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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays from PlainTalk

PlainTalk will be on a little holiday sabbatical until the new year. Thank you to those who sent in holiday decor photos for our contest, and congratulations to J. Murphy of Des Plaines, the winner of a $50 gift card.
The winning photo - I bet there's a lot of snow on that lawn tonight! :)

I hope whatever you do for the next week brings you tremendous satisfaction and joy, in the shape of lively family gatherings, religious services, sumptuous meals, gift exchanges, nights on the town with friends, or the simple delight of doing nothing much at all - sleeping in, curling up with a book, savoring cookies for breakfast, and not setting the alarm clock for a few days. If you are in the service sector and will be working while much of the country stays home, I thank you for the meals you'll serve, the sick you'll attend, the fires you'll put out, the planes you'll fly, the hotel rooms you'll clean, and the groceries you'll bag. Mostly, I hope the new year brings us all of more comfort, less anxiety and plenty to celebrate.

Best wishes from all of us here at the Des Plaines Public Library. We look forward to serving you in 2010.

The photo above is a view of the Christmas Around the World/Holidays of Light exhibit currently on display at Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry. I was privileged to spend the day there with friends this week and the holiday decorations are spectacular.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Show Us Your Bling!!! Holiday Photo Contest

This is such a great time of year to commute through Des Plaines because I really get a kick out of everyone's holiday decorations. Giant, inflatable Santas, icicle lights, glowing manger scenes, strings of Star of David garland, polar bears - no homemade snowmen yet, but I'm sure they're coming, if Tom Skilling has anything to say about it.

So, we'd like to make you a deal. If you've got an awesome holiday display at home, send us some digital pictures of it, along with your name, address and email address or phone. We're going to put them all together into a video slideshow here on our Web site AND - here's the good part for you: we'll put all the entries into the proverbial hat and draw a winner on 12/23/09. That winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to the Des Plaines restaurant of their choice. Our holiday gift to you.

Get those photos taken tonight and email them to me, Karen McBride, Web Services Librarian:

We will accept photos until NOON on Wednesday, 12/23/09. Winner will be drawn at 5 PM on 12/23 and notified via email or phone. We will use all of the submitted photos on our Web site - however, we will not identify the home address of each photo, for your safety and privacy.

Please - share your photos with us and ask your friends and neighbors to do the same. It's been a tough year for a lot of people. Let's spread a little holiday cheer and remind ourselves that Des Plaines is a great city full of terrific people.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chanukah Blues

Chanukah begins this night (Friday, December 11, 2009), with the first candle of the menorah being lit before sundown. I have a slight confession to make - being Roman Catholic, I'm prone to confessions - I wish Chanukah would become a holiday that everyone shared!

My first interest in Chanukah was purely surface level: I love the color scheme. Very shallow of me, I know, but the blues and whites of Chanukah, often with a touch of silver, are lovely to my eyes and much more appealing than red and green. (Would you ever wear red and green together in March or September? I think not.) When it came time to decorate the outside of my home for Christmas for the first time, I bought all blue lights. My Irish/Czech mother drove up and said, "It looks like Chanukah." I was secretly rather pleased.

From Jewish friends and colleagues through the years, I have learned more about the meaning of Chanukah, the history and significance underneath the pretty blue and white. I never bought into the glib, "Chanukah is the Jewish Christmas" story I heard from non-Jewish sources. Here's a "Chanukah in a nutshell" definition from the Chabad Web site, which seems like a very extensive resource if you are interested in Judaism:
"Chanukah -- the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of Kislev 25 -- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality."
The holiday brings an emphasis on family celebration, faith, and - hooray - yummy treats for sharing. Here's a link to the Chabad site for Chanukah if you'd like to learn more. Chabad and F.R.E.E. in neighboring Niles also has Chanukah information on its Web site: check it out.

You may be of a completely different faith tradition, an agnostic, even an atheist, but I imagine most of us would still like to see light conquer darkness in our world and an end to the focus on material possessions which doesn't seem to get us anywhere. We have library materials on Chanukah for both adults and children: click here for a listing from our catalog, and remember you can search and borrow from all the other libraries in our consortium, too.

I wish our Jewish patrons, library employees and community residents a warm and blessed Chanukah. I know we recently had a comment about PlainTalk seemingly being a blog with a "Christian" outlook. I am only able to blog from my own knowledge base and human experience, but it is certainly never with an intent to make anyone else feel excluded or less valued. One thing I love about working at DPPL is that I share my work days with coworkers of many different faiths - Jewish, Muslim, and probably others of which I am not even aware. Lunchroom conversations also indicate that other coworkers are very comfortable not believing in a God of their choice. I appreciate that diversity, which more adequately reflects the world at large and which allows us to be a truly public library that serves everyone in our community, not just some.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Help for Local Businesses

When the recession went from theory to reality, late last year, we talked a lot at DPPL about how we could help job seekers and local businesses. One idea of mine was to produce short, informational videos about local businesses and put them online. Then, if a person was Google searching for that type of business in the Des Plaines area, they might find the video, learn about the business and perhaps make a decision that would help stimulate the local economy.

After 7 months of planning and preliminary work, I'm proud to announce that the project is finally open for business, so to speak. We have produced four videos so far and we'll keep adding to the list. It's time consuming but a labor of love for myself and Business Librarian Joanne Griffin. All of the videos are available at our new YouTube channel, DesPlainesBusiness.

Our first video highlighted the DP Chamber of Commerce and Industry, currently celebrating its 75th anniversary. Next we took an in-depth look at accounting and consulting firm Rozovics and Wojcicki. (Yes, one of their partners is a DPPL Board member. For the first few videos, it was helpful to ease in gradually, working with familiar faces who would forgive us for mishaps and less-than-smooth sailing.) Our project took us into the cozy kitchen of Via Roma. Our newest video features Accurate Auto Clinic and you can watch it up above. We'll feature individual videos on the Library Web site or you can check back to the YouTube channel to see what's new.

You'll notice two things when you watch the videos. We've branded each one with a "Des Plaines Means Business" tag line and a bluesy theme song. We've also put some fun into each one, letting our local business owners lighten up and share something unique about their personalities or the way they do business. I'm grateful to the four organizations who have worked with us so far and look forward to a busy 2010, making more videos. I'm also extremely thankful to my colleague Joanne, who knows all of these business owners from her involvement with the Chamber of Commerce & Industry and who makes my job much easier by arranging the logistics of each shoot. Know a local business owner that might be interested in a short, promotional video? Email me with the details.

Your public library is a lot more than books, videos and programs for children. How can we help you get to where you want to be in 2010 and beyond?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quick News Flash!

Typically, when we receive a news flash email update from our Security Staff, it is not good news: there's been an injury, an argument, an unpleasant incident of some sort. Imagine our communal surprise when we received this from staff member Bob Walker today:

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Today a small Boy and his Mother came up to the Security Desk and handed me 2 bags and a box of food for the food pantry, The Mother said the Boy saved up the money for the food to help the Poor! The World's future seems in good hands!"

Who says you only hear bad news these days? Have a great Monday.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Those Singing Librarians Are At It Again!

I came on board at DPPL in May of 2007. A few months later, still the new kid but eager to do what I could to be a team player, I suggested to some musically-minded colleagues that we could offer to go Christmas caroling over at the Des Plaines History Center. It was quite a treat to sing traditional carols in the old-fashioned decor at the Kinder House. I never expected that, two years later, the "Singing Librarians" would be going strong and performing at all kinds of community events as well as here at the library. That's a photo of today's final rehearsal for this weekend's musical festivities (I am absent, since I am the photographer).

You may have heard us put on a live adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" last Spring. You may have seen us wobbling along to the sounds of "Celebration" on our enormous parade float last July. If you're the kind of person who enjoys slightly over the top singing from a bunch of lovable and loopy librarians, well, we've got more for you.

We'll be caroling at the city's official treelighting event this Friday evening, December 4, in Metropolitan Square. After strolling and singing, we'll perform a few snazzy numbers on the stage at 6 PM. If that's not enough for you, we'll be back on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 PM over at Lake Wonderland (Lake Park/Lake Opeka the rest of the year).
Stop by and share some holiday cheer with us on Friday and Saturday. We hope to do some impromptu caroling in the library as well and when we do, join in with us - we sound better that way.

If you prefer your caroling more traditional and your harmonies more well-rehearsed, come to DPPL and hear the Canterbury Carollers in a free concert this Sunday from 2-3 PM.

Want holiday music you can bring home? Try these one-click searches for Hanukkah and Christmas CDs and music DVDs in our collection. Don't forget - you can also place holds on holiday CDs from our neighboring libraries, too, so if we don't have it, someone else probably does!

Hanukkah music

Christmas music

Monday, November 30, 2009

“If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

Or maybe two or three. The quote above is from the venerable Mother Teresa, who knew a thing or two about feeding hungry people.The good news is, we all know something about feeding hungry people and we also know there are more hungry people in our country, in our neighborhood, than there were even a year or two ago. Doesn't take much to help, does it? Some cans of soup, some pasta and sauce, mac and cheese, pancake mix - I figure that much right there will run you $10.00. Throw in some packages of toilet tissue, toothpaste, some household cleaners, and you're at, what, $20.00? $25.00? You've just fed a person, maybe two or three.

My good buddies in Readers' Services are making it extra-easy for you to feed some people this winter. Read about their food collection, going on now through December 7, 2009. Drop it off here while you check out your DVDs and cozy holiday novels, they'll do the heavy lifting and moving. I plan on picking up some bags of food to donate - how about you? I know we're in a collective, societal funk over the recession right now, but surely we can snap out of it long enough to feed someone. The food collection here at DPPL will benefit our local Self-Help Pantry and Closet - so your good works will help an individual or family close to home, and if that doesn't cheer you a bit I don't know what will.

Also - are you an occasional delinquent when it comes to returning library items? We'll have good news for you early in 2010, when we kick off our first-ever "Food For Fines" event. For a few weeks, we'll erase some of your overdue fines in exchange for food donations. Watch our DPPL home page and PlainTalk for more details.

If you're really charged with the holiday spirit and feel blessed to have financial comfort, why not contact the Self-Help Closet and Pantry directly to see what other assistance you can provide? Call 847-375-1443 or visit their Web site.

One last thought, again from Mother Teresa: "There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much." Donating food this season will alleviate both of those hungers, for ordinary bread and for extraordinary kindness, at least for one person. Maybe more. Do what you can.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are We Thankful Yet?

Sunday night, I had the misfortune of being dragged into that very famous fast food restaurant - you know, the one that got its start right here in Des Plaines? Golden arches? Get the hint? Mom and Dad had promised my disabled sister some dinner at said establishment and she thinks it's a treat, so I tagged along. I was ready to lose my marbles after 10 minutes. The so-called "fast" food took 15 minutes to order (I am not exaggerating), another 10-15 minutes to arrive and even then, our order was short two items. There was a children's birthday party going on, which involved nothing but screaming and frequent trips to the restrooms. Another group of parents and kids chattered in another corner. Amusingly, the recorded background music was playing Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue." I felt like I was on Mars.

Then I took a deep breath and told my inner whiner to shut up. I had a warm coat, cash in my wallet, a hot and somewhat tasty chicken sandwich in front of me, the love of family, a car to get us there (and get us safely far away...). The only reason I was tired and impatient was from a 6 hour high school class reunion the night before, which was restorative and amazing and fun beyond belief. All this in a world where millions live on less than one dollar a day. I shouldn't be crabby, I should be ashamed of myself.

There's a wonderful Conan O'Brien clip going around the Internet in which comedian Louis CK laments, "Everything's amazing and nobody's happy!" We complain about waiting an hour while the plane idles on the runway, when it used to take 30 years to get from New York to California. We complain about how slooooow the Internet is when we didn't even have it available a few years back. When did we stop marvelling at new inventions and conveniences and begin to take everything for granted?

The only way it will change? A massive shift in mind-set, followed by an equally massive change of behavior. Don't limit your gratitude to an hour at your house of prayer every week. When you're tempted to gripe over that long line or slow computer, think of what your life would be like without those services, or if they were available only to the wealthy and powerful. Got a job? Be thankful. Got your health? Be thankful. Got loving family and/or friends? Thank them. Got shoes on your feet and somewhere to sleep? Praise your particular God or your lucky stars for those things every day.

Want to see the world become a more grateful place? Share what you've got. We are currently collecting NEW hats, gloves, mittens and scarves at our Mitten Tree, on the Library's second floor. Items for children and adults are welcome. We are always collecting food for the Self-Help Closet and Food Pantry, just look for the red barrel in our atrium, but right now our 3rd floor Readers' Services staff is taking up a special food collection: details here. One of my favorite stories in the Christian Bible is that of the widow's mite. The rich come to the temple treasury and make what seem like grand donations, but they leave plenty in their own pockets. The widow comes with her last, small coin and gives it away. We're told she is the one who will be richly blessed for giving all that she has. Give thanks this Thursday - and give help if you can so that others can be thankful, too.

Need a smile? Drive down Prairie Avenue, west of Graceland, and watch for a house just east of the railroad crossing, (sorry, I don't know the cross street) with huge letters on the front lawn spelling out "Give Thanks!" Love that sign of holiday joy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Mitten Tree Time!

Nothing gives you that warm, fuzzy, holiday glow quite like giving to others and making a difference right in your own community. You can do that by stopping by the Mitten Tree on the Library's second floor.

The Des Plaines Special Events Commission and the Health & Human Services Division of the City of Des Plaines coordinate the Mitten Tree Project during the holiday season. The purpose of the Mitten Tree Project is to collect new hats, gloves, mittens and scarves for individuals within our community who are in need.

The collected items are distributed to local school children in need - adult-sized items will be distributed through the Self-Help Closet and Food Pantry.

Drop off the new hats, gloves, mittens and scarves during regular Library hours, now through December 18, 2009. The weather might be pleasant today, but we know the cold and damp is coming. Help brighten someone's winter with a nice new hat or pair of gloves. It won't cost you much and I know it will warm you up, too.

Our beautiful Mitten Tree display was designed by Manager of Creative Services, Ellen Glickman.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife..."

The Des Plaines Public Library was very proud to host a special Veterans' Day celebration last week, on Wednesday, November 11, 2009. The event was the work of American Legion Post 36 and the Des Plaines History Center, who brought together local veterans along with activities especially for children, who were home from school that day. It was a wonderful opportunity for all residents to share their gratitude to our veterans and learn more about their unique place in American history. The event allowed many children to meet a real veteran, see artifacts from their years of service, write letters to veterans and active troops, and even try on historical military uniforms. Enjoy the video of moments from that day, including a moving tribute to POWs-MIA along with beautiful choral arrangements from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Like the music? Check out the CD at the Library - click here for availability and call number.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't read this blog!

Just for today, though. I'm stealing a little of PlainTalk's space to introduce you to something new, also in blog form, from the Library - a music blog called "this beat goes on."

DPPL has more than 20,000 CDs in its ever-evolving collections. If you like to sample what is new and unusual in music, borrowing our CDs is a fiscally responsible way to do that. Being able to buy songs online, one at a time, can prevent the buyer's remorse that comes when you love one song and buy the whole album. However, you can even save yourself the 99 cents by borrowing the CD, getting your fill of that one song and then returning it. If you're like me, occasionally an old, long-forgotten song suddenly worms its way back into your brain and won't let go (I'm not being imaginative - they call these "ear worms."). Why not find the song here or from one of our consortial libraries before running out and buying it? Sometimes those old favorites turn out to be less glorious with the test of time.

To help you discover the hidden treasures of our CD collections, David Whittingham from Readers' Services and myself will be introducing you to specific CDs as well as special sections. You can find the blog by visiting, or by clicking on "Great Music" under the "Read/Watch/Listen" menu. I hope that "this beat goes on" inspires you to listen bravely and creatively.

Friday, November 6, 2009

update on "i have a voice"

You can read all the details on "i have a voice" below. Today we had a special visitor to DPPL, Des Plaines' very own Michael Senesac, who is one of the individuals featured in the "i have a voice" photo exhibit. You can see Michael here as he looks today, a handsome young man, posing by his portrait. “I’m proud that my friends, my school and my family will see this,” stated Michael.

Michael's mother Fran was instrumental in bringing "i have a voice" to the Des Plaines Public Library. "I think it's so important that people see that people with Down syndrome and other disabilities fit into our community and thrive." Amen to that, Fran!

Read more below and don't forget that there will be a special reception featuring a talk by Nancy Gianni, founder of GiGi's Playhouse, an awareness center for individuals with Down syndrome, on Saturday, November 14, at 1 PM in our Storytime Room. Please join us next Saturday!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

i have a voice

Do you have a pet peeve? I do. It's when someone uses the words "retard" or "retarded" as a so-called joke. If you ever wonder what a librarian looks like when her head is about to explode, just try it with me some time. What makes it even worse is when it flies from the mouth of a friend, from someone I consider to be an intelligent, compassionate, sensitive adult. Yet it shouldn't take a great degree of intelligence or even sensitivity to figure out that a developmental disability is no joke - should it?

Yes, my skin may be thinner than yours because I have a loved one, my oldest sister Susie, with a developmental disability. As a family, we have endured countless episodes of staring, laughter, finger-pointing, name-calling - it's a wonder we like people at all anymore. But I do like people, and I think any opportunity for the rest of us to learn what life is like for the disabled is an opportunity that should be seized. So I am delighted that DPPL is hosting an eye-opening exhibit of photography, "i have a voice," this month, November 2009. (Thanks to generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Library.)

You see, the sad thing is that, along with mindless cruelty, an awful lot of people think developmental disabilities should be looked upon with pity, even embarrassment, with the unfounded notion that people with such disabilities won't amount to anything. If you still feel that way, I'm encouraging you to get over it - today. Stop by and spend some time contemplating "i have a voice" this month or attend the reception on Saturday, November 14 at 1 PM. You'll get an intimate glimpse into the lives of 24 beautiful, interesting, bright and also exceptionally normal individuals. They also just happen to share the condition called Down syndrome. The photos were professionally shot and each is displayed with some personal information about the subject - hobbies, academic interests, dreams and goals. Bring your children to see and learn from these photographs and stories. If you love someone with a developmental disability, come and see and be inspired for the future.

"i have a voice" is the creative effort of a local organization called GiGi's Playhouse. GiGi's grew out of the desire of one mother, Nancy Gianni, to find help, support and resources when one of her own children was born with Down syndrome. It has grown from a small storefront in Hoffman Estates into five locations and there is much more to come. You can learn more about GiGi's Playhouse by visiting their Web site. I am particularly proud to call Nancy, her daughter GiGi and the whole rest of the Gianni gang my friends - they are doing extraordinary work and so many are being nurtured by that initial seed Nancy planted. While you're admiring the "i have a voice" exhibit, you can also pick up a brochure and learn more about the photos, a related book project and GiGi's Playhouse. If you attend the talk and reception on November 14, you can meet Nancy Gianni as well.

Please take some time out of your next Library visit to be warmed, encouraged, challenged, even confronted by "i have a voice" and the stories it tells. The exhibit is on the 2nd floor in the alcove behind the elevators and will be here at DPPL through November 30, 2009.

Hate the misuse of the "r" word as much as I do? Here's an organization trying to do something about it: The R Word: Change the Conversation

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Best wishes, Veronica and Joe!

Share in a little Halloween madness, DPPL-style, by viewing photographs from the wedding of our Head of Youth Services, Veronica Schwartz. Veronica married her beau and fellow lover of Halloween parties, Joe DeFazio, in a colorful, lavish and joyous celebration on Saturday, October 31, 2009. See if you can spot any of your favorite staff persons, disguised as witches, popular movie & TV characters, singers, even novels and historical periods! A memorable beginning to what we know will be a lifetime of love for Veronica and Joe.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Stereotypical Meekness of Librarians

Or, "Karen hates to be scared."

I read with interest two columns in this week's Chicago Tribune. One was written by sensible Barbara Brotman, the other by funny man Steve Dahl, but both carried the same premise: "I don't like Halloween." However, my colleague Joel Sawyer wrote a "Positively Ellinwood Street" post today sharing his hankering for a good scare.

There is much I don't like about Halloween myself. I honestly don't think I could sit through a "Saw" or "Hostel" movie for a million dollars. I wasn't scared, but merely bored by WDRV's "Scary" 10 at 10 today - "Thriller" isn't all that scary unless you're watching the video and "Spooky" by the Atlanta Rhythm Section doesn't begin to spook me. I don't find rubbery ghoul masks at the drug store all that scary, either, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy them more if they gave me the creeps. Driving through my neighborhood, the houses smothered with fake cobwebs, lawns dotted with cardboard tombstones, it all leads me to one giant...shrug. Perhaps I spoke too strongly in saying I don't like Halloween - I just don't "get" all the hubbub.

I do like the costumey part - it's an excuse to buy new clothes, accessories, jewelry. If shoes are involved, double-bonus. I cannot comprehend, however, that annual Halloween sales in the United States add up to more than $4-5 billion. It' s not like you can wear the costumes year 'round, keep the tombstones in the yard...Maybe it's the do-gooder in me, but imagine how many people could be fed with that kind of cash.

I also enjoy the more mystical, spiritual side of Halloween. Halloween arose from a Celtic (Scotland, Ireland, France.) celebration of Samhain, the god of the dead. The Celtic New Year began on November 1, and it was believed that spirits of the dead, along with all kinds of ghosts and goblins, roamed the earth on what was essentially New Year's Eve. Many traditions followed: dressing up as scary beings to ward the spirits off, carving a turnip (!) which became a pumpkin many centuries later in America, leaving out treats for the spirits which then developed into going door-to-door begging for treats. In England, people went "souling," asking for treats named "soul cakes" in return for prayers. On Sting's latest album, there's a rollicking tune called "Soul Cake" to honor the tradition. In the same way that I like a Christmas that focuses more on the deeper spiritual meaning of the season, I like a Halloween with some soul. :) I won't turn down some candy, however. If you'd like to read more about the origins of Halloween, peruse our online encyclopedias or look for books like these in our collection. (We have lots for children, too - see today's Kidding Around featuring Pat Horn's Halloween suggestions.)

I love graveyards, the more overgrown and misty the better. I love rainy, grey days just like today. I just read Mary Roach's Spook, in which she attempts to debunk the idea of an afterlife by interviewing those who research what happens to our souls after we die. I know several people who were seriously creeped by the book - I read it at bedtime and couldn't put it down. I'm unusually comfortable around dying people, dead people, funeral homes, churches full of incense - this may be from 25+ years of singing for peoples' funerals, but those things don't scare me. Violent movies and graphically evil books - not for me. I know they are works of fiction but the daily news is full of the same kinds of terror. In either venue, it does not amuse or entertain me. Life's too short to spend my spare time watching someone suffer, even if the blood is sprayed on and the beheadings are computer-generated.

Now -- this Halloween is unusual for me. I am looking forward to the holiday more than ever, as many of us from DPPL will be gathering to celebrate the joyful wedding of our Head of Youth Services, Veronica Schwartz. The wedding is a costume party, and as our treat to you, we'll share some photographs of our costumes within the next few days. "Bon mariage," Veronica and Joe, and may there be many more happy Halloweens in your long life together - and very few scares.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What Are You Yelpin' About?

Or, About What Are You Yelpin', if I want to be grammatically correct?

Have you seen or tried Yelp? Here's how the people at Yelp define this free online service: "Yelp is the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what's great - and not so great - in your area."

What that means for you: let's say you'd like to find a good dry cleaner in town, or learn if it's worth waiting in line for over an hour at Paradise Pup, or who can give you a nice manicure for your wedding day. If you believe, as many do, that the best way to find out is through referrals from other locals, you will love Yelp.

How it works: people register for free Yelp accounts and start writing. You can add reviews to businesses already listed on Yelp (see a full Des Plaines listing here). I do not as yet see a way to add a new business. I'm guessing Yelp provides that information to keep people from overpromoting their own businesses, and also as a way to ensure listings are current and accurate. Unless a review violates Yelp's terms of service, it will be posted, whether a glowing tribute or a bilious rant. You can lend 5 stars to your favorite local restaurant or give a 1 star "thumbs down" to that dental clinic with the poor hygiene standards.

Go ahead and try Yelp. It's fun and gives you the opportunity to boost our local business community. A string of positive reviews on Yelp can bring new traffic to a small business, because the reviews come up in Google searches and other sources. Businesses are also very aware of what people are saying on Yelp, so if you've got a gripe with a place, particularly one that used to be better, flex your typing muscles and let them know what you think. (Believe me, we read what people are Yelping about the Library!) If you're worried about getting a load of junk mail along with your free account - hasn't happened to me yet. Yelp sends out occasional emails featuring a particular type of reviewed service, but that's about it.

Want to make use of Yelp's reviews without contributing your own? Here's a link - happy browsing.
Or you can visit the main Yelp site, to search cities all over the world - great for the next time you're planning a trip.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Delicious autumn!"

"My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." George Eliot, 1841.

Every season has her admirers, but it seems to me that Autumn wins the prize. Poets, songwriters, novelists, artists - Autumn never seems to exhaust their creativity. There is always another love letter to this colorful season waiting in the back of the imagination. Fall is definitely my favorite season. As a child, my reasoning was purely selfish: my birthday often falls on the first day of Autumn. As an adult, I appreciate Nature's gentle, beautiful way of telling me to slow down, to breathe more deeply, to appreciate the here and now which may very well be gone tomorrow. While my long, morning commute is never a source of leaping joy, the changing leaves at this time of year turn the first 10 minutes of drive-time into an Impressionistic masterpiece. A little music on the car stereo, and all is right with the world. (Until I merge onto the expressway.)

My colleague Linda Knorr wrote her own love letter to Autumn, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," over in Positively Ellinwood Street. One of our "regulars," patron Steven Gerard Wagner, surprised me with some lovely Autumnal tributes a few weeks ago. Mr. Wagner spent a day reading, remembering and translating some favorite poetical works, and sent them to me via email. I thought many of you would appreciate Steven's work, and so the "Autumn Leaves" project began. You'll find the Autumn Leaves, red and brown, scattered throughout our Web site and blogs. Click on the leaf and you'll get some lines of poetry or prose and some photographs, all but one taken right here in Des Plaines, all celebrating the beauty of the season. I hope you enjoy them - if you like to stop and smell the roses of Summer, take a moment now to cherish the Autumn leaves. Want to share your own photographs of Des Plaines in the Fall? Email me and I'll be happy to put them on our Web site:

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Two things to PlainTalk about today - news items, if you will.

First, congratulations to the winners of our Banned Books Week contest. Our two winners, Steven and Laura, successfully guessed the opening lines of the following books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye and The Color Purple. Not surprisingly, both were English majors in college as well. Laura also tipped us off to something we had not heard before, the idea that it was Truman Capote, not Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. Hmmm - we do love a good literary conspiracy theory! :) Steven and Laura were rewarded for their bookishness with $50.00 gift certificates to Via Roma, the charming new Italian eatery at 686 Lee Street in Des Plaines.

A second piece of news: you may have heard that the city is printing a very limited number of copies of next year's budget. If you want to see the budget yourself, we suggest two options. First, there is a hard copy available at our 4th floor reference desk for your perusal. If you have computer access, the entire budget can be found online:

That's all for today. When PlainTalk returns, we'll yelp about Yelp.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Know Before You Buy

A sense of being "ripped off" is one of the worst emotions you can experience. The expensive car that turns out to be a lemon. The lovely home with a basement that floods or major structural damage that will cost thousands to repair. That investment scheme that sends your retirement savings into oblivion.

There are lots of online services that can help you avoid a bad purchasing decision. Today, I'll highlight two of them: the old standby Consumer Reports and a free Web site called ConsumerSearch.

Consumer Reports is both a printed publication and an online service and accessing either one will cost you, unless you've got the good sense to have a library card. (Not every library subscribes to Consumer Reports, but DPPL does.) What's particularly nice about the online version: 1) You can access it from your home computer with your library card number; 2) it's very easy to search for information on a specific product or brand, which was always difficult with the print version. Consumer Reports defines its mission as "Expert - Independent - Non-Profit," so if you want an unbiased opinion from someone with a lot of knowledge on the topic, this is the place to start. Get your library card out and try it now.

ConsumerSearch is a freely available Web site. You don't need to subscribe or even have a library card. As you know, the World Wide Web is FULL of product reviews, from experts and from ordinary folks like us. I don't know about you, but I enjoy the opportunity to rave about a favorite restaurant or an excellent shopping experience, as well as the chance to publicly gripe about poor customer service or product quality. Reading all those reviews can be a nuisance, however. An awful lot of them are full of such bad spelling, garbled grammar and hateful or even obscene language that it's hard to know if the reviewer is serious. Did you know that many of the people who write comments and reviews on Web sites actually being paid to write them and are therefore completely biased and untrustworthy? Nevertheless, ConsumerSearch does a nice job of summarizing all those reviews out there (see the "Best Reviewed" tab), while also linking you to sites where you can buy the products, special offers, related news articles and other online content.

was rated one of the 50 best Web sites for 2009 by Time magazine, and while I found it a little hard to navigate at first, it is well worth bookmarking on your computer and referring to when you need to make a big or small purchase. By the way, when this blog post disappears, you can find Consumer Reports in the Reference section of our Web site, in the alphabetical listing of research databases.

Next up I'll introduce you to a popular Web community where people share their opinions on the best places in the communities where they live and work.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Expand Your Horizons

There's a song by popular British rock/pop group Genesis with the refrain, "I know what I like and I like what I know." There is nothing wrong with having your favorites, knowing what "works" for you - unless that gets your wheel spinning in a deep, deep rut, the victim of a too-narrow view of the world. The Library offers big and small ways to expand your horizons beyond what you know and feel certain that you like.

I'll offer two suggestions, coming up this month: live performances at the Library by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and Wici: Polish Folkloric Song and Dance. Your first response might be: "But I'm not Jewish, I'm not Polish." My response would be, "So what?" You don't have to be Mexican to enjoy enchiladas nor Italian to love cappuccino. Plus, one benefit of trying new cultural experiences at the Library is that they are free - unlike your local fancy coffee shop.

Beautiful, lively, inspiring music and dance are just that, universal languages that can be understood and appreciated by all. So these two programs can be enjoyed at face value - just listen, watch and smile. You can also learn something at both performances, if that suits you. If you don't know, klezmer music is "a form of Jewish folk music characterized by improvisation and the incorporation of elements of the music of several different (esp. Eastern and Central European) cultures." (Definition courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary) The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band is truly a Chicagoland institution and their artistry will move you and impress you even if the songs are far removed from your own cultural heritage.

The Wici Song and Dance Company was organized in 1972 right here in Chicago, and in 1983 the troupe become the representative group of the Polish National Alliance, the largest Polish fraternal organization in the United States. October also happens to be Polish American Heritage Month. Both of these groups are bringing world-class entertainment to the Library, at a time when it's expensive to travel or even take a trip into Chicago for a show.

I opened with a quote from a Genesis song, "I Know What I Like." I'll close with encouragement from another pop group, the title from the latest U2 album: "No Line on the Horizon." Broaden your horizons and try something new and unusual this month, right here at the Library. Of course, if klezmer music and Polish traditional song and dance are familiar favorites of yours, we would love to see you at these programs, too! :)

Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Sunday, October 18, 2009, 2-3 PM.
Register online for this free program.

Wici: Polish Folkloric Song & Dance, Sunday, October 25, 2009, 2-3 PM
No registration necessary - get here early for good seats.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Computer skills up to speed?

Autumn sure didn't skip a beat! Already a damp chill seems to have settled in and the sun seems to packed up and left town. It's tempting to bundle up in front of the TV, curl up with a book, and ease into Fall passively but here's a challenge for you - shorter, colder days that draw you indoors are also a great time to learn something new or brush up on your skills.

Like it or not, computer skills are a must in the 21st century. You may only need the basics - how to use a mouse, how to type, perhaps how to check email and search for Web sites. You may have enough interest in online research, banking or shopping to want to go further - you may even need advanced computer skills for your career. For people like me, computer skills even factor into our social lives and entertainment, whether its watching videos and cartoons online, playing games, or keeping up with friends via social networking sites.

No matter how much or how little you need to know, the Library has lots of ways to help. If you like learning in a formal, classroom setting, sign up for our free computer classes - here's the current schedule. Register online, stop by the Reference Desk or call to register at 847-376-2841.

Feel like you've got a good sense of the basics but need some individual, personalized help? Try our Open Lab sessions - find upcoming dates. These are not classes and you do not need to register. Stop in during the Open Lab session and bring your specific computer-related questions: How do I upload my resume to a job site? How can I format this document to look more professional? How do I sign up for a free email account? The Open Lab sessions also give you an opportunity to work in the quiet of our computer lab, helpful when you have a particularly important task.

Finally, if you like learning new things online but find it helpful to have an expert around for advice, try the new "Adult Learning Center," part of our HelpNow service. (You will need your library card to access this from home.) Go to the "Adult Learning Center" and you will find live online tutoring from experts on Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. If you've been trying to use those programs on your own but need help mastering all the features and options, this is a great, FREE opportunity for you. Try it out! You've got nothing to lose, and can gain valuable skills for living and working.

If you'd rather learn about the clouds gathering overhead, here's a neat article from "Wired," "Weird, Rare Clouds and the Physics Behind Them." Enjoy!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just say book banning

From the American Library Association's Web site:

"Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."

You'd be hard-pressed to find a librarian who thinks that banning books is a good idea. Yes, we understand that some books aren't appropriate for certain age groups. Yes, we understand that some books foster rather unpopular, even blatantly offensive ways of thinking and behaving. But there's a difference between banning a book outright and giving individuals or families the right to choose what they will read.

I assure you that I could walk up to the 3rd and 4th floors of the Library right now and find an armful of books that deeply offend me. Since this isn't the "Karen McBride Public Library," but rather the Des Plaines Public Library, there ought to be materials here that aren't my cup of tea. Materials that tear apart my belief system, my religion, my artistic tastes, the food I eat, the candidates I support, my deepest values. If our values are so weak that they cannot stand up to someone else's verbal attacks and criticism, they're not very good values, are they? Reading the opinions of others, or at least knowing where they stand, is a very good exercise in knowing where you stand. Be proud to live in America, because in other parts of the world you couldn't read this blog. In fact, I couldn't publish it. Sadly, this country seems to be full of people shouting right now, big-voiced bullies eager to make sure you hear them and nothing else. In the quiet confines of the public library, you can escape the bully and hear what others have to say, as well as finding plenty of support for your own arguments.

This year, Banned Books Week begins on September 26. I asked my colleagues at DPPL to share some thoughts about favorite books and how their lives would be changed if these books had been banned.

Linda Knorr, Readers' Services: "...definitely the Harry Potter series. Although I’m considerably older than the target reading population, if I had not had the freedom to read those wonderful stories of wizards and witches, I would have missed out on loads of fun and hours of reading pleasure."

Bob Blanchard, Adult Services: "'Forever' by Judy Blume. I read this for a children's literature class, and it exposed me to young adult (or high school) fiction. I didn't know that some of those books can be pretty explicit! Still, I'm glad I read it, because it showed a side that many teen girls face or may face when they explore their sexuality."

Holly Richards-Sorensen, Assistant Director: "'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L’Engle. I read this book when I was in 4th or 5th grade and it started my love of Science Fiction. After I read this I moved on to read Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Philip K Dick, Isaac Asimov, you get the idea."

Gwen LaCosse, Adult Services: "'Catcher in the Rye.' Through Holden Caulfield, his main character, J.D. Salinger gives voice to those in our culture who feel they are on the outside looking in. Even though I read it many years ago in high school, I consider this book to be timeless. It should never be banned."

My choice would be The Bible. Too many people talk about it - whether to condemn or to defend - without ever reading it or knowing what it really says. I'm delighted to have the freedom to explore The Bible and make up my own mind about its message.

Delight in your freedom - defend the right to read.
Learn more about Banned Books Week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Get some online help

Today's PlainTalk will be short and sweet - I'm working on making them all that way but often my enthusiasm gets the better of me!

First of all, for those of you who track your investments online: you can attend a free, virtual tour of the Morningstar Research Investment Center on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 3 PM. What you need: a phone and a computer with Internet connection. You will also need to register for this free event, so the Morningstar people can send you log-in instructions. To register, email
In your email, say you'd like to register for the virtual tour on September 30th and you must mention that you are a patron of the Des Plaines Public Library. Learn how the experts use Morningstar to keep tabs on their investments and then become an expert yourself.

Secondly, of more general interest: users of our Catalog can now recover their password via email if they have forgotten it. From any screen in the Catalog, look for the new "Password Help" button. You'll get two menu choices: "Forgot my password" and "User Password Change."

If you've changed your password from the generic "patron" one (everybody starts out with "patron," minus the quotes) and no longer remember it, click "Forgot my password" and type in your library card number. If you have an email address on file with us, your password will be sent to that email account.

Don't have your email account on file with the Library? Go to "My Account" and "Register for Email Notification." I find this service to be a lifesaver, as I am not so good about checking my phone messages. Use the "User Password Change" link to change your password. While "patron" can be easy to remember, it's also a less secure option, since thousands of other library users share that same password.

That's all for today - stay safe in the rain and fog out there!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doing Good Right Here in the Community

In these days of political and economic turmoil, do you find yourself being grateful for the simplest things? The things you possibly took for granted even just a year ago? Like, having a home or a job?

Being thankful is a good place to start. If you are fortunate enough to be living through all of this turbulence without huge sacrifices, with your basic needs still fulfilled, I'd ask you to think about moving beyond gratitude into action. You can do it right here in your local community.

Case in point: Last week, Debbie Walusiak of the Self-Help Closet & Pantry of Des Plaines stopped by the library to pick up another book by her newest favorite author, Elin Hilderbrand. Debbie talked with librarian Joanne Griffin about the appeal of Hilderbrand's novels, set on Nantucket Island. She likes that the books are easy to read, entertaining and engaging, but also feature story lines that are usually about troubled relationships or family relations, including characters with secrets and complicated lives. No doubt Debbie enjoys the chance to plunge into the lives of these complex characters because her days and nights are spent taking care of such urgent, basic needs in our own community: the need for people to have adequate food and appropriate clothing. Many of us, with the best of intentions, make donations to organizations like the Self-Help Closet & Pantry at Christmas or other holiday times. Songwriter George Michael referred to our tendency to wear charity like a fancy coat we pull out twice a year. Self-Help Closet & Pantry needs your help all year long. Get a list of needed items. Think about it - if you included the Self-Help Pantry on your grocery list once a month, you could make a worthwhile, long-term contribution with the smallest amount of effort.

Case in point: Woohoo! There's a new restaurant on Lee/Mannheim: Via Roma. It gets better - delicious food, cozy, welcoming ambiance and the prices are unbelievably affordable. I compared my lunch there last Tuesday to lunch at my usual spot. Let's see - the food at both is delicious, but my other place costs me $5 more on average; where I usually go, I have to stand in line to order my food, then wait in another line with a pager until it's ready, I even have to pour my own soda; I leave both feeling full and happy, but full, happy and with more money in my pocket? "Priceless," as the TV ads say. We all want to see downtown Des Plaines thriving and active. If you're fortunate enough to have a job right now, do your part to keep local businesses alive by patronizing places like Via Roma. You'll enjoy every bite and have plenty left in your wallet to support the Self-Help Closet & Pantry! Via Roma, 847-768-7481, is currently only open mornings/afternoons. Proprietors Alessandro Forti (also the chef) and Lisa Leslie will welcome you with authentic Italian cooking and down-to-earth Italian-American hospitality.

Want to stay informed about efforts to revitalize Des Plaines? Then follow the local blog, "Revitalize Des Plaines!" Every time I read the RDP blog, I find out something new. Did you know a Japanese restaurant (yum!) is coming to the site of the former Subway sandwich shop at the corner of Miner and Pearson? I didn't until today and I found out thanks to "Revitalize Des Plaines." RDP is a blog, so you're welcome to leave your comments and concerns there, too, and get in on the conversation. "Revitalize Des Plaines" is a welcome addition to our community and the posted articles provide interesting local history, too. You can also be a fan of RDP on Facebook. Read what RDP has to say about Via Roma and another new DP restaurant, Mehanata.

So get to it! Don't just talk about being grateful for the good things you have - use your gifts to build up this community and the good people living and working here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Youth is a beautiful dream..."

"...on whose brightness books shed a blinding dust."

Hmmm. That quote from spiritual thinker Kahlil Gibran suggests he thought poorly of books - odd, since he was in the business of writing them! Is it possible he was wrong? Can books and learning actually burnish the bright glow of youth? Better still, can they help reclaim and nurture the still-youthful dreams of those of us who are decades past what society rigidly defines as "young?" Librarians like to think so.

Along with 65,000+ of my closest friends, I had the good fortune to see rock band U2 live at Soldier Field last Saturday night. It did indeed return me to the beautiful dreams of youth, if only temporarily. I remembered being young enough to stand and dance on a hard metal surface for that many hours without needing a handful of ibuprofen to soften the pain. I remembered telling everybody I was going to be a rock star when I "grew up." I remembered believing that music is a powerful force for positive change in a brutal, joyless world. I still believe that last one. So how can books, how can the Library, help inspire me and you to dream again, to reach for dreams rather than brushing them aside with the paraphernalia of youth?

Easy question.

Books help you learn, books expose you to ideas and places and people you may not be able to meet in person, books inspire, books can become training manuals for DOING.
Now, I totally understand that if you spent your childhood dreaming of becoming an astronaut or kung fu action hero, and you're now 54 years old and never studied aeronautics or martial arts, you may have to temper your dreams somewhat. Is that so bad? When I mope that my rock star fantasies remain strictly in my head, good friends remind me that I've been able to sing, professionally but locally, for almost 30 years, so maybe I ought to be grateful instead of whining. Maybe you can become an expert on the planets and stars, visit iFLY in California and experience human body flight, or win the lottery and book your flight on the space shuttle. Maybe you can study and master the martial arts to the best of your abilities and then teach people at the local park district. I used library resources to plan the Singing Librarians' entry in the Des Plaines 4th of July parade, and let me tell you, we felt like rock stars cruising around on that enormous float and getting you to dance in the streets.

Right now, your dreams may be of the more grown-up, practical variety: finding a job, buying a home, raising a family, earning a college degree, putting food on the table. There are more books (and videos) on those topics than you can possibly imagine. Check out a few and see if there's wisdom to be found, motivation to be gained. We have books here on just about every topic, and what we don't own we can borrow from libraries around the world. Reading doesn't have to be a passive, vicarious experience. Get into the Catalog and start searching for your dreams, whether they are the beautiful dreams of youth or the hopeful dreams of right now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering What We Cannot Forget

On my drive in to work today, I pondered: "Should I write a blog post about September 11? Is it necessary, knowing that a million other bloggers, the mainstream news media, and heaven knows who else will be doing the same thing?" Probably not necessary, and yet, as an American, when you see this date on your calendar, don't you still feel like you're struggling to make sense of it all? Don't you let your mind go back for a moment or two and relive whatever you were doing that morning, how you heard, how you reacted?

Even for those of us who seemed somewhat sheltered here in the Midwest, many miles from the actual attacks, there were surely lasting effects. Up until that day, I rarely ever watched, listened or read the news. When the events of that September morning unfolded, my only sources of news coverage were the Internet and the radio (I don't own a TV). The sounds being broadcast over the radio quickly became unbearable to me, but I was so grateful for all of the Internet news available that day and in the days that followed. I became a daily news reader and now I start every single morning with a read through the Chicago, national and world news. I imagine that most of my coworkers and our library patrons also experienced some kind of change that day, whether for good or bad. In discussing our nation's current economic crisis with family members last weekend, I even suggested that September 11 might have played a role. Was our rush to spend, spend, and spend some more a way of comforting ourselves after this painful experience, a kind of collective post-traumatic stress syndrome ? Did it give us a sense of security to purchase a home (that may have been more than we could afford), well-made luxury cars, and other fineries? Did we borrow money thoughtlessly because we'd lost hope in what tomorrow could bring?

Whether your memories of September 11 bring you anger, sadness, fear or even more positive emotions - a desire to see peace in a troubled world, a willingness to volunteer and reach out to help others - I think it's important to acknowledge your feelings and use them to inspire you for good. You might recall that in the days following 9/11, an awful lot of people said, "America will be different now. People are going to be more polite and helpful, less selfish. Communities will grow stronger." I'm not so sure it turned out that way, not yet, but I'm a big fan of hope and optimism and I don't think it's ever too late to reach for something better. Below you'll find a variety of links relating to September 11, to post-traumatic stress, to volunteering and other related topics.

Read/view films about the September 11, 2001 attacks and their aftermath (list includes non-fiction as well as fiction inspired by the event)

Read about volunteer opportunities at the Library and in our local community

Read about post-traumatic stress disorder

Read about happiness and optimism and how to find more of them in your life

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Losing the Blues

I hope you enjoyed the long holiday weekend.

I didn't! I allowed one rotten experience on Saturday to drop me into a funk for the remainder of the weekend and there I stayed. At those times, I find that an excellent cure is to distract myself with something worthwhile, so I plunged into some books and, a rarity for me, a movie ("Julie and Julia" - loved it!).

I often feel like the only librarian in the world who doesn't carry around a tote bag full of books, spend weekends curled up with a juicy novel and know all the latest indie film actors. I'm a Web librarian, so I do a LOT of reading - on screens, big and small. I'm also a musician and music is both my passion and my escape. But now and then I crave a great read just as much as normal people do! This weekend I was extra grateful for my savvy colleagues and the many resources we have here at DPPL to help people connect with a good book.

I began the weekend with Dave Thompson's hilarious and over-the-top "classic rock manifesto," I Hate New Music. I didn't always agree with Thompson's premise that rock music died around 1977, but I roared out loud at his jokes and nodded in agreement when he nailed a point. I'm now about halfway through with Serve the People: a stir-fried journey through China, by Jen Lin-Liu. I almost exclusively read non-fiction and this book has my favorite characteristics: exotic locale, colorful descriptions of meals, places and characters, and a narrator who is smart, curious and kind. The word "dumpling" appears many, many times.

How did I find these enjoyable reads that seemed just right for me? First, by tapping into the knowledge of our wise Adult Services staff, in this case, our Head of Adult Services, Roberta Johnson. She suggested I Hate New Music, knowing that if I'm not making music, I'm very happy to read about it. I found Serve the People by browsing Roberta's suggestions on our Shelfari "virtual bookshelf." You can browse that bookshelf, too, simply by visiting Positively Ellinwood Street, our blog about books, movies & music.

Need more suggestions? Try:
By the way, another comment from our Web Site survey: someone said they missed an old function of the Catalog, when a searcher could enter something like "New Fiction" and get a list of just that. I have never seen that functionality in the Library Catalog and cannot explain to you why it disappeared, although I suspect a change in the way items are catalogued. The "Power Search" can be used for that type of search but because we share item locations and types with 24 other libraries, it is confusing to say the least.

My recommendation? Bookmark our "One-Click Searches" page. There you'll find links that search for the newest Fiction & Non-Fiction in our Catalog, along with DVDs and other item types. There are lots of one-click searches on the page, but if you have a specific type of book for which you often search, feel free to recommend other one-click searches to us. Next time you've got the blues or just feel the need to read, let our experts and resources guide you to something wonderful.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The people of Des Plaines have spoken!

31 patrons responded to our Web Site survey. Not huge numbers but the results are very useful. I found patterns in what you like and what you find frustrating and that will help me make decisions down the road. I'm seizing this opportunity to list some of your comments here and, when necessary, respond to them. Feel free to add more comments of your own.

1) A anonymous patron left a comment on PlainTalk a few days ago concerning patron privacy. As a librarian, it makes me cringe to think of someone commenting on what I borrow from the library. First, please be assured that our automated system deletes the record of what you borrowed once you have returned the items. Secondly, state law and library policy state that information about items you currently have checked out is considered confidential, to be used only for internal operations such as collecting overdue fines. Within our employee Policy Manual, it clearly states that "We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom..." and "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed..." etc. All library employees learn about these policies as part of the orientation process.

To the patron who left this comment: I apologize on behalf of the Library and have forwarded your comment to our Library Director. To all our patrons: if you ever experience the feeling that your privacy is being violated by an employee or another patron of DPPL, please seek assistance from our Administrative staff.

2) Several of you mentioned the frustration of not being able to log into the Catalog/your account and STAY logged in. We hear you. You can sign on at the top of the Catalog home page and place several holds without entering your card repeatedly (if you haven't tried that, give it a whirl next time you're browsing for fun new books and movies). Beyond that, improved log-in functionality is one of my top priorities in our search for a new system. My other top criteria, based on what I've heard from you, follow.
  • If our new system has added features, like the ability to review books, rate them, create lists of what you've read and save them - great. However, those features cannot require a separate log-in. For those of you who experimented with WorldCat Local when we tested it, you know what I mean. Your usual DPPL Catalog log-in did not authenticate you on that site, so you had to constantly move back and forth between the two. No one has time for that and I'll battle long and hard before I buy a system that can't get it right.

  • I'd love to see a "shopping cart" type of feature in the Catalog. Pick out as many items as you'd like, add them to your cart, then place one hold at the end covering all the items. Based on your comments, I think you'd like that, too.

  • How about a menu of links to help you refine your search? You type "harry potter," and a list pops up: "book," "DVD," "sound recording" - you make your choice and get more precise results.

  • Above all: improved search relevance. Many of you wrote, "Bad search engine!" or "I type in an author or title and my results make no sense." I can tell from our survey results that most of you prefer to do your searching from home. Next time you're in the Library, if you have 10 extra minutes, stop by one of the public service desks and ask for some tips on how to get better results in the Catalog. You'll be grateful for it and you'll get a little librarian "insider knowledge." We have to search the Catalog all day and even took graduate school classes in searching, so we know the quirks and pitfalls.
3) To the patron who thought we should leave movies to folks like IMDB: On a personal level, I'm with you. I don't own a television and I only see a couple of movies every year. Nevertheless, if we decided to only offer books and gave up on movies, there'd be a mighty revolt here in town. Movies account for 50% of our annual circulation. I see it as a community service - we save you money on the costly hobby of watching movies and TV series.

4) To the patron who said "It doesn't tell you where the books are located." I'm not sure if you mean the Dewey decimal call number or the library, since we share our Catalog with 24 other libraries. My guess? You mean that in your initial list of results, you don't see a call number. Drives us crazy, too, and add that to the list of criteria for our new system!

5) To the patron who checks online, finds an available item but gets here and the item is gone: Save yourself the hassle. If you need the item in a hurry, call us first (847-827-5551 - you can speed things up by knowing on which floor the item should be). Someone can walk to the shelf, make sure the item is there and hold it for you. If you have a day or two: click the blue "Place Hold" button, put a hold on the item and we will contact you when it's ready for you to pick it up. We hate a wasted trip as much as you do, so let us do the work.

6) To the patron who wasn't crazy about the phrase "Pre-overdue notice": We discovered that we can indeed change that wording and have requested something new from our computer consortium. Watch for the change and I hope you find it more to your liking.

7) To those who want more book reviews, movie reviews, the ability to create lists, email or text information to yourself or others, improved hold queue information - we hope all of those things and more will be coming soon. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I represent DPPL on a committee that is searching for a new Catalog for our entire consortium. It isn't easy, because every product I've seen has some excellent qualities and some deficiencies. Thanks to your input, I have a much clearer understanding of how you use the Catalog and how you'd prefer to use it. I promise you that your preferences will be first and foremost in my part of the decision-making process. In the meantime, when you're confused or stymied by the Catalog or anything on our Web site, talk to someone here at the Library or feel free to email me: Karen McBride,