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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Magnifying Machines a "Godsend"

Please welcome today's guest blogger, Adult Services Librarian Bob Blanchard.

Reading can be a joy. For people who think they can no longer read because of some degree of vision loss, reading can be just as much of a joy -- with a little help from a magnifying machine checked out from our library.

Magnifying machines can change lives. When an older person used one such machine to view a photo of her great-grandson for the first time, she said, “This is a godsend!” Another patron, who is legally blind, was overjoyed because she was able to make out letters and words with the aid of a magnifier.

The library has several magnifying machines that are available to public library cardholders for an eight-week loan period. For Des Plaines Public Library cardholders, we even deliver them, demonstrate how they’re used, and pick them up when they’re due.

The library also has other equipment that help people with disabilities live as independently as they can, but magnifying machines are most popular for those with visual limitations such as macular degeneration. Also known as closed-circuit televisions, or CCTVs, these machines can enlarge print and images, thereby making it easier for some people to read books, magazines, newspapers and even their mail. The library also has two portable magnifying machines.

To learn more about the library’s collection of magnifying machines and other assistive devices, call me, Bob Blanchard, at 847-376-2793. You can see photos of some of our machines on the library Web site, under the “special services” heading. Also, when you’re in the library, ask for a copy of our AccessAbility brochure, which details other devices and services for people with disabilities. You can also download that brochure, in PDF format. These devices and services could make a difference in your life or the life of a family member or friend.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In loving memory of Kathy Kyrouac

On Wednesday, April 22, 2009, the library staff received news we had long dreaded but hoped would never come: that our colleague and friend, Kathy Kyrouac, had passed away after a courageous struggle against cancer. Kathy joined the library staff in March of 2000, a much-needed computer science professional who took over the management of the Library's Web site - a "Webmaster."

But to describe Kathy's role strictly by her job title would do her a tremendous disservice. She was so involved in Library committees and activities, as well as an active resident of the Des Plaines community. It's difficult to imagine how she did it all while also raising two daughters, along with her husband Dave, and still found time for eating and sleeping! Kathy was one of our most devoted participants in the Relay for Life, raising money for cancer research and treatment while raising awareness of healthy lifestyle choices. She was part of our Relay team, the "Book Babes," for the last six years, even after her own diagnosis with cancer. That kind of selfless hard work defines much of who Kathy was to us here at the library.

Within the library, Kathy not only played a crucial role in keeping our Web site up-to-date and user friendly, she also served on the committee to redesign the Web site as well as our staff intranet. She stayed on top of her field by taking classes over at Oakton and participating in educational workshops, wanting to know what was new and innovative. Kathy was a founding member of our "Green Team" and a gracious volunteer at events like "Do the Dewey," our Centennial kick-off, croquet tournament and carnival. I marveled at how, when a call was made for volunteers, she not only always responded but was usually amongst the very first.

On a lighter note, she was also one of the stars of our super-popular book cart drill team, "The Cart Wheels." She served as co-captain of the team, along with her very dear friend, Captain Gail Bradley. As I said to Gail today, I can't think of Gail without Kathy, or Kathy without Gail. In my mind, they are peanut butter and chocolate - wonderful on their own, but just perfect together. Everyone here at DPPL is so grateful to Gail, who became our official "Kathy liaison" over the last few months, making numerous hospital visits and keeping us informed.

Kathy used her Web design skills to help local organizations such as the Self-Help Closet and Pantry and the Maine West Dollars for Scholars. While visiting with her family a few days ago, her husband told me she also started a neighborhood group that prepared meals for families coping with illness. Not at all surprising, since Kathy radiated generosity and a strong sense of belonging to the community.

There are no words that can adequately express the loss we are feeling. The video up above is a simple attempt at sharing Kathy's quiet grace and wonderful sense of humor with the world, a way to let her and her family know that we love her and appreciate her. Kathy would probably say she didn't understand all the fuss and wouldn't want us to make a big deal out of it, and yet I feel it's important for all to know how much she accomplished in her career, in her family life and in her community. To live life fully, sharing of yourself every day, gives glory to God and makes you part of "the greatest story ever told." Thank you, Kathy, for including us in your story.

Read the obituary in the Daily Herald

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just a few more days 'til we Do the Dewey!

Don't forget - our annual FUNd-raising event, "Do the Dewey," is this Saturday, April 25, 2009. We know that the current economic situation is putting a strain on so many people. We still believe that Dewey is a great value for you, the giver. Since our generous donors provide so much of the food, drinks and entertainment for free, you get an amazing evening on the town for just $35 per ticket, while the Library and the Rotary Club of Des Plaines receive substantial donations toward future projects.

What does your $35 Dewey ticket provide?:
  • Unlimited food, beer, wine and soft drinks - no one leaves Dewey hungry or thirsty!
  • Food is also part of the entertainment, as we feature tastings of gourmet chocolate, artisan cheese and top quality oils and vinegars;
  • Live music from one of Chicago's most sought-after show bands, Bopology;
  • Chair massage and a chance to try the Wii fit;
  • Digital camera assistance from the wizards of the DP Camera Club - print out a souvenir postcard to take home;
  • Amaze your favorite teenager - get an airbrush tattoo!
  • Test your investigative powers with CSI:Dewey - two police officers/authors will recreate a crime scene and let you help solve the case;
  • Learn about everything from watercolor painting to the versatile uses of herbs;
  • Be wowed by the talents of our Strolling Psychic Sorcerer;
  • Try your luck with raffles, guessing games, a scavenger hunt for cash and silent auction - prizes range from fine wines to gift cards for popular restaurants, from strands of lustrous pearls to Cubs tickets - with so many great prizes, you're sure to be a winner!
Today's chilly downpour might tempt you to "wait and see" - but remember: Dewey tickets are $40 at the door, so you save by buying in advance. (That extra $5 can buy you a raffle ticket that wins big!) As the song says, "Grey skies are gonna clear up," and Saturday's outlook is spectacular. So buy your tickets today - you can purchase them online here or stop by the Library during regular business hours.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Citizenship Workshops - Saturday, April 25, 2009, St. Mary's in Des Plaines

NEW - stayed tuned for our next Citizenship Workshop, Saturday, December 5, 2009. The workshop will be from 9 AM until noon at the Des Plaines Public Library. At the Citizenship Workshop, eligible immigrants in the community receive free citizenship application assistance from bilingual staff and trained volunteers, free legal assistance from an immigration attorney, and information about ESL and citizenship classes.

Go to our Events Calendar for details.

St. Mary's Church (Heart of Mary) in Des Plaines
will be hosting a citizenship workshop on Saturday, April 25, 2009 from 9 AM to 12 Noon. The workshop will be held in the parish community center, at 795 Center Street in Des Plaines (just south of the Library). Services provided include:

  • Photographs ($10 each);
  • Free application assistance;
  • Free legal consultation regarding citizenship;
  • Registration for citizenship classes.
Informacje w języku polskim

  1. MONEY ORDER, made out to USCIS for $675.00. (For people 75 and older, money order for $595.00 to USCIS.)
  2. GREEN CARD (Alien Registration Card)
  5. Home addresses for the past 5 years (with dates)
  6. Your height (feet/inches) and weight (pounds)
  7. If you are/were a student: name of school(s) and dates attended
  8. Employer names & addresses for the past 5 years (with dates)
  9. Dates when you left the United States and returned (day, month & year)
  10. Information about your husband or wife: birth date, marriage date, social security number, Alien (Green Card) number, immigration status (e.g. “permanent resident”). If husband or wife became a naturalized citizen: date and place of naturalization. If you or your current husband or wife were married before: information about previous marriages — name, marriage date, divorce date, immigration status of previous spouse.
  11. Information about your children: full names, date and country of birth, Alien (Green Card) number, current address.
  12. For men who have lived in the U.S. between 18 & 26, Selective Service number & date of registration. If you have not registered for Selective Service, you must do so before applying for citizenship. (847) 688-6888.
Click here for information in English
Informacje w języku polskim

Monday, April 13, 2009

Follow-up on free e-mail

Greetings on a rainy, chilly Monday. A few weeks ago, I wrote here in PlainTalk about how to sign up for a free e-mail account. It's so important to have email in today's world, not just for personal communication but for business and job-related correspondence, too.

Today I received a comment from an anonymous reader who informed me that some schools in the area block students from accessing Web sites like Yahoo - so then students can't access their email while at school. I can understand why schools block email, which can bring unwanted images, videos, computer viruses and undesirable advertising of every kind, but blocking all email at school does create additional problems.

Anonymous reader: have you asked your teachers if they can recommend another email program? That's your best place to start. If you're trying to work around school policies, you may end up in trouble, and I don't want to encourage kids to set off down that road.

With Google being such an enormously popular search engine, you may have better luck accessing Google's Gmail at school. However, getting a Gmail account depends on your age - you must be 13 years of age or older to sign up for Gmail. Go to, and look up at the top of the screen for the "Gmail" link. Click Gmail and then click on "Create an account." You'll have a Gmail account in minutes.

Now - what if you want to access your mail in a place where Google is also blocked, or you're not old enough for a Gmail account? (Forgive me that I know nothing about school Internet policies.) Ask if the school will let you use a "kid-friendly" e-mail program. However, almost all of these email services designed for children and teens are
NOT free. Why? These sites work extra hard to block kids from potentially offensive advertising and "spam," which means they receive little or no advertising revenue. To make up for the loss, they charge for their services. Some are as low as a dollar a month, but some families may not be able to pay that cost. Free services include K-Mail and ZillaMail - low cost services include Zoobuh, ezpzemail and

Parents and teachers out there: do you have any suggestions for our PlainTalk reader who cannot access email at school? Do most schools block access to email on their computers? Do schools set up free email access for students on safe sites? I'd love to hear from you and learn more about this situation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reliable information? You can bank on it - at your library

In the current economic climate, entrusting your savings, mortgage loan or retirement monies to a bank can seem scary - that old piggy bank suddenly looks like a great idea! But we all know that money doesn't grow in a piggy bank - how you can find a trustworthy bank or investment service?

It's not enough to go online and look for the best interest rates, because low rates don't always mean security and financial health for the lending institution. DPPL has many reference sources which provide detailed information on banks and lending institutions
, including independent rating services. I took a quick scan of one of these sources today, the "" publications (despite the .com ending, these are not available online) and was shocked to see the ratings of local banks. Most of the highly rated financial institutions were in Illinois towns I'd never heard of, and only a few nearby suburbs had one highly rated bank. Eye-opening, to say the least.

I know many of you, like me, have had this kind of banking experience: you open an account with what seems like a "local" bank. They immediately get bought out by a large, national organization. Within a few years, they are bought out again, and on and on it goes. You started out locally, and ended up in "If you want to speak to a living, intelligent human being, press 2 but don't hold your breath" territory. In recent years, this occurred with my savings bank, my mortgage lender and my education loan. Knowing how a bank is rated can make a difference, so let us help you. To get ratings and other information on banks and investment firms, talk to our trained reference staff. You can:
  • Visit us in person on the Library's 4th floor: we have the publications at the Reference Desk - just ask and we'll help you use them.
  • Call the Reference Desk directly at 847-376-2917, or
  • Email your questions to:
Don't get fooled by the bank with the snazziest ad campaign or the most branches - do the research you can truly bank on, here at your public library.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Root, root, root for the home team!

There will be a new PlainTalk posting on Wednesday, April 8 -
but today we give a big shout out to baseball fans all over Des Plaines - Happy Opening Day! How cool is it that Chicago has two of the best baseball teams in the world?
The White Sox had to postpone their opening day game (due to Sunday night's snow, wind and ice) until tomorrow, Tuesday,
when they take on the KC Royals at 1:05 PM right here in Chicago.
The Cubs have no weather worries and will take on the Houston Astros tonight at 6:05 PM down in somewhat warmish Texas (it's currently 57 degrees in Houston).
The DPPL staff has many a baseball fan and we seem pretty evenly split between North Side and South Side - so we'll be cheering right along with you all summer long!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Help - I need an email address!

Being a person who lives and breathes for being online, it's puzzling to me when a patron stops by the Reference Desk and says, "I am applying for a job and the employer wants me to email them, but I don't have email so would you look up the phone number and I'll try calling?" If you are job hunting in today's competitive market, one thing is absolutely certain: you need a personal email account. It demonstrates that you are tech-savvy and in touch with the times. Also, some employers simply do not welcome phone calls about job openings. Even if you're not a job seeker, email is essential for tasks like: travel arrangements, banking, purchasing tickets for entertainment venues, or making any kind of online purchase at all.

It takes minutes to set up a free email account that you can access from any computer that has an Internet connection - so if you can read this blog, you can set up an email account and get your messages. You do not need: a home computer, money, a credit card or a tremendous loss of personal privacy.

How do you do it? Two popular, reliable services are Yahoo! Mail and Gmail, which comes from

Click here to sign up for free Yahoo! Mail

Click here to sign up for free Gmail

Just follow the instructions on the sign up screens. You will need to answer basic questions about yourself, although Yahoo requires more personal information than Google. You will need to choose a screen name for yourself - it can be your own name, a nickname, or something fun - keep in mind, however, that if you need this email account to apply for jobs, it's NOT a good idea to pick "" Also, you may choose a name you really like, and Yahoo or Google will tell you the name is already taken. Finally, keep your email name as short as possible - it will be easier to remember and people will be less likely to misspell it.

Choose your password carefully, and if you are forgetful, write it down in a safe place. Don't pick anything really obvious or use very personal information (such as your social security number or address) as your password. You may be asked to supply answers to "Security Questions." These are questions that will be asked if you should you lose your password. You'll need to type in the correct answer before Yahoo or Google will allow you to create a new password.

Once your account has been created, you'll be taken to the "In Box" for your email account. From there you can "Compose" new messages, check for incoming messages, delete old items into the "Trash," and learn more about email features. If you will be using your email account on shared computers, such as those in the Library, YOU MUST CLICK "SIGN OUT" when you are finished, or your private email could be read by someone else.

When you are ready to come back on another day to check your email, go to and look for the "Sign In" link above the Mailbox graphic, or go to and click on "Sign In," then the Gmail link. That's all there is to it.

As DPPL's Web Services Librarian, I am the most enthusiastic cheerleader for technology that you will ever find - but this isn't just another fad or a mindless annoyance. Email is a necessity in today's highly connected world. If you don't have an email account, sign up for a free one today and see what you've been missing. If you'd like personal assistance with creating your account, I encourage you to attend one of our free "Drop-In Email/Internet Assistance" sessions. Find them on the schedule here.