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Thursday, January 28, 2010


Death and taxes are often cited as our two great inevitabilities. I'd like to think there are more, such as: every new year, my colleague Gwen, a reference assistant here at DPPL, will be bombarded with boxes of tax forms, waiting to help our patrons with the work of paying taxes or, more cheerfully, receiving a refund. In addition, she and some of our other reference staff will scour the local area, looking for places that can provide free assistance on tax filing and we compile the information on our Web site. If there is no escaping taxes, let us ease some of the burden by pointing you toward free, professional help and all the forms you can carry.

We know it's relatively easy to print your own forms or file online these days.

Get started here for federal forms:
and here for state of Illinois taxes:

However, if you don't have Internet access and/or a home printer, or just want to save some money, why not get your tax forms free at DPPL? We have an enormous selection of forms and publications on our 4th floor. Here's a list - we update it frequently.

Tax forms can be confusing and frustrating. Many people qualify for free tax assistance and perhaps don't realize it. Visit our 2009 Tax Information page to see if you are eligible and where you can go for free tax assistance. To find this information from our Web site, use the "Reference" drop-down menu and choose "2009 Tax Forms/Preparation" or go to the Reference home page and look for the links.

Taxes may be inevitable but the anxiety and confusion the paperwork causes may be a thing of the past - let us help with your 2009 tax needs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Facebook User? Protect Your Privacy

If you are the type of Web user who regularly reads blogs, you may also be the type of user who has a Facebook profile. The fascinating technology-related blog ReadWriteWeb recently published an article, "The 3 Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now." If you care about your privacy, although privacy on the World Wide Web is a tenuous thing, read this article now and then check your own settings.

Intrigued by Facebook but not comfortable enough to set up an account? Watch our Computer Classes listing for "What's a Facebook, Anyway?" It's a one hour guided tour of Facebook, the world's most popular social networking site, hosted by yours truly here at the Library. I have a session scheduled this Thursday evening which is already full, so be sure another will be added soon. By the way, you'll find all of our current computer classes, on every topic, listed there, including our Open Lab sessions, where you can drop in for nice, quiet workspace in our lab and personalized help from a friendly assistant.

Already on Facebook and looking for ways to connect with people? Become a fan of the Des Plaines Public Library. We have over 100 fans already and we'd love to add you to the list. When you're a fan, every time you log onto Facebook, you'll be notified if we've posted any news, photos, notes or other information on our profile, too. Without coming to the Library's Web site, you'll know if we're closed for a holiday, what's new in our blogs, and what exciting events are coming up, like the Friends' used book sales or live concerts. Don't leave us lonely on the World Wide Web, Facebookers - become a Fan of DPPL today.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Food For Fines - reminder

Just a quick post re: Food For Fines. Food For Fines is going strong here at DPPL. We're collecting many pounds of food every day and happy people are walking away free of overdue fines. Someone wrote to PlainTalk, wondering: if they purchased one of those multi-packs of ramen noodles, would each individual noodle packet erase $1.00 worth of fines? Friends, we leave that up to you. If you have a lot of fines and not much money, we'll accept the individual packets as individual, $1.00 donations. We'd love to see you be more generous and we're delighted with the enthusiasm you are showing for Food For Fines thus far. There's really only one rule that's a deal-breaker: no expired food. And speaking of expiration dates, Food For Fines ends on January 31, 2010, so bring in a bag of food and clear your fines today.

Up In the Air

I just returned from a vacation that required quite a few hours of air travel. Remember when flying seemed fun and glamorous, when you envied the so-called "jet set," when the moment of take-off seemed as if you were leaving the whole world behind?

Now, as the gentleman behind me put it, going through security is so stressful that if they ever capture Bin Laden, they ought to stand him up in airports and allow boarding passengers to give him a hearty punch in the gut. On the other hand, on this trip, the airports seemed eerily deserted - yet why do the planes feel so crowded? Those traveling appeared to be the last few businesspersons on Earth with expense accounts, people of visible wealth and senior citizens who had planned well for retirement. And, like me - people who'd scraped together a few extra dollars for airfare who could then mooch off of friends at the destination of choice. With wi-fi and cell phones everywhere, there's no true escape from your real world, either. I welcome the announcement about turning off cell phones, as it means no calls or emails for me and I don't have to listen to 25 other conversations.

I thoroughly enjoyed the recent movie "Up In the Air," and not just because it allowed me to look at George Clooney's beautifully-aged mug on a screen the size of a house. In its reflection on what it means to be up in the air, whether through the physical act of flying on an airplane or the metaphorical state of being nowhere in particular in life, career, relationships, the movie resonated with me in a profound way. Some of the most difficult scenes in the film present people who are being let go from their jobs. The director wisely cast some "real" people who had recently been laid off and let them improvise. If you can watch these vignettes and not be moved, you are made of stoic stuff indeed. The airport scenes should have you chuckling, however, if you've spent anytime in a post-9/11 airport. Just yesterday, I saw a woman grow quite upset that, despite the repeated warnings about "liquids, gels and aerosols" we heard waiting in line, she had to throw away her bottled water and enormous can of hairspray. Another woman grew huffy with the security guard repeatedly calling after her, until she realized she'd left her keys and cell phone in the plastic bin! So much for the sophistication of the "jet set..."

Still, I had to remind myself: at the present time, it's a luxury just to be able to take vacation time and fly somewhere. The fares are higher than ever and those extra fees mean less to spend on vacation activities. Every morning on my way to the Library, I drive past the local headquarters of United Airlines. For years I have tried to give my business to United, figuring it directly impacts the local economy. Soon, from what the newspapers say, I will pass an empty building on my commute, when United moves into the Willis Tower in Chicago. That will leave a lot of local businesses up in the air, as they lose the customer base of United employees. When I read last year that Des Plaines and Elk Grove Village had some of the highest unemployment numbers in the state, I tried to figure out why. Knowing how these two communities are so closely tied to the airport, I wondered if the slowdown at the airline counters meant fewer baggage handlers, chefs, concession workers, security staff, and so on, trickling down to the unhappy statistical news for Des Plaines. And leaving more people up in the air.

Got something you'd like to share about air travel, the United move, unemployment in Des Plaines, or the movie "Up In the Air?" Have a suggestion about how to make air travel safer or more comfortable, or just want to express your frustration over the current state of affairs? Write your comments here, please.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Let us turn our thoughts today..."

" Martin Luther King,
and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the earth,
ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood."

Every year when the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday arrives, my mind calls up that refrain, from James Taylor's song "Shed A Little Light." If you have the day off today, I hope you're enjoying the time - perhaps even spending it at the Library. If you haven't yet, take a look at Google's home page today, with yet another thoughtful and smile-provoking holiday addition to their logo in honor of MLK.

While I sipped a morning Pepsi and reflected on more of today's bad news, courtesy of CNN, I was thinking about heroes, American heroes, in general. Have we become immune, indifferent, to heroes? I just spent a few days visiting an old Chicago friend who has now moved out West. I often see her over the MLK holiday weekend and she never fails to point out to me that Dr. King Jr. was a man of faults and flaws. She rattles off "facts" about him I've never heard from any other source, but we don't watch the same news channels. That makes me wonder, not just about Martin Luther King Jr. but all who are held up as heroes. When Mother Teresa died, many journalists couldn't wait to write negative things about her. Whether the person is a rock star trying to ease the troubles of Africa, a charismatic U.S. president, or a generous philanthropist, we like to drag our heroes off the pedestal and hang them out to dry, don't we?

Is that good for our society? Is it a way of showing that heroes are ordinary people, too? Or does it harm us with the insistence that nobody is "that good," and therefore goodness isn't worth the try? I do understand that everyone's idea of a hero is different. But if we reach a point where every person's hero is tainted by disdain and a microscopic attention to their flaws, who will help us dream and reach higher?

Do you have heroes? It can be healthy and reinvigorating to revisit your heroes and the Library offers numerous and excellent portals into their lives and actions. Use the online Catalog to search for books & movies about your heroes - and music, if your heroes are musical or inspired musical works by others - MLK is the subject of many a fine song, including the one that started this post. Get a variety of opinions and sources - remember that "unauthorized" biographies are often pieced together from tabloid magazines and newspaper clippings, but can make for entertaining reads. I think having a hero or two, even if they are members of your own family, is really important for us as human beings, as members of a productive society and as Americans.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"I went to a restaurant that served 'breakfast at any time...'"

"So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance."

Okay, okay, so the Steven Wright quote is a little dated, it still makes me laugh. But if there's a topic I'm serious about it is breakfast food. I love breakfast food. I have never met a carb I didn't like and along with carbs, breakfast provides a unique blend of salty, sweet, fatty, yeasty delights. I'm not too interested in people who think a half a cantaloupe counts as "breakfast." Nor can I indulge in a luxurious morning meal most days - a hot, multi-course breakfast gets reserved perhaps for Sundays or special occasions. What I want to know from you is: who makes the best breakfast in Des Plaines (other than your spouse or your mom)?

Let's skip the ubiquitous Dunkin Donuts and other fast food options (although if you offered me a Dunkin Donuts buttermilk donut right now I would be powerless to turn you down). I'm talking about ham and eggs, a big stack of flapjacks, omelettes, waffles smothered in whipped cream, and yes, French toast. I see lots of choices for breakfast in Des Plaines, some new and some longtime favorites. You tell me where to head the next time I want a delicious, filling, warm breakfast in a nice setting.

My New Year's resolution is to use this blog and our Web site to help promote local businesses, but I need your input to help me. Let's start with breakfast and see where we go from there.

Write your comments about DP breakfast spots in the "Comments" section below. You can comment anonymously, use your name or login with a Blogger/Google account - it's entirely up to you. I'd prefer positive comments rather than nasty-grams aimed at places you don't like. Let's talk breakfast - you start.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We interrupt this blog with very important information!

I had just decided on a new start for PlainTalk and encouraged you to start brainstorming about breakfast spots when some very important news arrived. Pardon me for a quick interruption - we'll get to breakfast in a few days, but first here's an opportunity for you to help some local folks get breakfast, lunch or maybe dinner.

Food For Fines is coming to the Des Plaines Public Library from January 18-31!
Clear those pesty overdue fines from your library record while helping restock the shelves at the Self-Help Closet & Pantry of Des Plaines.

The details:
  1. From January 18 through January 31, 2010, Des Plaines Public Library patrons may bring in non-perishable foods to get money subtracted from their library fines. Each food item brought in will result in $1 of fines being cleared. Patrons can bring in as much food as they want, but the program is only applicable to overdue fines, not charges for lost or damaged materials. All donated food will go to the Self-Help Closet and Pantry.

  2. This is particularly helpful because: The Library Board has recently made a change to the policy on fines, lowering the maximum amount allowed for fines from $9.99 to $4.99. Fines of $5.00 or more now result in a block to the user’s account and must be paid before checking out items or placing holds.

  3. Library fines may be paid in person at the Library, online using a credit card or with food donations between January 18 and January 31. Please, check the expiration dates: no expired food will be accepted.

  4. DPPL charges overdue fines primarily to encourage patrons to return materials in a timely fashion. Our current circulation numbers are at a record high. We want to get library resources out to everyone who needs them, so bring 'em back, pay those fines (with food) and more people than ever will be able to enjoy this wonderful Library. Plus, local residents in need will be able to enjoy a meal thanks to your generosity. It's a win-win situation, folks!

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year - New Focus?

PlainTalk has been chugging along for about 2 1/2 years now and, I admit, it's a struggle some days to understand where I'm going. The initial focus on the blog was to be a community conversation about life in Des Plaines, as well as the day-to-day goings on of the library. I tried spotlighting particular events, library employees and videos, or linking readers to library resources on specific topics, from gardening to love stories. I also tried to get some discussion going about our community - which restaurants are the best? what are your biggest frustrations about Des Plaines? Some of our most vigorous conversations have been about the library's services. I'm really grateful when you tell me what works for you on our Web site and in our online catalog and what does NOT work for you at all.

In 2010, I'm thinking I'd really like to shift back to the community at large. Perhaps, if you're willing to join me, we can build this into the kind of resource I'd imagined - a place where people can look for reviews of local services/shops/restaurants, a place where people can voice their opinions about where Des Plaines should be headed in the future. A place where you can brag about the city or express your disappointments. What do you think? Good idea? I see it as a way of improving and promoting the business community in town. You post something here about a favorite business, or a business that needs to shape up, and believe me, plenty of Google searchers will find what you have to say. (And, just to be clear, you can post your thoughts anonymously. Just please, keep your language and subject matter appropriate to a family-oriented institution) I'll start out in a few days by asking you a pretty simple question: what's the best breakfast spot in town? Start thinking that over - I'll be back in a few days to collect your favorites.

Please accept a "Happy New Year" wish from all of us here at the Des Plaines Public Library. It's a pleasure and an honor to serve you, year after year.