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

financial crisis

Feb 5 2010

A new breed of community libraries

by Jesse M

With the global economy still reeling from the sub-prime housing crisis and its various aftershocks, governments everywhere are feeling the pinch, particularly at the local levels.  Budgets have been slashed and when the hard decisions must be made as to how to balance them, departments considered to be “non-essential” are usually first on the chopping block.  Sadly, this category often includes the local library.  The Dekalb County Public Library system has been very fortunate and hasn’t been forced to make any service reductions or branch closures, however others have not been so lucky. In this environment of reduced and discontinued services, a few communities have decided to take matters into their own hands.

In Hannover, Germany, some neighborhoods are served by a community bookshelf. The shelves are placed in various areas around the city and completely free and accessible to all. Borrowers don’t need library cards, nor must they worry about overdue fines. In return, all that is asked of borrowers is that they donate a couple of books of their own in order to ensure that a healthy supply is available.

In Westbury-sub-Mendip, a small village in southwest England, residents raised an outcry when they learned they were to lose their “beloved” red phone booth, fresh on the heels of the discontinuation of their mobile library service. So when one creative resident suggested transforming the phone booth into a miniature library, the idea was accepted immediately. The parish council purchased the red phone booth, outfitted it with four wooden shelves, residents donated books (and a notice reading “Silence please”), and the mini-library began operation. It quickly became a hit. The library is open 24/7 (it is lit at night), and the inventory is checked regularly in order to identify titles which are not circulating (which are then donated to charity), in order to keep the selection fresh. And the residents of Westbury-sub-Mendip are not the only ones who have had the bright idea to re-purpose a phone booth. British Telecom has received 770 applications from communities to “adopt a kiosk”, and thus far 350 booths have been distributed to parish councils throughout England.

I’d love to have something like this in my neighborhood, how about you?


The first decade of the New Millennium–what are we calling these years? the aughties? the oh-ohs?–is coming to a close. If you scour the internet and troll the newsstands you’re likely to find that the jury may have reached a verdict on how to define the 2000s. If Time Magazine is to be believed, we have reached the denouement of “The Decade From Hell” (ouch!). There are numerous events within this decade that merit such harsh judgment: the current economic crisis, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. In light of those events, it’s easy to get caught up in the doom-saying and disparaging of an entire decade. But with only 29 days (and counting left) of The 2000s I’d like to at least try and find something nice to say about the decade.

Thinking back on where we were ten years ago, I can’t help but to recall the excitement yet trepidation with which we looked to the future. The 2000s were upon us! The Capital F Future was on its way! We were all very excited because we had a feeling that The Future was gonna look something like this:

Even though it’s been 9 years since the dawn of The New Millennium, to me the phrase the year 2000 will always have a futuristic ring to it. That phrase represented, for many generations, our hopes, dreams and fears for the forseeable yet distant future.  The 2000s decade may not have come to fruition in ways that our forebears had hoped (alas, no flying cars yet) and is instead being defined by the crises and challenges that came to a head in these years.  But perhaps we can also come to appreciate these strange and trying years for the opportunities they presented to us. I know for me, it’s most often through adversity and change that I learn who it is I really am and who it is I’d like to be.

The newspapers and media outlets scramble to assign a name or a definition to the years 2000 and beyond. But how do you define the decade? What has the New Millennium meant to you thus far?

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This week I have been, quite literally, scraping to get by. You know what it’s like when you spend a little more than you should have last week and find yourself subsisting on cereal this week? Things aren’t bad enough that I’m borrowing money from mom (that’s what I’m giving Mama for Mother’s Day this year; the gift of not hitting her up for cash!) but things have been a little lean for me this week.  So lean,  in fact,  that I really don’t have an idea for today’s blog.

Though my Blog Muse has taken leave of me, I have been finding creative ways  of making it through until The Eagle lands. All I can say is thank goodness for gift cards, Coinstar and the Library, which is always a great source for free entertainment and great reads.

Here are two books that are excellent and especially timely for me this week. If only I’d actually take their advice. Wait a minute…do I feel a blog coming on?

The Money Book For The Young, Fabulous and Broke by Suze Orman: While my fabulousness is open to debate–this week? not so fab–I really enjoy Orman’s common sense tips and financial insight.

You’re Broke Because You Want To be: How To Stop Getting By and Start Getting Ahead by Larry Winget:  The title alone dares you to read this book.  I tore into Winget’s book fairly certain that I didn’t want to be broke.  But by the time I’d finished reading I was hanging my head in shame.  The best thing about Winget is that, after he’s done disapproving of you, he offers great exercises, tips and wisdom for getting your finances in order.


May 1 2009

Connecting the dots

by Jesse M

connecting-the-dots-imf-diagram2Do you have questions about the economy? Are you confused by terms like sub-prime, credit default swap, and collateralized debt obligation? Wondering about the relationship between the troubles on Wall Street and lay-offs on Main Street? Resources are available at the Library, and online, to help you connect the dots and get a glimpse of the bigger economic picture.

Several recently published books are available in the DCPL catalog which attempt to construct a narrative to illustrate the roots of the global financial crisis. Chain of blame : how Wall Street caused the mortgage and credit crisis and House of cards : a tale of hubris and wretched excess on Wall Street both chronicle the role Wall Street firms played in causing the recession, while The subprime solution : How today’s global financial crisis happened and what to do about it offers prescriptions on solving the crisis in addition to detailing how we got where we are today.

In addition to materials available through the Library, the weekly public radio program This American Life has produced a number of shows focusing on various aspects of the economic crisis, including the housing market, credit default swaps, and “bad banks“, all of which can be streamed for free from their website.

Still hungry for more? There are a number of websites that provide coverage and analysis of both global and domestic economic news, including many articles focusing on the causes, and effects, of the global financial crisis. The Economist is the online version of the long-running British publication of the same name (which is available at many DCPL branches). It is an excellent resource for both U.S. and global economic news, and I find it invaluable for the international perspective it provides. Another useful resource is Marketplace, which is the companion website for the public radio program Marketplace, a business and economics show that broadcasts twice daily on weekdays and once on weekends. All shows can be streamed for free, and there are other offerings on the site as well. And last but not least, I highly recommend taking a look at Planet Money, a frequently updated multimedia blog with many contributors (including the two responsible for the three This American Life episodes I mentioned above) which covers all aspects of the economy.


Apr 6 2009

Avoiding Foreclosure

by Amanda L


I blogged several months ago about the resources that the Library has and other sources available for those having trouble paying their mortgage. This blog entry is still helpful to those that have missed payments or have had their mortgage company begin the first step towards foreclosure.

There is now new help available through the Federal Government’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan that might be helpful to those folks who have mortgages ballooning or have lost all or part of their income. The first question to ask: do I qualify for this new help? To see if you might be eligible, check out the Making Home Affordable website created by the Federal Government.

The website lists two ways that the Plan might be able to help you. The first is refinancing your home. The second is what they call modification. This site helps with a Frequently Asked Questions page to determine which type of help might fit your situation.  It also has a couple of questionnaires that you can fill out to determine if you might qualify for help.

The Making Home Affordable website  lists additional resources that might be helpful if you are trying to keep your house and avoid foreclosure. In the future, the site will list the mortgage companies and banks that will be participating in this program.  It links currently to the Hope Now Alliance website.  This site  lists many of the mortgage providers’  mitigation websites.  Hopefully, this information can help, you or someone you know, have a place to start the process to keep their house.


Feb 23 2009

In Tough Times…

by Amanda L

I volunteer with an organization that helps people over a tight spot with utilities and rent. Lately, we have seen many people who are having a hard time holding on to their mortgage or are just a few steps away from losing their house.

Here at DCPL, we try to anticipate the needs of our community. Last year, we began a section on our website called Subject Guides. This section contains lists of resources pertaining to subjects that many people in the community have asked about.

The most recent guide is on foreclosures. Under each listed resource–whether it be electronic, internet or print–there is a description of the type of information provided. Most of the weblinks provided on this list are to agencies that might help you or someone you know that is facing foreclosure.

Some of the books we have that you might find helpful are:

Fight Foreclosure:

This book explores options and alternatives available to you when you can’t make your monthly mortgage payment but want to avoid foreclosure. The author explains the pre-foreclosure process, using real life examples of families faced with foreclosure, their choices, and the steps/missteps taken.

Foreclosure Self-Defense for Dummies

This practical, no-nonsense guide helps you size up your options and increase your chances of saving your home. You’ll find out how to delay foreclosure, form a plan of attack, negotiate solutions with your lender, and restore your financial health.

Foreclosure Survival Guide

If you’re having trouble making your mortgage payments or are already in jeopardy of foreclosure, The Foreclosure Survival Guide gives you the practical information you need, step by step.

I hope that you find this list and many of the other subjects under the subject guides helpful. We are always looking for subjects that might be helpful to our community. If you have any suggestions please feel free to comment and we will see if we can create a list that would be helpful.


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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With money being tight this year, I am sure if you are like me, you have thought about canceling that magazine subscription. Do not fret; you might still be able to read People, O, The Oprah Magazine, Ebony or a variety of other titles AND still cancel your subscriptions.  There are several options worth checking out.

The Library

The Library subscribes to over three hundred magazines. You can check older issues out at all of the branches EXCEPT Decatur. Decatur keeps back issues of everything the branch subscribes to for at least one year, often longer. If you need to find out what magazines your Library subscribes to, call us or use our Email a Librarian service.  We try our best to respond to emails within forty-eight hours, but we usually respond within a few hours. Be sure to select the “I need help finding information” option.

Cannot find that older issue at a branch or Decatur is too far to drive to?  The Library subscribes to many online resources that carry the articles printed in numerous magazines and journals.

The titles available can be found two ways:

1. From the Library’s home page: Go to the Research tab, and click on Magazines & Newspapers. Under General Magazines, there is a link to Magazines Available Online. Here you can search for a particular title.

2. From GALILEO:  Go to the GALILEO icon on the home page.  After signing in, click on the Magazines A-Z tab.  Again, you can search for a particular title.  A warning about this access, since publisher give access to the vendor and GALILEO, some of the magazines can have a three month or so delay before they are available. Some magazines, such as People, you can access the current issue electronically.


Many magazines have an Internet presence. Unfortunately, due to the economy, some publishers have made the decision to produce a magazine totally online. Two of the biggest publications are Christian Science Monitor and PC Magazine. Several publishers have started digitizing back issues. Not all back issues are currently available, but it might be a good place to start.  Some examples are Every Day with Rachel Ray, Dance Magazine, Esquire, Discover and The New Yorker.

Google announced and added on Wednesday, December 10, an archive search to their Google Book Search. You will be able to search the archives of many magazines such as New York Magazine and Popular Mechanics. The archived articles are also available through the publisher’s websites, but this search feature should be helpful.

If you have not renewed your subscription or you always wanted to read a particular magazine but could not justify the expense, please check your library or one of the other options listed above.


With the financial crisis making headlines every day, children are naturally wondering what to make of it.  Slate had a great article a couple of weeks ago called Great Kids’ Books About Financial Ruin.  The author lists several childrens books dealing with money (or the lack of) and recessions.  All of the books (except one title, which is on order) are available in our system.  They won’t necessarily explain the current crisis, but they’ll provide a solid background for understanding what’s happening.


Has “the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression” gotten you down? Okay, I just bummed myself out by writing that. Are you anxiously awaiting the fast-approaching holiday season? Could you maybe just use some extra pocket change? Well, let’s all put down the worries and pick up a fun, insightful book instead.

Odd Jobs: 101 Ways To Make An Extra Buck (Skyhorse Publishing) is a quirky, compact handbook full of information about…well, odd jobs. In this book author Abigail R. Gehring highlights some unique ways to bring in some additional income. The 101 featured jobs cover a broad spectrum of fields. There are hospitality and service positions such as barista, hospice/elderly care and house cleaner. Other occupations are for the truly adventurous like shell picking in Kauai, commercial skydiving in New Zealand or even FEMA Disaster Assistant. Still other gigs listed in this book can best be described as “off-the-beaten path” including lipstick reading (think Mary Kay lady meets Psychic Friends Hotline) or vacuum dust sorter.

Gehring offers some helpful hints on how to break into each of these professions–yes, they are all doable, believe it or not–and what to expect once you’ve become, say, a human scarecrow (yep!). I’ve borrowed this book from the library three times now because, for starters, I always feel like I can use some extra dough . But the main reason I enjoy Odd Jobs is because it’s a very well-written and entertaining read. The author, who has held 24 of the jobs featured here, fills the book with many of her own personal insights and experiences. The key to most of these jobs is an open mind, creativity, a fair bit of elbow-grease and a touch of luck. It’s a great way to think about one’s own job and life in general.

Hop over to DCPL and give Odd Jobs a try. You could be well on your way to becoming a top notch Betta Fish Breeder!

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