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Thursday, December 29, 2011

And now for something completely different...2012!

It seems that another year is coming along, rudely shoving the old one aside. Poor old 2011. But, no time to dwell on the past, time to think about the future! To that end, I collected resolutions from the library staff to share with you. Here is what we are resolving to do next year (besides continuing to be an awesome library):

"My resolution is to run at least 3 times a week!"
Cheryl, Youth Services

"How about a twist on the old Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil : Hear No Gossip, See No Faults, Speak No Unkindness"
Pat N., Youth Services

"I resolve to read at least one book on quantum mechanics cover to cover – even if it’s from the 2nd floor children’s collection."
Steven, Adult Services

"My resolution (yet again) is to pursue more spirituality in my daily life and do yoga three times a week. "
Heather, Head of Public Information

"My New Year's Resolutions are as follows: to create a workable financial plan and to spend less time watching television."
Lynn, Adult Services

"Eat more vegetables (though I draw the line at asparagus)."
Laura, Adult Services

"My resolution is to take a noncredit continuing education class at Oakton Community College. Introduction to Quickbooks, or Texas Hold'em Poker!"
Cathy, Adult Services

"I will give a big effort to keep up with the variety of new technologies advancing in 2012."
Pat H, Youth Services

My resolutions are to exercise more, sleep more, read more, learn more, and find that magical 25th hour in the day to do all of this!

If you need some inspiration or encouragement with your own resolutions, here are some useful tips for making smarter resolutions and keeping them. See you in 2012!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I can't believe that the holiday season is here! It seems like I was just preparing to start a new job at the Des Plaines Public Library and now it's late December.

In case you missed them, here are a few holiday related articles that library staff have written:

On our Positively Ellinwood blog, Claire wrote about the darker side of the holidays and suggested a few good mystery reads with a holiday slant. The Victorians also loved ghost stories during the holiday season--Dickens' A Christmas Carol being the most famous example. If you do a search for "Christmas Ghost Stories" in Google Books, you will see a number of collections of these stories.

For our Des Plaines Patch column, Gwen wrote about managing holiday stress with conversation. It's a gentle reminder to take time to listen to each other during the holidays. Gwen's post also reminded me of a story I read on the Huffington Post recently. The story talks about how gulf between "what is" and "what we want to be" gets pretty wide during the holiday season.

Finally, I would like to remind you that the library will be closed the following days during the holidays:

Saturday, December 24, 2011 Christmas Eve
Sunday, December 25, 2011 Christmas Day

Saturday, December 31, 2011 New Year’s Eve
Sunday, January 1, 2012 New Year’s Day

Happy Holidays to you and yours from the Des Plaines Public Library!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Smart Scan: Your Phone, Your Library Card

Technology holds out the promise of making our lives more efficient, more productive, and just plain easier. This isn't always the case, of course, but certainly is an ideal to strive for and to embrace.

At the library, we are trying to make your life a little easier with technology too. The self-checkout stations allow you to get your books, checkout, and get on with your life. But you need your library card to make the whole process work. What if you forgot your card?

That's why we are happy to announce that you can use your smartphone as your library card at one of our checkout stations. Right now, this only works on the station closest to the entrance. All you have to do is:
  1. Download a loyalty card app for your phone (we recommend CardStar or Keyring)
  2. Enter your DPPL library card information
  3. Use your phone as your library card!
For detailed instructions about setting up CardStar or KeyRing, please visit our information page or scan the QR code below with your smartphone.

We hope it makes your day a little easier!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Engage Des Plaines!

The journalism professor and internet critic Jeff Jarvis has a maxim about the internet that I quite like and think about often. He says, "Disruption is the law of the jungle and the internet." Without doubt the internet has radically changed the way journalism is done and the way news is spread. News is just one example among many including shopping, job searching, researching, and dating!

Disruption can be both frightening, but also create tremendous opportunities. I just wrote my last words for NaNoWriMo last night, a month-long writing contest. People sign up to write a 50,000 word novel in a month and post their progress online. Not only was I able to participate in this event with thousands of other people virtually, I was able to find groups of people who were meeting up to socialize and write together--people that I would never have met otherwise.

The internet, in other words, has all kinds of political, social, even personal, consequences. To better understand some of the consequences, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago received a grant to study community engagement and information seeking behavior in Des Plaines. What does this mean? It means that they are interested in talking with you about how you deal with the disruptive forces of the internet in your daily life. How do you follow local politics? How do you learn about new books to read? How do you find out about events in the community?

To facilitate these conversations, the library will hosting a series of forums and focus groups over the coming months. This Saturday, December 3rd, will be the first forum. We are inviting the community to register and attend the forum to talk about. Click the link below to sign up.:

Register for the public forum.

You can also learn more about the grant and the project at the Engage Des Plaines website. The project also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Celebrating Thanksgiving

I have been a vegetarian for several years now. In fact, I don't really remember what turkey tastes like. Nonetheless, over the years, it has been fun to establish new Thanksgiving traditions while also incorporating old ones. So, on Thursday, this is what I'll be preparing for the big meal:

  • My mom's cranberry salad (oranges, apples. celery, pecans, and cranberries in jello)
  • Crispy cheese wafers
  • Fake turkey
  • Mushroom gravy
  • Wild rice stuffing with goat cheese
  • Roasted yams
  • Peas
  • Homemade pumpkin/butternut squash pie

For those of you who are preparing birds on Thursday, Bob in our Reference department shared the USDA's Seasonal Food Safety fact sheet for turkeys. Be sure to consult this useful list of tips and advice for making sure all of your friends and family survive the holiday!

Finally, I would like to remind you that the library will be closed on Thursday, November 24, 2011. We will also be closed on Friday, November 25, 2011 as the entire staff of the Des Plaines Public Library takes an unpaid furlough day arranged to help the library meet its budget constraints during hard times.

Remember that you can still place holds and renew books from the library catalog and download ebooks and eaudiobooks from MyMediaMall. while the library is closed.

Have a happy holiday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What is SOPA?

In case you haven't heard, the House of Representatives will have a public hearing today on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). You can view details about the hearing on the House's website. Content industries support the bill; internet companies like Facebook and Google oppose it. 

So what is SOPA? The bill would allow content owners, say a movie studio, to quickly take down websites that host or link to pirated materials. Supporters of the bill claim that they need the ability to respond quickly to the proliferation of pirated material online. Opponents claim that the bill leaves too much control and discretion in the hands of these content producers and would deny websites due process. In fact, one group is declaring today (November 16th) American Censorship Day.

The issues raised by SOPA and the controversy its causing  highlight how the internet is an incredible force for disruption and change, altering everything from the way we read books, get daily news, and watch television. Amidst all of this change, legal structures and processes to deal with our new online life often struggle to keep up. 

A good example is the issue of online piracy. People quickly learned how easily digital copies of music files, for instance, could be made and shared. According to the Recording Industry of Association of America, however, this simple act of copying and sharing has cost content industries billions of dollars. Of course, many people argue that the RIAA's number don't add up and that, in fact, online piracy is on the decline.

The implications of a bill like this are unclear for libraries. Several prominent organizations that represent libraries and librarians have written a letter opposing the bill (pdf).

Regardless of the outcome of this bill, it certainly is interesting to watch as our social and legal structures try to keep pace with technology and innovation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Library Board Meet and Greet

If you have been reading PlainTalk for the last few years, you know that we are striving to make the governance and operations of the library more open and transparent for you. You view the board minutes and reports on our website and view Boad meetings on our Vimeo channel (last month's meeting is embedded below). Making Library Board meetings and minutes accessible online is not only legally mandated but also an important part of this process.

As a part of their effort to be transparent and to engage the community, two members of the Library board—Steven Mokry and Vince Rangel—met library patrons in the lobby last Tuesday night. According to Mr. Mokry, the event gave them a chance to interact with some of the library patrons they are working to serve. When reflecting on the event, Mr. Mokry said:
The patron's are always appreciative at the Library, thanked the Staff, and the Board, though many don't know all the workings of the Staff and the Board... I encouraged a patron to attend a Board meeting and speak for just a few minutes... I think the person left feeling his or anybody's voice could be heard.
That last point is probably the most important take away. For a library like ours to flourish and thrive, we have to listen to your feedback. Events like the Board member meet and greet are just one way to do this. As Mr. Mokry explained:
I think it a good thing to reach the citizen in some of the ways that President George Mageral and others on the board have talked about.......Ward Meetings, Civic Events, Meet and Greet, just to name a few.
The next Library Board meeting will be held here at the library on November 15, 2011 starting at 7:00 pm.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Looking for Career and Company Information?

Are you tired of looking in all of the wrong places for company and career information? We love trees at the Des Plaines Public Library (we really do!) but recommend the following resources instead of a hollowed out cedar:

Career Transitions aims to be a “career center in a box.” It’s a program that walks job seekers and career changers through the job searching process. It includes:
  • A career assessment survey to help you find a career you’ll love
  • A school and program search tool
  • Resume & cover letter assistance
  • Job interview preparation


The DPPL librarians also want you to know about HelpNow, a useful resource for honing your cover letter and resume. -Brodie

HelpNow can help you craft a more powerful resume and cover letter. After you create an account,  upload your documents to the Writing Lab and receive comments and corrections from a tutor within 24 hours. You can also refresh your computer skills or learn new ones in the Adult Learning Center. All tutors possess a four-year college degree, and have prior teaching/tutoring experience.

Reference USA

Reference USA can help you locate and research companies you might want to work for. It has detailed records for millions of businesses that include Human Resource contact names and management directories. It also includes data on company size and number of employees as well as business descriptions and links to job postings.

Business Source Premier helps you to arm yourself with information about your prospective employer before that all important interview. It includes articles from magazines, journals, popular trade magazines and newsletters. It also has financial data, industry reports and company profiles. 

Can I access these resources from home?

Yes, you can!

With a valid Des Plaines Public Library, any of the links above should take you right to the online resource.

Don't have a library card? Stop by sometime and get one. Any Des Plaines resident can apply.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TechTalk: What I Use / Gina DeConti

I've been following a blog called The Setup for a while now. Every few weeks they profile a creative person and the technology that person uses. As an homage to the The Setup, once a month the TechTalk series will feature a library staff member and the tech, gadgets, and software they use to learn, work, and play. It's called "What I Use"

Gina DeConti, Manager of Creative Services

Who are you?

My name is Gina DeConti and my official title at the library is Manager of Creative Services. My background is in graphic design, multimedia design, illustration and photography. Basically, I'm in charge of branding and maintaining a consistent look and feel over all of the promotional materials created at the library. Creative Services also designs the posters and displays you see throughout the building. My work here includes things like creating large scale three dimensional wall art, designing Library-wide campaigns, photographing programs, and much more. My main focus is for the library to be an amazing visual experience for our patrons. I want them to feel like they've arrived somewhere special when they walk through our doors.

What hardware do you use?

I currently have a brand new iMac 27" with 3.2 GHz. It's an amazing machine. I also use a Wacom tablet, and a myriad of other peripherals that I find indispensable, such as a large format poster printer, Epson scanner, and a beautiful Apple wireless mouse. Which I LOVE.

What software do you use?

My favorite program is Adobe Illustrator for sure, but I also use the entire Adobe Creative Suite daily. Occasionally I have to design something in Word for the librarians to use as a template that they can modify. Creating something in Word is always a painful experience for adesigner.

What would be your dream set up?

I would love to have a Cintiq 24HD so that I could work directly on the screen. I'm also working on getting our department a brand new Epson large format printer that will greatly improve the quality of our displays. And of course we are waiting to upgrade our OS to Lion so that Apple can work out all the bugs first (but I can not wait to get it!!!).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A "national digital library"
It's Open Access Week this week and it seems like a good opportunity to talk about the Digital Public Library of America and how it is trying to promote greater access (or availability) of online resources.
Open access = Free, immediate, online access to information
Last Thursday and Friday, a group of librarians, scholars, industry leaders, and educators came together for the first plenary meeting to begin serious plans for a "Digital Public Library of America." As the name suggests, the DPLA hopes to build a national digital library of resources. These resources will (should?) be available to anyone in the United States.

Because this ambitious project is still in the planning stages, the specifics about what such a digital library would include, how people will access it, and who will contribute to it need to be worked out. Part of the planning also involves figuring out how the DPLA will be different from large scale digital archives like, Hathi Trust, Google Books, and, why not,

Each of these archives has taken enormous strides in making mass quantities of material available online. But with each one there is a drawback. Some are non-profits ( and Hathi Trust) that need to find support; some are not (Google and Amazon) and might not always be interested in providing digital materials online. Some make content freely (or partially) available to the public ( and Google Books); some do not (Hathi Trust and Amazon).

So, what is the grand promise of a "national digital library"? The grand vision is to provide comprehensive collections and wide-spread access. Why is this an issue?

If you have spent any time on our library website or reading this blog, you know that we have a variety of online resources that you can access from home—everything from newspaper article archives, to business information, to genealogy resources, to ebooks (with support for Kindles now too!). These are great resources that your taxes help make available (See our library value calculator for details).

Of course, there is the problem. As a resident of Des Plaines, you have (or don't have) access to content that someone in Park Ridge or Morton Grove or Skokie may (or may not) be able to use. The benefit is that we can select resources that we think will be most beneficial to you. The downside is that people separated by mere miles may not be getting access to the information that they need and want.

What do you think about the idea of a "national digital library"? What are the pros? What are the cons?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TechTalk: Getting the Feel for Technology
Thursdays are "TechTalk" Thursdays. I'll write about something in the world of technology that interests or inspires me.

I went to a training this week on personal organization and productivity. The trainer stressed how affect—our emotions and feelings—deeply influences our productivity. One of the tricks to being more productive is learning how to manage your feelings about getting work done. I think that our relationship to technology is the same way.

When I was in library school, I took a class on computer programming (well, it was computer programming for librarians). We learned how to write useful programs with a language called Python (here are some books at the library about Python). The course was a great introduction programming, but more important was something that the instructor said the very first week of class:
Learning to program is all about learning how to deal with frustration.
I carried that lesson with me throughout the course (it was, in fact, really useful advice) and beyond. When I am trying to solve a problem with a computer—a webpage that doesn't look right or a printer that isn't working properly—I mentally prepare myself for the sucker punch of frustration that is about to come my way.

The idea that there are digital natives and digital immigrants (see Mark Prensky, or this book) has always bothered me (in fact, it may not be true at all). No one is born being "good" with technology. Being "good" with technology is all about getting the feel for it. Most of time, unfortunately, that feeling is an itchy, annoying feeling. What makes someone "good" with technology is the ability to scratch and scratch at that itch and not throw up his or her hands until the problem is resolved.

How do you deal with your frustrations with technology?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Des Plaines: The Project

In case it wasn't clear from my last post, I'm a transplant to the Chicago area. Before I moved here, I read a fascinating book called Nature's Metropolis by the historian William Cronin. In this book, Cronin describes the extensive economic, cultural, and social network that grew out of Chicago during the 19th and 20th century.  Key industries like timber, meat packing, and manufacturing connected the city to places near and far in the Midwest and beyond. Railroads, of course, were the ties that bound the system together.

Russell Lee, Chicago Skyline and the 14th Street Passenger Yards, May, 1948. The Newberry Library
Because of this book, I have always thought of the city—and the areas around it—as a vast organism, a nervous system—wonderful because of its complexity. Now that I'm working in Des Plaines, I find myself learning about a whole new area of this intricate system and full of questions about its origins, the people who live and work here, and its future.

Because I have so many questions, I plan to do the only sensible thing that a librarian can do: start a research project! Only this research project won't involve books and magazines (well, maybe a few), it will involve talking to people in the community and reporting back here what I find out.

So, to get the ball rolling, tell me in the comments what I need to learn about Des Plaines. Who should I talk to? What questions should I ask? In the coming months, I will try to incorporate your responses into my features.


Monday, October 10, 2011

New Web Services Librarian

Hello. I'm your new Web Services Librarian at the Des Plaines Public Library. My name is Brodie and I'm pretty excited to be here. That's me in the lower left part of the picture walking with my son in Boulder, Colorado.

I started working in libraries during my senior year of college when I applied for a shelving position at the Boulder Public Library. I worked for several years in the reference department as well.

From there, my path to becoming a librarian say the least. I spent three years in a PhD program at Northwestern University, left school to work at the Newberry Library in Chicago, earned my library degree last December, and now I'm here.

I'll be tending to the website, contributing to this blog, watching the action on Twitter, and thinking of new ways to provide services for you on the web. I hope to see you "around" online and here in the library.

Friday, July 8, 2011

College Bound?

Jump Start Your College Plans at the Des Plaines Public Library!

Okay, it’s not a trip to the beach, but summertime is the best time to get started on your future college plans. Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions is offering a series of free college admissions programs at the library this summer. Program topics range from finding the right college for you to dealing with financial aid to writing an effective college admissions essay.

High school juniors are required to take the ACT test, but do you know that some colleges require SAT scores? Kaplan is conducting a combination ACT/SAT practice test and an ACT vs. SAT strategy workshop. Practice tests are arguably the best way to prepare for either test. The ACT/SAT practice test lets you compare the tests side by side. Be sure to sign up for both the practice test and the workshop to get the most out of this program.

ACT/SAT Combo Practice Test

Saturday, July 16. 10:00 am – 1:30 pm.

ACT vs. SAT Workshop

Tuesday, July 26. 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Accepted! Getting Into Your First Choice College

Tuesday, August 2. 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Writing Your College Application Essa
Tuesday, August 16. 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Paying For College 101

Tuesday, August 30. 7:00 – 8:00 pm.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Relay for Life 2011

Since 2003 there has been a Relay for Life event in the Des Plaines/Park Ridge area. Every year the library has had a team participating in the Relay. Our team name is the Book Babes (of course, the team isn’t made up of just women—men are on our team too!).

See the moon shining in that picture? Relay for Life is an overnight community event. At least one member from each team needs to be walking on the track from 6:30pm until 5:30am. This is to symbolize that the battle against cancer never sleeps so for one night we won’t sleep either.

Every Book Babe Relays for a different reason—maybe they’re walking in support of a friend or family member, or in member of a loved one. But the Book Babes all walk in support of our fellow coworkers who are cancer survivors. We also walk to remember our good friends and coworkers who are no longer with us, Barbara Saletnik and Kathy Kyrouac.

We fundraise during the year by holding bake sales for the library staff as well as having Denim Dayz, where staff has the ability to wear jeans (and lots of pink!) to work in exchange for a small donation.

Every Book Babe also fundraises individually. The money that we raise goes to the American Cancer Society, which puts the money towards research, early detection, and education as well as help to those who have cancer (like giving rides to patients who have no way to get to treatment).

As captain of the Book Babes, Cheryl Gladfelter is very proud of the 14 library staff members and their families who donate their time and energy to represent the library in our community.

If you are looking for a fantastic event to go to on Friday, come on out to Relay! Bring your friends and family. Different teams will be selling items like Walking Tacos, candy, and homemade root beer. If you know someone that is a cancer survivor, please encourage them to come to the event because we want to honor and recognize our survivors. The fun will be happening at Maine West High School on the track this Friday, June 24th. The opening ceremony starts at 6pm. The closing ceremony will be Saturday, June 25th at 5:30am.

The library’s Book Babes hope to see you there! We’ll be at campsite 6, so please stop by and say hi!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Riding with the Des Plaines Peloton

Peloton: noun/ˈpeləˌtän/ The main field or group of cyclists in a race.

We weren’t actually racing on June 4th, as Police Chief Jim Prandini kept reminding us, though I saw plenty of riders in spandex and clip-in bike shoes. We all had helmets and we all had bicycles and we all had a great time.

We were celebrating the refurbishment of the Des Plaines River Bike Trail, a 3-year effort by the City of Des Plaines to improve the existing Des Plaines River Trail through the city.

Riders gathered at Public Works near the Methodist Campground to register, buy a helmet if needed, and in general gear up for the ribbon cutting and trail ride. There were at least 250 people in attendance, some riding, some setting up drinks and food, some registering riders, and everyone having a good time.

The trail is just gorgeous, with dappled sunlight breaking through the trees, and plenty of room for riders and runners on both sides of the path. We had so many riders that we started seeing them coming back while we were still on our way south!

Here’s the end result: sweaty, thirsty and all smiles! Pictured are Alderman Dick Sayad, Library Trustee Steve Mokry, Acting Assistant Director Roberta S. Johnson, and Alderman Dan Wilson, liaison to the Library Board. So get out on that bike trail - you'll probably cross paths with the Mayor!