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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Get your Random Acts of Poetry Here!

"April showers bring May flowers." "April is the cruellest month." "April is a promise that May is bound to keep." Poor April, condemned merely to be the dour waiting maid of May! Seems like she deserves better - after all, she has inspired so many lyrical musings. Fitting, then, that since 1996, April has also been honored with the title National Poetry Month. Better still, she was not honored thusly by some cold-hearted governmental body or stiffly starched academia, but by those tireless romantics, the poets themselves - namely, The Academy of American Poets.

Why a "National Poetry Month?" I'll quote from the source (the Academy of American Poets, that is):

The concept was to increase the attention paid-by individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our poetic heritage, and to poetry books and magazines. In the end, we hoped to achieve an increase in the visibility, presence, and accessibility of poetry in our culture. National Poetry Month has been successful beyond all anticipation and has grown over the years into the largest literary celebration in the world.
Really, why not a National Poetry Month? There was a time when children memorized dozens of poems in school, when adults read poems to each other as entertainment, when noblemen patronized poets in the hopes that their already-famous names might be attached to a particular stellar work of art. Poetry was as hip as hip hop is today - so when did it become a fussy remnant of the past? Truly, if one takes the time to look, there's a poem for everyone. Some may still prefer one of Shakespeare's perfectly symmetrical sonnets, others may delight in the glorious natural imagery of the Old Testament Book of Psalms. On the other hand, the oh-so-clever rhymes and brutal honesty of Eminem's works may be the only poetry another listener has ever experienced and that's just fine. A school-aged child may giggle at the nonsensical verse of Dr. Seuss, while the lifelong learner continues to find deep meaning in classic poets such as W.B Yeats, T.S Eliot, W.H. Auden, W.S. Merwin - wait a minute, aren't there any poets with first names?

Kidding - just trying to see if you were still paying attention. I named those particular poets because they are amongst my favorites, but I consider myself lucky: I've been a big fan of poetry for many years. I love a sonnet, love an elegant snapshot of life captured in uncanny detail, love a poem that's edgy and exotic. Being a musician, there are few things I appreciate more than a great, poetic lyric wedded to an extraordinary melody. Some of my favorite poems? "Listen" by Merwin, "The Beautiful Changes" by Richard Wilbur, "Easter 1916" and "Sailing to Byzantium" by Yeats (the latter recently quoted in a popular movie title - know which one it is?), "Musee des Beaux Arts" by Auden, and so many songs I couldn't attempt to list them here. Songwriters who consistently hit a poetic mark, in my opinion, include Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Sting, Justin Currie and Kate Bush. Do you have a favorite poem or poetic song lyric? Click on the "Comments" link and post your favorites here to share them with all of our readers. (Remember - you can always post anonymously, or sign up for a free Blogger account.)

Now - I promised you some Random Acts of Poetry. Beginning on Tuesday, April 1, 2008, you'll find a number of ways to experience "Random Acts of Poetry" at the Des Plaines Public Library. Let's just say that quotes from poems will pop up in unexpected places, giving you a poetic interlude in the middle of an otherwise typical day. You'll find these Random Acts in the library building and on our Web site, thanks to Adult Services Librarian Steven Giese. Our hope? That National Poetry Month inspires you with the power, creativity and beauty of words, not just for a month, but for a lifetime. Want to browse through our collection of poetry books and related materials? Click on this link and look for something that strikes your fancy. We not only have poetry in English for children and adults, but a wide variety of poetry books in other languages, too.

Oh, yes - "April Showers Bring May Flowers" seems to be derived from an original quote by one Thomas Tusser, written in 1557! "April is the cruellest month" sprang from the mind of T.S. Eliot and into his masterpiece, "The Waste Land." And
"April is a promise that May is bound to keep" is from Hal Borland's book, "The Sundial of the Seasons."

Happy Earth Hour, Des Plaines!

Now shut down the computer, turn off the lights and make a statement about conserving energy and protecting the Earth!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Countdown to Earth Hour!

Did you know that this coming Saturday, March 29, 2008, from 8:00-9:00 p.m. (note: time has changed from 7 to 8 p.m.), a very special global event called "Earth Hour" will be taking place? Did you know that the city of Des Plaines has chosen to take an active role in this event, along with Chicago, one of the featured major cities, and many of our neighboring suburbs?

What is Earth Hour? For one hour on a given night, participating businesses, homes and public spaces turn off all non-essential lighting. The first Earth Hour was held in Sydney, Australia in 2007. "Over 2.2 million Sydney residents and over 2,100 businesses switched off, leading to a 10.2% energy reduction across the city." Even one hour of reducing energy usage can make a tremendous impact, as coal-fired electricity is one of the worst contributors to global climate change. But beyond the impact of saving energy for a 60 minute time span, the organizers of Earth Hour want the event to raise awareness of environmental issues and how much our day-to-day activities - things we take for granted - drain the world of precious natural resources.

The Des Plaines Public Library will be participating in Earth Hour by making sure as many lights as possible are turned off this Saturday night, March 29. Honestly, and if I may boast a little bit about my coworkers, we are doing a lot more than that to protect the environment and inform people about making sound eco-choices.

Very soon, thanks to our generous Friends of the Library and persistent efforts by staff and our library users, we will be offering inexpensive, resuable, recyclable bags for sale, to help stop the tidal wave of plastic bags that is choking the Earth with trash. We hope you've already noticed and maybe even used the container in our atrium where you can place plastic bags for recycling. Yes, they really are recycled - we take them to the Jewel food store at 1555 S. Lee Street in Des Plaines. Jewel processes them through their Melrose Park facility and sends them on to a company called Trex, which makes composite lumber from the old bags. We want to thank Albertson's/Jewel/Supervalu, and specifically, Environmental Stewardship employee Tom McIntyre, for assisting us with bag recycling. We also thank our Security monitors, who do the work of sorting the bags - plastic library bags that are still in good condition are reused, rather than recycled.

We have lots of special programs coming up in April to honor Earth Day - click on this link to find them on our April Events calendar. During the month of April, the library also has a special "It's Easy Bein' Green" online video to share with you and we'll roll out a new section of green resources on our Web site.

But don't forget - you can participate in Earth Hour this Saturday, too. Turn off the lights at home - some folks are going even farther and turning off the TV, DVD player, computer and other non-essential appliances. Light some candles and play a board game with your family. Go for a walk outside with your sweetie. Meditate, pray, have a candlelit meal. To learn about how big corporations, families and individuals are planning to make a statement during Earth Hour, check out this article from the Daily Herald. Des Plaines city officials are encouraging residents to take part in Earth Hour, and lights in municipal buildings will be turned off this Saturday from 8:00-9:00 p.m.

So mark your calendar for Earth Hour this Saturday and do your part in making sure that the splendors of our natural world and its abundant resources thrive and survive for future generations.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Get More From Your Email

If you're anything like me, email has probably gone from being a new, fun technology in your life to being a real nuisance. It's great to be able to communicate with family, friends and co-workers, even over long distances, at any time of the day or night - no complaints there. It's the junk mail I can live without! (Okay, and perhaps the well-intentioned chain letters from otherwise good friends, but enough of my pet peeves...)

So encouraging you to sign up for our automated email services is not something I would do if I didn't think you would find it convenient and useful - an antidote to life's junk mail. Before I even tell you what email services the library offers, I also want to assure you that the library protects and defends your privacy. We will not sell or give away your email address to anyone. In other words, we won't contribute to that list of "spam" you have to weed through every day.

What can the library do for you via email?
  • First of all, there's our email newsletter. Once a month, short and sweet - reminders of programs, events and services you have may have missed in our printed, quarterly newsletter. What makes our e-news extra useful is that it's packed with live links. If you see a database in it you want to try or an event to register for, click and go! Want to sign up (you can always cancel if you so desire)? Click on this link.

  • Next up, there's email hold notification. To put it more simply, if you place holds on items through our catalog system or by giving us a call, you can receive an email to notify you when the item is ready for you to pick up. This can be really convenient if you don't have an answering or voice mail system on the phone, or if you share your phone with a busy household (where people may or may not pass along messages!). It also prevents you from making a trip to the library and being disappointed because the item hasn't arrived. Want to sign up for email hold notification? Click on this link.

  • The library offers dozens of programs and events every month, and you may sign up for some of them many weeks in advance. How can you keep track of library events with all the other stuff you're juggling? Sign up for email notification of events! There are two ways to do this. First, you can sign up to receive emails telling you about future library programs. To do this, click on this link. You'll be prompted to enter your email address and also to choose the types of programs in which you're interested. Maybe you'd like programs just for children or those focusing on gardening and computer skills. Then, when new programs are added in those categories, you'll receive an email informing you and giving you a link to register online.

    Secondly, when you register online, you'll also see a button that reads, "Notify Me."
    Click on that button to receive a reminder before the event, because there's nothing more frustrating than just plain forgetting about a program you really wanted to attend.
Remember that technology is supposed to make your life easier, so use it to your advantage. Get a spam filter to block out the junk mail - but if you do that, make sure the library's messages are marked as "Not Junk" or our helpful reminders will vanish into thin air. Remember, too, that we really appreciate your emails and comments that you post here, letting us know what you think about our services. We read them all, take them seriously and respond, so keep the suggestions and questions coming.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Childrens' Books - Brought to Life!

If you are a parent, grandparent, educator or someone who regularly provides care for a child, you may find yourself struggling to find ways to keep that child engaged and entertained. You may also be concerned that too much TV/DVD time might discourage a child from taking an active role in learning, leading to "couch potato syndrome" a few years down the road. I know that you are already aware that the Library is the perfect place for kids and our own Youth Services department is a welcoming, nurturing place where children can learn, play, make new friends, and grow into confident readers.

You may not know that besides the books and videos you can bring home from the Library, we have online resources specifically for children on our Web site. Two of these, the TumbleBook Library and BookFLIX (brand new to DPPL!), provide entire "virtual libraries" online for young readers. Stuck inside on a cold or rainy day? Is your little one tired of watching the same videos over and over again while you're wishing you could provide some slightly more educational forms of fun? Here's what to do:
  • Get on any computer with an Internet connection and get to
  • Scroll to the "Youth Services" section on our home page (left hand column, fourth section)
  • Underneath the "Youth Services" heading, click on the link that reads "Online resources"
  • Look for BookFLIX and TumbleBook Library in the list - click on the picture of a house that reads, "Click here from home." Have your Des Plaines Public Library card handy as you will need the number to use these resources while outside the library building.
Then, take a few moments to sit with your child and look through the colorful menus of storybooks, non-fiction books, puzzles, games and so much more. I just spent some time exploring both BookFLIX and TumbleBook Library and - quite honestly? - this 40+ year old kid had a blast. :)

TumbleBook Library is a collection of animated, talking picture books, puzzles and games. It includes books in Spanish, French & Chinese and other languages. Some were read aloud in a mixture of languages. An adorable story called Bébé Goes Shopping moved seamlessly between English and Spanish, so now even I know what a cajero and an oso are. I found a storybook I could change from English to Russian with one click of a button. We know that Des Plaines is an incredibly diverse community, so if you are raising your child in a bi-lingual environment, TumbleBook Library will be a helpful tool. The puzzles and games included in the TumbleBook Library all relate to the characters and stories in the TumbleBooks, so children make new friends while learning to read.

BookFLIX is an outstanding new addition to the Des Plaines Public Library's collection of online resources. BookFLIX combines classic childrens' stories with related books of non-fiction, plus games and other tools to help a child really learn and retain what he/she reads. The books and games are gathered under different subject areas, such as U.S. Presidents, weather, Antartica and dinosaurs - topics that children study in school and that pique their curiosity. BookFLIX has a helpful talking mascot, Beacon the Bird, so older children can follow his instructions and use this resource independently.

So try out these two great online resources and let us know what you think! If you want to save this idea for a rainy day, print out this page and you'll have the instructions handy (although, here's an early heads-up: the DPPL Web will be getting a whole new look this Spring. Stay tuned for details!). TumbleBook Library and BookFLIX - just two more ways the Des Plaines Public Library makes learning and reading FUN!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Become a U.S. Citizen - Hágase Ciudadano - Zostan obywatelem amerykanskim

NEW - our next citizenship workshop will be on Saturday, December 5, 2009, from 9 AM to noon at the Des Plaines Public Library. At the Citizenship Workshop, eligible immigrants in the community receive free citizenship application assistance from bilingual staff and trained volunteers, free legal assistance from an immigration attorney, and information about ESL and citizenship classes. Get details at the Library's events calendar.

Where?/Dónde/Gdzie: Des Plaines Public Library
The workshop is from 9 AM to 12 PM.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Get ready to Do the Dewey!

Our annual FUNd-raising event, Do the Dewey, is just around the corner. Mark your calendar for Saturday, April 26, 2008, from 7-10 p.m.

Do the Dewey is an evening of great food, free-flowing beer, wine and soft drinks, live entertainment and so much more. The proceeds benefit the Des Plaines Public Library and the Rotary Club of Des Plaines.

Buy your tickets in advance for just $35! You can buy them online by clicking this link.
You may also buy your tickets at the Des Plaines Public Library or print out a mail-in order form from our Web site:

You may be asking yourself: what exactly does it mean to "Do the Dewey?" Well, watch our short video clip in this post and you will learn how we Dewey. It just might make you want to Dewey, too! If you enjoy this video, check out our others at:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

DPPL People!

Welcome to our second edition of "DPPL People," when we take you behind the scenes of the Des Plaines Public Library and let you learn more about one particular staff member.

Today I'm pleased to introduce you to Phyllis Johnson. (No, she is not related to last month's DPPL Person, Roberta Johnson - just a happy coincidence!)

Ironically, even if you are the most devoted visitor to the library's main location on 1501 Ellinwood Street in Des Plaines, you may have never seen Phyllis. That's because Phyllis is the heart, soul and driver of our Mobile Library. So while the rest of us are holding down the fort (so to speak), Phyllis is behind the wheel, bringing the library and its resources directly to the neighborhoods, schools and community organizations of Des Plaines. Want to learn more about the services of the Mobile Library? Click on this link. Want to learn more about the woman behind the warm welcome and helpful service you receive on the Mobile Library? Keep reading and get to know Phyllis Johnson as she answers this month's DPPL People questionnaire.

Three words that describe your current state of mind are…
Today I feel tranquil, confident and determined. I’m glad I didn’t start this on Friday when I was feeling mad, teary, and depressed.

What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possessions are my memories. Everything else doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I love to purchase a fine piece of jewelry every now and then.

Who are your favorite writers?
Dean Koontz, Edward Rutherford, Janet Evanovich, Douglas Preston, Terry Pratchett, and Khaled Hosseini to name a few.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction (in writing, film, drama)?
Odd Thomas, Luke Skywalker, and Stephanie Plum.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Teachers are my heroes. Where do they get the patience, fortitude, and anger management skills?

Name three persons/characters from history with whom you would like to have dinner.
I would like to have dinner with Amelia Earhart, Plato, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
I’d ask Amelia to file a flight plan, Plato to explain life, and Leonardo what is that smile all about.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband, Bill, a teacher. (Editor's note: now we know why Phyllis has such appreciation for the difficulties teachers must endure!)

Who is your favorite artist?
My favorite artist is Manet.

Who is your favorite musician?
Sting floats my boat.

The quality you admire most in a man is…

The quality you admire most in a woman is…
an independent attitude.

Biggest pet peeve?
Drivers who cut me off when I’m driving the Mobile Library. I cannot stop on a dime or even a quarter. Give me some space!

Favorite food?
Desserts – any desserts!

What three words would your closest friends use to describe you?
Today kind, fair, generous. Last Friday mean, insane, and cheap.

Why did you choose to work in a library?
The challenge of learning to drive a Mobile Library was on my Top 10 List of Things to Do.

What is your favorite thing about the Des Plaines Public Library?
By far, the patrons.

Name one, and only one, "desert island" book, CD or movie. Only one.
War and Peace by Tolstoy. I never have the time to read it.