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

Adult Learning

Sep 25 2013

National Computer Learning Month

by Glenda

computerDid you know that October is National Computer Learning Month? Did you know that there is a place in your community that offers computer classes every month? Did you know that these classes are free? The DeKalb County Public Library has twenty-two library locations and just about all of the locations offer free computer classes, all you have to do is call a location that is having a class and register. The library offers classes such as e-mail basics and classes on how to use Microsoft Office programs. In addition to these classes, some locations even offer Book-A-Librarian opportunities. Book-A-Librarian gives you the opportunity to ask a librarian any computer or research question and receive one-on-one assistance and advice from a librarian. You can’t beat that, and it’s FREE. So the next time you are in a library branch location pick up a monthly calendar (or check out the online calendar) and start taking some of these free computer classes. Come on, you know you want to learn all the cool stuff the kids are doing!


Jul 17 2013

Library infographics from the 1930s

by Jesse M

Circle of Classified KnowledgeThese days, infographics are all the rage (for instance, take a look at this one I posted about last year regarding the value of libraries and why it is so important to support them), but libraries have been making use of them to illustrate how the library works for decades.

Check out this gallery of a series of library education posters created under the supervision of librarian Ruby Ethel Cundith for Peabody Visuals Aids in the 1930s and 1940s. The posters were salvaged by Char Booth from a throw-away pile at her library school in 2003.

From card catalog to the book on the shelf
My favorites include the “Circle of Classified Knowledge”, which illustrates the myriad categories and sub-categories of the dewey decimal system, and the two posters detailing the information present on a card from a library catalog and how it can be used to find a book.


Several nights ago, I was doing some rapid-fire channel-surfing and happened upon the documentary Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, a great film about actress/writer Gertrude Berg.  Her groundbreaking radio and television show The Goldbergs was before my time but the story of her life and times had me glued to channel 30 in a way that I hadn’t been in ages or, at least, in a way I hadn’t been since almost a week before. I believe it was the previous Sunday when I’d flipped to channel 30 and landed on the Ken Burns documentary on baseball. It’s in these two instances that I am reminded of the wonders of PBS.

I remember spending many hours with family or on my own soaking in the quality programming of PBS. Whether I was watching the classic 1980s miniseries adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, catching episodes of Sesame Street before and after school or avidly following the early 90s tween show Ghostwriter (I could go into detail about this wonderful show but that’s kind of a whole separate blog post), PBS was the center of my childhood television viewing. Well, it was as long as we didn’t have cable.

In the age of 500 satellite or cable channels, internet and Netflix, it’s pretty easy to drift away from the classy, wholesome, enjoyable if unassuming Public Broadcasting Service. It keeps chugging away, bringing us magnificent programs like Downton Abbey, Antiques Roadshow and NOVA for free (even though they remain ever grateful to “Viewers Like You” for contributions).

So my hat remains doffed and my television remains set to PBS. Below is just a brief list of some of my favorite recent PBS documentaries, available for borrowing from the Library:

Black In Latin America: I was crestfallen for nearly a week as this fascinating series was airing first run on PBS. At the time I was living in an evil apartment complex that, for whatever reason, had the worst signal for PBA 30 and no signal at all for GPB Channel 8.  Several months later, I was able to borrow this series from the Library. The series follows as host Henry Louis Gates Jr. explores the African roots of several Latin American nations like Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The Jewish Americans: This is an incredibly informative and insightful series that I intend to borrow again but next time with a pen and pad at the ready. Narrated by actor Liev Schreiber, this film follows the Jewish American experience and the community’s contributions to American history and culture. I highly recommend it.

Ken Burns…well, anything really: There isn’t a Ken Burns documentary that I’ve seen that I haven’t been hopelessly in the thrall of. I’ve spent six hours on a lazy Saturday glued to my computer screen watching the advent, the unfolding and unraveling of prohibition. I’ve watched the birth and growth of jazz as an American musical form. I watched a whole lot more of his documentary on the history and dominance of baseball than I’d intended to and I’m not even a casual fan of the game. Burns’ work is the gold standard of documentary series filmmaking.


Mar 22 2013

Massively Educational

by Jimmy L

edXA few months ago I took a course taught by a University of Pennsylvannia professor. Although the class had over 28,000 students, I often received personal answers to my questions from one of the many TAs (teacher’s assistants) and occasionally even from the professor himself. My classmates were smart and discussions were lively. The assignments and quizzes were illuminating. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops or prerequisites to enroll, and best of all, I paid nothing for it.

You may already know where I’m going with this since you may have already heard of MOOCs before (or taken one, even). MOOCs, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses, are becoming increasingly popular these days, and although there are some differences, most MOOC sites offer high quality university level education for free on a huge range of subjects.

If you’re interested in MOOCs, there are several currently offering interesting classes:

Coursera — Although the website is .org, Coursera is actually a for-profit company with an idealistic view of free education for all. (I’m not sure how they plan to make money in the future, but for now the classes are free). It is among the largest of the MOOCs and currently offers classes from computer security, economics, ancient Greece, and property and liability law (just to name a few).

Udacity — born out of Stanford University in 2011, Udacity quickly grew to be a platform for free online courses. Currently they are offering courses on statistics, computer science, physics, building a startup business, and many others.

edX — unlike Coursera or Udacity, edX is a not-for-profit enterprise. Founded by MIT and Harvard University in the Fall of 2012, they have plans of making their learning platform an open-source solution that other educational institutions may use for their courses. Currently they are offering courses on biology, quantum mechanics, computer graphics, copyright law, and many more.

Each one of these MOOCs operates differently, and each course is also run differently, depending on the professor’s style, so it would be wise to read up on their policies before enrolling. Although MOOCs sometimes offer certificates upon completion, these are still not universally recognized. For a much longer list of MOOCs and other online educational websites, please check out this post.

Have you taken a MOOC or plan to? What are your experiences with them?


Mar 20 2013

Sew it up!

by Dea Anne M

During the summers, up until I turned 14 and my family moved to south Georgia, my brother and I spent most of our school vacation in the custody of our grandparents. Of course, I would never have thought of it in such terms up until the year I turned 12. Daydreaming and sullen by turns, I wanted to spend all my time either reading (and being left alone) or being taken to the mall. It couldn’t have been fun or easy for my grandmother to have me around the house all day every day for the 2 months I was there and I am impressed in retrospect by how cheerfully she put up with my adolescent nonsense. My grandmother was an amazing seamstress who made me many wonderful outfits, and that summer she offered to teach me to sew.

“Come on, honey. It’ll be fun!”

“Oh, I don’t think so. Thanks anyway.”

Oh the years that I regretted that youthful choice! Never say never though. Recently, I acquired a sewing machine and I am determined now to finally learn how to sew. There are numerous places near where I live that offer lessons and that is certainly an option that I’d like to pursue but some self teaching is certainly in order as well. Luckily for me, and you too if you want to learn, DCPL has plenty of resources to help.chic

It makes sense that simple projects are a good way to start learning the basics. Improv Sewing: 101 fast, fun, and fearless projects by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut provides a number of fun looking projects, some promising to be finished in less than a day. Projects include dresses, shirts, and skirts, none of which require pattern cutting skills, as well as scarves, pillows, curtains and more, many embellished with fun stitching. Chic On a Shoestring: simple to sew vintage-style accessories by Mary Jane Baxter provides plenty of inspiration for simple yet original projects with a particular emphasis on using “upcycled” material.

Once you’re ready to move on to more advanced projects, you might want to check out Sweat Shop Paris: lessons  from a sewing cafe by Martena Duss. The Paris Sweat Shop was (it closed last summer) a crafting space/cafe set up to provide space and equipment for DIYers to produce alternatives to store-bought clothing and its often accompanying questionable labor practices. You’ll find herethreads ideas for really unique and fun garments. If you are ready to take a bold step forward,  Teach Yourself Visually: Fashion Sewing by Carole Ann Camp will provide detailed instruction in all aspects of garment construction from pleats, to darts, to facings.

Finally, for a complete sewing reference book, you could hardly do better than Threads Sewing Guide: a complete reference from America’s best-loved sewing  magazine edited by Carol Fresia.

I realize that I’ve highlighted here resources devoted primarily to sewing items of apparel and that’s only because that’s where my immediate sewing interests lie. Do know that there’s a wealth of material at DCPL to assist you in home decor projects and to lead you through the wonderful world of quilting.

How about you? Are you a sewer or would you like to learn? Where would you love to direct your sewing energies: quilting or clothes?


Aug 27 2012

On Thinkin’ Up Stuff To Blog About

by Jnai W

Sunday is the day that has become my default blog post writing day. There is that part of me that would love to have several blog posts waiting, cued up and ready to publish—one after another—so that I wouldn’t feel so rushed (and so guilty when perhaps the quality of my writing has suffered for lack of time and preparation). But that doesn’t always happens. My muse is capricious…and she likes to sleep in on Sundays.

I do other things while waiting for lightning to strike. I dumb out in front of my computer, scouring gossip blogs, checking my email and, mostly, clicking on video after video on YouTube. I click on a variety of videos—tutorials on roller setting afro-textured hair, tips on applying make up like Kim Kardashian and techniques for playing piano using the Nashville Number system.

The Nashville Number system? That’s extraordinary! is what I’m thinking instead of coming up with a blog idea. Since my muse appears to have gone on some day trip far, far away, I decide I’d be better served practicing what I’m learning from InstantPianoGenius on YouTube. The blog post will come together…or not. Who can say?

I run to my Yamaha keyboard and am astonished at the progress I’m making. While tentatively, yet proudly plonking my way through the 3-chorded “Twist and Shout” I’m thinking that I may actually be able to teach myself how to play keyboard. Rather out-of-the-blue, I remember a well-spoken little girl at Decatur library checking out a huge book about sewing the day before. When I asked her if she knew how to sew she said “No, but I thought I might check out this book and teach myself.”

This made me think of things I’ve learned or attempted to teach myself using library materials. There’s the Learn The Essentials of Piano DVD series featuring Talc Tolchin, a highly skilled, slightly extraterrestrial (in my opinion) piano master. There are the Origami Yodas I’ve tried (and failed at) making, inspired by the hilarious The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. There is the Eggs For The Infanta recipe featured in an anthology of M.F.K Fisher’s work A Stew or A Story. One idea for a delicious sounding tea I gleaned from a great novel American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar; I haven’t made it yet but perhaps I’ll give it a try next Sunday.

At that moment my muse, well-rested, refreshed and a little tanned, saunters in like the whole day hasn’t just passed. She’s pointing at the computer screen and the words I’ve just typed.

“You’re welcome,” she offers, blithely.


Feb 15 2012

Love Your Library

by Joseph M

Love Your Library logoValentine’s Day may be over, but you can still show you care by participating in our Love Your Library campaign, ongoing through the month of February.  A donation of $1 will get you a heart with your name on it posted at your local library branch.  You can also donate online if you prefer.  Your contributions will go to support important literacy work among children and adults in DeKalb county, so show some love and help make a difference in your community!


Jan 6 2012

Book Club Resources

by Amanda L

Are you in a book club or have you ever wanted to join a book club?  The Library is a great place to find a book club to join, find books for your book club or learn different ways to run your club.

Here are some resources you might find helpful:

Good books lately: the one-stop resource for book groups and other greedy readers by Ellen Moore and Kira Stevens 

In Good Books Lately, the founders of the country’s first book group consulting company dish out fun, stimulating advice based on their own experiences and those of hundreds of book group members on everything from: how to start a group—and keep it going, how to tell a book by its cover (really!), how to generate a lively discussion, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, dirt, and favorite book lists, the best and worst book group books, and book group troubleshooting.

 Teen book group discussion @ the library by Constance B. Dickerson

This guide for young adult librarians and teachers profiles fifty titles, including novels, biographies, and plays; it offers notes on their themes, genre, and characters, as well as discussion points. Individual chapters discuss the purpose of reading groups, advertising, scheduling, group size, and creating a comfortable environment.

The Kids book club book: reading ideas, recipes, activities, and smart tips for organizing terrific kids book clubs by Judy Gelman and Vicki LevyKrupp

The first complete guide-for use by adults and children-to creating fun and educational book clubs for kids.

The Book club companion: a comprehensive guide to the reading group experience by Diana Loevy

The Book Club Companion is full of innovative ideas to help you share your love of books-not only enriching your reading experiences, but strengthening friendships (and forming new ones).

[read the rest of this post…]


Sep 15 2011

Help Literacy, and Get Fit Doing It

by Laura H

Participating in the upcoming Literacy Alliance of Metropolitan Atlanta’s 5K Run or Walk in Decatur at 8 AM on Saturday, September 24 is a no brainer for many reasons. First, you can select DeKalb County Public Library as your choice to receive 70% of the $20 registration fee—a real boon for us in this year of dramatically cut county budgets.  Also, you can get some exercise with your family or friends—either running or walking all or part of the 5k route through downtown Decatur. Most importantly, you’ll help raise awareness and promote interest in the wide spectrum of literacy needs in our communities. If you won’t be in town or available at that time, you can register as a “phantom” walker to lend needed support.

What else can you do?

  • Talk up this event with everyone and be sure to tell them to check DCPL on their registration to receive the incentive funds—otherwise, we won’t!
  • Register now on-line at www.literacyallianceatlanta.org—cost goes up after the 22nd.
  • Use this opportunity to let those you care about know you are interested in supporting the literacy needs of our community—especially those of adults and families. This media moment gives us a chance to highlight the fact that work readiness and GED completion is even more critical in this economy.

If you have questions please call Literacy Services at 404.370.8450 ext. 2240.


Aug 10 2011

National treasure

by Dea Anne M

August 10th marks the anniversary of the passage of the  Smithsonian Institution Act, an event which paved the way for the establishment of the immense and awe-inspiring collection of museums and research facilities that are collectively known as the Smithsonian Institution.

In the 1800’s, a British scientist named James Smithson stipulated in his will that should his nephew die without heirs, then the whole of the Smithson estate would go to the government of the United States to create an “Establishment for the increase and diffusion of Knowledge among men.” Ironically enough, Smithson had never visited the United States.

Today, the Smithsonian Institution includes19 museums, the National Zoo, and nine research centers. Most of these are in D.C., but some are located in New York City, Virginia, and other places. The Institution is functionally and legally a body of the U.S. government and employs its own police force.

The institution has over 136 million items in its collection. Some of these include:

  • The Hope Diamond
  • A giant squid
  • The Wright Flyer
  • A Harley-Davidson XR-750
  • Kermit the Frog
  • Bee-Gees, Thundercats, and Flintstones lunch boxes
  • A 1955 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon
  • …and many more.

Even if you can’t make the trip to D.C., DCPL has resources to help you learn more about this precious national treasure.

For a general overview of the institution, try The Smithsonian: 150 years of adventure, discovery, and wonder by James Conaway, A Picture Tour of the Smithsonian, or Treasures of Smithsonian by Edwards Park.

For museum specific material try:

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: an autobiography edited by Michael J. Neufeld and Alex M. Spencer, The National Museum of Natural History by Philip Kopper, or America’s National Gallery of Art: a gift to the nation by Philip Kopper.

For kids, try S is for Smithsonian: America’s museum alphabet by Marie and Roland Smith or The Smithsonian Institution by Mary Collins.

And for your viewing pleasure, don’t miss Night at the Museum: Battle of  the Smithsonian starring Ben Stiller and Amy Adams.

By the way, James Smithson finally did come to this country. His remains are entombed in the Smithsonian Institution Building , otherwise known as “the Castle” (seen at the top of this post).