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

October 2011

Oct 28 2011

All Hallows Read

by Jimmy L

This Halloween, consider giving someone a scary book. That’s the whole idea behind All Hallows Read, a fun project that writer Neil Gaiman wishes will start a new yearly tradition. Watch Neil himself  as he explains the idea :

 

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Oct 26 2011

Decatur Electronics Recycling Day

by Joseph M

Do you have any old electronic items sitting around at home gathering dust because you aren’t sure about the best way to dispose of them?  Check out Decatur Recycling Day, a biannual event taking place this Saturday, October 29 in the Decatur High School parking lot from 9am to 1pm.  Almost anything with an electrical cord can be recycled at no cost, including cell phones, computer components, cameras, DVD players, batteries and more.  Television sets can also be recycled for a charge of $10 cash.  In a change from previous years, styrofoam will no longer be accepted.  For more information, including a list of acceptable items, please visit this link on the City of Decatur website.

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Oct 24 2011

Sci-fi Shakespeares

by Jesse M

The poet and playwright William Shakespeare had a dramatic influence on the English language. In the course of producing the many plays, sonnets, and poems which he is now famous for, Shakespeare coined a plethora of new words and phrases (some estimates number in the thousands!), many of which continue to enrich our language and daily discourse hundreds of years later (just a few examples include “seen better days”, “full circle”, and “strange bedfellows”; more available here).

Shakespeare isn’t the only author to become a de facto wordsmith. Over the past century one group of authors have seen concepts, terms, and phrases introduced in their stories adopted by both the scientific and lay communities: Science fiction writers. The SF blog Io9 has compiled a short list of such words; follow this link to take a look. Some commonly used words and phrases sci-fi authors can claim credit for include “robotics”, “genetic engineering”, and “blast off” (introduced by Isaac Asimov, Jack Williamson, and E.E. Smith, respectively).

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Oct 19 2011

Friends indeed…

by Dea Anne M

This week, October 16-22, is National Friends of Libraries Week. Library Friends groups across the nation will be promoting their libraries and libraries themselves will be staging special events and other appreciations of  the Library Friends who help them so much. DCPL branches will be offering patrons the chances to show support by purchasing a “leaf of support” for $1 each. We also have many events planned. Go to our own Friends of the Library page for more information.

I’ve known people who take the existence of public libraries for granted but, as recent economic news has shown, it’s best not to take too nonchalant an attitude, that is if you value your library and what it can provide to you and to your community.

How long have public libraries existed in the United States? As early as the 1600’s, churches and private individual established libraries in towns and parishes through donations of books. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin helped establish the Library Company of Philadelphia which was a subscription library lending to those who paid to become a member. True public libraries, as we know them, began emerging in the 1800’s when New Hampshire establishing the first tax-supported public library operating under the motto “open to all and free of charge.” However, it wasn’t until 1881, with the establishment of Andrew Carnegie’s legacy, that the U.S. saw the vast expansion of the public library system that so many of us enjoy and benefit from today.

If you’re a library buff in general, be sure to check out The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World (mentioned in a previous post by fellow blogger Jesse). There are some truly spectacular libraries featured in the book including two of my favorites: Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland and the New York Public Library. Also, don’t miss Library: the drama within another book of photographs presenting a variety of libraries—from the grand national library in Paris, to prison libraries, to tiny branch libraries in small towns.

For a very readable history of libraries and the important role that they have played in history, try Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battle.

What’s it like to actually work in a public library? Free for all: oddballs, geeks, and gangstas in the public library by Don Borchert is an amusing account of life on the front lines of a public library in Los Angeles told by a man who has truly seen it all.

Remember, this week is your chance to come out and show your support for your local branch and the wonderful Friends groups who provide so much of their hard work year round. Buy a leaf for a dollar at any branch of DCPL and show your love!

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Oct 17 2011

Feeling Gravity’s Pull

by Greg H

“I heard the news today, oh boy.”  The word came down a week or so ago that Athens musical legend R.E.M. has officially disbanded.  The news feels significant to me even if I am one of the many fans who  agree that it has been a while since R.E.M. has produced anything remotely as good as their work in the 80’s and early 90’s.  Perhaps it was time to call it quits, yet R.E.M. seemed to be a band of brothers, bound so closely together through their common roots and their music  that it looked as though they would never succumb to the inertia that eventually topples most groups. In fact, they lasted about four times longer than the group that I quoted in the first sentence. (For the very young, that was the Beatles.)

R.E.M. was the last musical group  with whom I ever felt a complete emotional connection. They didn’t sound like anything or anyone I’d ever heard before. I  loved their lyrics even though most of them weren’t intelligible, especially on the early records.  R.E.M. concerts were the backdrop for some of the most special times I ever spent with many of my best and oldest friends.  For a little over a decade, from 1984, when I first heard their album Reckoning,  through 1995 when I last saw R.E.M. in concert at the Omni, I was enthralled   by pretty much every song on every album.

R.E.M. even played a small role in my decision to move to Georgia and work for DCPL.  At the 1991 American Library Association mid-winter conference I had interviewed with the DeKalb and Chicago Public Library systems.  I was pretty certain that I would be offered a job with each but not at all sure how I would decide where I would go. Chicago had two major league baseball teams; a definite plus!  Georgia, however, could claim both my favorite writer (Roy Blount Jr.) and favorite band.  I was almost home from that conference,  and stopped at a red light in a frigid Pittsburgh suburb, when I looked at the car stopped on the other side of the intersection. On the front was a faux green and white Georgia license plate with the letters R.E.M. on it.  The car made a left turn and drove off and I was left believing that I’d just seen an omen.

[read the rest of this post…]

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Oct 14 2011

Fall into the Woods

by Amanda L

All my life I have loved being outside in the Fall. Watching nature make her last spectacular color push until she falls asleep for the winter is one of my favorite pastimes. When I head into the woods each Fall, I often  have my camera and a variety of books within reach to consult.  If you sit quietly for an hour or more, you never know what animal, bird or insect you might see that you have never seen before.

Over the years, I have seen deer, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, armadillos, skunks and a screech owl to name a few. Last year, my most memorable moment was when I thought a herd of deer were coming towards me as I sat in the woods. To my shock and surprise, I found two rambunctious armadillos chasing each other through the leaves.  If I’m unsure of the animal, insect or even a tree, I always consult a guide book. The Library has a variety of these guidebooks to help you identify what you have seen. There are also books on nature photography.

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Oct 12 2011

Don’t Panic!

by Joseph M

On Monday’s blog post we looked at a list of the top 100 scifi and fantasy novels as compiled by users of NPR’s website.  Today I’d like to talk about the book that came in at second place: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

First published as a novel on October 12, 1979, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started out as a BBC radio comedy and has since been adapted into a variety of other mediums, including a stage play, several TV adaptations, a computer game, a comic book series, and a major Hollywood film.  It also led to the other books in the Hitchhiker’s “trilogy”: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, The Universe, and Everything; So Long and Thanks for All The Fish, and Mostly Harmless.  The series follows the adventures of hapless protagonist Arthur Dent and his companions, and can be conveniently enjoyed in a single volume, available at the library.

I have a great personal fondness for the series, and I hope you enjoy it too!

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Oct 10 2011

The top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books

by Jesse M

Back in June, NPR asked readers of its website to nominate their top five science fiction and fantasy titles. Over 5,000 people responded with nominations. Of those nominees, several hundred were selected as candidates for a slot on the final list, and readers were then asked to vote on their ten favorites. Over 60,000 voters participated and, once all the result were tallied, NPR presented its list of the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books. The winners are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary works, diverse in style and subject matter. The number one selection: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The list is an excellent readers’ advisory resource for devotees of sci-fi and fantasy who are looking for something new as well as for individuals interested in exploring one or both genres who don’t really know where to start. If you count yourself part of the latter category, the writers at the science fiction and fantasy blog SF Signal have constructed a flowchart for easy navigation of the top 100 list. You can choose to view the flowchart in one of two ways, either holistically in a large scrollable image or in an interactive format.

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I broke down and bought a book—we were on vacation and I had forgotten to pack the Bag of Amusement—that bag with the books, crayons, drawing paper, and Tootsie Pops that always goes on long trips with us.  There in the shop window was a copy of Heidi, by Johanna Spyri,  just waiting to be read to my child.  I loved Heidi as a child.  My own copy got worn to tatters and wound up missing a cover so you can imagine how excited I was to share it.  Turns out I had an abridged edition as a kid, which helps explains why some things in the story didn’t make sense.  I also had a different translation and I’ll tell you truly—I can deal with an unabridged story, but not the wrong translation.  I was so disappointed I donated that translation to the school library and we moved on to E.B. White’s Stuart Little.

I believe it’s perfectly clear from a previous post that I think Charlotte’s Web  is perfection.  As we read it last year we watched the progress of a spider outside our window and cried, not when the real spider died but when Wilbur said goodbye to Charlotte.  It made such an impression that the spider currently living in the bush next to the garage is also Charlotte and at least one of us feels pretty protective of her, constantly adjuring Mama not to get too close to the web with the yard tools.  I’m talking about Charlotte’s Web because I want you to understand how alarmed I am that Stuart Little, much like Heidi, was a failure.   Granted, I haven’t taken the time to research this.  I need to find some critical reviews, or perhaps something from White himself where he discusses what he was thinking when he wrote the book.  Frankly, he has stuff in there that I just don’t understand.  For instance, Stuart’s date while on his quest to find Margalo makes no sense.  Why show Stuart to be such a self-involved jerk?  Why bother having a scene that doesn’t seem to go anywhere and seems so out of place with the rest of the story?  My Partner in Reading liked the first part of the book but I don’t know if it’s my fault she didn’t like the end or if it’s White’s.

My distress over this, it turns out, is not unique.  In talking with other children’s librarians I’ve discovered there are many books or stories that are “classics” that for some reason leave us cold or unsettled.  One colleague despises the Hans Christian Andersen stories, another always had problems with The Little Red Hen, who quite frankly should have just done everything herself in the first place and left everyone else alone.  We were all a little relieved to discover we weren’t the only people in the world who just didn’t “get” all classic children’s literature.

So tell me, DeKalb—what books didn’t work for you?

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Oct 5 2011

Dinner…possible?

by Dea Anne M

As an enthsiastic home cook, I love it when I have a leisurely several hours to spend in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.  As a working person who can’t—and doesn’t want to—eat out every night,  I want to have a delicious dinner at my own table at a reasonable hour. Delicious. At Home. On Time. Some nights all that can feel like “mission impossible,” so to speak, and I wind up falling back on a sandwich or pasta. There’s nothing really wrong with those options, but most evenings I crave something that’s more like the family meals that I grew up with.

I’m only cooking for two so I don’t have the added pressure of getting dinner on the the table for children. Still, some of my favorite current reading matter is the blog Dinner: A Love Story. The bloggers, Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward are working parents of two daughters ages 7 and 9 and while some of the writing centers around issues specific to feeding children, much of it involves great tips for getting dinner on the table quickly and inexpensively without sacrificing flavor and without the use of a lot of processed items.

Some nights, I know what ingredients I have on hand but I can’t figure out what to do with them or don’t want to cook the same old thing. A handy Internet tool that I’ve found for just this situation is SuperCook. You plug in your ingredients, one by one, and the site pulls recipes from tons of online sources. You can limit your search to exclude any undesirable ingredients like meat, gluten, and others. I admit that I will often “tweak” the recipes that I find, but all in all it’s a great everyday tool.

If you need help with dinner, DCPL has resources for you.

One of my current favorite books is The Stocked Kitchen by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins. The “revolutionary” concept espoused here is one that was probably quite familiar to our mothers and grandmothers and that is…keep a list, shop the list, cook from the list. Kallio and Krastins include their own master list which is admirably compact, in my opinion, and doesn’t include a preponderance of exotic or heavily packaged ingredients. The rest of the book is devoted to recipes that use the master list ingredients, and only those ingredients, to provide a solid core of standards as well as dishes to make for company or just for fun. I have my own set of recipes that I make on a regular basis so I use the book more as an inspiration than anything else. However, I now have my own prepared “checklist” that lives on the refrigerator door and is always ready when I go shopping. For me, it makes shopping simpler (and less expensive!) and daily cooking much, much easier.

…and speaking of simple, I’ve been a big fan of Real Simple magazine for years. Real Simple: Meals Made Easy by the editors of Real Simple is a great example of the clean, modern design aesthetic of the magazine which I so admire. The book is easy to use, lavishly illustrated (always a big plus for a cookbook, I think), and doesn’t call for any hard-to-find or heavily processed ingredients. My one reservation about the book is that it presupposes a certain level of kitchen knowledge, particularly in the area of knife skills. If you’re a cook who is already comfortable in the kitchen though, this might just be the cookbook for you.

Another of my more recent favorites is The City Cook by Kate McDonough. The sub-title kind of says it all Big City, Small Kitchen. Limitless Ingredients, No Time. More than 90 recipes so delicious you’ll want to toss your take out menus.  Focused mainly toward urban dwellers, this book has a lot of good advice for those cooking in tiny spaces, and in spite of  the  “limitless” tag  the ingredients involved are mostly simple and easy to find. I particularly appreciate McDonough’s common-sense advice such as her tips on getting fish smells out of apartments and her caveat that you really only need 3 knives, a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife. As an added plus, the well-edited collection of recipes don’t demand hours of prep work. If you want to start cooking more meals at home, but don’t want to feel overwhelmed, this could be a very helpful resource.

Finally, let me offer two of my own tips that always help me start cooking dinner when I’d really rather just flop on the couch:

1.  Don’t sit down (yet).

2.  Get out the pots and pans before you change your clothes!

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