reference desks, leading a book discussion group or even taking charge of our Croquet Tournament! Read on and learn more about Roberta...

Three words that describe your current state of mind are…
Content, optimistic and ready to try something new.

What is your most treasured possession?
My house. I found this question so difficult to answer. I have art and keepsakes and photos and so forth that I love, but I would not weep to lose anything except my little two bedroom castle. I still dream once in a while that I have to move back to our apartment in Andersonville.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Japanese face cream. (You thought I was going to say shoes, didn’t you?)

Who are your favorite writers?
Living: Geraldine Brooks, Neil Gaiman and Joanna Trollope. Dead: Patrick O’Brian, Shakespeare and Robertson Davies.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction (in writing, film, drama)?
King Theoden (Lord of the Rings), Detective Arkady Renko (Gorky Park) and Dr. Stephen Maturin (Master and Commander)

Name three persons/characters from history with whom you would like to have dinner.
C. S. Lewis, Shakespeare and Galileo.

Who are your heroes in real life?
The people who don’t know they are heroic: my single friend who is raising twin boys with special needs, that Albanian guy who rescued me when my car (so stupid!) ran out of gas on the tollway, my former boss who gives money to every homeless person who asks, every single time.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My son, Ben.

Who is your favorite artist?

Who is your favorite musician?
Peter Gabriel. He's the only performer with whom I've been completely tongue-tied.

The quality you admire most in a man is?
Being a good father.

The quality you admire most in a woman is?
Being a good friend.

Biggest pet peeve?
People who are proud of their ignorance.

Favorite food?
Calamari. Ask anyone. Not only are they delicious, but you can put the little tentacles on your fork and make them dance!

What three words would your closest friends use to describe you?
I asked, and they said: smart, funny and brave. I don't think "brave"
means I'll run into a burning building, but rather that I'm willing to
put myself in new and different situations.

Why did you choose to work in a library?
I found that the library was a community center as well as a vast
collection of stories. I could satisfy my desire to own 300,000
books and also do some good for the neighborhood. Librarians
really believe in fairness and truth and sharing, even if we
occasionally get caught up in our appreciation of rules and order.

What is your favorite thing about the Des Plaines Public Library?
That we try to say "yes" to everyone.

Name one, and only one, "desert island" book, CD or movie. Only one.
The King James Bible. Though I was really tempted to say Swiss
Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. I read that over and over as a
kid, convinced that it would save my life one day. Personally, I
hope I am cast away with an endless supply of fishhooks, needles
and thread, wood, fresh water, friendly animals that let me ride
them . . .

The movie of your life: who plays the role of you and what song plays over the closing credits?
Joan Cusack, and "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and
Roll" by Nick Lowe.

We hope you enjoyed getting a chance to learn more about staff member Roberta Johnson. Keep reading PlainTalk every month and get to know all the DPPL People!

The lovely photo of Roberta in our Rotary Heritage Room
was taken by Readers' Services staff member David Whittingham.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Please note: the Des Plaines Public Library will not open until NOON on Wednesday, February 6, 2008, due to severe winter storms that have been predicted. For more information on the weather conditions, click here to visit the Weather Channel's site for Des Plaines, IL.

Stay safe and stay off the roads. For up-to-date information on emergency closings in the Chicago and suburban area, here are some helpful Web sites:



Friday, February 1, 2008

What's happening at the library - February 2008

Watch this short video clip to learn about upcoming events and programs at the Des Plaines Public Library. To learn more, visit our Web site:

DPPL home page
Events calendar/registration
Events - Just for Kids!

Want to see all of our YouTube videos? Visit our YouTube channel: