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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wanna get away?

I've never been entirely certain what is meant by the phrase, "dog days of summer," but I know when that time of year arrives. About two hours ago, I took a lunchtime stroll to Walgreen's, only to find that the construction barriers and road closings also applied to sidewalks around the library, forcing me to clamber over the gravelly tracks like a raccoon in high heels. Worse, the temperature had soared into the high 80s and the smell of blacktop filled the air. I love dogs, but they can keep their "dog days" to themselves!

When August rolls around, it's hard to keep your cool, in more ways than one. As July fades away, I'm noticing everyone seems rude, less patient and downright hostile. All the neighborly good will we share around the Independence Day holiday degenerates into mighty uncivilized behavior.

We have a family tradition of seeing some games at Wrigley Field in the summer months, but last Friday's trip was ruined for us, not by the depressing performance on the field, but by some drunken loudmouths behind us who even harassed my elderly parents. (No, they were not Cubs fans -- they spewed obscenities at the players, too! "Why waste the money on a ticket?" I wondered.) I felt sorry for people around us who had children in tow, as the kids were getting not only a lesson in baseball but in excessive drinking, sexist attitudes toward women and profanity.

I just returned from a relaxing four-day jaunt to Door County, Wisconsin, but even there, it was difficult to slow down - if you dared to drive the speed limit, you were often greeted with the universal gesture of ill will and the dust kicked up from an SUV passing you. A shame, in so many ways. The speeders were wasting gas, creating tremendous stress for themselves and missing out on some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Midwest. You can't admire the view at 75 miles per hour.

I say all this but in the next breath I can find myself running out of patience, too. So what's the best way to chill out and keep your priorities straight? Have any suggestions you'd like to pass along to other PlainTalk readers? Music is often my way to de-stress - turn up the iPod and start singing along. A good book, even a bad book, can transport you to another place, far away from the summer heat and humidity. Walking and running on my treadmill help, too, and it's nice to turn anxiety or anger into something positive, namely a healthier you. The proverbial deep breath really can help when you're heating up, as can a prayer, a mantra, even just a visualization of something or someone that makes you very, very happy.

I can't guarantee your results, but I'll tell you something: after my hectic, sweaty, train-track walk at lunchtime today, walking back into the cool quiet of the Library was a major stress reliever! If that doesn't relax you, then check out something that will. We have more than one hundred books and DVDs on stress management - just follow that link and you can browse through a list. If that seems too much like work, then browse the DVDs for a funny flick or a breath-taking summer blockbuster. There are, of course, blogs and Web sites on every topic, including ways to ease stress. Some you might find interesting:

How about you? How do you handle the stress when the dog days of August get to you? Click below and type in your comments. You can sign in with your Google or Yahoo account, or just type a comment with your name - you can even be anonymous. See? Even online, we make things easy for you to keep the stress at bay.

Yes, that's a photo of the construction on the railroad tracks in downtown Des Plaines. The tracks are supposed to reopen on Monday, August 4, 2008. We will keep you posted if there is news to report.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting Where You're Going - With Less Baggage

Ah. If only everything in life was as simplified as this map -- a humorous map, by the way, from a Web site entitled, "Kansas City is in" According to those good folks, "94.3% of Americans believe Kansas City is in Kansas," so they've created a rather silly site to remind us of KC's rightful home.

There are two purposes to today's PlainTalk. One is to let you know the many ways the Library can help you get where you're going. The second is to inform you of a new way we can help lighten your load of "stuff." Both topics, perhaps, are slightly off the beaten library path, but then again, we're good at multi-tasking. :)

First, let's talk about travel help. Have you visited the "Maps & Travel" Subject Guide on our Web site? Maps & Travel
There you will find links to online databases with maps and country information and Web sites on just about every kind of travel. So our Subject Guide makes an excellent starting place. I probably don't need to tell you we have travel books and videos - lots of them, including guide books and atlases. You can search for them in our Catalog - it's also fun to go up to the 4th floor and browse the 900 aisles. It may inspire you to travel somewhere you hadn't considered.

There's another particularly useful travel resource on the 4th floor which may have eluded you until now. It's called the Map File and it's located in some unassuming file drawers behind the banks of elevators. In the Map File you'll find full-sized maps you can check out and take on the road with you. Now, you might be thinking that sounds old-fashioned - after all, so many free map services are available online. If you've ever tried planning a long driving trip with those online maps, you know it can be frustrating. The maps tend to show you only one route, or, a small portion of your route is all that will fit on 8.5" X 11" paper. That one route might be fine, but what happens when it's closed for construction or traffic is backed up for miles? Having a full-sized road map at your fingertips means you can quickly plan an alternate route or take a detour through a scenic locale that might become the highlight of your trip. In short, look to us for your travel needs. We're a lot cheaper than the travel bookstore, map seller and GPS service!

Now, I said that we can also help lighten your load. As part of our desire to become a more "green" organization, we continue to look for ways to help our patrons reduce, reuse and recycle. So we're proud to introduce our new TechnoTrash Can.

You'll find our TechnoTrash Can in the first floor lobby area, near our other collection bins. What items can you safely dispose of in the TechnoTrash Can?

  • CDs, DVDs, diskettes

  • Videotapes, audio cassettes

  • Jewel cases, VHS cases

  • Printer cartridges (the Kiwanis Club is also collecting those for recycling - please, home computer cartridges only. We cannot accept large, office copier cartridges.)

  • Pagers, PDAs

  • Rechargeable batteries

  • Cables, cords
If you're like me, you've got a ton of that stuff at home, because you can never figure out how to properly get rid of it. We do ask that you limit yourself to the smaller items listed above - we pay for this service by weight, so we are unable to take big, heavy items. Remember, if you've got an old cell phone, you can also bring that in to donate (in a separate container) for the "Cell Phones for Seniors" project. Old eyeglasses? Bring 'em in, the Lions Club needs them. And if you lug all your stuff here in a plastic bag, please put it in our plastic bag recycling container, located near the indoor book drop. In just a few weeks, we'll be introducing another new service -- reusable, washable, recyclable, high quality book bags for just one buck. We're excited about offering all these services to our patrons as a way to make Des Plaines just a little bit safer and greener.

Got questions about our collection bins and recycling? Check our our Green/Environmental Resources Subject Guide or Email the Green Team:

Monday, July 21, 2008

DPPL People -- Meet Holly Richards-Sorensen!

It's that time again - time to introduce you to one of our Library staff members in a fun, informal way. This month, our DPPL Person is Assistant Director Holly Richards-Sorensen. Holly may be new to PlainTalk, but she's a nine year veteran of the Des Plaines Public Library and she's got the funny, often unusual anecdotes to prove it. Holly was recently promoted from Head of Adult Services to Assistant Director. She's also just a well-rounded human being - during her free time you might find her boating on Lake Michigan or performing as the lead singer for her band, Different Drummer. Certainly not your "librarian" stereotype, and that makes us extra-happy to have Holly as one of our own. With no further fuss from me, here's a little question and answer session with Holly Richards-Sorensen.

Three words that describe your current state of mind are…
Engaged, challenged, optimistic

What is your most treasured possession?
My baby grand piano

What is your greatest extravagance?

Who are your favorite writers?

I’m glad you said writers, plural! I’ll list them by category.

Classic - Jane Austen, Charles Dickens

Literary fiction - TC Boyle, Michael Chabon, EL Doctorow

Hard boiled detective - James Lee Burke (Dave Robicheaux series)

Women detectives - Nevada Barr

Historical fiction - Dorothy Dunnett

Historical fiction, humor - Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody series)

Just plain funny - Carl Hiaasen

Monsters - Laurell K. Hamilton

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction (in writing, film, drama)?
Francis Crawford of Lymond, Dave Robicheaux, John Rebus, Anna Pigeon, Anita Blake, Lestat

Name three persons/characters from history with whom you would like to have dinner.
Thomas Jefferson, my favorite founding father.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, she was married to the King of France, divorced him and married the King of England, and two of their sons were kings of England. All this in the 12th century. The film The Lion in Winter was based on Eleanor’s life with Henry II, King of England.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My Dad he taught me about integrity, hard work and to question everything.
My best friend in high school Judy taught me about courage.
My sibs (two sisters and a brother) taught me about unconditional love.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband, Ron.

Who is your favorite artist?
Klimt, Monet, Jackson Pollack

Who is your favorite musician?
It’s impossible to name just one. Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Plant. And I’ll admit it, Neil Diamond.

The quality you admire most in a man is…
Honesty, sense of humor, willingness to talk about it

The quality you admire most in a woman is…
Honesty, sense of humor, generosity

Biggest pet peeve?
People who take themselves too seriously.

Favorite food?
It’s easier to list what I don’t like. Liver and butter beans.

What three words would your closest friends use to describe you?
Funny, loyal, smart

Why did you choose to work in a library?
I’ve loved books and reading since my Mom started reading to me as a child. What a great gift she gave me.

What is your favorite thing about the Des Plaines Public Library?
Our willingness to try new things and, all the people.

Name one, and only one, "desert island" book, CD or movie. Only one.
Again with the only one thing! OK, the newest edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. What can I say; I’m a reference librarian at heart.

The movie of your life – who plays the role of you and what song plays over the closing credits?
Sandra Bullock and "Should Have Known Better" by the Beatles

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New pictures from the 4th of July parade, traffic alert

Enjoy our enhanced, big-screen version of the 4th of July parade slideshow. New photos have been added since the last version was published here in PlainTalk.

Please, if you haven't already seen it, read the Traffic Alert post, just underneath this one. Beginning Monday, July 21st, two railroad crossings in Des Plaines will be closed for two weeks, and you'll need all the details in order to get where you're going safely and on time. Just scroll down and keep reading.

Have a safe, happy weekend. PlainTalk will be back next week with a profile of our Assistant Director, Holly Richards-Sorensen, and an introduction to a new service at DPPL, "TechnoTrash" recycling.

Traffic Alert!

Des Plaines residents, Library visitors and all who commute through downtown Des Plaines, here is news you do not want to miss:


Beginning July 21 and running through August 3, 2008, the railroad crossings at BOTH Lee Street and Graceland Avenue at the downtown commuter railroad tracks will be CLOSED for repair work.

All detour signs will have traffic going to River Road both northbound and southbound. Traffic in a normal rush hour on River Road is continuously backed up. It will become even worse during this 2 week period.

If you travel through downtown Des Plaines as your normal route to or from work, we suggest you use an alternate route during this time frame to avoid massive delays.

The Des Plaines Police Department will employ extra officers in an attempt to assist traffic through the downtown area. If you choose to travel this route we hope you will have patience and understanding.

That's the word directly from the office of Commander Tim Veit of the Des Plaines Police Department, Traffic and Special Events Community Action Team. If you need to get to the Library during the two week railroad repair time frame, don't panic -- we've got driving directions to get you here from north, south, east and west that completely avoid the railroad crossings. However, we do advise you to allow extra time and, well, just take a deep breath and be patient when necessary.

Call us if you need extra assistance in finding a route to the Library: 847-827-5551. Better yet, if you live in Des Plaines, leave the car at home and walk, bike, pull the kids in a wagon, whatever it takes. Buy an ice cream or another cool treat at Kaffeccino's with the money you save on gas. If you leave in Chicago or in the northwest suburbs, take the train and wave out the window at the people doing the repair work -- Metra will drop you off right at our front door.

Please help us spread the word to your family, neighbors and co-workers. Have a safe summer!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer - Safely

Summer brings sunshine, barbeques, fireworks, road trips, high temperatures and family gatherings. The kids are home from school, and even mom and dad have some vacation time, a welcome change from routine. Oddly enough, all the ingredients that concoct a perfect summer day can also be the recipe for disaster - the stuff of your worst nightmares, rather than happy summer memories to come.

If you read the news, you couldn't escape the stories of damage, injuries and deaths caused by fireworks around the 4th of July holiday. A young boy at his first-ever Cubs game at Wrigley Field had the misfortune of being struck by a powerful foul ball, ending up hospitalized. Closer to home, the Des Plaines community was deeply saddened by the loss of a local child, Lexi Porreca, in a tragic car accident last week. I was reading last night about soon-to-be-published research concerning "backover" accidents, when children can't be seen in the rearview mirror by a driver backing out of a garage or down a driveway. The frequency of these incidents got pushed into the spotlight over the Memorial Day weekend, when the 5 year old daughter of popular Christian musical artist Steven Curtis Chapman was killed when her teenage brother struck her with the car he was driving. Purely, horribly accidental, and a chilling reminder that these tragedies can happen to anyone.

So, what's my point? Be mindful, alert and thoughtful when it comes to your own safety and that of others, not just this summer, but year 'round. I was one of those young drivers who never wore a seat belt. Then Princess Diana was killed, a passenger in the back seat of a luxury automobile who very likely would have survived had she been belted in. I wear my seat belt any time I am in a car now, whether I'm driver or passenger, and was told by paramedics 8 years ago that it played a significant role in protecting me during my own car accident. So seat belts are a must, for you and everyone you know.

Here are a few other suggestions, and also links to books and other library materials that can inform you and your family on staying safe and healthy.
  • Check and check again to be sure no person or even a pet is behind you while backing out of the driveway. This goes double for drivers of trucks and SUVs, who may be too high in the air to see small children in the rearview mirror.

  • Here's a simple one: slow down! Speeding wastes gas and risks lives. Please, while visiting the Library, drive carefully in our parking garage, which is always full of pedestrians, bikers, parents with strollers, etc. A city like Des Plaines is just made for walking, to restaurants, shops, the train station, and parks. Don't make walkers feel like they're running for their lives.

  • It's hard to read the sign in the picture above, taken at the fire station on Dempster in Des Plaines, but it's good advice: The hotter it is outside, the more water you need inside. The forecast calls for high temperatures later this week, so do whatever you can to stay cool and well-hydrated. Oh yes - and sunscreen if you must be out in the sun!

  • While it's frustrating for kids when they attend a public event and can't see the field or stage, don't allow them to stand on seats or bleachers. The father of the boy who was hit by the ball at Wrigley Field acknowledged that he'd encouraged his sons to stand on their seats - bad idea, not only at baseball games but other venues, where kids can easily fall and injure themselves.

  • Fireworks -- if it explodes, shoots up in the air, or shoots a flame, it's illegal in the state of Illinois, for a good reason. Even legal fireworks, like smoke bombs and sparklers, are only safe if handled with extreme caution. Tens of thousands, mostly kids, are injured every year by fireworks. Check out this news story - it's just a car, not a life, but it demonstrates the speed and thoroughness with which fireworks can destroy.

Want to read what professionals say about safety? Use these "one-click searches" to find books and other items in our Library.

Teaching your children about safety

Preventing home accidents

Driving safely

Have a summer safety test you'd like to share? Click on comments and type it here. For those interested in helping the Porreca family of Des Plaines, Central Elementary School, 1526 Thacker St., is accepting donations to help the family in lieu of flowers, Principal Jan Rashid said. Checks can be sent to the school or dropped off.

Have a SAFE, HAPPY summer!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

We're Hopelessly Devoted to You!

First of all, a great big CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of our "99 Summer Things" contest, the Branick Family: Mom Lissette, son Brian and daughter Melissa! Thanks to the Branicks and everyone who participated. We really want to make PlainTalk a place where the Des Plaines community can share information and opinions in a positive, encouraging way, so please continue to send us your comments.

Now, you might already be watching the slideshow of photographs up above - it's the Des Plaines 4th of July parade 2008! We had so much fun on Friday morning and we are super-proud of the Cart Wheels, our book cart drill team - renamed the Pink Ladies and T-Birds just for this year. The Cart Wheels are led by library employee Gail Bradley, and include: Kathy Kyrouac, Roberta Johnson, Bob Blanchard, Arlene Steiner, Gwen LaCosse, Phyllis Johnson, and new to the drill team this year, Eileen Gladish and Rachel Kamin. If you watched the parade or are gazing intently at the photographs above, you may notice we also had a Prom King and Queen. Librarian John Lavalie played the role of Prom King, and yours truly glommed onto the role of Prom Queen -- how could I resist an excuse to buy a prom dress at this stage in my life? We'd like to thank PJ's Trick Shop in Arlington Heights, IL, for assistance with John's costume (and valuable instructions on how to wave), and Dennis Kytasaari, who drove the King and Queen in style in his groovin' set of wheels.

Thanks to you, too, Des Plaines, for the warm welcome we received on the parade route. Cute kids waving the American flag at us, happy dogs barking, folks shouting out hellos from lawn chairs and apartment balconies: it was as good as it gets. Watch the photo slideshow, because it not only features the Library staff, but many of the other parade walkers and floats. We're also working on a short video of the parade, so check back to our YouTube channel,, really soon. In fact, we also have more pictures to share! Thanks to Raul Silvestry, Linda and Ken Knorr, Dennis Kytasaari, my dad Bob and lots of other people for taking video and pictures.

HINT: If the pictures are moving too quickly for you, hover your mouse over them and you'll see controls for pausing the slideshow. Click on the slideshow and you'll be taken to Picasa, a photo-sharing site on Google, where you can see the images in a larger format.

One last reminder: if the 4th of July holiday inspired you to take time to honor those who have fallen in war, visit the Library between July 11 and July 18 for the very moving "Portrait of a Soldier" exhibit. Artist Cameron Schilling of Mattoon, Illinois, has been sketching portraits of Illinois servicemembers killed since September 11, 2001. A display of the portraits will be shown here at the Library beginning this Friday. The exhibit is open to the public and free of charge, including an opening dedication ceremony on July 11 at 10 AM. Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and Illinois Senator Dan Kotowski will be on hand for the ceremony. When asked if he is trying to make a political statement with his work, Schilling responded, "No.
The only statement I'm making is, 'Hey, we need to look at these families and what they're sacrificing, and we need to pay attention to what they're going through. Maybe take a little time out of our day and realize what others are sacrificing.'" To read more about Cameron Schilling and "Portrait of a Soldier," see this article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

99 Summer Things in Des Plaines - we didn't quite make 99, but...

thank you to everyone who participated! The drawing for a $20 Panera Bread gift card will be held later today. If you're looking for something to do right here in town this summer, then read the fun suggestions below. All of them prove that you don't have to spend a lot of money and travel out of town to enjoy the warm weather months. Stay tuned for another PlainTalk post about an event you're sure to want to attend later this week, the "Portrait of a Soldier" exhibit at the Library, beginning Friday, June 11. In the meantime, here are the summer suggestions we received.

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!

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.

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.

14) The Des Plaines History Center (781 Pearson St.) is a great place to take children on a rainy summer afternoon. They offer unique craft projects like candle dipping and presidential button making. You can even make your own lava light! It is best to call before you go (847-391-5399), so you can get a schedule of the projects featured each month. Submitted by Leah Kadamian. Here's a hint for another suggestion (ahem) - there's another place in town that's a GREAT PLACE for free summer activities for kids and adults.

15) If you have young children who are just learning to roller skate or ride a bike you can take them to the bicycle path that runs along Beau Park (under the ComEd power lines). There is safe and easy access to the path at Leahy Circle East. And, since the pavement is in good condition, it is perfect path for those just learning to skate or ride. There is the added benefit of a very nice playground just west of Beau Drive. However you should bring your own water bottles since there are no water fountains along the way. Submitted by Leah Kadamian.

16) Lissette Branick suggested a number of fun, no-fuss activities families can do together, like bike riding, fishing, swimming, and just spending quality time together.

17) She also suggested taking your dog for a walk - we saw lots of furry friends at the 4th of July parade on Friday morning, and Lissette's family has a puppy named Pebbles. Suggested by Lissette Branick.

18) Building a bonfire and having a cookout are two ways to have fun right in your own backyard. Suggested by Lissette Branick.

19) Go to the park with friends. Catch fireflies! Suggested by Lissette Branick.

20) Why not visit the Library? You can get books and enjoy some time reading and also borrow movies that the whole family can enjoy. Suggested by Lissette Branick.

The "99 Summer Things" contest is officially over for this year, but if you are just reading this Plaintalk post for the first time, feel free to add to the list by typing in a comment. Thanks and enjoy the rest of the summer.