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Friday, January 30, 2009

Take DPPL With You On the Go!

I am not a "phone person." This makes me something of a social misfit, because we live in a world where constant mobile phone use is the norm. However, in my case, it simply means I don't like talking on the phone -- I love doing a lot of other things on that same mobile device! I read the news, check the weather and the baseball scores, send emails and texts, chat via Instant Messenger, Google anything I need to know, change my Facebook status, etc. etc.

Are you like me - someone who uses a phone for many different applications, not just talking? Well, then fire up your Web browser for a new bookmark -- the Des Plaines Public Library mobile device home page! The address (URL) is simple: You can also search for, and then click on the link at the top of the site that says, "Phone/Mobile Access."

When you get there, you'll see a very simplified Web site for the Library, with the kind of basic information we think a patron needs while on the go. There are links to our main phone number as well as the Reference Desk - click the number and it will be dialed on your phone. Our hours and directions for driving and public transportation are also included. While not mobile-optimized, you can also check our Library Catalog and your account information from this page - you're out and you want to see if you have any overdue books before you get to DPPL, that kind of thing. And we've included links to three of our blogs, for those days when you're commuting on the train or sitting at Starbuck's and could use a fun, informative read.
Short and sweet, plain and simple - just like a mobile Web site should be.

We know that more and more people are using their mobile phone as their primary Internet access point. The current economic downturn will make it difficult for many to afford a computer and Internet access at home, while phones are getting less expensive and more innovative all the time. We hope that our ability to offer services to you over the phone doesn't stop here, so we are asking our vendors to consider mobile-optimized sites in the future - imagine being able to search all of our databases and read the research materials right on your phone
! If you enjoy surfing the Web on your mobile device, please check out our new mobile pages and let us know what you think.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Help For Area Non-Profit Organizations

As our nation's economy falters uncertainly, our non-profit organizations become more necessary than ever - and yet donations to those organizations are at peril when people are just getting by financially. What can the Library do to help your non-profit organization? Do you need help spreading the word about what you offer and who can benefit from it? Help receiving donations and asking for volunteers?

The Library has always extended a helping hand to non-profits in the area by making public meeting rooms available and providing space for promotional materials, even services - take our collection area in the atrium, for example, where we collect eyeglasses for the Lions Club, food items for the Self-Help Closet & Pantry of Des Plaines and personal items for troops serving overseas, via our local VFW Post. This year, we'd like to increase the assistance we offer to non-profit organizations, by offering specialized training and equipment for building and maintaining Web sites and, if things go as planned, for creating promotional videos as well.

Would you and your organization like to get in on this new initiative? Our first training session will meet on Thursday, April 16, 2009 from 7 - 8:30 PM, in the Library's Computer Lab. If you think it will be too difficult or technical for you - relax. The session will focus on using FREE, user-friendly blogging software to create an exciting, modern and easy-to-update Web site for your organization. If you can point and click a mouse, and type somewhat well, you can make a Web site with this technology. This first session will get you started, but each participating individual/organization will be able to schedule follow-up sessions to receive personalized help.

The first gathering will also give me, DPPL's Web Services Librarian, a chance to meet representatives from area non-profits to determine what else we can do to help. For example, I would love an opportunity to teach non-profits how to film, edit and upload videos online, because a short, creatively made video can speak volumes about the importance of your services. Plus, uploading a video onto the Internet can introduce your organization to the entire world! Come out and talk with me on April 16 and let me know if that's an idea that appeals to you.

So, non-profits, give me (Karen McBride) a call at 847-376-2806 or email and sign up for this informational session on April 16, 2009. Can't make that session? Contact me anyway and we can talk about other options. Know someone who might be interested? Please pass this blog post along to clubs, religious groups, fundraisers, service groups - anyone who'd like some help developing a basic but useful (and FREE) Web site for an organization.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A little help from your friends - at Oakton Community College

Interrupting the "Making the Library Your New Year's Resolution" train of thought for a moment here to inform you about some tuition-free job training now being offered by Oakton Community College, 1600 E. Golf Road right here in Des Plaines (there is also a satellite location in Skokie).

You can get
all the details here in PDF format, or just keep reading. I think it's important to give the disclaimer first so you'll have a good sense if this applies to you. The tuition-free training is offered ONLY to residents of Oakton Community College District 535 who have become unemployed from a full-time job since January 1, 2008. Participants must provide a copy of their current Wage Information Sheet. Some fees may apply.

If you're still interested, tuition for up to 12 credit hours is waived for eligible participants in a certificate program for one of the following:
  • A+ Computer Diagnostic Specialist
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Operation and Programming Preparation
  • Green Marketing Preparation
  • Microsoft Project Management Preparation
  • Pharmaceutical Preparation
Most of these certificate programs can be completed in one semester and classes begin the week of February 16, 2009. For pre-screening and additional instruction contact Career Services at 847.635.1735 or

Reboot your career with some help from Oakton Community College. Think of this as another way in which the Library helps you learn, work and play - by keeping you informed of local opportunities for working and learning, even when they don't take place at the Library.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day Thirteen - Making The Library Your New Year's Resolution

Thinking back to my younger years, I can't recall a time when I had to ask my parents for help with my homework. Sure, there were trips to the store for poster board or to the library (hooray) for extra resources, but my parents did not have to sit with me and actually help me figure out the assignments. Not sure if that was dumb luck, good fortune or simply a different day and age. I hear from friends who are parents now and they say their children's homework demands a lot from the kids and often from them. You're in luck, because if you are a 21st century parent, there are online resources to help you and your child conquer the homework hassle.

I hope I don't need to tell you that the Library is still a phenomenal place to get homework assistance. From Kindergarten to graduate school, we have books, audiovisual items and Web resources to move you to the top of the class. You may be surprised by some unique online services we have that give you truly personalized service for those moments when you don't know where to turn.

Take our "Ask A Librarian" service. Click the "Ask A Librarian" link in the Reference section of our Web site, type in your library card number and you'll be immediately connected to a friendly, professional librarian who will work hard to answer your questions. Of course, we have an amiable reference staff of our own and you are always welcome to stop by or call 847-376-2917 with your questions. But if we aren't open, "Ask A Librarian" is available, 24/7.

Last week, we introduced a brand new service to the Des Plaines Public Library community: HelpNow. The "Ask A Librarian" people can handle every kind of reference question, for adults and children. HelpNow is specifically designed to provide live, online homework help and tutoring for students from grades 3-12. All the basic core subjects are available: mathematics, language arts, social science, science and the basics of reading and writing. HelpNow is available at just the right times for young people: 3 PM to 11:55 PM, daily. (3 PM, for your 5th grader; right up until midnight, for your procrastinating high schooler.) You will need your DPPL card number to receive assistance from HelpNow. We'd also love to hear from you if you try HelpNow, so we can evaluate the usefulness of the new service. Contact us via email or even through this blog with your comments and suggestions.

Don't panic the next time your kids ask for homework help - now you know where to turn.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day Twelve - Making the Library Your New Year's Resolution

Did you know that public libraries in the Chicago area are the envy of people all over the country? It's true. Whenever I'm fortunate enough to attend a conference or workshop with librarians from other parts of the United States, when I mention that I work in Des Plaines, "a suburb of Chicago," you can practically hear the oohs and aahs. Public libraries in Illinois are well-supported, well-managed and should be a source of pride for all of us - after all, it's our tax dollars that keep our libraries strong and vibrant.

So now you know - and here's another thing you may not know: your DPPL card isn't just your passport to great books, videos, music, programming and fun at this library. You have some of the best libraries in the nation at your fingertips as well, and many of them will deliver their materials to DPPL for you to borrow. No charge, no fuss. How does this work?

The easiest way to borrow items from our neighboring libraries is to use our Library Catalog - it's right there on every page of our Web site, in bold, blue letters: CATALOG

By now, you probably know how to search in their for items at our library, but if you change the "Library" option, you can search one of 25 area libraries, or choose ALL and search them all at the same time. When you find an item of interest, notice the "Holdings" information: the item might be here in Des Plaines, but it might be in Lake Villa or Algonquin. No problem. Get out your DPPL card and click the blue "Place Hold" button. That's right - you can place a hold on an item even when it's from another library. Fill in your library card number and password (your password will be the word "patron," unless you've changed it), click the "Place Hold" button again and your request will move through the system. The first library who has the item available will pack it up and send it here to DPPL, and you will be notified when it's ready for you to pick up.

In a hurry? Leaving on a 7 AM flight out of O'Hare tomorrow morning and just have to read that book that only Niles or Park Ridge has available? Give that library a call and if the item is available, you can go there and check it out with your DPPL card. But do call first - someone else might be just as eager and will grab the book while you're still on the road.

Those options work well for libraries in the immediate area that belong to our borrowing consortium or the North Suburban Library System - but what about libraries across the state, across the country, around the world? We also offer access to an amazing service called WorldCat. In the same way that our Catalog allows you to search 25 local libraries, WorldCat allows you to search the world - and request items you find online through Interlibrary Loan. In the next few months, we will offer you the opportunity to test drive a new system from WorldCat, called WorldCat Local, which will simplify the ordering process and, we hope, enhance your search process, giving you options like home delivery and the ability to review items within the Catalog. More about WorldCat Local soon, but WorldCat is available to you right now - check it out.

So hold your head up high and give yourself a pat on the back for supporting some of the best libraries in the country. Get full use of your investment by borrowing items and attending programs at many different libraries - although we hope you'll always have a soft spot for DPPL, the library right here in your neighborhood.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day Eleven - Making the Library Your New Year's Resolution

One of the best gifts you can ever receive is the gift of a second chance. Sometimes, in our arrogance, thoughtlessness, or sheer stupidity, we act carelessly with the people we love, with our careers, with our responsibilities. When we're on the receiving end of such carelessness, it can be difficult to forgive, forget and offer that second chance - but knowing that we'd want the same, isn't it rewarding to be able to say, "Yes, I will let it go, and let's try again?"

I'm also offering you a second chance in this blog post, a second chance to attend a program on the very topic of Love and Forgiveness. On Wednesday, January 14, 2009, the Library was going to host a talk by Jim Kenney, social justice activist and co-founder of Common Ground. Then Mother Nature intervened and the threat of blizzard conditions and dangerous roads caused us to postpone the lecture - so now you've got a second chance to attend, if you hadn't registered the first time. The Love and Forgiveness lecture will now take place on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 7 PM - just click here to register online.

What will you hear about if you attend?

Kenney will draw on his extensive experience in South Africa during the period of the work of the famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He’ll connect that to the emergence of new models of conflict resolution in an evolutionary period in human history. One need only to skim the daily news to understand the importance of conflict resolution in a world being torn apart by war and violence. Yet many people experience and suffer from conflict right in their own families and homes - so there are lessons here for everyone. If you're interested in new ways to solve problems, in our homes, neighborhoods and the world at large, please attend this fascinating lecture by a world-renowned lecturer.

Spread the word - if your church, synagogue, mosque, or community organization is interested in social justice issues, bring a group to hear Jim Kenney speak. He is the former Global Director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (one of the world’s major interfaith organizations), a current trustee of the International Interreligious Peace Council, a co-editor of Interreligious Insight - in other words, someone who has a message for people of all faiths and belief systems. Learn more about his work with Common Ground. And please join us on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 7 PM.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day Ten - Make the Library Your New Year's Resolution

I cannot believe it's mid-January already - we just got started! Still, right smack in the middle of things is the perfect time to remind you: we want to hear from you, too. Our new Web site makes it easy for you to get in touch with us, even with very specific questions.

On every page of the Library Web site, there is a pull-down menu that reads, "How Do I...?" (it's up in the top right hand corner). The third item in that menu is "Contact the library." You'll also find "Email Us" and "Contact Us" links scattered throughout the whole site. We want it to be as easy as possible for you to get in touch with us. The "Contact Us/the library" links will take you to a page with many options: information on stopping by in person, sending a letter, calling us or emailing us. You can contact any member of our Library administration, along with specific departments such as Youth Services or Reference.

You can also contact us through our various blogs - just post a comment and we'll post one in reply. If, however, your concern is private or you need a private response, better to use email or another form of contact.

The important message is: we appreciate your time, your support and your feedback. As I was helping to design the new Web site, I really wanted to make the Library more "transparent," so you could easily find information about who we are, what we do and how to contact us. Whether it is a comment, concern, suggestion or question, we want to hear from you, so please contact us. And stay warm out there!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day Nine - Make the Library Your New Year's Resolution

Remember the old TV show "Bewitched?" I'm not sure if my memories come from watching the show in prime-time or only in after-school reruns, but I sure loved the program. One of the funniest characters was Gladys Kravitz, the nosy neighbor who always seemed to look out her window at just the right/wrong moment, when the witchcraft was running rampant over at the Stephens' place. Of course, what's funny on TV can be terrifically annoying in real life - if you've ever had a neighbor who spends more time monitoring your comings and goings than her own business, you know that a "Gladys Kravitz" type is no joy to be around.

Yet...don't you want to snoop on your neighbors, just a little bit? Good news: we've given you a really easy, private and legal way to do that. It's our "What's Hot in Des Plaines?" feature. Okay, so it won't exactly allow you to catch your neighbor's husband hiding his giant ears in a beekeeper's helmet. It will give you the inside scoop on what your neighbors are checking out from the Des Plaines Public Library. Go on...give it a click: What's Hot In Des Plaines

Surprise! Your neighbors like love stories and vampires (and probably love stories about vampires). Their favorite authors are tried and true, and they enjoy the best sellers in between some serious studying for the ACT, some knitting and working on that darn résumé. Why am I sharing this with you? Not because I really believe you want to snoop on your neighbors but rather because you may be inspired to try something new from our library if you see what other residents are enjoying. So go ahead and indulge your inner Gladys Kravitz and when you visit our Web site, go to "Read/Watch/Listen" and look for "What's Hot in Des Plaines." We'll never tell!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day Eight - Making the Library Your New Year's Resolution

Today's "get the most out of your local library" tip focuses on library programs and events. I'm guessing here, but my sense is that most people have a limited sense of what types of programs the Des Plaines Public Library offers. You might think the programs are mostly for children or retirees. We have plenty of programs for both of those age groups, but we've got everybody in the middle covered, too. You might think the programs are "intellectual" or "educational," and yes, they certainly are. But many of them are just plain fun, whether it's an alternative rock band playing in Library Plaza or a free movie showing or a gingerbread house making demonstration.

A glance at this month's programming reveals: computer classes for every level of learner, three different book discussions, a live theatrical performance for families, an afternoon of chamber music, dog therapy sessions for kids with autism, a visit from Chicago Wolves player Matt Anderson, and a program explaining "power of attorney." Our events and programs are offered morning, afternoon and evening, 7 days a week. Best of all, no admission charge - in some cases you have to register but often our events are "drop in": all you have to do is show up and enjoy.

So if you've never attended a library program this year, why not make that a resolution? Finding programs and signing up could not be easier. Start at the "Events/Programs" dropdown menu on our Web site. Put your mouse there and you see a number of choices. The "Events/Programs" link take you to detailed descriptions for a month's worth of events, in date order. Click on the title of an event for more information and registration options. We've got a
cool, online calendar that makes it easy to browse for interesting events and you can view specialized versions of that calendar for kids and teens. Computer classes and book discussion groups are listed in these calendars, but you can gain more information about them by choosing those links.

Or, let us bring the event listings to you by signing up for the "Events by Email" service. You choose the event categories that interest you and you will automatically receive emails inviting you to new programs in those categories. We won't give away or sell your email address to anyone, and you won't receive emails about anything other than library events.

In upcoming posts, I will clue you in on some spectacular events coming up at DPPL, like our annual "Do the Dewey" FUNdraiser, and the Romance events coming in February. Yes, libraries still offer lots of books, reference help, quiet places to read and study, the way we always have. But put aside your preconceptions and look into our more unusual offerings, too. After all, we are the neighborhood place to work, learn AND play.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day Seven - Make the Library Your New Year's Resolution

It's Sunday - a day of rest. So let's make today's tip a super-easy one. Try a One Click Search! Sometimes, finding the items you need in our Library Catalog is...not so easy. (Is it any wonder they make librarians get a Masters' degree? How else to figure all this stuff out?) A One Click Search does the work for you. No guessing at search terms or which button to click - we've figured it out in advance and programmed it into a handy little Web link. Click and next thing you know, you're in our Catalog, browsing through a list of items that's just right for you.

We feature One Click searching in a variety of spots on our Web site. From the Reference dropdown menu or Reference home page, you can choose
"One Click Searches by Topic." Topics include everything from "Actor & Musician Biographies" to "Jackie Chan DVDs," the Chicago Bears, autism and citizenship. What's great about One Click Searching is that the search is "live," meaning if we add anything new, it's automatically pulled into your results, so your One Click Search will update every month or so. If you love our DVD collection, you'll love the separate menu just for DVD searches. You'll find that menu under the "Read/Watch/Listen" dropdown, but it's also part of the One Click Searches by Topic.

Another place you'll find One Click Searches is on our pages for World Language Materials, for both adults and children. If you or someone in your household enjoys reading in a language other than English, or wants to improve their language skills, use those One Click Searches to find books from Polish to Korean.

Sometimes, I include One Click Searches here in PlainTalk and you will often find them in Positively Ellinwood Street, too - so try them out. You'll also find a link to the One Click Searches by Topic in our Library Catalog - just in case you're completely frustrated and want some help, fast. Try a One Click Search today. Want to suggest a topic for a One Click Search? Contact our Readers' Services department with your suggestion by clicking this link.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day Six - Make the Library Your New Year's Resolution

On New Year's Day, I attended a church service and then started a car trip to visit my parents. Feeling frustrated because I left my iPod on the kitchen counter, I resorted to listening to the radio, not one of my favorite pastimes. On this particular day, however, I heard a song I needed to hear right at that moment, even though it was originally released about 20 years ago. It's called "The Heart of the Matter" and it was written and performed by Don Henley, also drummer, vocalist and writer for über-popular band, The Eagles. It's that repetitive yet crucial refrain that gets me every time:
"I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, 'cause my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter but I think it's about forgiveness, forgiveness, even if, even if you don't love me anymore."
As Alexander Pope famously said, "To err is human, to forgive divine." How many times do we find ourselves standing face to face with someone we love but are now challenged to forgive? And how much harder is it to forgive our "enemies," which many of us are called to do by our particular religious faith? It's never easy and the situation can be soul-wrenching and life-changing. If you find yourself meditating on love and forgiveness from time to time, let me urge you to attend some upcoming programs at DPPL, focusing on that curious and often awkward tango between love and the need/desire to forgive.

First, on Wednesday, January 14 at 7 PM, Jim Kenney, social justice activist and co-founder of Common Ground, will reflect on his extensive experience in South Africa with the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission." (Couldn't we use one of those in Illinois right now?) Learn more about Jim's experiences with the commission and its emergence as a new model of conflict resolution in an evolutionary period on human history. Love and forgiveness on a very grand scale. Register for this free program here.

Throughout the coming months we're also offering special Love and Forgiveness-themed book discussions. These will generally take place on the third Thursday of the month, although the first will be on the fourth Thursday, January 22, from 7:30-9 PM. Titles to be discussed include
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, Shakespeare's play A Winter's Tale and the poems of Rumi. Olivia Cronk, adjunct faculty member at Oakton Community College, will lead these discussions on how time and experience can lead to forgiveness in the presence of wisdom, and how wisdom can emerge. Look for the book discussions nights on our Events calendar and sign up - you may walk away with a new understanding of love and forgiveness and experience something powerful in being able to share that with others at the book discussions.

Oh, and if you always liked that Don Henley song, too, you can find his CDs here and check them out.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day Five - Making the Library Your New Year's Resolution

Make your trips to the Library a little bit more organized, and quite frankly a whole lot more stylish, by purchasing a reusable library tote bag for one dollar. Not everyone cares about their looks, I'll grant you that, but nobody wants to be known as the town shlepper. And yes, we know lots of people are selling tote bags for a dollar these days. Spend your dollar at the Library and the money goes toward improving our "green" services, such as the TechnoTrash recycling in our lobby atrium. How is this possible? Through the generosity of our Friends of the Library, who footed the bill for thousands of reusable bags, so we could reap the profits. Buy your dollar bag at the big box store and the money goes...? Exactly.

So buy a bag, or two, or a whole wardrobe. Keep them in the trunk and you'll be ready for trips to the Library, the grocery store, the hardware store, anywhere you've got stuff to carry. Consider using one instead of a paper gift bag. When my washing machine broke down, I used my library bags to carry laundry! Our bags are sturdy, good quality (if you've had a problem with your bag, see us for a refund or a replacement bag, please) and roomy. We think they're a great value for the price and we're proud to partner with One Bag at at Time on this project. One Bag at a Time is a women-owned company whose factories are monitored by a fair trade organization, because we wanted to offer you bags at a reasonable price, not bags made in sweat shops. They believe you can change the world "one bag at a time," and we'd like to do our part.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day Four - Making the Library Your New Year's Resolution

As DPPL's Web Services Librarian, one interesting thing I get to see is which pages on our Web site get the most "hits," or visits, every month. Always in the Top 20? Our job listings. (FYI, this page also includes a live feed of job listings from the City of Des Plaines.) Not surprising, given the grim unemployment situation in the United States right now. I know a lot of people who have lost jobs in the last 18 months. Many of them have found work again, but are working for less or working a lot harder for their paychecks.

The Library can help you if you are looking for a job.
  1. First of all, visit our online Business/Career Center to browse job listings, research potential employers and update your resume. Use that link to get to the Business/Career Center, or, from our home page, aim your mouse at the drop-down "Reference" menu, then click on "Business/Career Resources."

  2. Some of the resources in our Business/Career Center are open Web sites, but a few are available only to library cardholders. Take advantage of these databases for extra job search help. For example, Reference USA can help you research a company before that big job interview (how much money do they make? how many employees? how is their credit rating? is it public or privately owned?). It can also hope you find potential employers - use the "Custom Search" function to search for industry type, zip code, etc. You can use Reference USA here at DPPL, where a professional librarian can assist you with creating the perfect search. If you're already a savvy searcher, you can use Reference USA from any Internet connection, as long as you have your library card number handy. Try our other Business databases, too, like Business and Company Resource Center, the Encyclopedia of Associations and more.

  3. Been awhile since you've had a job interview? Brush up on interviewing skills, polish that resume and learn about networking at our free career counseling sessions. Sessions take place on the 3rd Thursday of every month, from 9 AM - 11:30 AM. Mark your calendar for February 19th, when registration begins for the next round of personal sessions. To make your appointment, call 847-376-2787 on February 19th or stop by the 4th floor Reference Desk.

  4. Review our monthly Events calendar for programs (including free computer classes) that will help you update your skills or learn new ones.

  5. Use the Library as your job search headquarters. We have free Internet access, free wi-fi, comfortable seating, online and print resources for job searching and company fact-finding, a public fax machine, photocopiers and printers and lots of friendly assistance. Oh, and you can find our job listings by going to the "How Do I...?" menu on any page of our Web site and choosing "Work at the library."
Job hunting is stressful and time-consuming, so please let us help. While we want to be a community center for recreation and fun, we also want to be a resource for life's bigger challenges.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fare-thee-well, Toozer

I interrupt the "Get More from Your Library" New Year's resolution theme for just one day, to send condolences to Library staff member Linda Knorr.

Linda and her husband Ken Knorr are also vital members of our Friends of the Library, and, loving family members to Toozer, a pretty darn lucky cat. Toozer has gone on to the great scratching post in the sky, after almost 19 years of meowing and generally charming the socks off all who met him. Toozer's annual birthday parties were the talk of the town, he was featured on the most recent Knorr Christmas card, and, believe it or not, he was one of PlainTalk's most loyal readers! "Now, really," you say, "Get a grip, Karen. He was a cat, he couldn't read." All I know is we got many comments posted here on PlainTalk, signed by none other than Toozer himself. The proof is in the catnip!

Toozer, we hope there are heaping, heavenly bowls of tuna fish in your new home; nice, warm sun rays to nap in; and that by now you've been playfully reunited with your sis, Wonzer. I'll miss hearing from you.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day Three - making the Library your New Year's resolution

My third suggestion for enhancing your Library experience is, "Show us some love!"

No, don't send us flowers or a box of chocolates. That's so old school. I'm talking about what the hippest way to our hearts - be friends with us online!

There are several ways you can hang out with DPPL online. Are you on Facebook? You can become a "fan" of the Des Plaines Public Library and share your love with the world. If you are a teen, you can also friend our Teen Advisory Board - just search for them and send in a friend request. Sign up for one or both and we promise we won't harass you with hugs and pokes and the like. We use our Facebook pages to promote what's new and, ahem, give you a place to contact us. It's like a marriage - we won't know you love us (or are mad at us) if we don't talk. So send us notes, leave comments, make suggestions and maybe laugh at our jokes.

If Facebook is not your style, maybe you'd prefer a social networking site that's devoted to books. Check out Shelfari, where you can tell the world what you're reading and publish reviews of your favorites and the ones you wish you'd avoided. Once you've signed up for a free account, you'll want to have some friends, so look for the Des Plaines Public Library group and tell us you'd like to join. Again, no harassment, no extra emails from us. You'll be able to see what we're reading and possibly find that awesome new read that's been eluding you. We'll learn more about what books interest and entice you. That helps us ensure that our collections are serving your needs.

Just another way you can get more out of your public library here in Des Plaines. Check back tomorrow for another tip - and I'll be looking for you on Facebook and Shelfari.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Day Two - making the Library your New Year's Resolution!

Some sources indicate that Americans spend roughly $10 billion dollars a year on movies. As someone who almost never watches movies, my mind reels at the thought, but I also accept that I am in the minority. (And here's a genuine eye-opener: $10 billion pales in comparison to the more than $40 billion Americans spend every year on their pets, according to "Business Week." Does that include movies about dogs? Or watching a movie with your cat?)

Wouldn't you like to hold onto some of that $10 billion? I thought so. You probably know the Library has DVDs. Maybe you've assumed we only have educational films, or classic cinema, artsy foreign films, documentaries, travelogues. We have all of those things. But we also have "Zombies, Zombies, Zombies," "The House Bunny," "Mamma Mia!" and whole seasons of TV shows ranging from "Lost" to "Ice Road Truckers."

It's almost as easy as that Internet movie service: search for what you want in our Library Catalog. (Simply search the movie's title, or, watch this online tutorial for tips.) Find it and click the blue "Place Hold" button, whether the item is on shelf or not. If it's here, we'll grab it for you and hold it on the first floor. Wait for us to call you or email you, then swing by and check it out. If it's checked out, we'll call you when it gets back or even obtain it for you from another library. Free of charge. Yes, unlike that other service, you have to return the items on time. But you don't have to pay a fee to join, so unless you're a procrastinator, you'll save money with our system, guaranteed.

Maybe you are one of the 20% of Americans (Pew Research Center) that prefers going out to the movies, instead of watching them couch potato style. We've got you covered, too. For example, our Friends of the Library sponsor Sunday Afternoon Movies throughout the year. We also hold Friday night movie screenings, generally once a month. The movies are always top-notch: the Sunday afternoon films tend to be super-popular box office hits, and the Friday night films might be art films or foreign films. Either way, they're the same movies people pay $10 to see at a theatre - you can come here, park in our comfortable attached garage, and watch the movie for free. One catch: we can't tell you on our Web site what movies are being shown, but you can find out easily by giving us a call at 847.376.2841. To find dates and times for these film showings, consult our online Events calendar.

Sometimes, we get really crazy about movies and hold additional screenings. During the summer, there are teen movie nights with free snacks. This coming Valentine's Day (Saturday, February 14, 2009), join us for our Romance Movie Marathon, featuring 3 of the American Film Institute's Top 100 Romance films. Free!

So, save your money for popcorn and Jujubes (or whatever candy they're selling these days - see? I don't go to the movies!) by enjoying a free movie at home or at the Library, courtesy of DPPL. Check back tomorrow for another "Make the Most of Your Library Card" tip.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wake up and smell the new year!

Did the arrival of a new year fill you with exhilaration and hope? Or, when the alarm clock went off on January 1, 2009, did you feel like the pulling the covers back over your head? I'm looking forward to another 12 months of opportunity and experiences, but at the same time I'm dismayed that my email In Box is stuffed with diet ads and anti-aging products - give me a break already! For some people, a new year may very well be the best time to kick off a a diet or exercise program, and perhaps indulge in some beauty and wellness products.

Maybe you are looking for something different. May I humbly suggest that your New Year's resolution be: Making the best possible use of your Library card?

If you're intrigued, stick with me this January. Every day, I'll be offering a tip or two on how to make the most of your Des Plaines Public Library card. While all of the suggestions may not apply, my best guess is that many of them will. At a time when we all need to save money while taking advantage of every available "self-help" resource, your Library and the tax dollars you pay to support it have never been more valuable.

Suggestion Number One: Slightly self-serving perhaps, but, read our blogs! Not just PlainTalk, which you are reading now, but my sibling blogs Positively Ellinwood Street and The Blog of AWESOME.

PlainTalk not only highlights news and events at the Des Plaines Public Library, but the Des Plaines community in general. It's a great place for you to leave feedback and comments about the Library, too. Just type in your Comments and click submit after any post. PlainTalk provides an informal, friendly opportunity for you to get to the know the Library and its staff, as well as discover new services and programs.

Positively Ellinwood Street is a blog from our Readers' Services department, the helpful folks who work on the 3rd floor of the Library. This blog gives you their insider opinions on books, movies and music, both the classics and the brand new. If you need recommendations for your next great book, movie or CD, stop here first.

The Blog of AWESOME is for teens, who are welcome to post reviews of things they're reading or watching, and share their opinions with other. It's also a place to keep track of events that we're holding just for teens, so don't miss out, check out BLAW today.

Make the most of your blog-reading experience and add one or more of these blogs to your favorite reader (iGoogle, Google Reader, Bloglines, your Yahoo home page, etc. ). If you have a Blogger account, you can "follow" PlainTalk and Positively Ellinwood Street there. The headlines will update automatically whenever we post something new - although we love it if you visit the Library home page frequently! You can get to our blogs easily from the links posted on our home page, or through our "What's New" page, a quick link on the left side of every page.

Check back tomorrow for another suggestion!