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

September 2010

Sep 29 2010

Five Books

by Jimmy L

I found a great book recommendation site the other day called Five Books.  The concept is very simple.  Every day they find some prominent expert and ask them to recommend five books on their topic of choice (usually related to their area of expertise).  Topics vary as widely as “Faith in Politics” to “Football” to “Iranian History”.  The result is targeted, informed recommendations on important issues.

For example, veteran journalist and author of Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded and The Professor and the MadmanSimon Winchester chose Volcanoes as his subject, and he recommends:

  1. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  2. The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer Lytton
  3. The Crater by James Fenimore Cooper
  4. The Violins of Saint-Jacques: A Tale of the Antilles by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  5. The Twenty-one Balloons by William Pène Du Bois

As you can see, sometimes the experts choose academic or rare books that the public library may not carry (#3 and #4 above), but the library usually has enough to at least get you started on most subjects.  In addition to just a list of books, the site also includes an interview with the expert so they can explain the reasons behind each of their choices.


Sep 27 2010

Please Be My *BFF — For Now

by Veronica W

HEAR YE, HEAR YE, all you Facebook, MySpace and Twitter members (which includes me). According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, if you are accumulating friends like acorns for the coming winter, you are wasting your time, spinning your wheels, running in place. He says “the brain can’t handle many more than 150 friends, so lining up thousands of them on social networks is a pretty meaningless exercise.” Actually I think 150 is rather ambitious. My list of friends is much, much smaller than that and I still feel guilty at the end of every month because I’ve forgotten someone’s birthday or anniversary.

This poses the questions, how many friendships do we actually want and how many can we keep healthy? In a recent article in MORE magazine, Sally Koslow quotes—and makes—some rather startling statements, with which you may or may not agree.

1. The average person now replaces half their friends every 7 years. (It seems seven years is significant in  other ways too. I’ve heard couples start to “itch” at this point also.)

2. Many close bonds are marriages of convenience based on mutual need rather than deep regard. (Hmmm. Not a nice thought)

3. People do not have friends at work…they have “work neighbors.” Once you move out of the “neighborhood” you’re no longer thought about or included. (Now that’s harsh. Is it true?)

I found these “facts” very distressing because, upon reflection, I realized I’ve lost touch with most of my childhood AND college buddies. There were no major blow ups, but the relationships simply died a natural death. My moving almost a thousand miles away was perhaps the final nail in the coffin. John Steinbeck says, in his book East of Eden , “There’s nothing sadder to me than associations held together by nothing but the glue of postage stamps. If you can’t see or hear or touch a man, it’s best to let him go.” It also didn’t help that one of the first books on the subject upon which I stumbled was The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women’s True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned out or Faded Away. Wow. I read a few and got a bit down, so to cheer myself up I decided to list all the “buddy” books and movies I could think of. I’m glad to say that wasn’t very difficult because good and lasting friendships are a prevailing theme in literature and in Hollywood . Check these out:

Books: Of Mice and MenFried Green Tomatoes, Frog and Toad Together, The Red Hat Club, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Siserhood, Kite Runner, Bridge to Terabithia, The Wind in the Willows, The Joy Luck Club

Movies: Lord of the Rings, Shawshank Redemption, Monster’s Inc., Thelma and Louise, Toy Story, Stand By Me, The Bucket List, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Lethal Weapon

I’m sure there are many more. In the middle of the night, I will sit up suddenly and yell, because I thought of a good title I didn’t include.  However I started the list—maybe you can add some titles of your own.   If you do, I’ll be your friend.

*Best Friend Forever


Sep 24 2010

Banned Books Week

by Jesse M

Banned Books Week begins tomorrow, as it has every year during the last week of September since its inception in 1982. What is it? Put simply, Banned Books Week is a national celebration of the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.

Why celebrate Banned Books Week?

There are hundreds of challenges to books in schools and libraries in the United States every year (a challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness). According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 460 in 2009; the ALA estimates that “for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported”. To get an idea of the frequency and breadth of book challenges, take a look at this map of book bans and challenges across the U.S. from 2007-2010. So to answer the question “why celebrate banned books week?” I will quote from the ALA website, since they put it much more eloquently than I could:

Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

All manner of books have come under fire at various times over the past century, many of which are considered classic works of literature, including John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. You can view a more comprehensive list of banned or challenged classics here, along with a description of where they were challenged, by whom, and for what reason. Alternately, if you prefer perusing data in a visual format, you can view bar graphs of challenges broken down by year, reason, initiator, and institution.

You may be curious as to what books are drawing the ire of censors these days. If so, take a look at this list of the ten most challenged books of 2009, or this list of the top 100 challenged books of the past decade (which includes, ironically enough, Fahrenheit 451, a classic science fiction novel featuring a future society which has made reading a crime and institutionalized the practice of burning books). You may even come across something you’d like to read!

Happy Banned Books Week!


Sep 22 2010

Something for (almost) nothing

by Dea Anne M

I would never classify myself as a cheapskate, but I do like saving money. I’m always telling my cost-conscious friends, “If you’re looking for a bargain, get a library card!” After all, the library offers book, magazines, music, and movies for…nothing! What could be a better deal?

For a gardener like me, another great bargain is making compost. All you really need to get started is source of kitchen scraps, for most of us that would be our own kitchen, and a place to stow them while time, heat, and air to do the work. The result is a nutrient rich fertilizer/soil for your garden, shrubs, flowers, and container plants. I had wanted to get started on composting for awhile but I couldn’t seem to find the right container.  There’s the old school, and very effective, bin constructed from chicken wire and lumber. I am, however, someone who is woefully unskilled with hammer and nails. There are also plenty of excellent commercial bins available but none that I felt were within my budget. Finally, I located a simple bin at Home Depot for a price I thought I could handle. Okay, I admit that it was on sale.  When I say simple, I mean it. My bin consists of four interlocking sides and a spring top lid, but it has been doing the job for a year and a half and I couldn’t be happier. Vegetable scraps, washed out egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags all go inside along with shredded paper and yard trimmings and out comes rich, black soil.

While composting is a straight-forward operation, there are a guidelines and tips that can make the process more effective and enjoyable. Here are a few of the resources available at DCPL.

Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Banner Batches, Grow Heaps, Comforter Compost and Other Amazing Techniques for Saving Time and Money, Producing the Most Flavorful, Nutritious Vegetables Ever by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin

The Rodale Book of Composting Deborah L. Martin and Grace Gershuny, editors

The Urban/ Suburban Composter: the Complete Guide to Backyard, Balcony, and Apartment Composting by Mark Cullen and Lorraine Johnson

Let It Rot! The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell

…and for kids, how about…

Compost! : Growing Gardens From Your Garbage by Linda Glaser; pictures by Anca Hariton

Oh yes, back in the late spring, I noticed a plant growing out of my bin. A week later, I realized that what I had was a tomato plant that must have sprouted from a composted seed. I’ve left it alone and it has grown into mass of vines nearly 12 feet long. Plus, it has produced delicious tomatoes all summer long.

Now that’s what I call something for nothing!

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When I was five my grandmother tied one of her checked terry cloth aprons around my chest, stood me on a stool, handed me a butter knife and an egg and told me it was time I learned to cook.  That’s how I learned to fry eggs, eggshells in the egg, egg in the hot bacon grease and my five year old self just as proud as I could be.  Now, I know you’re horrified because none of you would ever put a five year old anywhere near a functioning gas burner or a pan of hot grease but let’s just recall that times were different—remember when child car seats hooked over the front seat and weren’t actually intended to restrain a child?  Sometimes I’m amazed I survived my childhood.

What’s particularly interesting  about my grandmother deciding I needed to learn how to cook (thanks to her I could put a full meal on the table for a family of six by the time I was 11) is that the only thing my mother could do in the kitchen when she got married was peel potatoes.  My grandma would be the first to tell you she  wasn’t a fancy cook, but that she was more than competent in the kitchen, yet it was my father who had to teach my mother how to roast a chicken, among other things.  I puzzled over this for a long time but the scales fell from my eyes the first time I tied an apron around a junior member of the Kitchen Patrol at my house.  I handed over an egg and butter knife and wound up a gibbering idiot with, quite literally, egg on my face.

It’s not easy to teach someone who is still developing fine motor skills and an attention span how to crack an egg and get it into a bowl.  It takes patience and a willingness to settle for less than perfect results.  Knowing my grandma, I imagine she decided it was just easier to do it herself than to fuss with the mess and bother of teaching my mother.  Of course, by the time I came around she wasn’t worrying about putting out three meals a day for a family of seven and I think she could afford to be a little more relaxed.

Cooking with my family is still a source of deep pleasure for me—most of the best moments of my life have happened in a kitchen.  The Junior Kitchen Patrol and I spend many hours cooking together.  We make bread, brownies, biscotti, pizza, jello.  Jello is in fact the hot favorite at the moment (don’t ask—there’s no way to explain it) with pizza  running a close second.  It’s not all fun and games.  Cooking with children is a scholarly activity.   We do addition (2 eggs + 2 eggs is ?) fractions (slice that pizza in into eighths!) we work on  fine motor skills (try peeling your own shrimp for dinner and see how good you get) and we even squeeze in chemistry (contrary to what some people at my house think the sugar in bread dough does not give yeast gas—we’re still working on that concept.)  Yes, sometimes I wind up gibbering, and I keep the frying-things-in-grease jobs for myself, but Junior KP can crack an egg with no mess these days and we’re both pretty proud of that.  Cooking with a child does take longer but it’s a pretty rewarding pasttime and I’m glad my grandma had the luxury of figuring that out.

Silver spoon for children: favorite Italian recipes recipes adapted and edited by Amanda Grant

FamilyFun cooking with kids from the experts at Family Fun Magazine

Salad people and more real recipes: a new cookbook for pre-schoolers and up by Mollie Katzen

Kids cook 1-2-3: recipes for young chefs using only three ingredients by Rozanne Gold

Children’s baking book recipes and stylings by Denise Smart

Toddler cookbook by Annabell Karmel

Kitchen science by Peter Pentland

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Sep 17 2010

Shop, Shop, Shop

by Amanda L

(picture courtesy of Sky City Blog)

Sometimes I am inspired by other blogs and this is such a time.  I  recently discovered through a friend, a blog dedicated to Southern Retail.  The blog is a  history but more importantly the architecture of malls. This blog explores malls in the South both in the past and present. Each entry displays pictures and a brief history of the mall. This blog reminded me of the website the Atlanta Time Machine.  DCPLive wrote a post about this several years ago.

Having spent many an hour at most of the malls listed in the Atlanta area due to my previous career, I found the site fun and informative. Who doesn’t think about shopping when a mall is mentioned. One thing that has always puzzled me, not being a shopper, is why people shop. The Library has many books about this subject and the joy of shopping.

If you like history and like to reminisce in days gone by, the Library has a histories of Sears, Macy’s and Rich’s in our collection.  I am always amazed what the Library has that will quench my desire to re-experience the past.


Sep 15 2010

I Love My Librarian!

by Joseph M

Libraries are more than just the materials on their shelves, more than the myriad databases and other electronic services offered on their websites; libraries also consist of the dedicated individuals who staff the branches. While all library workers can and do provide excellent service to the public, librarians in particular have devoted considerable amounts of time and resources to earn a masters degree, so as to better provide excellent service to library users. The American Library Association (with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York and The New York Times) has established the I Love My Librarian Award, now in its third year, to recognize outstanding librarians in public and academic settings. Has a librarian touched your life? Visit this website to nominate worthy individuals and learn more about the award.


Sep 13 2010

Where Have All the Jingles Gone?

by Veronica W

Most of us will concede that tv commercials are a necessary evil and some are grateful for the high tech ways we have of blocking them. Usually I just hit the mute button and read or do something else until my show comes back on. Can you blame me? Why would I want to hear someone wax eloquent (or not) on the merits of personal hygiene products, wart removal remedies or toilet paper? Also, the advertised prescription medicines come with so many dire warnings of  side effects that only the brave or foolhardy would consider trying them. Granted, some of these ads are very clever—Madison Avenue does get its multi-billion dollars’ worth—but for the most part they are not memorable or fun.

Although some commercials have music, it seems as if the time for humming along with really catchy jingles has come and gone. I must confess, I liked some of those jingles. Who remembers “You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent?” How about the Chiquita Banana song , the California Raisins singing “Heard it Through the Grapevine or the Good ‘N’ Plenty candy ad with ‘CHARlie says’?”  One of my absolute favorites, though, has to be the 197os Oscar Mayer bologna commercial, with the cutest little kid imaginable.  Have a listen.

If you’re old(er) and just want to reminisce or young(er) and need a good laugh, go to www.youtube.com and check out “Classic Commercial Jingles 50s 60s.”  Another great website for browsing is www.squidoo.com/tv-commercials-we-cannot-forget.  An older book that is still available and gives some of the ins and outs of jingle writing is Through the Jingle Jungle. The book jacket alone is amusing enough to make you want to check it out.

There are some commercials which, even without a jingle, have become virtually iconic, such as Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?”  For a very long time that phrase was used to question anything that did not appear to be genuine and Clara Peller, the little old gray-haired lady who uttered it, made it famous. Joining it in the advertising Hall of Fame are “Time to make the donuts,” “Leggo my Eggo” and “Calgon take me away.”

For those folk who can’t carry a tune in a basket or have no interest in mindlessly humming inane melodies but are interested in the world of advertising and its impact on us, you can take a look at these books: Adcult USA:The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture,  Advertising Slogans of America,  The Ultimate Marketing Toolkit and 20 Ads That Shook the World.

Advertising, whether on television, the radio, a billboard or bus, is designed to make you want to try whatever product or service is being touted. While the ad may be  spectacular and extravagant (Times Square) or a cardboard curb sign, the aim is still for you to remember it. What makes something memorable for people is very individual—and perhaps generational.  We are now so bombarded with music at every turn that a jingle almost seems excessive.  However until Tide or AllState,  Bounty or Clairol put their ads to music and invite me to hum along, I’ll probably continue to hit the mute button.  How about you?


Sep 9 2010

Needle Crafters Unite!!!

by Tamika S

Recently, I discovered the joy of crocheting. My mother, who has been crocheting since she was 12, tried to teach me when I was younger.  My response then was “it’s boring!” and all I learned to do was a long line of chain stitches.  Fast forward X number of years later, with the help of a co-worker, I became interested in it and the rest is history.  As any crafter will tell you, once you start a hobby, you find yourself spending a great deal of time and money gathering materials, whether you need them for a project or not.  A room or area of your house becomes your work area and craft stores become one of your favorite places to visit.

If this sounds like you, add the Library to your list.  The Library offers a large selection of print and audiovisual materials to help you develop or hone your skills in any needle craft. Here are a few to help you get started:

Crocheting School:  A Complete Course by Sterling Publishing Company

The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet by Margaret Hubert.

I Can’t Believe I’m Crocheting [DVD] by Leisure Arts

Getting Started Knitting by Jennifer Worick

I Can’t Believe I’m Knitting [DVD] by Leisure Arts

Teach Yourself Visually Quilting by Sonja Hakala

The Art of Quilting [DVD] by Wisconsin Public Television

Did I pique your interest?  Do you need more than a book or a DVD to teach you how to crochet a scarf in time for the winter?  Well, in addition to materials, the Library offers classes on various crafts and there are even needle craft groups who meet monthly in the Library.  Here’s a link to the Library’s Arts and Crafts Events Calendar where you can find a listing for a crochet class at the Gresham Branch, the Knitting Circle at the Scott Candler Branch, the Brown Sugar Stitchers at the Wesley Chapel Branch, the newly formed Teen Crochet Group starting at Decatur in a few weeks, and the Creative Expressions Crochet Group who is celebrating its 2nd Anniversary on Saturday, September 11th with our annual Crochet Fashion Show.  If you are in the area, come on by and join us and see what fabulous things you can make with a hook or needle, some yarn, a little bit of time, and imagination.


Sep 8 2010

Catching some zzzz’s..or maybe not

by Dea Anne M

Do you get enough sleep? Far from being a luxury for those without busy schedules (nobody I know) or something to catch up on during the weekend, sleep is a daily necessity and, according to the CDC a “vital sign” of good health. Experts now say that 7 hours a night is optimum for adults and I know that this is what I aim for yet don’t always achieve.  Well, I’ve yet to fall asleep at work so Morpheus and I must be on pretty good terms. In  the meantime, DCPL has resources for both the sleep deprived and the sleep curious alike.

If you need help learning how to get to sleep, check out:

Insomnia: 50 Essential things to do by Theresa Foy DiGeronimo with Frank Di Maria.  Or…

The Harvard Medical School guide to a good night’s sleep by Lawrence J. Epstein with Steven Mardon.

[read the rest of this post…]

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