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Friday, March 30, 2012

Air Books: The Future of Reading

Once in a while a product comes along that makes your jaw drop in wonder. We are very excited to share such a product with you, our library users. Starting this April, anyone with a valid Des Plaines Public Library card can enjoy the future of reading...Air Books.

Air Books is an exciting product and a revolutionary idea. "They've managed to make the reading experience seem effortless, even magical," Roberta Johnson, the library's acting assistant director explained. "When I saw the product demoed at a conference, I knew that we needed it for our patrons."

So what makes Air Books so magical and new? Air Books delivers a rich, complete reading experience without the weight and bulk of a physical item. "We really went back to drawing board when we set out to create Air Books," according to Bernie Etherton, Air Books' founder and inventor. "The first thing we thought was, 'What if you could get rid of the book, the file, and just read.'"

And that's what Air Books offers. You'll experience a seamless, weightless reading experience, no matter where you are, without the hassle of paper and screens. So, in the coming weeks and months, you will begin to see more and more Air Books in the library. Who knows maybe the library of the future will look like this:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Calling all book hunters!

I happen to love used book sales... Let me reiterate that in capital letters: I LOVE USED BOOK SALES. If you are anything like me, then you will be excited to know that our Friends group will host their Spring Book Sale this weekend here at the library. (Click here for more information about the book sale).

This Saturday and Sunday (March 24th and 25th) our meeting rooms B/C will be filled with books just waiting for someone to discover them and take them home. One of the reasons that I enjoy used book sales so much is that you are sure to find something unexpected and unusual.

There is a clean efficiency to buying crisp, shiny, new books online to be sure. But "one-click" buying doesn't pique your curiosity the way a good used book sale can. For the philosopher Walter Benjamin, this thrill of discovery is crucial to the experience of buying books: of the finest memories of a collector is the moment when he rescued a book to which he might never had given a thought, much less a wishful look, because he found it lonely and abandoned on the market place and bought it...
Of course, you can take it too far. So if your house is starting to look like this...

then you could always donate the books back to the Friends for someone else to discover!

It's nice to have Friends!

Be a Friend of the Library

The Friends of the Library support the library and its services by raising money, volunteering, and funding programs for kids, teens, and adults.

Visit our website to learn more about the Friends of the Library today!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Smile and Make Comics

Next Thursday (March 22nd), we are very lucky to have Raina Telgemeier leading an event for us called "Creating Comics: A Hands-on Workshop with Raina Telgemeier" (registration required). The event, which will be held at Algonquin Middle School, will gives teens in grades 6 through 12 a chance to learn about making comics from a very inventive artist.

Telgemeier is best known for her autobiographical graphic novel , Smile. According to one of our Young Adult literature specialists, Cheryl Gladfelter, "Any teen can relate to Smile. It's about dealing with growing up, friends that stop being friends, family, and discovering who you are and what you like. It's also about how Raina dealt with knocking out her two front teeth and all the surgeries, braces, and many dentist appointments that she went through during middle school and high school."
Any teen can relate to Smile. It's about dealing with growing up...
Cheryl's comment highlights how Telgemeier's "comic" (or the move elevated "graphic novel") operates on two levels. On the one hand, it's about a series of real events that happened to her—breaking her teeth, getting braces, and dealing with the consequences of that. On the other, the "comic" relates these events to issues that all teens face going through school and "dealing with growing up."

In fact, this is what the best comics do so well. They are able to focus in on specific experiences or events by being abstract. Their simple style actually helps them convey these many different layers of meaning more effectively. Scott McCloud makes this point in his excellent book, Understanding Comics. 

Perhaps this ability to tell stories in a more direct and impactful way explains the prevalence of graphic novels like Art Spiegelman's Maus, the graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report or the the illustrated reporting by Joe Sacco.

In any event, I started by talking about a fun event for teens next week (that you should sign your kids up for!), and now we've come around to illustrated stories about difficult subjects like war and peace. And yet we've been talking about comics the entire time. How cool is that!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Inside Writing and Publishing

Maybe your story goes something like mine. I started to write creatively in high school and took it very seriously in college. I filled notebook after notebook with short stories, sketches, and observations (which now sit in a box in my basement). Despite all of this activity, I never had to courage to publish anything.

Then "adult" life took over and suddenly writing took a back seat in my life. Finding time to devote to being creative isn't easy, particularly with so many demands and distractions. One of the writers I enjoy most, the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, had a solution for this very problem:
I found it to be expedient to bind myself by certain self-imposed laws.
Discipline, in other words, was the key for someone who published well over forty-seven novels in the lifetime (yes, 47!).

That's why the events we have lined up for the "Inside Writing and Publishing" series are so exciting. By offering a series of workshops and seminars, you will learn valuable tools and tricks to get your creative energies going and, more importantly, to sustain them.

Next Thursday, novelist Allie Pleiter will lead a workshop here called "Getting it Done: Plans, Goals, and Models for Writers". So, if your creativity needs a little urging and structuring, I encourage you to register for the program and go forth and write. Trollope would be proud.

Click here to register for "Getting it Done: Plans, Goals, and Models for Writers"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Just a paper form in an online world

You might think that with the prevalence of the Internet and easy access to online tax forms that paper forms would not have a place in this brave new world. That's hardly the case. In fact, here at the library we still have a useful (and much used) collection of paper forms.

I spoke with Reference Assistant Gwen LaCosse to learn more about our tax forms and surviving tax season.

Who are you and what do you do? 

I'm a full-time Reference Assistant in Reference, which is part of the Adult Services Department. Ordering and maintaining the income tax forms collection is one of my "off-desk" (as we say) duties. My main responsibility is to staff the Reference Desk.

When did you get involved with the tax forms here?

I don't recall exactly but at least ten years ago (I've been here 11). I was part-time at that point. Holly (who is now the Library Director) asked me to take over the collection. The person who had been doing it had moved to another department.

What makes our collection of tax forms unique?

The variety and the depth. Some patrons come from a substantial distance for a form or publication that their own library may not carry and that they do not know how to access online. Or, patrons from Des Plaines (or another town) may come here for a form that is NOT printable from a computer, the 1099-MISC (Miscellaneous Income) for example.

Some patrons come from a substantial distance for a form or publication ... that they do not know how to access online.

Why does the library still acquire paper forms, isn’t everything online!?

Not everyone files their taxes online. Also, some people who do file online prefer to do the preparation on paper first, before going to the computer. Plus, most forms are available online, but not all.

What is your number one tip for people stressing out about their taxes? 

Take 5 and a half deep breaths. Then decide if you want to do your taxes yourself, or pay someone to prepare them.

Where can people get help with tax forms? 

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is here at the library, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, until close to the filing deadline on April 17. Call 376-2788 to make an appointment. Or, you can go to the IRS office at 5100 River Rroad in Schiller Park. They don't take appointments. It's best just to go there.

This information and more that pertains to income taxes is listed on the library's website. People looking for a particular form(s) or publication(s) can call the Reference Desk at 376-2841 to see if we carry it/them. I keep a hard copy list there.

Finally, I teach the Find Tax Forms Online course, to show patrons how to navigate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Website (It's not impossible to do!) as well as that of the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Click here to sign up for the Find Tax Forms Online class on March 19th at 10 am.