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

January 2009

On Monday, the American Library Association gave the John Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature to Neil Gaiman for The Graveyard Book.

I was pleasantly surprised by this year’s choice because the Newbery doesn’t often go to fantasies and because of the frequent tendency for Newbery books to be ‘good’ books, as in good-for-you. Even Mr. Gaiman seemed surprised, saying that “there are books that are best sellers and books that are winners.” Popularity is not a consideration for the Newbery award (and rightly so), but there’s been a lot of debate in the library world recently about the obscurity of the most recent winners.

As a child I resisted reading ‘good’ books, preferring escapism to character-building.  As an adult, I know that I missed out on some excellent stories the child-me would have loved. As a librarian,  I’m trying to get those excellent stories to children who are just as reluctant as I was to read a ‘good’ book.  So I’m happy that this year’s Newbery choice means the good and the popular are on the same page.

I always love looking at the Caldecott books and this year the award for the most distinguished picture book for children goes to The House in the Night, illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson.

The ALA makes lots of other awards as well, including the Odyssey Award for audiobooks.  One of this year’s Odyssey Honor nominees is Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale, written and narrated by local author and DCPL favorite Carmen Agra Deedy. Congratulations to Ms. Deedy, Mr. Gaiman, Ms. Krommes and all the other winners and nominees!


question mark

I saw the title of this book in DCPL’s catalog and I was intrigued almost immediately. Often, as a library worker, I’m drawn into conversations about books I have not read.

“Do you know the latest James Patterson?”

“What are Eric Jerome Dickey’s books like?”

“Do you remember that passage in War and Peace…?”

The answer to these questions is “I don’t know”. Usually–and sometimes sheepishly–I’ll cop to the fact that I’m uninformed about a book. I love books as much as the next guy but it’s often difficult for me to keep up with the voracious book appetites of our patrons (you guys are Book Monsters!).  So I picked up the book How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (Bloomsbury) by Pierre Bayard. I haven’t actually completed it yet but judging by some of the chapter titles such as “Books You Have Forgotten,” “Imposing Your Ideas” and “Inventing Books,” I get the feeling that I’ll really enjoy it.

Digressing back to my point, book-honesty is always the best policy. Often I’ll just say “I haven’t read this book yet but I’ve heard great things,” which is true–usually. Saying something like this will usually provide an opening in conversation in which a literature-loving patron can gush about the merits of a book–his favorite passages, in-depth character analysis or critique of the book’s author.

Talking about book you haven’t read can be great fun so I look forward to reading Mr. Bayard’s book. I’ll let you know how it turns out if you like.

how to talk about books you haven't read


Jan 26 2009

“Every little pot…”

by Ev S

I love a good quote.  I heard one earlier today and thought I’d share.

“Every little pot has to stand on its own bottom.”

Of course I wanted to hear more neat quotes and I went bugging my co-workers for interesting quotes.  At some point my boss turns to me and said “You know there are books of quotes, go check one out.”  I knew this, really.  So, just to share, here are few of the quotes my co-workers and patrons of the library shared with me:

“You’re closer to the ground, you pick it up.” (as said to a child.)

“Slicker than snot on a doorknob.” (pertaining to icy weather)

“Close the refrigerator door, you’re letting out the penguins.”

“If frogs had wings they wouldn’t hit their butts when they jumped.”

“Close your mouth, you’re catching flies.”

“Don’t cross your eyes, flies will pitch in.” (Jamaican)

“If you point at the stars, you’ll get warts on your figures.” (Brazilian)

And here are some books we have in the library system:

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern Literature

(This is one of the most famous books of quotes and the one my boss ended up getting me.  But it is a reference book, so I could only read it at the library–when I went on break, of course.)

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Great Quotes for All Occasions compiled by Elaine Berstein Partnow

Oxford Dictionary of Phrase, Saying, and Quotation edited by Susan Ratcliffe

Lima Beans Would be Illegal: Children’s Ideas of a Perfect World compiled and illustrated by Robert Bender (a children’s book)

And we have many more similar books; you can quote me on that!


Jan 22 2009

Brainstorm Online

by Jimmy L

I’m a visual person.  Sometimes I need to get out a pencil and sketch out a diagram of a complex problem.  Recently, I found a free tool called bubbl.us that helps you make a visually attractive diagram online.  It’s very easy to draw “bubbles” and label them, color them, move them around, and create linkages between them. Once you’re done, you can export it as an image or web document to share with friends and collaborators.  Here’s a very over-simplified diagram I made in 3 minutes, just as an example:

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Jan 20 2009

Presidential Inauguration

by Heather S

Today marks a historic day for our nation.  And, it seems that everywhere I turn it’s what everyone is talking about.  As I channel surfed across the news stations on the television this weekend, one commentator mentioned a bit of interesting trivia. President-elect Obama has opted to include the phrase “so help me God” at the end of the oath of office, which every president has done since George Washington in 1789.  This made me wonder about other facts and tidbits about the inauguration. So, here’s a quiz on inaugural firsts:

  • Whose inaugural ceremony was the first to be broadcast on the radio?  Television?  Internet?
  • Who was the first president to take the oath of office in Washington, DC?
  • Who delivered the longest address?  The shortest address?
  • Who was the only unelected Vice President to become President?
  • Who was the first president inaugurated on January 20th?

To find the answers, look here.

And, if you aren’t able to make the trek to Washington, D.C. or want more information on the inauguration, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies’ website posts maps for the festivities, a program with the schedule of all the performers involved in the ceremonies, luncheon information that includes recipes from the menu, and pictures of the table settings, including the china and the flower arrangements.   If you can’t be there in person, this looks like the best site to make it seem like you really are there.  And, if you want to watch the inauguration with others in the DeKalb area, you can stop at the Chamblee, Clarkston, Redan-Trotti and Wesley Chapel – William C. Brown Libraries where the Inaugural Ceremonies will be shown on the big screen.


Jan 17 2009

King Holiday Observed

by Nolan R

All DeKalb County Public Library branches will be closed on Monday, January 19 in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday.  A list of local events is available online from The King Center.

A great online resource for photos, letters, videos, and much, much more relating to Dr. King (as well as other civil rights leaders and events), is the Civil Rights Digital Library.  It’s an excellent and fascinating resource.  Click here to watch a WSB newsfilm clip from First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama on May 21, 1961, where Dr. King encourages nonviolence while a riot goes on outside.


Jan 15 2009

The lonely bookmark blues

by Lesley B

In every reader’s life there comes a time when you have nothing to read. A time when you’ve read all the books in the series and the librarian says it’ll be a year before the next book comes out. A time when the book your sister loved is just not working for you.   You’re #11 on the waiting list for that bestseller, and you look around the Library and despair because you know there’s no book sitting on the nightstand at home.

Hey reader — it’s time to get some serendipity in your life. Ready? Let’s browse …

Log in to the Library’s catalog and take a close look at the record for the last book you read and enjoyed. Is there a genre listed? Click on that and you’ll find yourself looking at a list of genre headings. Click on the heading with the most records (that’s the number to the right). Now you’re looking a list of library books in that same genre. Anything look good? Get more information by clicking on the reviews and summaries.

There are no genre headings for non-fiction but look to the left and you’ll find the subject headings. Click on those and see what else the Library has on your topic.

Through DCPL’s website you’ve got access to Novelist, a service designed to help readers and librarians find their next book. Novelist has reading lists for all ages, book group discussion guides and lots of other suggestions for readers. I go there most often for the ‘Author Read-alikes’ over on the left side of the home page.

Check out the Library’s Shelf Help page, where you’ll find lists of recommended books and links to reading resources that should keep you clicking on the computer for hours.

And what if you’ve clicked and clicked, followed up on links and recommendations and still you have nothing to read?

I have one more suggestion — the Library Game. To play this game requires a certain boldness, a willingness to step away from other peoples’ suggestions and read a book you know nothing about.  Stand in front of some bookshelves (can be fiction or non-fiction, whatever looks most promising). Close your eyes. Select 3 books from the shelves, one from up high, one from the middle and one from down low. Open your eyes. You must read at least 50 pages of each book you picked before you give it up. (The rule used to be you had to read the whole book; but you know, life is short and books are long, so 50 pages it is).

Too silly for you? Ok, but the Library Game is how I discovered one of my absolute favorite writers, which led to me discovering a lot of other favorite writers, which saved me from having Nothing To Read for a long, long time.

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don\'t throw it awayAre you looking for inventive and resourceful ways to save money? Perhaps you’ve resolved to be “greener” and more environmentally friendly this year. If any of these apply to you, there is a great book here at DCPL that could help you along that path. Don’t Throw It Out: Recycle, Renew and Reuse To Make Things Last (Rodale) is a treasure trove of ideas combining two of my favorite things: being economical and being creative.

This book offers numerous tips and ideas for conserving common household items and getting the most out of your appliances, furniture and gadgets. Do you have an old nightstand that’s becoming an eyesore? Why not turn it into a hideway/sleeping spot for your cat?  Perhaps you can salvage an old nightstand or end table by decoupaging it with pressed flowers (I’m not that crafty but it sounds like a great idea).  Page 84 of this book lists six great ways to repurpose your old dresser drawers, including yet another sleeping spot for your cat (pets make out like bandits when it comes to reusing old items!).

One of the main reasons that I like this book is that not only is it informative but it’s also kind of inspirational. Reading about how to turn a vinyl LP into a wall clock (!) made me really start thinking of ways that I can make the most out of the stuff that I’ve got lying around the house. Each item–whether it’s an old work boot, a stack of worn-out CDs or an out-of-commission baby crib–can be given a new purpose or function. And during cash-strapped times such as these it’s a nice reminder to look at the things we have with an open mind and a little imagination.

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Jan 12 2009

Help, I want to improve my house!

by Amanda L

Every New Year my husband and I look around the house deciding if we want to make any improvements or if we have maintenance issues that we need to tackle. We built our own house over twelve years ago and have performed much of the maintenance and improvements ourselves. I always use the Library’s resources to see what they can help us with. In fact, we have used many books at the Decatur Library to help us build our house. With the housing market in a down turn, many people are looking for ways to improve their house either to stay or to help sell it faster. The Library has a variety of home improvement books available. Here is a sampling of books that might be useful for those, like me, wanting to improve their house.

DIY guide to appliances

The essential guide for first-time homeowners: maximize your investment & enjoy your new home

Ultimate guide to wiring: complete home projects

Home makeovers that sell: quick and easy ways to get the highest possible price

The complete photo guide to home repair

House transformed: getting the home you want — with the house you have

Universal design for home

Stanley complete flooring


Jan 8 2009

Judging a Place by its Cover

by Jimmy L

Can you recognize these legendary album covers?  If so, what about where these photos were actually taken?  Word magazine has created a Google Maps mashup called Album Atlas that makes it really easy to find out, so that you can be the most knowledgeable guy or gal at the music store (at least concerning this topic).  You can click anywhere on the map with a blue flag and it will show you an album cover taken at that location.  Alternately, you may click on an album title from the full list, and it will show you the location on the map.  Continue reading this post if you want the answers to the above questions… [read the rest of this post…]