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Monday, January 31, 2011

Who Do Ya LOVE?

Our theme for the current quarter is "Remember," and as February approaches, we often remember the people we love the most. (Well, unless you hate Valentine's Day. Then we can't help you.) I enjoy making videos to help promote the library and the Des Plaines community and my colleague, Heather Imhoff, suggested a "Who Do Ya LOVE?" video, featuring you and your loves - your spouse, fiancee, best friend, children, dog, cat, maybe even your parakeet or your muscle car.

Here's what we need to make this work: email me a photo of you and your sweetie - or just your sweetie if that makes you happier. Ideally the photos should be .jpgs, 72 dpi and approximately 1024 x 768. If this means nothing to you, don't worry for a minute, just send us what you've got! The video will be posted on DPPL's website and also shown in the library. I'll set it to music to make it more fun and you can share it with anyone you choose. Please send me your photos by February 10, 2011. We've received a few so far and they are GREAT, so keep 'em coming!

Why do we make a big fuss about Valentine's here at DPPL? Mostly because month after month, year after year, "Love Stories" is the most searched subject in our library catalog. Proof that the readers of Des Plaines are lovers, not fighters! So this year, our Valentine video will be a tribute to all of you and the sweethearts that make life worth living. Send in your photos soon!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Super Bowl Shuffle Or Shrug?

Over lunch with a former coworker of mine, quite a few years ago, she told me that one of her biggest pet peeves about living in Chicago (she is a Detroit native) was the level of sports fanaticism. I grew up in a household where women outnumbered men two to one, but you'd never know it from the TV or radio. A game was always on - Bears, Bulls, Cubs and then back again. I was very close to my maternal grandfather and he was a White Sox fan, often a sore spot between him and my dad, a North Sider. My sister married into a family with strong ties to the White Sox and Blackhawks, My brother played high school basketball and then coached at the same level for a few years.The only thing that prevents me from turning on the iPod during my evening commute is a Cubs game and last weekend I even drove around listening to the Bears crush the Seahawks. My parents love the Bulls so we'll get together for a game and some pizza. I didn't want to like sports, I was already a rock music fanatic, but it just sort of crept up on me.

What do you think? Are we too crazy about sports in Chicago, or is it a healthy, normal, family-friendly way to have a good time and share some excitement? Do you have big plans for this Sunday's Bears-Packers game or do you see it as a perfect excuse for a nice brunch or some shopping, since so many people will be otherwise occupied? There's no doubt that sports fans can get out of hand - just see recent news stories about barroom brawls and street fights leading to arrests, injuries, even deaths. A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that one in twelve pro sports fans leaves the game legally intoxicated - no numbers on how many of them get behind the wheel or get into a fight. So, hey, let's be careful out there. You can love your team and cheer them on to victory without being a news item or even a gossipy punchline.

Can't get enough of your Chicago Bears?
We've got book & videos about Da Bears - click to see a list of what's available.
Follow the countdown to Sunday's "Epic Showdown" on the official Chicago Bears Web site.

As a librarian,I'm supposed to remain objective and impartial (yeah, right), so YES, we have books and more about the Green Bay Packers, too - check 'em out.

As a lifelong Chicago area resident, I'm really proud when our sports teams play well and make our fair city shine even brighter. So - my prediction for Sunday? To riff on the old "Super Fans" skit from "Saturday Night Live," Bearssssssh, 700. Packers, 0. GO BEARS!

Pictured above: Head of Youth Services Stephanie Spetter, Youth Services Assistant Elizabeth Bialobrzewski, Administrative Assistant Marge Scholl, a FABULOUS Bears cake Marge brought in for us, yours truly, and Library Director Holly Sorensen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Technotrash Adventures!

If you've ever brought some "technotrash" to the Library for our recycling bin, you may have wondered: what do they DO with this stuff?  Technotrash is a term for items like old CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes. These items can take several human lifetimes to degrade in a landfill so if you can avoid throwing them in the garbage, it's a worthwhile effort. We've been accepting certain kinds of technotrash here at the Library for several years and we gather that you find it a valuable service. With the budget issues that came to a head last year, it became clear to us that the recycling service we were using for technotrash was simply too expensive. We are very pleased to have found a local partner, MRC Polymers, Inc., in Chicago, who will take some of the most common technotrash items - CDs, DVDs, their cases and VHS tapes for free. All we have to do is drop them off at their 31st Street location. Learn more about it in our fun video short up above. (Yes, that's me, clearly on a day when I could have used a little more sleep!) Learn more about what MRC Polymers does with all of that plastic on their Web site.

I know there's a lot of information on the Web about going green, but don't forget our own "Green Resource Center," especially useful when you want local information about recycling.You can find details there on recycling computers, batteries, appliances, CFL bulbs and more, right here in the suburban Chicago region.

More good news: watch for our household battery recycling event in February, 2011. I'll post all the details here, but if you have dead batteries at home and aren't sure where to bring them, we'll be glad to help you out. One interesting thing I've learned recently about recycling - it's nothing new. Reading both Bill Bryson's latest book, "At Home," and Steven Johnson's "The Ghost Map,"  both non-fiction works, I've discovered that recycling has been around for centuries! Any time our ability to keep up with waste management hasn't been able to meet the challenge, there have been enterprising citizens willing to do the often-dirty work of collecting the refuse and finding creative ways to reuse it. It's a good lesson to keep in mind as we work to create new jobs and industries and protect our earthly resources - what else can we recycle into something new and useful? DPPL is very proud to be one of the libraries participating in the Illinois Library Association's "Go Green @ At Your Library" initiative so watch for more green programs & events this year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Multilingualism - the Swiss Army Knife of Skills

What's the benefit of being fluent in more than one language? It's easier to ask, "What isn't?" Being multilingual can make you a valuable, sought-after employee and a more comfortable, accomplished traveler. A 2009 report by a research team appointed by the European Commission found "an increasing amount of strong evidence of versatile knowledge of languages being beneficial for the usage of an individual's brain." I can't speak for you but anything that would improve the usage of my brain would be most welcome! There are countless, more humble benefits as well: fewer embarrassing moments trying to order off that French or Italian menu (you know who you are, people who pronounce "Caprese" like "caprice"), less frustration with all the non-English words in the New York Times crossword puzzle and a new-found appreciation for a world of books, movies and music that were previously less meaningful to you.

The Des Plaines Public Library recently rearranged its language learning collection to make it even easier for you to browse, select and enjoy these resources. Our language learning books, CDs and DVDs have been consolidated into the new "Language Center" on the fourth floor on the west side of the elevators. Easily organized by language, you can see at a glance what's available for Czech, Irish, Japanese, Swahili and Urdu - more than 60 languages in all. And yes, we have plenty of resources for learning English as well as information about gaining US citizenship. Bring the CDs in the car with you or copy them onto your iPod and you'll have a portable language lab wherever you go.

One of our most exciting language resources is available on your computer all the time - all you need is a valid DPPL card. It's called Mango Languages - click and start using Mango. Mango provides fun, interactive online instruction for 35 languages, including English instruction for speakers of 15 other languages! Mango's attractive interface really does make learning fun and exciting and accessing it couldn't be easier. From our Reference menu: choose Research Databases A-Z, then choose Mango. Type in your library card number and start learning.

So whether you're planning an overseas trip or vacation, eager to get something fresh and useful on your resumé or college app, wishing it was easier to make conversation with your abuela or babcia, or simply want to learn a language for the joy of it, we have more help than ever before. Stop by our Language Center on the 4th floor and try Mango Languages today!

Here's a full list of Mango languages:
  • Arabic
  • Chinese (Cantonese)
  • Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Danish
  • Dari
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Farsi (Persian)
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Haitian Creole
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Indonesian
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Japanese 
  • Korean
  • Norwegian
  • Pashto
  • Portuguese (Brazil)
  • Russian
  • Slovak
  • Spanish (Latin America)
  • Tagalog
  • Tamil
  • Thai
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese

Friday, January 7, 2011

Super-Amazing Looker-Uppers!

No, I haven't had too much caffeine today. It's just this: we subscribe to some great online services, but if I titled this, "New online library databases," would you care? Probably not. If libraries need anything, we need a jazzier script. So, I am renaming these tools the "Super-Amazing Looker-Uppers," at least for today. People often think, "Well, everything's available on the Internet, right?" Nope. Try searching on the Tribune Web site for an article from 1990. First of all, good luck finding where to enter your search. Secondly, if you find and want that article, it will cost you, in some cases as much as $124.95. Another scenario that I'm sure NEVER happens in Des Plaines: your child neglects to gather resources for a school project. Project's due tomorrow. Library's closed. Teacher says, "No free Web sites." You need THE SUPER-AMAZING LOOKER-UPPERS!

Here are just a few examples.

Example 1: Master File Premier. Puts the full-text of articles, speeches, TV transcripts, etc. from almost 1,700 sources at your fingertips. Your child comes home from school and says, "I need to do a report on the Gulf oil spill and my teacher says I can't use Web sites." Sit down, go to this online resource, type in "gulf oil spill," limit your results to full-text and the last 12 months - you'll have over 573 quality resources right there, in an instant. You don't have to leave the living room or wade through pages of advertising and junk sites on Google.

Example 2: LexisNexis Library Express. If you've done research in a college or university library in the last 20 years, you may know of LexisNexis - this is the public library version, featuring 30 years of news coverage from recognized global sources, company/corporate research resources and superior legal information including case law, statutes, codes, and regulations (one caveat: you must be in the library to access the legal information).

Example 3: Primary Search.  Your fourth grader is still crazy about dinosaurs and wants to write his first big school paper on that topic but he can't use those fun picture books you have at home. Click into Primary Search, search for dinosaurs and you'll get short, easy-to-understand articles, book chapters, even pictures, to make his report worthy of an A+ - even if it's Sunday night at 8 PM and we are closed for the day.

If you're still not convinced, look over the complete list of resources we have for adults, teens and children: Adult list with complete descriptions
Teen list with descriptions
Children's list of Online Resources

Keep in mind, you need a valid DPPL card to use these resources if you are not here in the library, so why not make getting/updating your card a New Year's resolution? Just another reason that library cards are the best deal in town. The next time you need to know, try our diverse collection of online library databases, aka the Super-Amazing Looker-Uppers!

Monday, January 3, 2011

e-books - we've got 'em!

One of the hottest stories last year in Library Land, the business world and the tech community was the triumphant return of the e-book. E-books (electronic books) may seem new to you but they've been lurking in the darkest corners of Library Land for quite awhile. I remember introducing a collection of e-books at my former library at least 6 years ago and, well, everybody yawned. Very few people found the prospect of sitting at their home computer or even a laptop, flipping through the e-pages of an e-book, very e-ppealing. The e-book was relegated to "not quite a laughing stock" status when SHAZAM, Kindles and Kobos and Nooks appeared on the scene and whaddya know? Suddenly everyone is clamoring for electronic books to enjoy. The very first e-mail I received in the New Year from a DPPL patron asked,
"My daughter got a Sony Reader for Christmas. Does the library have e-books she can check out?"
Yes, Virginia (not her real name), we have e-books for download and audiobooks, too - all you need is a valid DPPL card, an e-reader or mp3 player and a computer connected to the Internet. It takes a few simple steps to get your account ready for use, including some free software downloads - see this information page for more details. Once you've mastered the process, you can go straight to our catalog of e- and audio-books, MyMediaMall - go there now. Another option is to simply use our regular Library Catalog and find the electronic books and audiobooks there, then follow the instructions to get them onto your portable device.

We also know that getting started with new technology can frustrate or confuse even the most mild-mannered library user so we offer personal assistance, too. Go to our Events Calendar and look for the red links to "MyMediaMall Lab." These are one hour, open sessions (no registration necessary, just drop in), held in our computer lab. Bring your e-reader device with you and one of our expert staff persons will be on hand to assist you and answer your more general questions. There are two sessions this month: Thursday, January 6, 2011 from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM and Thursday, January 20, 2011, from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM.

So e-books have gone from being a wallflower to being the belle of the ball - if you'd like to take your turn on the dance floor, try MyMediaMall today!