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Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 - Bring It!

Welcome to the cusp of another New Year! Do you have plans for ringing in 2011? Family, personal or cultural traditions? When I was growing up, just a few suburbs away, in the 1970s, New Year's Eve generally meant frozen pizzas and egg rolls consumed (after cooking them, of course) in front of the TV. Guy Lombardo, Dick Clark, waiting for the Times Square ball to drop and then waiting another hour for local coverage to count down the new year. Not terribly exciting but that's what we had. In young adulthood, New Year's Eve became a glamorous, party night, an excuse to buy a new outfit and brave the wind chill for a night of dancing and merrymaking. A few years after that, I began singing with a number of pop bands in the area, so NYE became a working night, typically the longest of the year but also the most lucrative. I recall one particularly prosperous evening when 5 hours of singing netted me enough for a trip to London - wow.

Now, well, to be honest, I'm singing at my church on New Year's Eve and may have a quiet dinner with my aging parents. Children will be waiting breathlessly for Ryan Seacrest and Train to ring in the new year in New York - although I like Train a lot so I might wait up for that, too, if I can stand listening to Ke$ha. :') Dick Clark remains on the scene but debilitated by poor health. Guy Lombardo passed away 23 years ago but someone, somewhere, will be singing "Auld Lang Syne" on New Year's Eve, particularly in the United Kingdom. I'm certain frozen egg rolls will be enjoyed by millions and many a young woman will pull on a party dress to sing and dance. So New Year's traditions stay the same, we are the ones who change, perhaps.

I thought I'd look around and see what New Year traditions transpire in other places and cultures. Examples:
  • In the Philippines, the well-rounded wear polka dots and eat round fruits, meant to ensure a prosperous coming year;
  • In Denmark, partygoers jump off of chairs as the clock strikes twelve, intending to drive away bad spirits;
  • From Scotland to Panama, many cultures send the old year packing by burning things in quite dramatic fashion. Also in Scotland, "It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in." Can't argue with that!
  • Japan celebrates with an enormously popular televised singing competition, "Kohaku Uta Gassen," in which teams of celebrity vocalists compete against each other while viewers at home cast their votes - that actually sounds pretty fun!;
  • For those who prefer a more private way to mark the new year, many South Americans wear festively colored underwear. For example, red underwear is meant to bring love in the new year, while yellow will bring money. Does that mean orange will bring some of both? One can only hope.
Feel free to share your New Year's traditions with us here. Whether your New Year's Eve is mundane or over-the-top, I hope the year that follows brings you renewed health, happiness and prosperity.  Read more about unusual New Year's rituals from around the world on the Travel + Leisure Web site and from the Information Please almanac.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deck The Halls With Mess And Clutter...

fa la la la la...wait a minute. There is much to enjoy about the December holiday season but inevitably, at least in my house, it also creates a lot of clutter. Mind you, my "house," a townhouse by definition, is tiny, so there's no room for excess. Around Thanksgiving, as I start to accumulate shipping boxes from online retailers, wrapping paper, tissue, gift bags, bows, a stray pair of scissors, roll of Scotch tape, piles of Christmas cards received as well as those waiting to be sent, things get ugly. If I make the mistake of trying to add some decorative holiday flair to the environs, then I've really written the recipe for disaster. Looking around last night, I could scarcely recognize my home underneath all that stuff.

If you're feeling the same way, you could go to the nearest discount store and spend a fortune on plastic storage boxes to see if that helps. I went to one of the famous "big box" retailers on Sunday and they seemed to have imported an entire plastic storage box warehouse into their store, so there must be a demand. But if you long for professional advice beyond "put it in a box and stick it in the attic," the library should be your first stop. We have dozens of books on house cleaning and clutter busting, so you can get a handle on your house and start breathing a little more easily. See what's available right now by using this one-click search:

Cleaning and clutter busting books
If you see something you like, place a hold and we'll let you know when you can come by to pick it up (in other words, save a trip in this cold weather).

Happy house-organizing!  Do you have any advice for someone who needs to help getting organized and reducing clutter and mess? Let us know.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last Minute Shopping?

Every day for the last 8 weeks, I have been bombarded with emails from retailers, offering free or discounted delivery "guaranteed by Christmas." It seems like a radical concept, then I spotted this Spiegler's ad from the Suburban Times, circa 1940:
3 bottles of ginger ale or a bag of Hershey's candies for a quarter is stunning in itself, but then I caught the tag line way at the bottom: "FREE DELIVERY - We Are As Close To You As Your Telephone." So if "virtual shopping" and "free delivery" seem like the conveniences of the modern Internet era, think again. :) The real question is: do men really want white shirts?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do You Know These Children?

Although, I'm guessing they are now in their early 50s.
Anyone know the identity of these "exceptionally nice children with angelic smiles?" Come on. Enlighten us.  This photo was in the Des Plaines Suburban Times, December 24, 1969.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Season's Greetings - From The Advertising Department

Continuing the trip back through time, here are some local holiday-themed advertisements from the 1957 Des Plaines Suburban Times.

Practical jokes + Christmas = two ideas I don't normally put together. Hmmm. Did you ever patronize the Correspondence Shop? What else did they sell besides practical jokes and "correspondence?" Enlighten us, please!

I'm not sure what the cartoon has to do with "the pleasures of Christmas," but it's actually a pretty funny joke. I wonder how many women these days are looking for a man who is square...It appears that in the late 1950s, the place to shop in Des Plaines was around Algonquin Road. Have any memories of Christmas shopping over there?

In the last year, Des Plaines lost a local landmark, Romano's Restaurant - well, I guess it was lost very briefly and then magically reappeared! Here is their New Year's Eve ad from 1957. Fun, Frolic and Favors for all!

Finally, some festive "vinylite sparklers" from Square Deal Shoe Store, still located right across the train tracks on Miner Street. I wish I could run over there and pick up a pair of these super-retro-cool dress shoes - especially for $6.95!

Friday, December 17, 2010

And What Should Santa Bring You?

More old-timey Christmas fun from the 1948 Des Plaines Suburban Times. It's fascinating to read the lists of what local children wanted for Christmas that year - their requests seem so simple, old-fashioned and utterly charming. Two year old Ricky wants a "beep-beep" - a toy car, perhaps? And he's got new puppies to give away! He's also got a smile that won't quit.

Diane is another little cutey and selfless, too - she's mostly concerned about getting a gift for her Sunday school teacher. I picture her being a great mom later in life, since she loved the stuffing out of her "Dy-Dee Doll." 

Pam must have been especially good since Santa made a special delivery with her new bike. She's not shy, though, so she's going for an electric train and doll buggy, too. Go for it, Pam! :') And we hope your brother's homecoming was a joyful one. 1948 - 62 years ago! If you know any of these folks, we'd love to know if they're still here in Des Plaines and if they have memories of talking to the Suburban Times about their wish lists.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I've Heard Of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,"

But what on Earth is happening in this photo? It's time for more Des Plaines history via Christmas stories from local newspapers.

Click to enlarge
I've read the caption and I still don't get it. Anyone know the Dahl family? They apparently were washing their Christmas stockings and the children decided to beat up on dad. For heaven's sakes, kids - YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD FOR CHRISTMAS! This photo is from the Des Plaines Suburban Times, December 24, 1957.

Click to enlarge
There was a time when all the local communities had their official Santa Claus. In the article above, you can learn more about the differing fortunes of two local Claus representatives, circa 1940. This article appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune, December 15, 1940. You can find more like it by using our ProQuest historical newspaper databases - useful, fast and a lot of fun, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Des Plaines Style

Since our tribute to Thanksgivings past in Des Plaines proved popular, let's have some fun with the upcoming celebration of Christmas as well. For the next 10 days, I'll share with you photos, advertisements and other items of interest from long-ago editions of local newspapers. Want to do some searching yourself? Try our historical newspaper databases, which you can find on our Newspaper Subject Guide. (the databases can even be searched from your home computer if you have a valid DPPL card number) The pictures and articles I'll post here are from some old Suburban Times newspapers we recently had digitized. The quality of the photos isn't perfect but you can definitely enjoy the trip down Memory Lane regardless.

Click to enlarge
From December 24, 1957 - spelling errors aside, let's give a shout-out to the "hightlights"of the Northshire Civic Club Christmas Party, Des Plaines' very own Accordion Band. The band members ranged in age from 9-13 - anyone you know? Did you ever polka merrily or tap your feet to the sounds of the DP Accordion Band? Let us know!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Congratulations, Via Roma

Everyone at DPPL sends our heartiest congratulations to the good people at Via Roma on being named one of the Top Ten Suburban Restaurants in 2010 by the Daily Herald! You can read all about it here:

Via Roma was one of the first businesses featured in our "Des Plaines Means Business" video project and they have definitely won our popularity contest, too, with over 1,200 views thus far. You can watch and learn more about this wonderful local restaurant right here.

It's been exciting to see new businesses of all kinds moving into downtown Des Plaines. Let's support our community by dining, shopping and doing business locally, whenever possible.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's On Your List?

From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, it's quite common to ask, "What do you want this year?" We ask our children if they have any special toys in mind. We ask our spouses if they want a kitchen gadget, some power tools or a nice watch. We may even make the request of strangers, via gift-giving charities like "Sharing Trees" or the Mitten Tree we have here at DPPL. Increasingly, over the last few months, many of my family members and friends have adjusted their year-end lists, adding a particular item to the number one spot: somebody give me a job.

Remember that the library offers a number of services and resources that can help you with that wish, should it be on your list as well. For example:
  1. Use our Reference USA database to research potential employers - use the advanced search options to create a customized list of companies that are looking for someone just like you (it's a great database for marketing a product or service, too).

  2. Join our Job Seekers Group - networking is a great way to stay inspired and energized and you never know who might bring you the contact that leads to a job. The next meeting is on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 9:30 AM. All are welcome, no need to register.

  3. Take advantage of our personal Career Counseling. If it's been awhile since you've been on the job market, you need someone to help you strategize. Look for the Career Counseling opportunities on our Events Calendar (generally Thursday mornings) and sign up for a 30 minute session.

  4. If you are on Twitter, follow our DPPLBusiness tweets. Every week, we provide another link to an interesting article, career fair or even job listings in the Des Plaines area. Get fresh ideas delivered straight to you.

  5. Check in regularly at our online Business/Career Resource Center. Research companies, find out about business/career-related events here at DPPL, get resume and job search advice.

  6.  If financial hardship makes it impossible for you to have Internet service at home, remember our public computers and free wireless Internet connectivity are available 72 hours a week.
Job searching during the winter holiday time seems particularly challenging - companies put off hiring until next year and people don't return your calls because they're taking vacation time. Bookmark this blog post and come back to it after the first of the year, too. We're here to help and our holiday wish for you is full employment that brings you financial security and personal satisfaction as well.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Farewell To A Boy Of Summer

    Some time last summer, late July, I gave up on my Cubs. Unlike my father, who has been suffering through Cubs fandom for over 70 years, I was a late bloomer. Thirteen and a half years ago, in a bout of "Now what?" after a divorce, I started paying a little attention to baseball. Suddenly, I was tuned into WGN just about every night or even heading out to watch a game on television. My family started making an annual pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. For better or for worse, I became a Cubs fan.

    But last July, my affections began to wane. Too many wasted opportunities, too many favorite players traded away who then excelled in their new hometowns - I'd had enough. When I woke up this morning, I did what I always do, checked my email, the weather and signed onto Facebook. Had a couple of new messages, including one from a Facebook group I'd joined, "Ron Santo belongs in the Hall of Fame." I figured the voting was kicking off again and nearly deleted it without a second look. Then my eyes caught, "Well, everyone, it looks like Santo has passed away." And that he did - former Cubs third baseman and longtime Cubs announcer Ron Santo passed away on Thursday, December 2, 2010.

    The radio team of "Cubs legend Ron Santo" (as he was always introduced) and Pat Hughes was probably the thing that kept me tuning in even during the worst of seasons. In the years when I worked with two male colleagues who also followed the Cubs, we couldn't wait to get to work the next day to exchange the latest "Ronny-ism." A genuine fan and a hard-nosed player in his day, Santo's moans, groans and outbursts mimicked what the rest of us were experiencing in our cars, living rooms and backyard decks every time a Cubs player swung at the first pitch or made a stupid base-running error: "Awww JEEZ!" I often listened to the games by myself, but having Ron and Pat giggling alongside me made it feel like I was at a cozy neighborhood bar, watching the game with friends. Never mind that Ron often got distracted and missed a play - "Patrick, what just happened?" - or stumbled over his words while reading the faxes and emails that poured in. By the end of the season, I knew every time he was going to say, "And we thank you, Walgreens."

    Santo could be like a mischievous kid, chuckling over someone's unusual name or behavior. Remember the summer they were so bored they had a Barbie in the booth and Ron would comb her hair? Remember Ronny screaming, "HE'S NOT HUMAN!!!!!!!" before any of us realized Sammy Sosa wasn't quite human, but probably steroid-enhanced? Remember his deep hatred for Bernie Brewer and the hilarious story of him trying to sneak a frozen yogurt at the Diamondbacks' stadium, only to be thwarted when the machine wouldn't turn off and yogurt came oozing out, uncontrollably?

    I wish I had memories to share of Ron Santo's career as a Cubs player, but he left the major leagues in 1974, when I was just 8 years old and far away from developing a baseball passion. For a period of time, Ron Santo was a partial owner of a local restaurant chain and I ate there often with family and friends - I don't know if he had anything to do with the food but darn, I could go for one of those open-faced roasted chicken sandwiches right now. One Christmas I scoured an enormous, dusty antiques mall for Santo memorabilia to give to my baseball-loving friends. One summer day, while I waited in line for my pre-game bratwurst and soda, I saw Ron make the long trip up those precarious ramps at Wrigley, heading to the broadcast booth. People called out to him but he seemed subdued and a little uncomfortable, riding in a motorized cart, his grandson perched next to him. This was after his legs were amputated from complications from diabetes and that must have been quite a challenge to a player known for impishly clicking his heels or risking a dangerous slide into the plate.

    Today, a man who made me laugh so many times made me cry instead and all I can say is my summers will never be the same. I prefer to remember Ron Santo not as a baseball player who didn't make the Hall of Fame, not as a radio broadcaster who somehow often managed to be at a loss for words, but as the ultimate fan of the game who refused to let serious illness and disability keep him from living life to the fullest and the best companion for sharing all the frustrations and occasional joys of being a Cubs fan.

    Read the Wikipedia entry on Ron Santo
    See the items about Ron Santo at DPPL
    See the items about the Cubs at DPPL

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    A Sense of Community = Always Something to Celebrate

    There's an old Christmas chestnut, "The Christmas Waltz," that I pull up on the iPod every year. I was pondering one of the lyrics, "It's that time of year when the world falls in love," while noticing the angry drivers, grim-faced shoppers and non-stop advertising frenzy of the last few days. And we're just getting started, folks! A good antidote for holiday madness is personal gladness and there are plenty of ways to attain that right here in Des Plaines.

    For starters, the Library has holiday programs a-plenty this year and every year. Kids from grades 3-8 can participate in a winter printmaking session with a professional illustrator, Terri Murphy, on Thursday, December 9, from 4-5:30 PM. On December 11, you can check some names off your shopping list while doing good for your public library by coming to the Friends Holiday Book and Gift Sale! The sale is on Saturday only, December 11, 2010, from 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM. Moms and dads, do your browsing at the sale while the kids conjure up some magic of their own at the drop-in holiday craft session up on the second floor, from 1-4 PM.

    We always host a holiday extravaganza for families and this year it's "Peace Tales From Around the World," on Sunday, December 12, 2010, from 2-3 PM. Spending quality time together enjoying music, dance and storytelling is a perfect escape from the commercialism and hectic pace of these times.

    Why not get out and spend time with your neighbors, too, at the Des Plaines Holiday Lighting Street Fest this Friday, 12/3/2010, in Metropolitan Square beginning at 5:30 PM? You can get all the details on the city's Web site. The weekend brings another Des Plaines tradition, the Lake Wonderland Winter Festival! Meet Santa, take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, and maybe even catch the sounds of the Singing Librarians while you wander the winter wonderland of Lake Park. Full details in this brochure.

    Finally, there's nothing that erases stress quite like a simple act of kindness. Why not make a donation to our Mitten Tree or the Self-Help Closet & Food Pantry of Des Plaines? Purchase new mittens, gloves, scarves and hats - they don't have to be fancy, just warm! - and they'll be given to local families in need. The food pantry needs no explanation. Bring non-perishable food items to the red barrel in our lobby and help a local individual or family through a difficult financial time. You'll never notice what it cost you but it will sure make a difference to them. You might even help the world fall in love, as the old song says. :)

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Thanksgiving, 1970 - Des Plaines Style

    Here we are again, this time with a look at Thanksgiving circa 1970, courtesy of the Des Plaines Suburban Times. The cover picture was similar to what we saw in 1948, only this time it's an actual photograph, rather than a cartoon. Is this your house, by any chance? Click to enlarge and see the entire front page - you can click and enlarge all the images below as well.

     For many years, my family has gone out for our Thanksgiving meal. Not one of us really likes to cook and we have several family members who don't like turkey, so a restaurant full of options works well. Forty years ago, we could have feasted like kings at the Des Plaines Holiday Inn.
    "All the good trimmings," and not one entree over $7.00 
    Looks to me like this Holiday Inn was located in the current spot of the Radisson - sound correct?

    Okay, alright, so this has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. It was in the November 25, 1970, Des Plaines Suburban Times and brought back some childhood memories for me. Plus, according to the ad, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were right here in Chicago that weekend.
    Did you attend the livestock show and rodeo at the Amphitheatre?
    Do you remember the International Amphitheatre and
    did you know it was built primarily for the livestock show?

    An editorial cartoon. A little dark, but, I get the idea. 

    Even 40 years ago, religious imagery and wording were somewhat commonplace in the newspaper.
     Hmmm - it's interesting to ponder the line, "for the challenge of the unlimited opportunities which lie ahead." Do we feel that way today?

    And finally...Santa arrives at Spiegler's. One thing I noticed as the decades unfolded in the newspaper pages - in 1948 and 1952, Christmas was just a blip on the radar around Thanksgiving. By 1970, there were more mentions of Christmas than Thanksgiving in the late November papers! So, bowing to the trend, here is the ad from Spiegler's, letting children know that Santa would be making two special appearances to hear their Christmas wish list. (A little different from now, when Santa spends 2 months at the mall - don't the kids wonder why he doesn't have anywhere else to go?) This ad particularly appeals to me because, of course, the Library now resides right next to the spot where Spiegler's used to stand. Maybe I could have looked out my window and seen Santa arriving. :') 

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Thanksgiving, 1963 - Des Plaines style

    Welcome to the third part of our look at Thanksgivings past in Des Plaines, via some old issues of the Des Plaines Suburban Times. I thought that you, our readers, might enjoy some news stories and advertisements from Des Plaines in decades past. (You can see 1952 and 1948 if you scroll down this page) The only November issue I have available to me is from 11/27/1963 - and Thanksgiving, 1963, was a dark time for America.

    President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 - 47 years ago today. He was buried on November 25 of that year and so the Suburban Times took the opportunity for a solemn tribute, rather than the typically cheerful Thanksgiving message. Click the image above to read the full text. "...I feel the need to assure myself and my readers as we prepare our tables and minds for the annual Thanksgiving ritual that we as a nation and a community have many, many things to be thankful for."

    You can read local thoughts about President Kennedy's death and other topics from the editorial page - again, click to enlarge. Note the message about "Safe Driving Tips" from the Chicago Motor Club.

    Nevertheless, I am sure many of the ads had been placed well before the tragic events that ended 
    President Kennedy's life, so whether one needed a funeral home or some ice cream,
    you had plenty to choose from here in Des Plaines...
    Well, I hate to sound sarcastic but there's something about the image of praying hands
    being associated with a savings and loan...ahem. But they meant well!

    Pesche's was back with a Thanksgiving ad in 1963, too. The model has a different look from the 1952 gal - a look that seems partially based on Jacqueline Kennedy, a great tastemaker and trend setter, whose life was turned upside down on Thanksgiving, 1963. 

    I hope you're enjoying our trip through time via Thanksgiving-themed Des Plaines newspapers! 
    1970 is just around the corner. While we did not have any newspaper from the 1980s recently digitized, if I have time I may collect a few of those images as well. I appreciate those who have commented - if you have information about the businesses and stories above, please let us know.
    There is something so special and compelling about our local history - we need to keep it alive.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Thanksgiving, 1952 - Des Plaines style

    Welcome to Part Two of our Thanksgiving walk down Memory Lane. Today I'll post some clippings from the Des Plaines Suburban Times, November 26, 1952 - Thanksgiving week. (Scroll down to the last post to see similar clippings from November 18,1948 - over the weekend we'll check out the swingin' Sixties) Click any of the images to enlarge them.

    You'll need to click to enlarge the cover page -the photo is a little difficult to see, it's a family with heads bowed in prayer right before their delicious Thanksgiving meal. The caption exhorts readers to " thankful for...the advantages of living in the United States...the opportunity of sharing in its progress and prosperity..." and more. Perhaps a message we can take to heart during our own difficult times! It's also interesting to note that the writer of the caption chose freedom of religion as the most significant freedom -
    think that would be true in 2010?

     Wouldn't be a special occasion in Des Plaines without our good friends at Pesche's. Did you know Pesche's also carried groceries for a time? Note the line in this ad: "Produce prices are subject to change. We are sold out on Hunt's Peaches and quart size Miracle Whip." Wow - wouldn't it be great it stores today would tell us ahead of time if they ran out of something? :)

    It's fun to compare grocery prices then and now - mmmm...Cracker Jack...
    No address listed for this store - was there an A & P Super Market here in DP
    or was this in a neighboring suburb?

    There is still an Oehler Funeral Home in Des Plaines - no longer at Lee and Perry, today's location is on Miner Street, east of downtown. A number of businesses took out ads like this, with a simple reminder to be thankful on Thanksgiving. It is interesting that religious imagery and wording were quite common -
    do you think that would be true today?

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Thanksgiving - Des Plaines style, 1948

    Most of my work here at DPPL involves staying on top of the latest trends. Yet, like many librarians, I have a soft spot for old stuff, from the Book of Kells to, yes, old Des Plaines newspapers. I recently had occasion to look over some "digitized" copies of the Des Plaines Suburban Times and thought you might enjoy the opportunity to experience Thanksgiving in Des Plaines, IL, over the last 70 years. For the next week, here in PlainTalk, I'll share Thanksgiving-related cover stories and advertisements from the Suburban Times. Enjoy. Today, let's go back to November, 1948. Click the images to enlarge them and read the fine print.

    Here is the cover story - note the quaint cartoon of grandma, mom and daughter 
    preparing the traditional turkey and fixings.

    Jewel has turkeys for just 59 cents a pound! You'd have plenty left for ice cream and olives, too.
    I'll pass on the beets. Click for full detail.

    Oh my goodness! I don't know what to make of this.
    They shot the turkeys in a heated tent? Until midnight?
    If you or anyone in your family participated in the VFW Turkey Shoot,
    please leave a comment and explain this event! :)

    Gathering the family together during the holiday season is a great time for the younger generations to hear about days gone by. I know watching football is something of a tradition, but in the moments between games or at least during the meal, take time to let the older guests talk about what life was like "back in the day." Everybody gains when we preserve memories and learn about simpler (not always easier) times.
    Stop back in a few days when we look at Thanksgiving in the 1950s!

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    One Bag At A Time

    I am very proud to say we have successfully made the switch over to reusable tote bags here at DPPL. We introduced our nifty blue $1.00 bags in September of 2008 and to date we have sold more than 5,000! While it was certainly a dream of mine to get away from the tens of thousands of disposable plastic bags we were handing out every year, it helped that we had your support, too. We would frequently get emails or suggestion box comments asking us for reusable bags. One concern our administration had was cost: they weren't convinced anyone would buy a $5.00-10.00, organic cotton canvas tote with a fancy handle and a silk-printed logo. Knowing that grocery and discount chains sell bags for $1.00 or less, I was given the task of finding that price point for our own bags.

    As you know from your own shopping experiences, sometimes a lower price means lower quality and often the lowest priced items are made overseas. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with purchasing items made in other countries - trust me, if you've shopped at a big box retailer or dollar store, you've bought plenty of items not made in the USA - I had concerns about the fair treatment of workers in some of these other locations. Recently, you may have seen some alarming news reports - that some reusable shopping bags have been tested and found to contain unacceptable amounts of lead. Here's what I want you to know about our bags and their manufacturer, One Bag At A Time:
    • Yes, the bags are made in China. The reason we chose to work with One Bag At A Time and will continue to do so is that they are able to supply the bags we need at a cost right around $1.00 per bag and they guarantee the bags are made "with no child labor, no forced labor, and that all workers are paid at least minimum wage." Labor conditions in their Chinese factories are monitored by Verite an independent advocate for workers worldwide. One Bag At A Time's corporate offices are in California, so they provide jobs in the USA and they have really helpful customer support people. We are pretty small potatoes in terms of order size but I frequently talk directly to the company's owner - can't say that about too many businesses these days.

    • About lead: You will be pleased to know that One Bag At A Time's bags were recently tested and found safe. 100 ppm (parts per million) is the legal limit for lead in consumer products.  The bags our library sells have been found to have 5 ppm or less in recent testing. You may be interested in knowing that the study which claimed that reusable bags contained high amounts of lead was funded by the plastics industry, not exactly an objective source. 
    Things you may not know: you can wash our bags in cold water and hang them to dry and they can even be recycled when they wear out. Here's an interesting blurb on their Web site about companies who claim to make bags out of recycled materials. In a few days I hope to share with you some information on our new "technotrash" recycling company, based right here in Chicago, IL, and the truly amazing things they are doing with your old soda bottles and car bumpers (and shared similar concerns with us about companies claiming to use "recycled" materials). I wanted you to know a little bit more about our bags so you can continue to feel safe using them for your library materials or anything else you want to tote around. Use our bags to be more "green," or to be more frugal (those "free" plastic bags we used to give out were not free, you know!) or simply because a clean, elegant tote bag looks a lot more attractive than a crinkly plastic bag.

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      Holiday Light Recycling!

      Just a quick note: this weekend you have the chance to turn in those beat-up old Christmas lights you have hanging around in the garage and get a $3.00 coupon toward new LED lights at Home Depot. Read more here.
      I'm a little surprised this incentive program ends on Sunday, November 14, 2010, but that's what the Web site says. Maybe they will offer it again? If you know of other local resources for recycling old holiday lights, let me know!

      Thursday, November 11, 2010

      Grandpa, Grandma and Me Time

      Typically, I leave the writing about children's and young adult programming to the experts in our Youth Services department. However, new Head of Adult Services Stephanie Spetter caught me in the lunchroom yesterday and said, "Help - we need more promotion of our 'Grandpa, Grandma and Me Time' program!" I was happy to oblige with a photo and blurb on our home page. But it got me thinking about how important "Grandpa and Me" time was in my life.

      The youngest of four children in a happy, noisy, busy household, I often tell people I was blessed to grow up with three parents: mom, dad and grandfather, or, "Papa." My grandmother the year before I was born and suddenly Papa was on his own, despite being a relatively young man in good health. So he came over for dinner a lot - even took us out to restaurants several nights a week. He told me much later in life that when he lost Irene, the love of his life, I became his new reason for getting up in the morning. Spoiled rotten? Yes, I was, thank you very much! Wherever I wanted to go, he was there, chauffeuring me in his enormous Buick, puffing on a stogie. Kiddieland or Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom? Check. Oakbrook, Yorktown, North Riverside or Hillside mall? Check. A walk in the park, an ice cream cone, a magazine from the drug store. Oh, and, yes - we often went to bookstores and our local public library. He patiently sat while I browsed the shelves forever, leaving with an armful of books and maybe some records. Life was simple and life was great. I lost my Papa 19 years ago, when he was in his late 80s, and I miss him all the time.

      Another thing my whole family enjoyed was playing games together. Candy Land and Cootie when we were very small, Monopoly and Life as we got older, lazy evenings on vacation in Wisconsin playing cards or even impromptu games we created on the spot.I don't have children of my own but I enjoy when my friends and their kids include me in a game. Last year I bought my parents a new laptop computer and we had a lot of laughs playing "Wheel of Fortune" on it - so you're never too old to play together as a family!

      If all of this has made you nostalgic for simpler times or restless to get some of that quality time for you and your family, you can get started this Saturday at DPPL. On Saturday, November 13, 2010, we have two special events taking place. First, from 10:30 - Noon, it's "Grandpa, Grandma and Me Time." Children from ages 4-8 can bring a favorite grandparent (or multiple favorites) and enjoy some special time together. There will be stories, fun and refreshments. Everyone gets their picture taken and the kids will create a photo memory craft to remember the day. As someone who fondly treasures those memories of time spent with my generous and kind grandfather, I can say with confidence that building relationships between the generations in your family is a gift that lasts a lifetime. Register here.

      Then, from 1-4 PM, get your game on @ the library - it's National Gaming Day! Drop in and try your hand at Wii Bowling, Mario Kart or good, old-fashioned board games like Sorry! Read more about the positive effects of gaming and our National Gaming Day celebration in Cheryl Gladfelter's Kidding Around post.

      Remember, though, that the library is here for you 7 days a week almost every day of the year, so it's always the perfect day for mom, dad, kids, grandparents - whoever you are - to come over and spend some quality time together. We noted with both sorrow and pride how often Choice Taylor came to the library after school with his twin brother, Chance. Choice lost his life in an unfortunate accident last week but it lifts our spirits a bit to know we gave the boys a safe place to spend their free time. Life is too short - spend it with the people you love doing things that help you grow together.

      Monday, November 8, 2010

      "Let children walk with Nature..."

      "...let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life / their joyous inseparable unity / as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star / and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life." John Muir

      NEW - there is a Facebook page to honor Choice Taylor as well, just follow this link:!/pages/RIP-Choice-Taylor/165765926778229

      The entire Des Plaines community and plenty of hearts and minds far beyond our city are reeling from the tragic, accidental death of young Choice Taylor. We can't help but ask the age-old questions: "Why? Why now? Why in that way? Why so soon?" All human loss is painful but there is something particular to the grief of losing someone young and full of energy and hope for the future. It seemed no accident at all that with Friday's news the sky turned darker at an earlier hour, the air became bitterly cold, the leaves dried up and the flowers wilted.

      The Taylor siblings -- Choice, his twin brother Chance and older sister Unique -- were regular visitors here at the Library. Veronica Schwartz DeFazio, our former Head of Youth Services, wrote to me over the weekend, dismayed at the news about Choice. She wrote on Facebook, "...incredibly sad to hear of the death of a sweet young man I watched grow up at the Des Plaines Public Library. Choice was the victim of a hit and run Friday night. Such a good, pure hearted soul. Such a horrible loss."  

      Sara McLaughlin, one of our Youth Services librarians, spoke to me about her experiences with the Taylors: "Choice’s sister, Unique, stopped by the Youth Services Desk a few months ago to say hello. She was so proud of her brothers! When I began working here in 2001, Choice and Chance were somewhat mischievous fixtures in our department, but always – always courteous (well, most of the time!). What I remember most is that they would always say hello and make eye contact with us, even when going through the 'dreaded' junior high years. I’ll miss Choice, and ache for his family." 

       It was a bittersweet moment for all of us when Choice's mother, Loreene Taylor, was quoted saying, "I don't know how many people could call the library and say 'Is my son there?'". She could do that and, more than likely, this is where her son would be. Loreene Taylor's graceful compassion in the face of this tragedy is a profound example to all on how to be thankful for blessing and generous with our forgiveness - life is simply too short, too unpredictable, to live in anger and resentment. We are deeply saddened over the loss of Choice Taylor - we are grateful that for many years, we provided a place where he and his siblings felt comfortable and happy. Appropriately, we offer that comfort to all of you now - on Tuesday, November 9, 2010, from 4:30-7:30 PM, the community is invited to an open house here at the Library. More details:

      The Des Plaines Police Department and The Joint Crisis Response and Recovery Team of Des Plaines/Park Ridge) (JCRRT) are hosting an Open House/Drop in Center from 4:30 PM – 7:30 PM, Tuesday, November 9, 2010, in Meeting Room A,  Des Plaines Library, 1501 Ellinwood Street. This event is being held in honor/memory of Choice Taylor, a 17 year old Maine West High School student, who was struck and killed in a hit and run accident on November 5, 2010.  Choice truly loved the Library and spent many hours of his free time there.

      The purpose of this event is to give community members a place to gather to talk about the impact this tragedy is having on them individually as well as on the community as a whole.  Adult and children’s counselors will be available.  There will be an art station for people who wish to write their condolences to the family. Light snacks will be served. For more information, contact Linda Engeriser at the Des Plaines Police Department at 847-391-5445.

      Tuesday, November 2, 2010

      Check Out A Kill-A-Watt Meter And Start Saving

      Have you heard about the Kill-A-Watt meter? Kill-A-Watt meters help you determine how much energy your household appliances consume. From ComEd: "Patrons who borrow a Kill-a-Watt meter will be able to plug this device into a wall outlet, plug an appliance, computer, lamp, or other electrical product into the monitor, and they will find out how efficient (or wasteful) those devices really are. On the large LCD display they will be able to monitor the kilowatt hour consumption of an item to learn how much it costs to run. They can determine electrical expenses by day, week, or month, cycling through displays including voltage (volt), amperage (amp), wattage (watt), line frequency (Hz), and power factor (VA)." Many household devices continue to use up energy even when they are turned off and the Kill-A-Watt meter will help you determine if you have any of these "vampire" or "phantom load" appliances in your home or work space.

      We are pleased to announce that we now have two Kill-A-Watt meters available for 14 day checkout. Just ask at the first floor information desk and have your DPPL card handy. You can watch the informational video above to learn more about how to use the Kill-A-Watt meter and learn from your results. There is also an informational card included with the meter. The Kill-A-Watt meter will help you save energy and money - and who doesn't want to do that? Stop in and check one out today. Thanks to the ComEd CARE program for donating these helpful devices to our library and many others.

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      Family Science Expo - were you there?

      We hope you and your family enjoyed the Family Science Expo last weekend - what a great turnout! I don't typically work on Saturdays but I came in for a few hours that day to get some projects done and was bowled over by the number of happy faces here at DPPL. The above video was sent to us from some of the people involved. If you missed this year's Expo, watch and get an idea of how much fun this interactive educational event can be.  Don't miss out next year - keep your calendar marked for October 2011. (PS the volume is a little low on the video after the first few seconds, so you might need to turn it up)

      Saturday, October 16, 2010

      "A friend is one who walks in when others walk out."

      The words of wisdom quoted above come from Walter Winchell (remember him?) and they certainly reflect the loyalty and generosity our library has received over the years from our Friends of the Library. This week (Oct. 17-23,2010) marks National Friends of the Library Week, an honor bestowed by the American Library Association, particularly the division of ALA known as the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations. All of us at DPPL want to take this opportunity to thank our own Friends of the Library in a very special way.

      The Friends of the Library do so much for us, it is difficult to summarize in a brief post. The Friends are a volunteer organization devoted to supporting the public library. They hold three enormous used book sales every year, raising tens of thousands of dollars for the library. They hold an ongoing booksale every day of the year, too - those books and magazines for sale in the first floor south corridor. Strangely enough, in a world where everyone wants something for nothing, the Friends do all of this while paying an annual membership fee to participate! The modest fee of $5.00-10.00 makes it easy for anyone to join the Friends and yes, members receive pre-sale access to those book sales.

      You might be interested in how the Friends' hard-earned dollars are spent. At the Friends' monthly meetings, library staff members present needs and opportunities that cannot be covered by the annual budget. These range from assistive technology for people with disabilities, large-scale events for children, our Teen Web site, Summer Reading Clubs for readers of all ages, even the musical entertainment for our annual "Do The Dewey" fundraiser. (Please keep that in mind when you read misleading information online, claiming that tax dollars are spent on those activities.) Most recently, when the Friends heard about our budget crisis due to the delay in tax disbursements, they came to our rescue again with funding to purchase 100 new books, CDs and DVDs for adults and children.

      A few months ago, I created the video above as a modest tribute to all that the Friends do for the library. Watch it and maybe it will inspire you to get involved. DPPL is in the news a lot these days and often the news is not good. Many of you have kindly asked, "How can I help?" You can certainly support us by telling the City of Des Plaines and our elected officials that you appreciate the library and use it often. You can also support us in a very tangible way by becoming a Friend of the Library. Visit their Web site for more details. New members are always welcome - just be ready to roll up your sleeves because our Friends are hard workers! :)

      Thank you, Friends of the Library, for all you do - happy National Friends of the Library Week!

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010


      Maybe I am just a big geek but what's not to love about scientific stuff? I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Science and Industry last year with friends ranging in age from 3 to 43 and we had an amazing time. Just as important as the fun, the children who joined us really learned something and it was terrific to see their eyes light up with discovery and wonder. My goddaughter, one of those little visitors, often talks to me about our trip to the MOOOO-ZEEE-UM and how the human bodies exhibit made her want to be a doctor when she grows up. She might not have considered that option otherwise, since her own trips to the doctor's office aren't always so comfortable!

      If you love to explore the "why" and "how" behind our world and the way it works and if you have young people in your life who share that curiosity (or if you would like them to share it), please come to our second annual Family Science Expo this Saturday, October 16, 2010, from noon to 4 PM. You can watch the video clip from ABC 7 Chicago to get a taste of some of the hands-on experiences we have planned but here are some of the planned interactive exhibits:

      • Learn to build a PC from spare parts;
      • Construct skyscrapers and bridges from Legos then put them to an earthquake test;
      • Explore x-rays, sonar and other non-invasive inspection methods;
      • Experience light, color and optics and they way they affect how we "see";
      • Discover the ways chemical engineers problem-solve to create cool stuff that keeps us safe;
      • Learn how to participate in Destination ImagiNation, an exhilarating after-school activity in which students work in teams to solve mind-bending Challenges and present their solutions at Tournaments.

      Activities are particularly geared towards children from grades 2-8. Participants include: MATHCOUNTS project of the North Suburban Chapter Illinois Society of Professional Engineers; The Optical Society of Chicago; American Society of NonDestructive Testing (ASNT); Illinois Section American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE); Structural Engineers Association of Illinois ( SEAOI); American Institute of Chemical Engineers ( AIChE); Destination ImagiNation; Construction Challenge; IEEE / WIE, The Women in Engineering Affiliate (WIE) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and more.

      From our Web site: "The big picture: many children - and their parents - know little about engineering and science professions or the ways science and engineering affect our lives every day in very cool ways! Through simple hands-on activities, experiments and demonstrations, this expo will show kids of all ages that science is all around us and is, indeed, COOL! Long-term, the goal of many of the organizations exhibiting is to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists that will be needed to rebuild infrastructures and create new green technologies."

      So come on out this Saturday, October 16, 2010, between noon and 4 PM. The exhibits will be scattered all around our second floor Youth Services area. Everyone is welcome - there is no charge and no need to register. Bring your family, your friends and your imagination!

      Thursday, September 30, 2010

      Van Delivery - Good News!

      Wouldn't you like to hear some good news for a change? Well, here it is: beginning next week, Monday, October 4, 2010, our regular interlibrary van delivery service will resume! We know how much you loved being able to place holds on items located at our neighboring libraries but due to budget constraints, we had to discontinue that service for a few months. Now, thanks to a grant from the Library Services and Technology Act (federal funding), van delivery service is being covered through the end of 2010. We are pleased to add that we've provided funding to continue van delivery within our 2011 budget as well.

      Is this news to you? A quick overview: when you search our Library Catalog for books, DVDs, CDs and other items, you also have the option of searching 24 other libraries within our shared consortium. If you find an item you'd really like to borrow but we don't own it in our collections: click the blue "Place Hold" button, type in your library card number and password and one of our neighbor libraries will send that item to Des Plaines for you to borrow (when it becomes available, of course). It's a terrific system of resource-sharing that saves everyone money and time. We heard you loud and clear that you were disappointed when van delivery ceased so we hope you are pleased with this change of plans.Questions? Email us or stop by any of our service desks - we're happy to help.

      The photo above, by the way, is not our van delivery person but Joel Sawyer, one of our Readers' Services Assistants and a great coworker. I thought he at least visually expressed the concept of delivery + van. In this photo, he is preparing to stock up our borrowing collections in local assisted living centers.

      Monday, September 20, 2010

      How Green Can You Go?

      Yeah, I know - you're sick of people talking about "going green." When something becomes so pervasive in our culture, it seems trendy or phony and ultimately passé at a certain point. I am the not-always-successful chair of the Library's "Green Team," and believe me it is not an easy job keeping my coworkers mindful of and enthusiastic about green behavior. Nevertheless...DPPL has been charged with the task of setting a good example of green community building for other libraries around the state. We do what we can here in our building, from the reusable tote bags we sell to our extensive recycling center in the staff lunchroom. We offer lots of green-related programs and resources to our patrons. If you saw us at Taste of Des Plaines a few months ago, we were interviewing residents, trying to find the greenest people in Des Plaines.

      Not over-the-top green like, "I wear clothes I make myself out of old disposable diapers." We're looking for people who have discovered that doing things in simpler, old-fashioned, sensible ways can have a positive impact on health, environment and even the financial bottom line. You recycle and reuse. You trade and barter for items rather than buying. You use a rain barrel and CFL bulbs, maybe even solar panels and a composter. You use a push mower, you hang your clothes to dry, you bring your own shopping basket to the grocery store. You walk or ride your bike as much as possible. Are you that person? What about your spouse, your partner, your kids, your neighbor? Would you like to be part of a short film we are making on people living a greener, better life in Des Plaines? Please contact us - we would love to interview you and include your story in the film we are making to present to other libraries and to the community at large. For more information and to be included in this project, please call Heather Imhoff, our Head of Public Information Services, at 847-376-2792.

      P.S. The picture above was taken at Des Plaines' own Big Bend Lake. Our city is fortunate to have many beautiful, open spaces where people can enjoy the fresh air and some natural scenery.

      Monday, September 13, 2010

      Got Books?

      DVDs? CDs? Did the recent hint of autumn weather give you ample reason for some housecleaning? If you have books, movies or CDs you no longer want, please consider donating them to our Friends of the Library. The next Friends book sale is just around the corner, the weekend of October1-3, 2010. Good quality donations are always needed and appreciated. You can bring them to the Library during normal business hours. Small batches can be placed in the donation boxes on the first floor (in the corridor near the restrooms). If you need help with a larger donation, please call us at 847-376-2922 to arrange for assistance with your drop-off.

      Remember: anyone can be a Friend of the Library. Membership is just $5.00 a year for an individual, $10.00 a year for a family. Friends get special preview opportunities at the book sales and the opportunity to give volunteer service and expertise to a great community asset, the public library. Funds that the Friends raise provide programming and resources to the Library - in the three years I have been here, the Friends have sponsored our popular Rainbow Times for young people with autism, our Teen Web site, countless programs for children and families, the live music at our annual fundraiser, assistive technology for people with special needs and so much more. I can't say enough about our Friends and all they contribute to make this a better Library. To become a Friend: pick up a brochure at the Registration Desk, fill out the form and return it with your check for payment (you can return it in person or mail it). That's it. A simple, low-cost way for you to really make a difference right here in Des Plaines.

      The Friends need your book/movie/CD donations and they need YOU. Visit their Web page for more information.

      Tuesday, September 7, 2010

      “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

      I begin with a quote from Oscar Wilde. My response? So sue me, Mr. Wilde, I'm here to talk about the weather anyway. When, in your opinion, does summer end? According to the National Weather Service, the autumnal equinox will occur on September 22, 2010 at 11:09 PM EDT. For the avid summer enthusiast, I imagine summer clings to life until the first frost, even the first snow - the arrival of weather that makes flip-flops and shorts a health hazard. Most of us probably fall in between and yet, I swore when I listened carefully on my quiet, suburban street last night that I could hear the sound of people kissing another summer goodbye. Labor Day weekend tends to feel like that, no?

      I confess to being a bit of a weather geek. Just a bit, mind you. I needed a few science classes to earn my Bachelor's degree, a situation which improved greatly when I realized Meteorology was one of my choices. Perhaps my greatest claim to weather-geek fame is that Tom Skilling is one of my Facebook friends. This is not a sign of my popularity - Tom currently has 22,082 friends and I bet he'll friend you, too. The Library and the Web have lots of cool resources for people, even imaginative people (ahem), who like to talk, think and learn about the weather.

      Online, explore the following:

      Of course, you can Google these topics to your heart's delight. If you'd rather curl up with or pore over a good book, here are some one-click searches so you can see in a flash the weather-related resources here at DPPL.
      Whether (ha ha) your summer is over or in mid-season, I hope it's been happy and safe and full of things that make you glad to be alive. Along with being a weather geek, I am a big fan of autumn (coincidence? My birthday is September 23), so I am looking forward to the cooler temps, changing leaves and slightly slower pace that will arrive later this month. If you'd like to learn more about seasons and weather, I invite you to explore the resources listed above along with all the other great stuff at DPPL.

      Wednesday, September 1, 2010

      "If you build it..."

      ...who knows what might happen? If you've been in the library for the last few days, you may have noticed posters, displays and other materials urging you to CREATE. In the same way our summer reading programs encouraged you to "go green," this fall we're inspiring you to CREATE.

      Everybody creates in some way. You may have a passion for painting, writing, photography, dance, music, sewing, knitting, woodworking - there's an endless list of creative pursuits. Perhaps you're an amazing home decorator or the family member everyone turns to for a delicious and lovely dessert. Maybe you think of your children as your greatest creative works. Maybe you possess the "gift of gab," the ability to make sparkling conversation with just about anybody. Possibly you are a creative thinker, the idea person at your workplace or a local organization.

      Whatever your creative outlet, the Library is a great place to pursue your passion. Books, DVDs, CDs, quiet study rooms and larger meeting spaces, free programs & events and, if I may say so, a nicely-organized, lively Web site on which to discover these resources. To get you started, visit the special "CREATE" page on our Web site:

      There you will find:
      1. upcoming library programs in the music, art, literature and more
      2. one-click searches to find library books/videos on your favorite creative specialty (just click a topic and you'll get a list of all the items we currently own on that subject) 
      3. a monthly featured Web site that gives you an opportunity to just play and have fun. 
      So make the Library part of your plans this autumn. Since I began working in a public library, I am constantly amazed at the wealth of information at my fingertips. I've checked out sheet music and books about singing and playing the guitar, decorating guides, biographies of some favorite creative types, cookbooks and more.
      Some people might say these items are not necessities, but if creativity is in your blood, you know how life-saving it can be! Borrowing these resources for free from the Library allows one to indulge in artistic endeavors without being a "starving artist." :) Enjoy the coming fall days and colors and stop in to see us, your place to work, learn, play and CREATE.

      Wednesday, August 25, 2010

      Get Well Soon, Linda!

      Just a short and sweet PlainTalk today, to send thoughts and prayers to a great colleague and a "Friend" of the Library in every possible way, Linda Knorr. If you frequent the Library's third floor (you know, the "fun floor," as Readers' Services Manager Jo Bonell calls it), surely you know Linda. Always ready to help, Linda is an expert on many topics, from mysteries and thrillers to gardening. You can frequently read her very engaging posts in Positively Ellinwood Street, our sister blog about books, movies and music. She's not only a dynamic member of our staff, she's an important part of our annual Relay for Life team and has been an active Friend of the Library, too. She also happens to live right here in Des Plaines.

      Last week, all of us at DPPL were shocked to hear from Linda's loving hubby Ken that one of the "usual suspects" - a migraine or something similar - resulted in a trip to the hospital with a more serious diagnosis. The good news?  Linda is home and recuperating now. I know Linda and Ken (and family cat Maggie) are regular PlainTalk readers so this seemed a good place to send her some comforting, encouraging thoughts. Linda, we miss you but we're happy to hear that you are home and making progress. Make sure you have a pile of great books and a nice comfy place to curl up with Maggie while you recover. :)

      Thursday, August 19, 2010

      Finding The Words

      Ever been called upon to make a statement, a speech, a eulogy, a toast, and found yourself at a loss for words? It is said that Americans fear public speaking more than anything else. I find that hard to believe: as Jerry Seinfeld once quipped, most people would rather be at their own funerals than giving the eulogies? However, I accept that public speaking causes tremendous anxiety and nervousness. We've all sat through lectures and speeches that were maddeningly dull, awkward or inept. No one wants to be that unappealing speaker, so we agonize over finding the right thing to say in the right way. The next time you're in that situation, let the library be of service.

      We have dozens of books, CDs and videos on the topic - you can see a complete list here. Whether you need help with a persuasive business presentation, a thoughtful toast for your best friend's wedding or conquering your stage fright, expert advice is waiting on our shelves.

      There are other helpful resources for speech-making besides "how to" guides. Perhaps you'd like the perfect quotation for a starter or to wrap up your remarks. How about over 300 books of quotations for inspiration? Whether your tastes run toward Bruce Lee, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Stewart or Albert Einstein, we have that quote to make your speech or presentation memorable.

      Many times, what you need to really make your point are cold, hard facts. That's where our Reference department can come in handy. You don't want to get caught with Wikipedia as your only source! Our list of research databases, available 24/7 with your DPPL card, gives you one-click access to encyclopedias, magazine, journal and newspaper articles and other specialized sources for statistics and facts. Can't find what you need online? Talk to our Reference staff and they'll scour our Reference books and other sources to track down the facts you need.

      I happen to enjoy public speaking. I've been performing as a professional musician for about 30 years and speaking to an audience seems downright easy compared to singing! I lecture and give workshops to patrons here at the library as well as other library professionals and I constantly turn to library resources for inspiration and fresh material. Put the library to work for you next time you're asked to "say a few words" or need to make that once-in-a-lifetime business presentation or a speech to honor a special person in your life. I promise we won't let you down.

      Tuesday, August 10, 2010

      Pillars of Honor - the World War II Memorial Comes to Des Plaines

      If you've had the privilege of visiting Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area, you understand the somber grandeur and emotional resonance of the war memorials and Arlington Cemetery. Imagine how much more profound these solemn and beautiful places are to veterans of military service or to the family members of those fallen in war. Then imagine how difficult it might be, due to age, failing health or even economics, for some of those veterans and family members to travel to D.C. and see the memorials in person.

      I'm not sure if "The Moving Wall," the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was the first replica of a national memorial that toured the country, but it was the first I had seen. In fact, I saw it here in Des Plaines, July 4, 1988, quite a few years before I had the opportunity to travel to D.C. and see the full-size memorial. Did you see the Vietnam memorial when it was here in town?

      I'm pleased to tell you that another traveling memorial is making its way to Des Plaines - the original scale model of the National World War II Memorial. You can read all about it on the "Pillars of Honor" Web site. The traveling memorial will arrive at the Des Plaines Public Library on Sunday, August 29, 2010 from 2-4 PM. World War II veterans and their families will be the honored guests but the public is welcome - read/print the event invitation here (pdf). For additional information, you may contact Pillars of Honor, a locally based organization which hopes to bring this memorial to other US locations as well. You can call Pillars of Honor at 847-954-0520 or email or visit their Web site:

      If you cannot make the opening ceremony, the memorial will remain at DPPL (third floor) through Friday, September 3, 2010. Stop in and take a moment to reflect on those who sacrificed their lives in what is called the deadliest conflict in human history, with an estimated 50-70 million fatalities. We are honored that the Des Plaines Public Library was selected to be the first stop for the Pillars of Honor.

      Thursday, August 5, 2010

      Update on Interlibrary Van Delivery Service

      Just a quick update on the status of interlibrary van delivery service, which is more of a work-in-progress at this point than what we'd call a "fait accompli." (I assume everyone in Des Plaines speaks French, right? KIDDING. If you're lost you can look it up: That's what librarians do.)

      First of all, let me repeat: if you need a book, DVD or CD and we don't own it, we will try everything within our power to get it for you. We tried to emphasize that as boldly and loudly as possible, but in case you missed it, get the details here.

      Now, on the newsy front: two recent developments leave us hopeful that some form of regular interlibrary van delivery will return to Des Plaines in the coming months. First of all, a committee representing the north suburban area libraries, of which we are a part, is preparing a Request For Proposal, inviting delivery services to make us an offer we can't refuse. We are in the midst of preparing our budget for 2011 and it includes some funding for interlibrary van delivery.

      Secondly, some enterprising folks in the library world applied for an LSTA grant to pay for renewed van delivery service. This grant money, while administered by the state of Illinois "Library Services and Technology Act," is actually federal funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. If that grant money arrives in a timely fashion, we have been told that Des Plaines Public Library will be added back unequivocally into the van delivery route.

      So if you are the sort who believes in luck, send some positive energy here to your friendly, neighborhood public library. We are appreciative of the individuals and committees that are working hard to find creative responses to this budget issue. We also appreciate that many of you have taken the time over the last two months to voice your disappointment and frustration over the van delivery issue. I hope this update reminds you that we do listen to your concerns and complaints and we act on them whenever possible. I write it here often but perhaps not often enough: when you have complaints or suggestions for the library, the best place to speak out about them is right here at 1501 Ellinwood Street. Call, email, send a letter or stop in and talk to someone. In just the last week, I have called or text messaged 6 patrons about problems they've had with library service or suggestions they've made. Every one of those conversations was beneficial to me and to the patron.

      That's what I have for you today. I hope to have more news, and good news, soon.