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Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Seek and ye shall find"

No, we are not promising you spiritual fulfillment in today's PlainTalk - just some simple advice for finding information on the Library's Web site. It has been almost one year since we rolled out our new Web site and we hope that you find it useful and easy to navigate.

What can be confusing about any library's Web site is that there are different purposes for searching. Sometimes, you want to find the books, DVDs, CDs and other items a library has in its collection. For that kind of searching, you want to use the online Catalog - that's easy to find on any page of our Web site:
just click the big button.

But what about when you need other types of information: the Mobile Library or Board meeting schedules, our Internet policies, our homebound delivery service, how to place a hold on an item or change your password, etc? Did you know there's a convenient search box on the bottom of every page of our main Web site? That's a picture of it up above. Type your terms into the search box, click "Find" and you'll get a list of pages on our site that meet your search criteria.

Our Web site is BIG, and no matter how well I try to organize it, information can be several "clicks" away from the home page. So use the Site Search to save time and frustration. As with all Web searching, keep your terms short and sweet: Hours. Board of Trustees. Internet policy. Password.

For the last two weeks, I've been meeting with library patrons who have volunteered to test a new Internet service for us. It's been such a valuable experience for me, because I'm learning what you, our patrons, like, dislike or find confusing about our Web site, too. If you ever have comments or questions about our site and related services like our Catalog, please leave them here on PlainTalk or send me an email from our Contact page. You'll find me at the bottom of the page under "Web Services Librarian." In the meantime, try our Site Search feature the next time you need information from us and don't know where to click. I think you'll find information satisfaction - the spiritual fulfillment you may have to find elsewhere. :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Staying busy while on a budget

If money woes are making travel and entertainment difficult for you this summer - we are here to help. Typically I like to feature one or two upcoming events in PlainTalk, but the Library's Events calendar is booked solid for the next few weeks, so take advantage of that. If you've ever seen the popular book series, "Eat This, Not That," think of this blog post as, "Do This, Not That." :)

Can't afford Ravinia tickets this year? (Or, can't face the crowds and the mosquitos?) Kick off the summer season with a classical piano concert, free at the Library next Sunday, May 31. Talented pianist Mark Damisch will play familiar selections from Gershwin, Chopin and Debussy and will delight you with his warm, welcoming style. Register for this free concert.

Explore music in Chicago and neighboring suburbs, including free concerts, through the Chicago Reader.

High school and college students - you could get a group together and study for finals at the popular coffeeshops nearby. Let's see, that's $3.50 for a caramel frappuccino thingie, $2.95 for a brownie, $2.50 for a bottle of water later on...and you probably haven't been able to find a summer job yet. Why not study and snack for FREE at the Library? Our Finals Cafe takes place on Thursday, June 4 and Friday, June 5 from5 - 8:30 PM, with soft drinks and yummy snacks provided free of charge. Hit the books, feed your face, and have money left for a movie or date night once school is out - or, hit the Taste of Des Plaines the same weekend.

Moms, dads and caregivers, bring your little ones to the Taste of Des Plaines this year and they'll enjoy stories, songs and magic - not unlike certain downtown Chicago children's venues with steep price tags. The Library is getting in the act at the Taste and sponsoring lots of family friendly entertainment - for the fabulous price of NOTHING! While the Taste has something for everyone, it's nice to know there will be plenty of appropriate entertainment for families with young children. The Taste takes place on Friday, June 5 from 6-11 PM, Saturday, June 6 from 11 AM - 11 PM and Sunday, June 7 from 11 AM - 7 PM. The kid-friendly entertainment takes place on Saturday and Sunday, from noon until 3 PM, on both the Main Stage and the Library Stage, over at the DP History Center.

Oh, and don't forget - Summer Reading Club begins on Sunday, June 7, so before or after the Taste, make sure you sign the kids up to "Read on the Wild Side!"

It's not all about kids, though, and adults and teens will want to experience "Held in the Heartland," a unique travelling exhibit on a BUSeum, visiting the Library on Friday, June 12. Using narrative panels illustrated with photographs, documentary film and artifacts, the exhibit brings the story of German POWs in the Midwest 1943-46 to life. The BUSeum will be parked in front of the library from noon to 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend this free exhibit, as well as a free reception and lecture at 7 PM that evening. More details will follow in a future PlainTalk, but if you don't have the money or free time to get to one of the big city museums this summer, think of this as the museum coming to you.

Wow - all those events in just the next few weeks. Get in the habit of checking our Events calendar frequently, as new activities and programs are always being added. Your library is so much more than a place for books, movies and music - think of us as your community center for learning, entertainment and enrichment, your place to work, learn and play.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When the sun sets on Memory Lane

How are your childhood memories holding up these days? Mine are taking a beating! No, not just because I'm getting older and less inclined to remember things from 30+ years ago, but also because the places with which I associate my memories are vanishing.

Yesterday's announcement that Kiddieland would be closing down soon made me awfully sad. Kiddieland seemed magical to me when I was growing up. It was inexpensive and close to home, and yet almost as exciting as our annual vacation in the Wisconsin Dells - and that was pretty darned fun. When I began taking graduate level classes at Dominican University in River Forest a few years ago, one thing that made the long commute bearable was a glimpse of the multi-colored, glittering lights of this childhood wonderland. My siblings and I have many a tale to tell about happy nights at Kiddieland.

Did you have a favorite ride or attraction? Those cool dune buggies with the horns that really worked? The tiny little cars you pumped with your hands, using a circular wheel? The tractors? The miniature Ferris wheel? Were you one of those lucky kids who had a birthday party at Kiddieland, complete with transportation in a fire engine? Feel free to post your comments and memories below.

Without getting too personal, my high school just shut its doors after 43 years (the school opened the year I was born and shut during the year of my 25th reunion - NOT that I'm taking it personally!). While I attended high school, I lived very near to the abandoned "Adventureland" amusement park, and currently live close to the eerily silent "Santa's Village" complex. In today's paper, I read a story that must have shocked many a resident of Des Plaines - Sim's bowling alley will shut down in the next few weeks, another victim of foreclosure during tough economic times. My parents often reminisce about days at Riverview, and the many elegant ballrooms, stores and theatres in early 20th century Chicago - many of them gone.

You can't escape what some call "progress," but how do you share the memories and relive these simpler pleasures that brought you joy? You may enjoy perusing a series of books called "Images of America," many of which cover subjects specific to Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. For example, there are volumes on: Chicago's State Street Christmas parade, Riverview Amusement Park, various ethnic groups such as Czechs and Italians, Route 66, and suburbs such as Glenview and Palatine. To find these volumes, just go to our Catalog and search "images of America." The "Voices of America" series has similar titles.

The Internet is another place to relive your favorite childhood memories and meet up with like-minded people. For example, the sad news about Kiddieland made me curious to see how some of the old rides are holding up - and sure enough, there's a Flickr photo sharing group just for pictures of the park! Visit it here, it will make you smile.

Looking for something livelier than photographs? You will be amazed by The Museum of Classic Chicago Television, aka "Fuzzy Memories." If you remember the 7 year plus waiting list to get on Bozo, if you remember the old "Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom," "Empire Carpet" commercials, Svengoolie or the simple fact that it was "North West Federal Savings time, 63 hours a week!" you have to check out the Fuzzy Memories of this online museum. You'll also find video snippets from locally aired national shows, like "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert," which kept me up WAY too late on many weekends, and what can best be described as local oddities, like the "Starbeat Presents What's Happening" jingle! The archives at this site are constantly growing and there is always something new to make you laugh out loud and transport you to days gone by.

Need help locating information on your childhood haunts and memories? Just ask as the Reference Desk, we're always happy to help. Oh, and if anybody out there knows - what' s going to happen to The Depot pizzeria once Sim's closes? I LOVE that pizza!!!! Thanks to Web site Mildred's House of Signage for the beautiful photo of the Kiddieland sign.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Congratulations, Battle of the Books winners!

Congratulations to the two teams who won this year's
"Battle of the Books" competition.
The 6th-8th grade readers competed first, on April 24,
and the Green Team was victorious.
Congratulations to team members Maya Furukawa,
Judy Paisley and Nathaniel Lindstrom!

The "Battle of the Books" for 4th-5th graders took place
on May 1, and the Lime Team conquered!
Congratulations to team members
Dionna Bidny, Nina Denne,
Seiji Furukawa and Haripriya Mehta!

It does a librarian's heart good to see young people with a passion for reading and learning. If you ask most librarians, you'll get a similar story about developing a love for books and reading - and maybe even having some fun experiences at the Library - at an early age. We are proud of our Des Plaines kids and we look forward to seeing all of you for this year's Summer Reading Club, "Read on the Wild Side!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There may be a recession going on...

but people still have to eat.

Noticed how many restaurants have gone out of business around town? It's a saddening and worrisome thing to see. With sky high unemployment rates, fizzling retirement accounts, even foreclosures, it's not surprising people are choosing to eat at home and budgeting very carefully for a splurge like dining out. Yet many of us are torn, because we know the economy needs a spending boost. In the area surrounding the Library, we've lost a cozy lunch spot and the locally owned coffee/snack shop. Move out a few miles and you see plenty of deserted storefronts, and the recent closing of longtime Des Plaines eatery the Black Ram shocked us all (the photo above is from the interior of the Black Ram, in happier times). But new restaurants continue to open, like the reinvigorated Sugar Bowl and breakfast/brunch spot Katie's Kitchen.

So, what restaurants in Des Plaines deserve your hard-earned pay? Whose meals are the best bargain in town (good quality at a low price)? Where's the best place for a fancy splurge, perhaps to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, graduation or other event? Is there a particular type of restaurant you'd like to see move into one of the now empty spaces? Leave your comments here and feel free to be detailed: what's the best thing on the menu? when is the line too long to wait? Let's do what we can to support all of our local businesses. If you live in the area but don't know where to dine, check out the city's "Great Eats & More" Web site.

Friday, May 8, 2009

First-ever DPPL garage sale!

If you love garage and yard sales, you're probably already well aware that the city of Des Plaines annual "Community Garage Sale" began last weekend and picks up in the 60016 zip code next weekend, May 15-17. This year, the Library will be in on the sale, too!

Stop by DPPL on Saturday, May 16 between 1-5 PM and check out our staff "garage" sale, although it will not be in the garage. If the weather's good (and we're keeping our fingers crossed), we'll be offering our wares out on Library Plaza. If it's rainy or too cold, we'll be inside Meeting Room B on the Library's first floor.

Our staff members will be busy doing their Spring cleaning this weekend to prepare for the sale. All proceeds from the sale will go toward the Library's green initiatives, like TechnoTrash recycling, and to the Friends of the Library.

Spend $10 or more and we'll wrap up your purchases with a FREE Library tote bag. Stop by between 4-5 PM for "Bargain Hour" - no reasonable offer will be refused on remaining items. Cash ONLY - no checks or credit cards. And, PLEASE - no shoppers before 1 PM. Our meeting rooms will be busy in the morning with special programs and we need to keep our promise not to disturb those events. But please stop by in the afternoon - we'd love to meet you (and you can meet your PlainTalk blogger, along with other employees) and perhaps you'll find just the certain something you've been seeking. Of special interest to "Wizard of Oz" fans - we'll be selling life-sized cardboard cut-outs of popular "Oz" characters. Since the other items will be donated by our staff members, we have no idea what will be for sale - so you'll need to check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Do the Dewey 2009

Thank you to our guests, our generous event & program sponsors, our prize, food and beverage donors, and the hard-working volunteers who made this year's "Do the Dewey" another rousing success. If you attended, we hope you had a wonderful evening and we thank you for your support of the Des Plaines Public Library and the Rotary Club of Des Plaines. If you missed it - well, make a point to attend next year! It's a terrific evening of entertainment, food, drink and memories in the making, for a low admission fee, and all proceeds go to the Library and the Rotary Club. Doing good in your own community feels good, too! See you next year.