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

November 2009

Nov 30 2009

The Long Echo

by Patricia D

800px-Pottered_potteryI’m a sometime potter.  There’s something about getting my hands in the mud that satisfies my soul and some days slapping a few pounds of clay around is better therapy than anyone could ever guess.  There are few things that make me happier than when something beautiful and useful spins into being under my hands.  My first piece happened mostly by accident and was astoundingly ugly.  It took a lot of work to get to the point where I could say, “I want to make a bowl” and I would actually make a bowl.  By then I had set the movements required to do that firmly in the muscles of my hands, arms, even my hips because I use them all when I throw a pot.

According to my instructor at the time, the first pot anyone ever makes always looks like a dog food can.  It will be ugly but it is precious.   She was right of course, nearly everyone in that class turned out something similar to a dog food can and we all treated them as if they were Rookwood.  I had no idea how her comment had stuck with me until many years later when I was standing in a ceramics museum in Toronto.  In front of me, encased in glass, protected from the environment and miscreants and no doubt heavily insured, was a pottery dog food can.   I was staggered.  I knew in my heart that I was looking at a young potter’s first piece.  This pot, made 800 years before my visit to a museum, was made almost exactly the same way my own dog food can had been created.  I knew in my muscles how that potter had shaped her piece and this connection to a long dead person left me breathless.  I stared at that little pot so long the guard peeked over my shoulder to see, I suppose, what was keeping my attention.  I doubt he realized it was the dumpy little piece off to one side.

A curator at the Michael C. Carlos Museum told me this is called the long echo–that visceral connection to long ago though an artifact or text.  It’s an astounding experience and I highly recommend it.  If you want to go the mud route check out our collection–we’ve got lots of great titles, not just on making pots but decorating as well.  Take a class at either Spruill or Callenwolde and after you’ve got your own precious dog food can, make a visit to the Carlos ( I am particularly attracted to the Ancient American collection) and see if you too can hear the echo.

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Nov 27 2009

Secrets of the Stacks

by Jesse M

NY Public Library
The New York Public Library is, as their website states, one of the great knowledge institutions of the world. Historian David McCullough has labeled it one of the five most important libraries in the United States, in such august company as the Library of Congress and Harvard University Library. With a combined total of over 50 million library materials (over 20 million of which are books) held by both the research and branch libraries, it is simultaneously one of the largest public library systems and one of the largest research institutions in the country.

The New York Public Library is organized into a dichotomous system of research libraries (comprised of non-circulating reference collections comparable to many university libraries) and branch libraries (lending libraries similar to municipal libraries country-wide). The system contains a total of 89 libraries: four non-lending research libraries, four main lending libraries, a library for the blind and physically challenged, and 77 neighborhood branch libraries across the three boroughs served (Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island).

Recently, the New York Times published an article titled “Secrets of the Stacks” in which they highlight some of the interesting, quirky, and little known features and offerings of the NYPL. I’ve reposted a few of my favorites from the article below:

  • The library’s reference service (accessible online or by calling 917-ASK-NYPL) was established in 1968 and remains popular today. How popular? The service receives a question every 10 seconds.
  • The library boasts the world’s largest collection of restaurant menus. The library has 40,000 menus dating from the 1850s to the present. While primarily of interest to chefs, it is also utilized by novelists and researchers, including a marine biologist who consulted menus from the early 1900s for a study on fish populations.
  • The library also has stores of historical artifacts bearing some relation to famous authors. Some of the odder holdings include the original Winnie-the-Pooh, the cane Virginia Woolf left on the riverbank the day she committed suicide, Truman Capote’s cigarette case, hair from the heads of Charlotte Brontë, Walt Whitman, Mary Shelley and Wild Bill Hickok, and perhaps strangest of all, Charles Dickens’s favorite letter-opener, constructed with the embalmed paw of his beloved cat Bob as the handle.

If you would like further information on some of the New York Public Library’s more exceptional offerings, there is a book available in the DCPL catalog that discusses and illustrates 300 of the most important manuscripts, books, maps, prints, photographs, and ephemera held by the NYPL. Treasures of the New York Public Library is somewhat dated but still an excellent resource for interested parties. And those fascinated by the decor and architecture of the main branch will want to check out The New York Public Library : its architecture and decoration.

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2009-11-6_Pre-K_Library_Class[2]Congratulations to Hightower Elementary School for being the first school in the DeKalb County School System to have all their pre-kindergarten students sign up for library cards! The undertaking was accomplished with the dedication of the pre-k teacher, Elaine Swartley, Hightower’s teacher-librarian, Kia Wansley, as well as the parents and the DeKalb County Public Library System. These people worked together to ensure that these children did not miss out on a free and wonderful opportunity, as children of any age in DeKalb County can receive library cards.

One of the best ways that you, as a parent, teacher, or caregiver can support literacy in children is to encourage them to use the library. The library has thousands of books, reference materials, audiobooks and educational videos as well as internet access and a wide variety of free programs specifically for children and teens.

So what are you waiting for? Stop by your local branch and sign your child up for a Library card today!  Adults may also apply online for a library card.

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Nov 23 2009

Health Care in America

by Jesse M

With the recently proposed $894 billion heath care legislation working its way through Congress (to date it has been passed by the House and is working its way through the Senate; for more information, go here to read a recent article detailing the progress of the legislation) and the national debate over universal health care, rising insurance costs, and the possibility of a public insurance option heating up, what is needed is high-quality, incisive, and in-depth reporting on the facts of the situation. Luckily for those interested in teasing out the true nature of the health care related problems facing the nation, journalists from both National Public Radio and the public radio program This American Life have worked jointly to produce several articles and programs examining many aspects of the health care debate, all of which are available for free online.

This American Life (which, as mentioned earlier, is a radio program and therefore is in audio format) has produced the following episodes on the topic of health care:

  • More is Less is an examination of why it is that medical costs keep rising. One story looks at the doctors, one at the patients and one at the insurance industry.
  • Someone else’s money is a deeper look inside the health insurance industry, including stories examining industry jargon, the origins of the employer health care system, and the inside scoop on drug coupons and how they affect drug prices.
  • The third act of the episode Fine Print reports on a House subcommittee hearing addressing the insurance industry’s practice of rescission.
  • Additionally the TAL website also features a page of links to other health care articles and information, which can be found here.

If you’d prefer to read your news rather than listen to it (though you can listen to these stories as well), take a look at the health care related content produced by NPR:

And finally, for those still eager for more coverage on this subject, check out a couple of titles available from the DCPL catalog:

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IMGP3034aa43xWe are less than a week away from Thanksgiving Day so I thought I would count down 10 things I am thankful for about my library.

10. The Twitter feed that gives me interesting quotes, facts and heads up on library events.

9. The variety of programs that I can attend. (I personally like the musical programs, the new movie series and that the teens are developing some of their own programs.)

8. The DCPL Facebook page (I feel more connected to my community and love seeing some of the dialogue.)

7. The downloadable eAudiobooks some of which can be found in MP3 format. (Check out NetLibrary using GALILEO).  eAudiobooks are only available from outside the library buildings.

6. The number of electronic resources that are available to me for free as a member of the Library. (Check out the Reference Database page.)

5. The e-mail pre-notification that I get when my material is almost due.

4. The variety of movies that are available on DVD.

3. The hold request system. It is great to think of a book, go to the computer, place a request and have the item sent to my current branch. (It usually takes very little time if the item is in. My home library-not this county- takes usually several weeks even with the book on the shelf.)

2.  The wi-fi that is becoming available to more branches. (It works perfectly with my iPod touch and I can surf on my lunch hour.)

1. The variety of books available for my reading pleasure. If the library does not have it, I can suggest that they consider buying a copy for the system or I can use the Interlibrary Loan service to borrow the book from another library system.

What are you thankful about your library? Would you rank my top ten list differently?

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Nov 18 2009

Running Back to The Basics

by Jnai W

It’s hard to believe that in about a month and a half, the year 2009 and the first decade of the New Millennium will be over. The passing decade–and this passing year–have been trying times that have tested many of us in faith and resolve. But for me, at least, it’s been an opportunity to get back to basics and be more creative about things.  Instead of eating out as much, I bring my lunch to work. Instead of going to the movies or paying for Netflix, I borrow DVDs from the Library (…and there’s the pitch).  In a way, as cheesy as it sounds, the economic downturn has helped me get back in touch with the simpler (and less expensive) pleasures of life.

Among the simpler pleasures I’ve been rediscovering is my passion for running, something I’ve enjoyed since I was a high school student. I can’t say that I was the speed demon of the team but I truly enjoyed the freedom of being out in the elements, among my fellow teammates and decked in the school colors off to a cross country meet.  Running taught me a great deal about endurance, discipline and was a great way to relieve stress and tension. Unfortunately, running fell by the wayside as I grew older and a bit more preoccupied.

For now, I’m getting back into the sport slowly but surely, as I haven’t been a serious runner for some time. Thus far, I walk at least twice a week and have been trying to work the jogging back in. It feels really good to rediscover a long lost love. Here’s a couple of books I’ve been checking out:

Running For Dummies by Florence Griffith-Joyner & John Hanc–My heart leaped when I noticed this book at the Decatur branch.  “Flo-Jo!” I exclaimed…in a whisper (I was still in a library). I’m really liking this book so far because, like all For Dummies books, it’s great for the absolute beginner or the lapsed intermediate like myself.  It’s a great reminder of the rewards, the challenges and the simple mechanics of running. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that this book was co-authored by one of the greatest (and most glamorous) legends of the sport.

Think Fast: Mental Toughness Training for Running by Joe Henderson— There is no doubt that running requires physical strength and endurance but, as my old cross country coach would remind me, running is as much a mental sport as it is a physical sport. This book offers great wisdom for keeping your focus while running and also gives good advice on pushing yourself to “the next level” of more challenging, demanding workouts. While this particular book is geared more toward competitive and seasoned runners, this book can also be quite to the beginner in need of extra motivation.

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Nov 16 2009

Dangerous men

by Patricia D

I’m in love with a soldier.  His name is Richard and he wears a green jacket and carries a cavalry sword—a big heavy one meant for killing, not fencing.  He is an officer but be aware that he is no gentleman, something his  fellow officers continually mention.  His best comrade in arms is named Harper and he has a darling Donegal accent and a Nock gun.  It  shoots seven volleys at once and it’s a good thing Harper’s  a big boy because the recoil from that gun will break the shoulders of most men.   They both came up hard.  Richard enlisted to escape the law and Patrick was just looking for a few square meals.  They did well in the army, rising to unimaginable ranks and winding up richer than anyone could have believed thanks to all the loot they captured.   I met them through the magic of PBS and the BBC but I got to know them both better when I read their stories.

Of course, Richard and Patrick only exist between the covers of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s novels.  I love historical fiction but for the most part have always shied away from the stuff meant for the guys and stuck more closely with Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.  I’ll admit it, I skim the battle scenes in Cornwell’s books because there is some stuff I just don’t want to know.  However, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the Napoleonic Wars and in a manner so pleasant I was hooked before I realized what was actually happening.  I gave Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey a try as well, since they are contemporaries of Richard’s, but despite the fine writing and sterling research of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien, it appears that I prefer soldiers to sailors.  Go Army!

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Nov 13 2009

Paraskevidekatriaphobia!

by Vivian A

What in the world is that? Fear of Friday the 13th. It’s derived from the Greek words meaning – Paraskevi (Friday) dekatreis (thirteen) and phobia (fear). Or for a slightly shorter word try out Triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number thirteen.

Friday, November 13 marks the third and final Friday the Thirteenth of this year. This special date occurs at least once and at most three times in a year. The next triple date is in 2015. That’s a long time to wait to use as cool a word as Paraskevidekatriaphobia.

To celebrate why not check out Lemony Snicket’s thirteenth book in a Series of Unfortunate Events also released on Friday, October 13th, 2006. Who knows, it may be your lucky day.

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Nov 11 2009

Happy Veteran’s Day

by Jimmy L

Please remember that the Library is closed today in observance of Veterans Day, and the many citizens who serve our country.  Heather wrote a great Veteran’s Day post last year with some good links, so I will not try to improve on it.  Go read her post!

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Nov 9 2009

Happy Birthday Sesame Street

by Vivian A

Sesame Street is turning forty! Who knew? I had no idea Sesame Street was “born” in 1969. The pioneering PBS show was intended as a learning tool to help inner-city kids with reading and math but it seems like almost everyone checked out the show at one time or another.  Sesame Street is famous for weaving fun into an educational message.

The show has eight million viewers in over one hundred and forty countries around the world and an impressive twenty-two Emmy Awards on the shelf.  But with 4,169 episodes in the can (is it Oscar the Grouch’s Garbage Can?), Sesame Street still has some tricks up its sleeve: First Lady,  Michelle Obama, is set to guest star on the first show of the 40th season. She’s going to help Elmo teach children the benefits of healthy eating and exercise.

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I asked my friends and co-workers about their memories of the show and both children who watched the show and their parents who encouraged them to watch it had vivid memories of episodes and the over two hundred and fifty celebrity guest hosts.

You can check out Sesame Street DVDs from the library. The early episodes come with a disclaimer. Maybe because Cookie Monster smoked a pipe. But then he ate it.

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