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


Mar 24 2016

Mommy and Me

by Hope L

MommyRecently the Workplace Advisory Group of the DeKalb County Public Library volunteered for a project to help the Mommy and Me Family Literacy Program located in Clarkston.  The DCPL volunteers will be fixing up a space in the school for mothers and their children to read and relax during their school day.

The Mommy and Me Refugee Family Literacy Program is a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston where immigrant mothers and their children learn together.

When I found out about this program, I was delighted.  For a time I worked at the Clarkston Branch of DCPL, and it was (and is) a very busy place!  There were many immigrant children, most of them refugees whose families fled to this country from their homelands.

According to their website, the school’s students come from more than a dozen countries from around the world: Eritrea, Burma, Bhutan, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

From the Mommy and Me website,

​We are a nonprofit school located in the heart of Clarkston, Georgia where immigrant mothers and children learn together.

A family literacy program, we offer four components of instruction: (1) ESOL classes for refugee women, (2) onsite early childhood development program for their young children, (3) Parent and Child Time sessions to promote family engagement, and (4) weekly workshops on parenting, health/nutrition, and life skills.

“Clarkston’s transformation dates back to the late 1980’s, when the U.S. State Department and various resettlement agencies chose Clarkston as an ideal site for refugee resettlement.  A mass exodus of middle-class whites to Atlanta’s more affluent suburbs left behind inexpensive apartments that could serve as affordable housing for newly arrived refugee families.  The easternmost stop on MARTA, Clarkston also offered its residence access to public transit and a commute to employment opportunities in Atlanta.”

To find out more about the program or to volunteer or make a donation, click on the link below:

Mommy and Me Family Literacy | about us




Aug 13 2015

Libraries as Community Centers

by Arthur G

I’ll be honest–I’m not a fan of most library news stories. Too often, they revolve around buzz words and other vagaries, like how libraries can supposedly “reinvent themselves,” or “become relevant for the new century”–all the while not showing the slightest understanding of what libraries are and their place in the community. But writer Deborah Fallows over at The Atlantic has struck a cord in me with her spotlight on the Deschutes Public Library, a small, six-branch system in Central Oregon pioneering a creative formula based on extensive community partnerships and outreach.

This core of this idea isn’t news to me; DCPL branches have always acted as community centers, providing a myriad of different services across the county, including ESL and continuing education classes, free internet access for all, and simply being a safe and welcoming haven for the world weary. The Deschutes Library System and its director Todd Dinkelburg have taken this basic element in a decidedly more aggressive direction, sending out library staff in a web of partnerships that include over 60 community groups. The article itself is well written, with Fallows doing justice to the institution–and without recourse to clichéd buzz words. Catch the article here–-it’s well worth the read.

And if you’re itching for more of the latest by the good writers at The Atlantic, you can catch them on Zinio, our free eMagazine Library available online.


Fales library special collections - Photo courtesty of Mal Booth

In many libraries, special collections is the name applied to materials housed in a separate unit with specialized security and user services. Though DCPL does not currently maintain a separate space for our special collection, we do house materials by and about DeKalb County and its citizens, DeKalb County governmental activities, and Georgia history and genealogy. You can learn more about some of DCPL’s special collection here.

Recently Mental Floss Magazine compiled a list of fifteen of the most interesting library special collections from around the country. Some of my favorites include The Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University and the DC Punk Archive, a work in progress under the auspices of the D.C. Public Library that will focus on the Washington D.C. punk rock scene from 1976 to the present day.

Check out the full list here.

{ 1 comment }

Jun 11 2014

Maya Angelou

by Joseph M

Two weeks ago, Maya Angelou died at the age of 86. A highly acclaimed writer, performer, and civil rights activist, Angelou achieved iconic status over the course of her lifetime, and her passing was widely mourned and marked with tributes from notable people around the world.

I recently found this article on The Huffington Post about the importance of libraries in Maya Angelou’s life, and I was particularly struck by the following quote:

“…I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK. It really helped me as a child, and that never left me. So I have a special place for every library, in my heart of hearts.”

Interested in learning more? DCPL has many titles by Maya Angelou; click here to see a catalog listing.


Sep 20 2013

Tech detox. Could you? Would you?

by Dea Anne M

I recently came across an article published this summer in the New York Times that profiles Camp Grounded in Navarro, CA, a three-day summer camp for adults. Campers relinquish their phones, computers, tablets and watches. There is no television. Furthermore, campers are not allowed to discuss their work or ages and each camper has a “camp name.” Camp diet is gluten-free and vegan. Camp Grounded is a creation of Digital Detox an Oakland based group that offers tech-free retreats. Their motto is “Disconnect to reconnect.”

There’s something to be said for taking a tech break now and then in order to recharge. I know that part of what I find so profoundly relaxing about a vacation at the beach is that I wind up spending very little time in front of a screen and don’t pay attention to the clock. Instead, I read, walk, cook and just watch the water. Many experts today suggest creating a tech-free zone in one’s home. This may not be desirable to everyone, or even possible for some, but it’s certainly something to think about.

A recent article by Jay Turner of Georgia Public Libraries Continuing Education and Training discusses a keynote address delivered by Stacey Aldrich who is the Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Education Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Among the areas of future technology that libraries may be involved with,  Aldrich suggests that libraries may soon provide not only access to all sorts of technology but also to tech-free areas in which users will engage in “self-reflection or face-to-face communication with others.” And a  2011 article from American Libraries magazine discusses the possibility of libraries offering gadget-free zones and whether or not library patrons would use and appreciate these.


Where do you stand on the tech-free question? Do you provide yourself with “digital breaks” or do you like to stay wired?

If you’d like to do some reading on the effects and future of digital culture, try these titles available from DCPL.

{ 1 comment }

Aug 9 2013

Andrew Carnegie…our hero?

by Dea Anne M

Carnegie_Library_of_Moultrie“The man who dies rich dies disgraced.” This famous statement comes from Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist and steel baron who amassed a huge fortune and then spent the latter part of his life giving the majority of it away. Perhaps the best known of his philanthropies is Carnegie Hall, Manhattan’s famous concert venue which Carnegie paid to have built. Others include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Mellon University and numerous museums. The most important of his projects, at least to those of us who love libraries, would be the Carnegie libraries. The image at right shows the Old Carnegie Library in Moultrie, GA.  Built in 1906, it is no longer in use as a library but is on the National Register of Historic Places. 1690 of these libraries were built in the United States alone and many more in other parts of the world. A huge proponent of self-improvement, Carnegie didn’t provide endowments for these libraries. Rather, he insisted that any community interested in building a library aided by Carnegie funds be willing to abide by certain requirements:

  • demonstrate the need for a public library;
  • provide the building site;
  • annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support its operation; and,
  • provide free service to all.

This last point created its contradictions. In the strictly segregated American South, for example, Carnegie funded separate libraries for African Americans in many communities. In any case, Carnegie rarely denied a request and many of these buildings, beautifully designed and executed, often became known as the most distinguished structures in their communities (check out some images here). The unique design of these buildings also featured an element brand new to libraries—self service stacks which encouraged patrons to browse and discover books, either on their on or with the guidance of library staff. Prior to this, patrons asked librarians to retrieve specific items from closed stacks.

carnegieAndrew Carnegie was a proponent of political egalitarianism and professed his support for labor unions. At the same time, he held his own workers to long hours at low pay and his reputation would be forever tarred by his actions during the Homestead Steel Strike.  In spite of these contradictions, I believe that Carnegie has to be recognized as a major figure in shaping the mission of the modern public library. NPR recently ran a very interesting piece on Carnegie’s legacy that is well worth checking out. It includes a very lively comments section as well. If you’d like to learn more about Andrew Carnegie’s life, DCPL carries (among other resources) two well-regarded biographies Carnegie by Peter Krass and Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw.

Did you use your hometown’s library (or libraries) when you were growing up? Did your town ever have a Carnegie library? Speaking of hometown libraries don’t miss Joseph’s fun post from earlier this week!

{ 1 comment }

Aug 7 2013

Library Memories

by Joseph M

gus-loved-his-happy-homeGrowing up, I always liked visiting libraries. My first library memory is sitting with my mom in our local public library as she read to me. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. If I recall correctly, we were enjoying one of the Gus the Ghost books by Jane Thayer. I liked the illustrations so much that I begged my mom to photocopy some of the pages, which she did. The seating in the children’s area was unusual, sort of like large blocks covered in a plush material and stacked in arrangements that were good for climbing. I remember feeling like the library was a fun and exciting place to be.

I felt the same way about my elementary school library when I got a little older. My class would visit the library about once a week or so, and the school librarian would read to us from what seemed at the time to be a vast collection of children’s books. The librarian selected a lot of stories by Bill Peet, which was always an entertaining choice in my opinion. It was around this time that I was first introduced to the concept of nonfiction and shown how to work the card catalogs, which I found daunting yet intriguing.

A little later in my childhood, my mom was taking classes at a local university and so had access to the library there. I had been assigned a school project about American Indians and I needed to do some research, so my mother graciously took me with her to the campus library. This was by far the largest library I had ever seen, spanning multiple floors filled with row after row of bookshelves. I was highly impressed by the wealth of knowledge arrayed before my eyes, and I quickly found several books relevant to my project.

I credit the above experiences with inspiring my life-long fascination with libraries and helping to guide me into my current career. Do you have fond memories of your early library experiences? Please share them with us.


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.


Feb 27 2013

A Personal History of Libraries

by Jesse M

Recently, science fiction author John Scalzi wrote an article on his blog entitled A Personal History of Libraries, in which he recounted his first experience with the library and outlined some other fond memories of the libraries that have been a part of his life and the positive and substantive impact they’ve had. Here’s a particularly touching quote regarding his first visit to a library when he was five years old:

I remember specifically, although not by name, a picture book a [sic] pulled down from the rows, about children leaping for the moon. It was explained to me that I could take the book home — and not just that book, but any book I wanted in the entire library. I remember thinking, in a five year old’s vocabulary, how unbelievably perfect.

Scalzi’s post in defense of the public library was inspired by an article recently published in The Guardian quoting popular children’s author Terry Deary stating that libraries “have been around too long” and are “no longer relevant”. Among the charges Deary lays at the feet of public libraries are that

“libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back…What other industry creates a product and allows someone else to give it away, endlessly? The car industry would collapse if we went to car libraries for free use of Porsches … Librarians are lovely people and libraries are lovely places, but they are damaging the book industry.

He goes on to wonder “Why are all the authors coming out in support of libraries when libraries are cutting their throats and slashing their purses?”

Scalzi responds directly to this notion by saying:

I bought new books by the authors I was introduced to in the library, and bought the old books that checked out so many times from the library, because now I could afford to own them. I bought books on the subjects I first became interested in by wandering through the library stacks. I bought as gifts the books I had grown to love and wanted others to love, too. I had become a fervent buyer of books because libraries made it easy to become a fervent reader of books—to make them a necessary part of my life.

Do you think there is any credence to the claims Terry Deary makes, that libraries are no longer relevant, and actively harm the book industry and authors whose works fill their shelves? Or do Scalzi and other defenders of the library have the right of it? Let us know in the comments.

{ 1 comment }

Feb 22 2013

Great Rappers are Great Readers!

by Jimmy L

the Richie Perez Radical LibraryI’ve always believed that rappers possessed a type of literacy, though unconventional, that’s highly attuned to the intricacies of language. The best rappers use tone, diction, sound, and personas (unreliable narrators?) in impressive ways, an accomplishment equal to the best literary works of fiction and poetry. So I was pleased when I came across an article about a ‘radical’ community library for youth opening up in the Bronx.

Housed inside the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective headquarters in the Bronx, the same place that hosts monthly hip-hop open mic nights, the Richie Perez Radical Library was launched by the hip-hop-centric Rebel Diaz Arts Collective.

“I tell them, ‘The more you read, the iller you’ll be as an emcee,’” said Rodrigo Venegas, aka Rodstarz, one-third of the rap crew, Rebel Diaz, and a founding member of the cultural collective with an activist bent.

Read the rest of this story here.