DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Nov 21 2014

Color coding

by Dea Anne M

NPR has been running an intriguing series lately on the subject of color. The series is called “Color Decoded: Stories That Span the Spectrum” and it is well worth taking the time to check out. Stories include fun information about colors in the spectrum–you’ll learn here that brown is actually a low-intensity shade of orange and why a male visitor to China would be wise to avoid wearing a green hat. You’ll also find out why there are so few blue animals and consider if it might be time to “reappropriate” the color pink from the cultural forces that drive such phenomena as the Disney Princess Empire. Speaking of pink (and in case you’re curious), apparently pink was considered a “strong” color up until the twentieth century and much more appropriate for boys, whereas little girls were more often dressed in the “daintier” color blue. This is fascinating stuff and I urge you to take a moment or two to explore.

DCPL can also help you explore color and the many meanings that it can carry.

First, give a look to Life In Color: National Geographic Photographs. This gorgeous book is full of the high quality photography that the magazine is famous for. Separate chapters explore different manifestations of blue, green, orange, etc. The image of the alpine landscape of Alaska’s Denali National Park was stunning enough to take my breath away.language

Sumptuous photography also graces The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet by Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut. The authors explore, among other things, how animals use color for self-protection and the use of color in religion. This book is also full of interesting bits of color trivia. For example, you really do see the neighbor’s lawn across the street as greener than your own. (You’re too far away to see the imperfections, so the color appears more uniform and saturated.)

Remember good old pink and blue? Well, you might be interested in exploring Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave by Adam Alter and Blue: The History of a Color by Michael Pastoureau. The former takes its title from the result of studies done in the early 80′s, which showed that a blueparticular shade of bubble-gum pink had the effect of calming down aggressive prisoners. The rest of the book deals in other fascinating aspects of applied psychology. Equally interesting, Pastoureau’s book explores the evolution in depth of a particular color. Ancient Romans considered blue a vulgar color suitable only for Celtic barbarians. During the Middle Ages, blue became closely associated with the Virgin Mary. Of course today, blue has conquered the world via Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss whose 1873 invention–denim jeans–has become a nearly global uniform.

How does color affect you? What colors do you love?


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Nov 17 2014

America’s Most Hated Woman?

by Hope L


This past June was the 50-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling against school-sponsored prayer (Engel v. Vitale, June 25, 1962).

That’s probably why I saw the book America’s Most Hated Woman:  The Life and Gruesome Death of Madalyn Murray O’Hair  on a cart to be re-shelved recently at the library. Perhaps a student had to write a report, or interest was sparked around this landmark decision’s anniversary.

I had no idea, however, that the infamous atheist had been murdered.

Intrigued, I checked out the book and began to read about O’Hair. Considering the death threats, the vicious hate mail, the taunting of her two sons, and the sentiment of much of the church-going public around that time, this woman must have been one tough cookie.

The book examines Murray’s beginnings and the seeds that were sown early on that might have moved her to fight her lifelong battle against religion in American public schools and more. In this book and the other one I mention below,  she is often portrayed as obese, slovenly, loose, impulsive, alcoholic, and argumentative.  Indeed, I watched a few old interview clips of her online, and some of what she says in them is quite offensive and crude, even by today’s standards.

But I figured there had to be some likeable qualities there somewhere, too.  Evidently, Madalyn Murray studied law and flunked the bar but was by all accounts highly intelligent, if not socially refined or popular.  She was said to be an enthralling and engaging speaker, and indeed, was the very first person interviewed by Phil Donahue on his show in 1967.  The statements made by O’Hair during that first episode were so contentious that the audience was jumping up to ask questions to challenge her, and the previously seated Donahue had to grab a mic and go out into the audience, thus making television history and creating a new style of talk show with audience participation.

No, Madalyn Murray O’Hair was not popular.  The government was after  her (the IRS, FBI, CIA, Justice Dept.), organized religion in America was after her, the Pope was after her–even many in the different atheist factions were after her because of her attempts to capitalize on the movement.

In Ungodly:  The Passions, Torments, and Murder of Atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the front cover promises thus:

“… traces the self-anointed atheist high priestess from her public skirmishes with the law through her remarkable legal maneuverings and her schemes to siphon off enormous sums of money from the foundations she created.”

“… explains for the first time the full story of the kidnapping and murder of O’Hair, her son, and granddaughter–a gristly multiple murder masterminded by a genius ex-con who hoped to pocket nearly a million dollars’ worth of loot in a pitiless and cunning plot.”

It seems really ironic that Madalyn and her family were ultimately kidnapped and murdered by a former employee and fellow atheist rather than someone following through with one of the many vile and violent threats made by so-called “church-going” persons.


Nov 12 2014

America Recycles Day

by Glenda

America RecyclesNovember 15, 2014 is America Recycles Day. Normally when we think of recycling, we think of taking our aluminum cans and plastic bottles to a recycling center or designated recycling place. However, recycling is so much more than that. When you donate clothes to various nonprofit agencies, you are recycling. Even when you donate old books to your local library, you are recycling because someone else is going to reuse your items. There are many other ways to recycle. You can make things with used materials–such as using old newspaper to make a piñata. If you would like to learn more about recycling, you may want to check out these books from DCPL:

Earth Friendly Crafts for Kids: 50 Awesome Things to Make with Recycled Stuff by Heather Smith with Joe Rhatigan

Recycled Craft Box: Sock Puppets, Cardboard Castles, Bottle Bugs and 37 More Earth-Friendly Projects & Activities You Can Create by Laura C. Martin

The Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts from editor-in-chief Susan White Sullivan and technical writer Lisa Lancaster

Beyond Recycling: A Re-User’s Guide – 336 Practical Tips: Save Money and Protect the Environment by Kathy Stein

Earth-Friendly Holidays: How to Make Fabulous Gifts and Decorations from Reusable Objects by George Pfiffner



Nov 10 2014

Remembering Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014)

by Jesse M

Ray and Tom Magliozzi

Last week, public radio lost one its most distinctive voices as Tom Magliozzi passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease at age 77. Along with his brother Ray, Tom served as host of NPR’s long-running program Car Talk. Produced from 1977-2012, Car Talk was a show ostensibly focused on automobiles and automotive repair, although the Magliozzi’s (known on-air as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers”) frequently peppered their advice with humor and the conversation often segued into tangents that sometimes had little to do with cars. A quote from Tom serves to illustrate this dynamic:

“Some guy I met said it’s amazing how we use cars on our show as an excuse to discuss everything in the world—energy, psychology, behavior, love, money, economics and finance. The cars themselves are boring as hell.”

Jokes, puns, and wisecracks were a big part of the Peabody award-winning show. From their self-deprecating humor (exemplified by their traditional closing statement at the end of the program: “Well, it’s happened again — you’ve wasted another perfectly good hour listening to Car Talk.”) to the punny fictional staff members referenced during the show’s ending credits, the brothers never wasted an opportunity to laugh. And their laughter was contagious; you couldn’t help but laugh along with them. Speaking of Tom, Doug Berman, longtime producer of Car Talk, remarked that “his laugh is the working definition of infectious laughter.”

Although the production of new episodes ended in 2012, Car Talk has continued to air on NPR affiliates nationwide and remains a top-rated program even in syndication. If you’re interested in listening to the program you can find stations and showtimes here or browse and download from the complete list of shows.

You can also get Car Talk related material from DCPL. Car Talk: Maternal Combustion – Calls about Moms and Cars is a collection of the brothers’ favorite clips about moms, while in Car of the Future: Engineering for the Environment, the brother’s turn an expert, comic eye on the promise and pitfalls of tomorrow’s auto tech.

Tom will be fondly remembered by his brother Ray and the staff of the show, who have written a touching obituary as well as compiled clips of some favorite “Tom moments.”If you have your own favorite memories of the show to share, you can do so via their Guest Book or leave a comment on this post.

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Nov 7 2014

The Thing with Feathers…

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,


Who among us has never envied a bird in flight? Our mysterious neighbors, many of them so well adapted to urban life, are a subject of endless fascination.

Noah Strycker’s book, The Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, is a delightful read, chock full of fascinating historical, scientific, and personal observations about our feathered friends.

A bird lover from childhood, Strycker shares his sense of wonder and dedication to learning about birds of all types and origins in this lyrical and well-written book. Easy to read, The Thing With Feathers will fill you with admiration and inspire you, the reader, to raise your appreciation for large and small winged creatures, some of whom may inhabit your back yard.  From the repulsively mesmerizing visual and olfactory abilities of turkey vultures (who have cast iron immune systems) to the violently competitive and over-stressed hummingbirds, from the astounding navigation skills of homing pigeons, to the friendly curiosity of penguins, Strycker does not cease to fascinate.

murder of crows

Having observed over 2,500 species, the author has spent months at a time watching birds in a variety of remote locations, including the Ecuadorian Amazon, Cape Crozier, Antarctica, the Australian outback, the jungles of Costa Rica and Panama, the Galápagos Islands, and more. Each chapter of the book is devoted to a different type of bird, whether it be a parrot or snowy owl, detailing the author’s personal experiences with these creatures while demonstrating an impressive array of scientific research illustrating the prowess of each of these avian wonders.

To share with you just a small sample of this tribute to the native intelligence and personality of these birds and how this information is relevant to the nearly naked, or at least featherless bipedals that we are, here is a short excerpt from the introduction of this captivating book:

Some bird behaviors don’t apply to humans, and those are especially fascinating and exotic: a ‘sixth’ magnetic sense (see ‘Fly Away Home: How Pigeons Get Around’), flocks that operate as magnets (see ‘Spontaneous Order: The Curious Magnetism of Starling Flocks’), and the smelling power of turkey vultures (see ‘The Buzzard’s Nostrils: Sniffing Out a Turkey Vulture’s Talents’). It’s hard to imagine having such super-powers, though birds sometimes inspire us to try.

But if you look closely enough, many seemingly incredible bird feats have human counterparts, with interesting lessons. Cooperative nesting in fairy-wrens (see ‘Fairy Helpers: When Cooperation is Just a Game’) helps illustrate why humans are usually nice to one another. The dazzling speed of hummingbirds (see ‘Hummingbird Wars: Implications of Flight in the Fast Lane’) serves as a warning about our own quickening pace of life. Snowy Owls (see ‘Snow Flurries: Owls, Invasions, and Wanderlust’) confirm that not all who wander are lost. Even the domestic chicken (see ‘Seeing Red: When the Pecking Order Breaks Down’) has something to teach us about the natural pecking order.”

parliament of owls

The Thing With Feathers is full of humor, sensitive observations, scientific data, and a compelling vision of birds as intelligent and emotional beings with distinctive individual personalities as well as an amazingly varied capacity for survival.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading each page of this lighthearted yet serious book.

DCPL has two other fascinating books related to the topic of little known aspects of animal or plant intelligence, and how this relates to us as humans:

 Images above, from top: A murmuration of starlings, a murder of crows, parliament of owls


Oct 31 2014

Picture this!

by Dea Anne M

I have always loved children’s picture books. Working for DCPL is especially animaliarewarding in this regard as I am exposed to so many wonderful picture books both new and old. I even have a small collection of favorites at home. One of my most treasured books is Graeme Base’s fun and elaborate alphabet book Animalia. While this book has won several awards in Australia, it did not win the Caldecott Medal. Indeed, by the rules of the Caldecott committee, Base as an Australian author/illustrator would not have been eligible as the Caldecott is awarded each year to the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” Since its inception in 1938, the Caldecott medal has been lionawarded to many worthy and wonderful titles including Make Way for Ducklings (1942) by Robert McCloskey, Where the Wild Things Are (1964) by Maurice Sendak, and The Lion and the Mouse (2010) by Jerry Pinkney. You’ll find a complete list of Caldecott Medal winners and honor books here.  You can view Caldecott winners owned by DCPL on our Pinterest page. The board for the winners 1938-1976 is here and the winners 1977-2014 are here.

Speaking of Pinterest, be sure to check out a brand new feature that DCPL is offering through our Pinterest collection.  Inspired by the spirit of the this bookCaldecott awards, DCPL Youth Services staff will regularly be nominating theme-appropriate picture books and you can help us pick each month’s winner by “liking” your favorite (click the little heart button). Check out November’s “Dekalbecott” nominees here. The theme is fall inspired picture books and nominees include such fun titles as Fall Ball by Peter McCarty, Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet, and (probably my favorite) This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne.

What are your favorite picture books?


Oct 29 2014

A Halloween Surprise

by Joseph M

I love this time of year. With the chill of autumn in the air and Halloween just around the corner, something about late October always seems to be imbued with a spooky, magical aura, and I’ve been craving reading material that suits the mood. Luckily, J.K. Rowling has got me covered.

Regular readers of this blog may recall one of my posts from this past summer about a new J.K. Rowling short story set in the Harry Potter universe. Well, Rowling has indicated that she has another original work to be posted Friday, October 31, on her Pottermore website. This tale apparently features one of the villains of the series, just in time for Halloween. See this article for more details.


Recently, librarians at Invercargill City Libraries in New Zealand wondered what it would look like if they attached a video camera to a library book as it circulated. It turns out it’s pretty cool! Check out the short video they made, which chronicles the journey of a library book from when it is first pulled from the stacks to when it is re-shelved for the next patron to browse upon it:

If you enjoyed that, you might also enjoy other videos shot from unique perspectives inside libraries. I’ve blogged previously about two videos by Nate Bolt–one provides a drone’s perspective on the iconic New York Public Library main branch and the other on BookOps, the book sorting center for both NYPL and Brooklyn Public Library.


Oct 20 2014


by Hope L


Imagine you are venturing into a tunnel that’s been bored into the bedrock underneath the ocean and that continues straight out, hundreds of feet below the seafloor, for almost ten miles.  There is no light, besides the faint glow coming from the bulb on your helmet. There is no sound, besides the water dripping overhead or sloshing around your boots. Most important, there is no breathable air, besides what you brought in with you, a lifeline pumping through a hose and into your facemask. At the end of the tunnel, you don’t even have enough room to stand up straight, since it chokes down to just five feet in diameter before ending abruptly. It’s the world’s longest dead-end tunnel, so there’s no way out other than turning around and making the hazardous trek back to where you started.”–from the Prologue to Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey

Once, about twenty years ago in Bisbee, Arizona, I had the opportunity to go on a small rail cart into a tunnel, which led to a mine located almost a mile inside a mountain.  Upon entering the tunnel, the tour guide warned that it was the last opportunity to get off the cart and back out for those who were squeamish about such things.  As the cart slowly entered the narrow shaft into the mountain, with barely enough room for our heads and shoulders, the adrenaline in my body surged and I started to panic.  I was moving deeper and deeper inside the mountain, with no quick way out!

I had never thought about it, frankly.  Not until that very dayTra.  And from then on, I realized that I was VERY uncomfortable in certain situations: airplanes thousands of feet in the air, caves miles under the ground, and yes, narrow tunnels carved into rock a mile into a mountain.  In the above-mentioned Bisbee mine shaft there were wooden beams standing vertically in places, literally holding the mountain over our heads.

So, as I read Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey, a chronicle of the engineering complexities of a tunnel built underneath Boston Harbor and carrying waste from a state-of-the-art treatment plant ten miles out to sea, I felt lucky to not be there.  I mean, the professional divers and construction workers who completed this impossible endeavor were paid to do a job.  It’s not like they would receive a gold medal, a place in the Guinness World Book of Records, or even special recognition in a newspaper or technical journal–like the engineers who devised the thing on paper, in the safety of their well-lit office, with ample oxygen, and above ground.

The premise of the task at hand was ludicrous. In order to retrieve the huge plugs that fitted over the many side outlets to sea, a team of professional divers would drive a Humvee loaded with equipment and towing a Humvee facing the opposite direction (to come back out of the tunnel). They would drive almost ten miles in the tunnel constructed under the sea floor–and they would walk once the space became too narrow for the vehicle(s).

The impossible task was eventually accomplished, but not without the ultimate sacrifice paid by workers.

I shall try to remember this when my life gets tedious, annoying and/or boring, for I choose to experience any dangerous adventures vicariously through books, thank you very much. (See the book trailer here.)


Oct 17 2014

For the Love of Books

by Dea Anne M

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I worked for a number of years as a bookseller. Although I prefer working in libraries now, bookselling, for a while, was the job of my dreams and I was often surrounded by people who felt exactly the same way. Don’t get me wrong–it certainly wasn’t the monetary compensation that kept me in the industry–most booksellers make small salaries. But many of us who love books also love selling them. There’s just something so satisfying about talking to a customer, an individual, and helping her or him to select the perfect book. Sometimes I would feel that I had truly made someone else a little happier–and that is a good feeling indeed.

Of course the advent of big “boxes” like Barnes and Noble and Borders very often spelled the end for independent bookstores in communities across the country. More recently, online bookselling–most notably that provided by Amazon–has significantly changed the way these large companies do business. Today, Barnes and Noble sells more toys, music and coffee than it ever has before. Borders is, of course, out of business altogether. While I don’t celebrate the demise of any sort of bookstore, all of this may be a good thing for independent bookstores and those of us who love them. For many of us, there is nothing quite like browsing the offerings of a well-curated bookstore, actually looking through and touching the books, and maybe going home with a new find. I think of bookstores that I have experienced and loved: Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, City Lights Books in San Francisco, Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville. I treasure those memories.

It may very well be that your neighborhood independent bookstore is on its way back. Check out this September 9, 2014 article from Slate or this from Quartz September 10, 2014. In other bookstore news, you’ll find no less an entity than the mighty publishing juggernaut that is James Patterson. In the fall of 2013, Patterson pledged to give $1 million dollars to independent bookstores.  Think what you will about what some call the “Patterson franchise,” I personally find it refreshing when a best-selling author says, as does Patterson in this New York Times article “I’m rich. I don’t need to sell more books.” And he adds, “But I do think it’s essential for kids to read more broadly. And people just need to go in to bookstores more.” Read the Los Angeles Times coverage of the story here .

Am I whetting your bookstore appetite? If so,  don’t miss this peek at some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual from the September 2, 2014 issue of CNN Travel.  My favorite is the stunning and elegant Argentinian bookstore housed in what was once a theater.

If you’d like to read more about the abiding passion that so many of us have for independent bookstores, checkout these offerings from DCPL.

Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercerbookstore

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee

My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop edited by Ronald Rice and Booksellers Across America

Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeanette Watson and Books & Co. by Lynne Tillman

marriageFinally, don’t miss Ann Patchett’s collections of essays This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Patchett’s writing in this collection addresses such varied topics as divorce, family, and aging.  And bookstores. Sometime in 2010 after the last two of Nashville’s in-town bookstores closed, Patchett (who lives in Nashville) decided to help open a new independent bookstore with two other women. At first, Patchett saw her role as predominantly that of financial backer. Her involvement quickly became much deeper and remains so.  Check out this book chapter that Patchett published in the December 2012 edition of The Atlantic. 

Do you love bookstores? What are some of your favorite bookstore experiences? 

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