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

December 2010

Dec 29 2010

Why We Borrow

by Dea Anne M

One of my favorite non-fiction titles is Paco Underhill‘s Why We Buy: the science of shopping.  As someone who spent a number of years working in bookstores,  I have always been interested in what might be called the“science of shopping,” and Underhill’s book does a great job, I think, in illuminating the many ways, some quite unexpected,  in which our shopping experience can be, and is, manipulated to get us not only to spend more money, but to be happy about it.While public libraries are not in the business of selling books, it occurs to me that we are (or should be) interested in getting patrons in the door and providing them not only with an enjoyable library experience but also to encourage them to take the fullest advantage of the resources that we have to offer. I suspect that during tough economic times people might turn more and more often toward libraries to provide not only research, literacy, and job search assistance but as a source for entertainment that might at one time be purchased.

I think it’s interesting to consider how libraries can effectively utilize some of the “rules” that Underhill lays out for compelling design of space as well as other ways of helping patrons feel informed, welcomed, and satisfied. Here’s just a few:

1. Don’t put anything important (signage, displays, baskets) in the “transition” area. This is the area 10 feet or so around the entrance. The idea is that patrons (customers) don’t actually “see” anything until they get this far into the library (store) so anything put there is more than likely to go unnoticed.

2. Provide chairs. People will spend more time in places where they are comfortable. In the absence of formal furniture, people will improvise and sit on the floor, on window sills, on top of shelving units…you get the picture.

3. Provide the patron with what she or he needs. For libraries this might be items as basic as step stools, baskets, pencils and scratch paper, and staplers.  I think things like photocopiers and catalog computers fit in this category as well.

4. In terms of interior design, a basic, but often forgotten, factor is simply providing enough space for patrons to move in comfortably. Planning for this needs to involve considering patrons who move with walkers or wheelchairs as well as patrons pushing strollers.

5. Another design consideration has to do with the exterior of the building. Underhill’s belief is that a well-designed building is an advertisement for itself and invites you to step inside. One iconic library design is the 5th Avenue branch of the New York Public Library (at right) and check out these views of the Dublin, CA public library ( below).

What do you think of treating the patron’s library experience as similar to a shopping experience? How does a child’s happy library experience differ from an adult’s, or a teen’s?

If you’re at all interested in what motivates a shopper, then I think you’ll find Underhill’s book an absorbing and amusing read. Or check out these titles:

Shoptimism: why the American consumer will keep on buying no matter what by Lee Eisenberg.

Buy-ology: truth and lies about why we buy by Martin Lindstrom.

Treasure Hunt: inside the mind of the new global consumer by Michael J. Silverstein with John Butman.


Dec 27 2010


by Patricia D

I put over a thousand miles on my car in the past week.  My family is all up North and we tried Christmas without them once.  It was a little sad and a lot lonely so now I bite the bullet, load up the Backseat Club’s MP3 player with audiobooks and spend a lot of quality time with asphalt but not, thank you, state troopers.  I like being in the car for big stretches of time, watching the land slip past, noting where there is now yet another outlet mall or huge subdivision festering on a  landscape that used to feature crops or timber.  We stop every now and then to check out some oddity (an antique,  fully automated Noah’s Ark fitted out with  lots of stuffed rats, gophers, small birds and a dove) or historical site.  Our visit to Camp Wildcat, site of the first engagement of regular troops in Kentucky during the Civil War, was made memorable by the folks who preserved the site as they explained that the many bullet holes in the restroom roof were made by local marijuana growers  who didn’t have as fine an appreciation for history as one might hope.  We were perfectly safe, they assured me, because each of them had weaponry in their trucks.  A subsequent visit to Cowpens National Battlefield seemed quite tame in comparison.

The concept of distance is funny.  As my little car is slurping up the miles I often think about  Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first time away from her family in These Happy Golden Years, when she goes off to teach at her first school.   She is miserable and has no hope of respite because twelve miles  (six each way) just for a weekend is just too much for the family horses.  For Laura twelve miles might just as well have been the nearly 1400 that I travel.   She covered many more miles than those twelve in her lifetime and in addition to her Little House series for children she wrote about her travels in  Little House in the Ozarks, West From Home and  On the Way Home, all found in the adult collection.  I’ve read and love them all but it is those twelve miles that most often come to mind.

Two other writers leave me thinking about travel while I’m scouting for the next Pilot station out in the wild.   John Steinbeck is perfectly capable of putting his reader right in the middle of a landscape with just one paragraph and his Travels with Charley: In Search of America is lovely.  William W. Starr’s Whisky, Kilts and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson is a newcomer to the shelves but I promise, if you give it a try you’ll be thinking about Scotland for quite a while after you’ve returned the book.  Try out either for the next long trip and see if those miles don’t just slip away.


Dec 22 2010

Solstice story

by Joseph M

Yesterday marked the December solstice event. For most of us in the northern hemisphere, using the our solar-based calendar, the December solstice falls on the shortest day of the year. Depending on cultural variations regarding the dates for seasonal change, it is considered to be either midwinter’s day or the first day of winter. For those living in the southern hemisphere, however, the December solstice takes place in the summertime! It has always blown my mind a little bit to think that what we think of as winter holidays, such as Christmas, are summer holidays in places like Argentina and New Zealand.

The library has materials to help you explore the concept of the solstice, including books for children, adults, and even musical offerings. Have fun!


Dec 20 2010

Ode Worthy?

by Veronica W

Primarily during this time of year, you hear songs about it on the radio, see signs encouraging you to feel it, even wear sweatshirts proclaiming you possess it. According to Webster’s it is “the emotion evoked by well being, success or good fortune; the state of happiness or felicity; a source or cause of delight.”  A synonym for it is “warm fuzzies.”  It is the antithesis of what you experience while watching the 11 o’clock news.  It’s called joy.

In the interest of satisfying my curiosity, I decided to investigate what gives folks this feeling of bliss. Knowing the best source of information is the library, I diligently searched its catalog for any title beginning with “The Joy of..”  Well, contrary to what we see (especially in the stores right now), there are alot of  happy people out there and what delights them is amazing. For your enjoyment, take a look…and remember that every one of these is the title or subject of an actual book. (The highlighted selections indicate my own enjoyment, amazement or ignorance of the topic. I won’t say which).  Ok, let’s go.

The Joy of:
Snow, Cooking, Jumping, Decadence, Cataloging, Positive Living, Bridge, Ice Cream, Reading, Quilting, Christmas, Seafood, Signing, Life, Cookies,
Antiques, Spinning, Digital Photography, Kindness, a Courageous Life, Sects, Working from Home, Coffee, Writing Sex, Snorkeling, Keeping Score, Living and Dying in Peace, Work, Thinking Big, Pickling, Family Camping, Ritual, Ballooning, Simple Living, Weight Loss, Attracting, Raising & Nurturing Butterflies, Knitting, Music , Joplin, Doing Things Badly, Scrapbooking, Self Defense, Retirement, Science, Living Dangerously, Mathematics , Geocaching, Card Making, Collecting Books, Imperfection and Opera.

Wow.  As comprehensive (and perhaps trivial) as this list may be however, it still doesn’t contain the titles of my particular delights. One day I shall write a book or two and they will be called The Joy of Remembering Where I Put my Keys, Glasses and Other Essentials and then the sequel, The Joy of Forgetting Why Too Much Chocolate is Bad for Me. Feel free to exercise your imagination and pen your own rapturous ode.  You already have the first part of the title.  


Dec 17 2010

Reference Book Christmas Tree

by Jesse M

I’ve blogged about literary structures in the past, and while this Christmas tree (located in the library of Delta College in Michigan) doesn’t contain quite as many books as the previous projects, it is nonetheless an impressive construction.

Delta College librarian Jennean Kabat erected the tree with the help of a couple coworkers over a six hour period. The tree is composed of over 100 books, with red books forming the tree skirt, green books making up the main part of the tree, and gold books constituting the star on top.

While we don’t have a literary Christmas tree here in DCPL, we do have plenty of holiday books, movies, and music to put you in a festive mood. Some of my favorite seasonal items include Holidays on Ice by humorist David Sedaris, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, and The Muppet Christmas Carol. What titles put you in the holiday spirit?


Dec 15 2010

Not your usual holiday sounds

by Dea Anne M

For a number of years, I worked in retail and each holiday season I was loath to play seasonal music at home given how saturated my ears would become at work. I have to say though, there is something about playing those special seasonal sounds that makes the holiday feel complete. There is a wealth of traditional and contemporary music available from DCPL, but if you’re in the mood for something a little off-beat, check out these offerings.

First off, let us remember that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated at this time of year. Although Hanukkah is over for this year, you can still enjoy such music as A Taste of Chanukah and Happy Chanukah Songs. For Kwanzaa, which starts December 26th, you can listen to Kwanzaa Party! and The Kwanzaa Album.

…and on to Christmas specific music…

For fans of early music, there is A Medieval Christmas from The Boston Camerata and On Yoolis Night from Anonymous 4.

Do you like bluegrass? Check out Christmas On the Mountain: A Bluegrass Christmas. Is it jazz you favor? Try A Smooth Jazz Christmasfrom Dave Koz & Friends.

Or select from this Christmas stocking of sounds:

Christmas On the Border (blues and salsa)

Yule B’ Swingin’ (big band)

Surfin’ Christmas (surf stylings)

Mambo Santa Mambo (mambo beats!)

Are you planning a cool, swinging, Mad Men-esque party for the holidays? For your soundtrack, consider Christmas Cocktails I and II or Christmas With the Rat Pack.  Crazy baby!

Finally let us give a thought to a couple of soundtracks which have, for many of us, become holiday classics.

A Charlie Brown Christmas


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

What are your favorite holiday sounds?


Dec 13 2010

Wood: the versatility of it

by Amanda L

I have always loved trees and wood. I guess that’s why I started my college career as a Forestry major. A beautiful tree growing can be used for so many things: a pencil, building material, paper, fire and furniture to name a few.

When the weather turns cold, I always appreciate the dead trees that are found in the forest. They can be reused to make furniture or a fire. I have seen where men can go in, take a dead tree cut it up for firewood or make a pepper mill with the right equipment. A friend of mine has been using trees, downed by tornadoes several years ago, to make beautiful bowls and pepper mills.

It is amazing, to me, how a tree can be turned into a  beautiful piece of hand-made furniture.  I have been lucky enough to be married to a wonderful furniture maker and my home is his showcase. How did he get started besides having shop in high school? He borrowed many books from the Library to learn tricks of the trade.

The Library has a great collection of books on woodworking. Here is a sample of what is available:

Woodwork: a step-by-step photographic guide to successful woodworking

Popular Woodworking’s arts & crafts furniture projects

Furniture for all around the house by Niall Barrett

Did you not have shop in high school? The Library has a collection of books on a variety of woodworking tools. Here is a sample:

Popular Mechanics: joiner and planer fundamentals

Success with Tablesaws by Michael Burton

Woodworking 101 for women: how to speak the language, buy the tools, & fabulous furniture from start to finish by Mary MacEwan

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Dec 8 2010


by Joseph M

I was browsing the web the other day when I came across an intriguing site that I thought I would share. It’s called Breathingearth, and essentially, the website features a real-time cartographic simulation providing information on births, deaths, & CO2 emissions worldwide. You can also obtain population and emissions data about individual countries by moving the cursor over the different nations on the map.

Birth & death rates are obtained from 2010 estimates in the CIA World Factbook, while information about CO2 emissions is based on 2006 figures from the United Nations Statistics Division. In addition to providing an appealing visual display for fans of maps (like myself), choosing to represent the information in this format puts data from individual countries in a framework that allows for quick comparison and helps users to see “the big picture”, so to speak.

If you’d like to find out more about global issues like pollution and population control, the website has a few suggested links to visit, but you can always take advantage of the wealth of information available at your local library as well!

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Dec 7 2010

In a Word

by Veronica W

She was about 14 or 15 years old and very,very good at it. With her head cocked to the side, she listened to my suggestion that certain behavior was inappropriate. When I stopped, she stared into my eyes for about 5 seconds, glanced down at my shoes and up again and then put all the scorn and disdain she felt for me and my speech into one word.  “Whatever.”

I have learned since then that I am not alone in my complete disgust of that word, when used in such a dismissive way.  It is not only exceedingly rude but it very effectively shuts down all communication and indicates to the person to whom it was said that they do not matter. It ranks right up there with “talk to the hand.”  (Forgive me if you use either one of these regularly)

There are many words and phrases used every day that are either weapons, inanities or just plain silly. Paul Yeager, in his book Literally, The Best Language Book Ever: Annoying Words and Abused Phrases You Should Never Use Again, takes a “linguistic scalpel” to what he sees as some of the common communication woes. With scathing humor and wit, he does for language what Miss Manners has done for etiquette. Lynn Truss combines the two in Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door.  Joining them are Junk English and What’s the Good Word. If you want to see where the English language is heading, check out The Prodigal Tongue: dispatches from the future of English.

The abuse of the English language, I must confess, is a pet peeve of mine and like so many people with pet peeves, I am frequently guilty of doing what I hate. Please feel free to call me on it if I’m caught saying “whatever!”  I’m not fond of  made up words either, because I like to be able to look for definitions in Webster’s. Where can you find a definition of “asparagusion?” (By the way, the grammar issue is in the same vein. I’m ill-equipped to take that on but for a fun take on the subject, look at Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies.) In the meantime, I’d like to hear from fellow linguistic “purists” concerning what you find really annoying.  It’s lonely being ridiculously picky all by myself.


Dec 3 2010

The Morrow Project

by Jesse M

Do you ever wonder what the future holds? How all of the new technologies currently being developed and implemented will change the way we live our lives? If so, you may be interested in The Morrow Project, “a unique literary project which shows the important effects that contemporary research will have on our future and the relevance that this research has for each of us.” Four authors (Douglas Rushkoff, Ray Hammond, Scarlett Thomas, and Markus Heitz) produced short stories inspired by “research currently being conducted…in the fields of photonics, robotics, telematics, dynamic physical rendering and intelligent sensors”. The results are available as a free e-book download (EPUB or PDF) or in podcast form.

If you are interested in further reading along a similar vein, there is an abundance of excellent and thought provoking science fiction in the DCPL catalog. Two I’d recommend in particular are David Marusek’s Counting Heads and Accelerando by Charles Stross, both of which illustrate the pleasures and perils of post-scarcity economics and the frightening and fascinating places technology will take us over the coming decades.