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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summertime, Des Plaines style

It's officially summertime! Last week I saw an article in the Chicago Tribune, "99 Things To Do" in the stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It focused on the entire Chicago metropolitan area and even a little beyond, from Homers Ice Cream in Wilmette to the Kane County Cougars out in Geneva.

Sadly, Des Plaines was not specifically mentioned, although some of the more general suggestions could occur in any suburb, such as
"See a suburban 4th of July parade. Stand when the flag goes by. Yes, every time."

But how about it, Des Plaines? Are there 99 fun, summery things to do right here in town, or within a few miles? Events, traditions, places to see and be seen? Let's see if we can make a list, and I'll even throw in an incentive: For every summertime suggestion you email to me, your name will be entered into a drawing for a $20 Panera Bread gift card. So send me your favorite summer traditions and activities here in Des Plaines, and you might end up with a free lunch.

  1. You must be 13 years of age or older to participate. Kids, if you have a suggestion, have mom or dad send it in.
  2. Send your submissions via email to:
    - Your email must include your Name, Address and tell me if you want to be notified by phone (include phone #) or email if you are a winner
  3. Send as many as you want, but we'll stop once we reach 99 suggestions.
  4. You will receive one entry to the raffle for each item suggested. Copying items already suggested and posted in the blog will not count - sorry.
  5. Deadline: Midnight, July 5, 2008.
  6. Library staff members are not eligible.
So come on, starting brainstorming and send me your ideas! I'll start out with one you don't want to miss:

1) The Des Plaines 4th of July parade! The Library has an amazing entry planned for this year's parade, so get up early and find your spot on Center Street this July 4th. It's a great all-American tradition - now let's hear some more!

And we're off!

Golf at the Des Plaines Golf Center. Play the executive nine, practice your chipping, drive at the range or just eat at the snack bar. Submitted by Paul Go.

3) Sail at Lake Opeka. Or golf at their course. Or even just take in a concert there. Submitted by Paul Go.

4) See the Barefoot Hawaiians perform at Lake Opeka on July 17th! It's always a great show- especially the firedancers! Submitted by Anita Vaughan.

5) Pack up the kids and head to Mystic Waters. It's especially great to go in the evening when it's hot. Pack your dinner and enjoy it on the patio near the pool and then go for a swim. A perfect summer evening! Submitted by Anita Vaughan.

6) Enjoy a day in the park. Des Plaines has many neighborhood parks that are family friendly. Take a look at the park district's course catalog and discover a new park to enjoy. Submitted by Anita Vaughan.

7) Drop by Pesche's and hunt for new ways to liven up your garden- herbs, perennials, tomato plants- it's all there! Submitted by Anita Vaughan.

8) Take a walk around the neighborhood..... and then treat yourself to a coffee at our new Starbuck's on Lee Street. Submitted by Anita Vaughan.

9) Try an evening class at Oakton Community College's Alliance for Lifelong Learning. Summer non-credit classes are available in many areas- everything from knitting to cake decorating to ballroom dancing. Submitted by Anita Vaughan.

Great suggestions so far - come on, I know someone else out there has an idea! Send in yours and you'll get entered into our raffle for a Panera Bread gift card.

More great suggestions!
10) Go mini golfing at Mountain View Mine at Prairie Lakes Park. Submitted by Leah Kadamian.

11) Watch the wildlife (turtles, frogs, birds and fish) in the pond at the Friendship Park Conservatory. Submitted by Leah Kadamian.

12) If you want to take a quick dip in a pool but don't want to spend a lot of money, go over to the United Methodist Campground Swimming Pool on Algonquin Road just east of River Road. It's not fancy but it is a large pool that is not usually crowded and the entrance fee is inexpensive. Submitted by Leah Kadamian.

13) Seeing live actors on stage is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening! The Prairie Lakes Theater features great stage performances geared towards the whole family. Bye Bye Birdie will be playing there in mid-July. Submitted by Leah Kadamian.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ain't Wii Got Fun?

Your PlainTalk blogger would like to go on the record as saying her athletic abilities are limited. Very limited. Limited primarily to watching/listening to a certain bunch of blue-clad, handsome fellows chasing a ball around an ivy-covered ballpark. I think you know the one.

But back in my younger days, I bravely tried just about every sport. I was pretty good at golf. I loved playing floor hockey in school -- just competitive enough without requiring technique. We shot a lot of hoops in our driveway, played wiffle ball in the street, rode skateboards and bikes, I'd even whack a tennis ball against a wall for practice. But then...I joined a bowling league. I was ten years old, and my best friend's Mom worked at the bowling alley. Papers were signed, car pools arranged, and I immediately realized my lazy Saturday mornings had been stolen from me. Making matters worse? The bowling alley assigned the team names and ours was christened...The Gutter Balls, before we'd ever set foot on the lanes. Yes, the name became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I got a little better at bowling as the years went on, but it always seemed the shoes didn't fit right, the ball was too heavy and my fingers never fit in those three holes. Now? Turns out you can bowl all you want, no heavy lifting, no miserable shoes. It's called Wii bowling, and we've (Wii've?) got it here at the Des Plaines Public Library.

You might be thinking, "Hmm, sounds like something for kids or teenagers." Not anymore! Seniors are invited to experience this new-fangled style of bowling during the Library's "Ain't Wii Got Fun" event, this Friday, June 27th, from 10 AM until Noon.

What's a Wii? A small, lightweight, handheld device that acts like a "virtual" bowling ball. Aim the device at some video bowling pins, swing your arm just like you do with a real bowling ball and watch yourself bowl on a big screen. (You can see the device, and how much smaller it is than a bowling ball, in the picture above.) You can even do Wii bowling while sitting down! So if you thought your bowling days were over (or, if like me, they never really began...), try out this fun new gaming device at the Library. Adult Services Librarian Steven Giese will be on hand to introduce you to Wii bowling - bring a friend along and try bowling a few frames against each other. You don't need to register or bring anything, and of course the event is free of charge. Pretty soon, you'll have a cool new hobby to share with your grandchildren.

"Ain't Wii Got Fun" happens this Friday, June 27, 2008 from 10-Noon, in Friends Room B/C on the Library's First Floor. This event is for Seniors and is free of charge. Just stop by - no need to register. Come on and try it, it's easy and so much fun! P.S. Wii events for teens can be found on our Teen event calendar.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DPPL People -

Once in awhile (read: frequently) I make assumptions that get me into a jam. For example, a few weeks ago I asked one of my DPPL colleagues if she would like to be this month's featured employee in the blog. She was iffy about it, but I figured with my cheery disposition and powers of persuasion, I'd win her over to the idea.

I was wrong, and here we are, late June, with no DPPL Person. I already have someone in mind for July, but she's about to attend the American Library Association annual conference and in no mood for my prying questions. One thing I firmly decided when I started the DPPL People feature was -- no column about me. You get enough of me in the blog, the videos, etc. However, I've painted myself into this corner, and June is fading fast. I'm also hopeful that, in the same way that Katie Couric allowed her colonoscopy to be broadcast on television to prove to people that it's NOT SO BAD, if I answer these questions and plaster my own picture on the Web site, my coworkers will realize it is relatively painless and feel more comfortable when I come a-knockin' in the months ahead.

Who am I? Karen McBride, Web Services Librarian at the Des Plaines Public Library. I have worked here just over one year. When patrons meet me they often ask if I am "new." That depends on how you define "new." But I don't have much in-person contact with the public because my job focuses on our Web site and online services. I write PlainTalk and make the Library's YouTube videos. I do occasionally work at the 4th floor Reference Desk, however, and you may have met me when we were passing out CFL bulbs, or at our carnival, croquet tournament, Do the Dewey, etc. I also chair the Library's Green Team. In my previous life I worked at a college library for 16 years, and I am really enjoying the vibrant, creative environment of the Des Plaines Public Library. That's my Yahoo avatar up above -- if you want to see what I really look like, watch one of our videos or look for me in the DP 4th of July parade next month. If things go as planned, I'll be hard to miss...

Three words that describe your current state of mind are…

Worried (I've been sick since Monday and have to sing for a wedding this weekend),
multi-tasking, optimistic.

What is your most treasured possession? My Christian faith, and the sense of God's abundant grace and forgiveness that comes with it.

What is your greatest extravagance? Haircare products? The occasional overpriced concert ticket or hotel stay?

Who are your favorite writers? Simon Winchester, Bill Bryson, Jeffrey Steingarten in non-fiction. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, A.S. Byatt, Arthur Golden, Tove Jansson, William Butler Yeats - that's a good start. I tend to have favorite books/stories/poems more than favorite writers.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction (in writing, film, drama)? I tend to fall for weak, flawed characters, none of whom are heroic in any sense. If I must pick one, it would be Snufkin, the harmonica-playing wanderer in the Finnish childrens' books about the Moomins. He's cool, he's a musician, he's mysterious and the other characters deeply admire him, but he always keeps his distance and then disappears into the mist.

Name three persons/characters from history with whom you would like to have dinner. (I wrote these questions and sometimes I'm not sure what I meant. If the person is "from history," does he/she have to be dead?) Beyond any doubt, Jesus Christ. If the others can be living people, I would of course ask Bono, and then, honestly, I'd just want one of my best friends there to share the amazing experience with me. If the remaining two choices have to be deceased people, I'd like Mozart and my grandfather, Charles Rechka.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My selfless and generous parents, particularly for the way they care for my disabled sister. Bono, for being a multimillionaire rock star who is faithful to his wife and family while also working hard that others might be healthy, well-fed and happy. Anyone who sacrifices a life of comfort and ease to work with those who are poor, sick, downtrodden, victimized, dying.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? Jesus Christ. After that, it gets complicated, so better to leave it at that.

Who is your favorite artist? I really don't have one - again, I tend to like individual works of art rather than one artist. My dream home would be outfitted with art from the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C., which are the national museums of Asian art. There's something incredibly graceful and soothing about Asian art.

Who is your favorite musician? A question like this could drive me insane. Music is as important to me as food and water. For the sake of keeping this short, my musical heroes include but are not limited to: Bono, Sting, Justin Currie, Robin Zander, Joni Mitchell, Rory Cooney and Kate Bush. Whew, that's a mixed bag.

The quality you admire most in a man is…Oh, I'm a sucker for a romantic guy, a guy who has good manners around a woman, who knows how to make a romantic gesture that isn't clich├ęd or presented out of a sense of obligation.

The quality you admire most in a woman is…The ability to live above gossip and competitiveness, in order to be an authentic friend.

Biggest pet peeve? Thoughtlessness and lack of empathy, which lead to everything from dangerous driving habits to noisy neighbors. We could all use a good dose of standing in someone else's shoes now and then.

Favorite food? A cheese pizza with green olives from Q's in Hillside, Illinois, followed by an enormous slice of dulce de leche cheesecake, smothered with real whipped cream, from the Cheesecake Factory. Washed down with a Pepsi, no ice. I am, have always been, a picky eater.

What three words would your closest friends use to describe you? Loyal, silly, and private.

Why did you choose to work in a library? I fell into it by accident when I needed a part-time college job. I tried corporate work after that and quickly realized the library was a natural home for me. My brain needs to be challenged on a daily basis, but my heart needs to believe in what I'm doing and my soul gets renewed if I'm doing something helpful for other people. All of that happens in a library.

What is your favorite thing about the Des Plaines Public Library? My colleagues work hard, with tremendous passion for what they do, but never take themselves too seriously and love a good laugh.

Name one, and only one, "desert island" book, CD or movie. Only one. Who wrote these questions? Oh. Yes. I did. I'm just wondering how I would play the CD or movie on a desert island, without electricity? Without electricity, I'd take The Bible. Remember the words of John Prine:

"If you're ever going on a big trip, you'd better be careful out there.
Start everything on the good foot - wear clean underwear.
Take along a Bible in the back seat, read of David and of Solomon,
For if you make a mistake in the bottomless lake, you may never see your sweetheart again."

I have enough songs in my head to last me a lifetime.

The movie of your life – who plays the role of you and what song plays over the closing credits?
If it's a comedy, the mother/daughter team of Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson could cover the various stages of my life. If it's an action flick, I'd like Angelina Jolie but she doesn't make a good blonde. If it's a drama, Cate Blanchett. The movie would definitely be a musical, but it's too soon to tell how it ends.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wanna get away?

We're just a few days away from summer and it's not looking particularly cheerful, is it? The word "summer" tends, for many of us, to be associated with the word "vacation." Let's see:
Rising fuel costs, with gas already more than $4.00 a gallon, leading to higher airfares, skyrocketing food prices and a big "ouch" every time you fill the tank. Then - there's the weather. Storms have wreaked havoc on our graduation parties and early warm weather celebrations. Worse, they've devastated areas in surrounding states like Indiana, Wisconsin and particularly Iowa. Not exactly a recipe for summer fun.

Of course I'm going to tell you: spend your summer at the Library. We've got "tours" of Paris and China, music and dance performances of every flavor, an Australian Great Shark Expedition, free movies and gaming - even a visit to Michigan beachtowns, if you prefer to stay in the Midwest. Click on any of the links in that last sentence and you'll find out more about the full schedule of events here at the Library this summer. See a full calendar here.

But, maybe you also need a little more distance between you and Des Plaines or wherever it is you call home -- at least for a long weekend? We can help in that department, too, with our great selection of guidebooks.

For today's post, I'll focus on our friends in neighboring states. I had the shock of a lifetime last week when my childhood haven of happy summer memories, Lake Delton in Wisconsin, literally disappeared, swallowed up into the Wisconsin River. It's a place I know like the back of my hand - every curve of the lake, every cozy cottage and A-frame dotting the hills, every bait shop, every tacky water park. We used to fish right by the dam that, until now, kept the river from absorbing the lake. The photographs of the drained lake are shocking, but even more serious is the flooding in parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and yes, Illinois.

While it might be tempting to think that a Midwestern summer getaway is a lost cause in 2008, staying local will help keep your costs low and will support these states that are struggling with the destruction caused by bad weather. After all, what could be more Midwestern than pitching in to help out a neighbor?

Indianapolis has one of the finest children's museums in the country and a great zoo. Michigan has beaches galore, and quaint if touristy attractions like Holland and Mackinac Island. Iowa is the place to explore small-town America, from the peaceful Amana Colonies to Dutch-influenced Pella. St. Louis is just five hours away by car, known for its baseball team (causing much unhappiness to our Northsiders...), barbeque and live music. Wisconsin, my personal favorite, has stuff to do from Milwaukee to Madison to Door County to La Crosse. You will eat more food in Wisconsin in a week than you typically do in a month, for example, so you'll save on groceries and restaurants right away. :)

Below you will find some one-click links to guidebooks in our Library for planning a vacation in a surrounding state. I'll follow this up soon with some suggestions outside the Midwest, but this makes a good start. Happy planning!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thinking about adoption?

If you have ever considered the possibility of adopting a child, the Des Plaines Public Library might not have been on your list of resources. You may want to think again, however, since the Library is hosting two adoption seminars this month: International Adoption, on Wednesday, June 18 from 7-9 PM, and Domestic Adoption on Wednesday, June 25 from 7-9 PM.

The media tends to write about adoption as a "hot topic," covering it as if it was a fashion trend or focusing only on the negative and controversial aspects of it - an unfortunate circumstance given the seriousness of making the choice to adopt and how rewarding it can be. While I am not an adoptive parent, I am the proud godmother to Annie, a beautiful little girl from China (yes, that's her in the picture -- hey, I write the blog, I get to brag a little once in awhile!), as well as unofficial "auntie" to other adopted children from China and Guatemala. I have other friends who chose to adopt from within the United States and from Russia, and one thing all these parents will tell you is how blessed they feel to have these children as their sons and daughters.

Still, adoption can be a difficult decision to make, and the legal concerns, documentation, financial, immigration and travel issues can be intimidating. So if you want to get the facts in a comfortable, low-pressure environment, attend these two seminars at the Library. There's no charge, all you have to do is register.

At the first seminar on June 18, 7 PM, Judy Stigger, Director of International Adoption at The Cradle in Evanston, will discuss the international adoption process. Cradle is a private, non-profit Illinois adoption agency. Stigger is also the mother of two transracially-adopted children. She will focus on countries that are currently open for adoption and will discuss factors to consider in cross-cultural adoptions.
Read more information here and register.

At the second seminar on June 25, also at 7 PM, Tobi Ehrenpreis, executive director of the Adoption Center For Family Building, an adoption agency licensed in both Illinois and Indiana, and Shelley Ballard, adoption attorney and partner at Ballard, Desai, Bush-Joseph & Horwich, will present an overview of the domestic adoption process and provide practical advice to getting started. They will discuss agency, private and interstate adoptions as well as the costs, legal risks, and how to begin finding a birth mother. Both are also parents by adoption.

“We’ll be offering an introductory session, a nuts and bolts program, about domestic adoption,” says Ehrenpreis. “So many things have changed over the past several years so we’ll be providing an introductory session on what domestic adoption looks like in the 21st century.”
Read more information here and register.

The Library can help in other ways - use this one-click search to find books in our Library on the adoption process, raising adopted children and other related concepts. For more information on the adoption seminars or any other Library events, call us at 847-376-2787.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ironing Out the Rough Spots

After much planning, discussion, hard work, and revision -- after countless hours of typing, clicking and staring at computer screens, we were able to bring you a new Web site this week. Anyone who has participated in a roll-out this large can tell you that things never go easily nor perfectly - but hey, I don't think we did too badly. A few dead links here or there, a few misdirected links, and a few "whoops!" moments. We thank all the patrons who have taken the time this week to give comments and suggestions and we will take all of them into consideration. In fact, one of my biggest qualifications for the new site was flexibility, so that we can adapt and change as needed. Thanks also for your patience with problems that occurred as we made the transition. Most have been solved or are in the process.
Some things you may find helpful:

  1. Check out the top right hand corner of every screen. This part of a Web site can be easy to overlook, but we've put all kinds of helpful features there. You can search our Catalog from any page of the site, and can search by Author, Title, Subject or Keyword. There's also a helpful "How Do I?" menu there, including a link to "My Account" information.

  2. Something new about our library databases: previously, if you wanted to use a database from home, you had to click on a separate link, with a little picture of a house. You don't need to do that anymore. Most of our databases can be used from home, or anywhere you have an Internet connection, if you have a DPPL library card. Just click on the title of the database and you'll be prompted to log in. The few databases that are not available outside the library are marked: "In Library Use Only." We eliminated those house icons because they cluttered up the pages - only a handful of our databases cannot be used outside the Library.

  3. Our new home page is designed to have a newsletter feel -- but obviously we can't put all the library news there, it would get crowded. So remember to click on the "What's New" button, left hand side of the site, to get the latest, including links to this blog as well as our new blog, "Positively Ellinwood Street."
Speaking of news -- the Taste of Des Plaines is just hours away. We'll be there on Saturday and Sunday, so stop by and visit with us in the Community Expo tent (or, come into the Library and cool off, since the Taste takes place on Library Plaza and it's gonna be a hot one). I've never been to the Taste before, so I'm hoping to spend a few hours there on Sunday afternoon. Got a question about the new Web site? Stop by and ask us - or ask us about all the other great services and programs we offer.

The Taste is a popular summertime tradition in Des Plaines, and so are our Summer Reading Clubs. This year's Summer Reading Club for Kids is called, "Get in the Game." Kids who are up to the challenge of reading this summer can receive prizes and a t-shirt. But summer reading isn't just for kids -- check out our "Not Just Summer Reading Club" for adults, too!

In the meantime, I've got to get back to work on the Web site!