Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghosts, Ghouls, Vampires and Witches. Oh My!

Do you love Halloween? Or do you find it daunting, dastardly, dangerous or downright demented? How about something in between? I guess I'm one of those in-between people because I love the pumpkins, candy, costumes and little kids trick-or-treating - notice I said little kids, not six-foot-tall teens banging on the door at 10 PM. I don't like the gory and gruesome side of the decorations or the mean spirited "tricks" of the holiday.

We live across the street from the "Haunted Yard" in Des Plaines. Every October the neighbors watch as the haunted yard expands to include a dining table of skeletons, a horse-drawn hearse, tombstones, coffins, the bride and groom from Beetlejuice, ghosts, witches and their cauldron, and a bloody selection of fake (at least we hope they're fake) body parts. Fog machines, torches, eerie music, motion sensitive devices, and live monsters are all in place on Halloween night. Last year we had over 300 kids stop by and yell "trick-or-treat" on their way over to the big display. Usually everyone behaves and has a super scary time, but I am always really glad once November 1st rolls around.

Just like the holiday, books related to monsters, ghosts and vampires, and Halloween in general are either terrifying and gory, or just slightly scary and maybe even cozy. Here are a few titles from our collections to help celebrate the holiday.

If you like your Halloween stories gory and gruesome:
The Awakening - Shannon Drake
The Mist - Stephen King
The Animal Hour - Andrew Klavan
The Relic - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

If you like cute pumpkins and baking cupcakes with orange icing:
Trick or Treachery - Donald Bain and Jessica Fletcher
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Ann-Jeanette Campbell
Halloween Murder - Shelley Freydont
Trick or Treat Murder - Leslie Meier

And finally, one of my favorite quotes for the holiday:
"If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day."
John Archibald Wheeler (the physicist who coined the term "Black Hole.)

Linda Knorr - Readers' Services

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Mood Are You In?

"Now What Do I Read?"

Here at the Readers’ Services desk on the third floor, one of the most common questions from our patrons is what to read next. A patron will say she finished a book or a series that she loved, but what next? If only there was an author who wrote in the same general style… If only there was a way to find this information…

Well, fret no longer. You can always ask one of us or call us on the phone or you can go to NoveList Plus. This is a subscription database at Des Plaines Public Library which is available on our library’s homepage under “References.” Because NoveList is online, you can search it here in the library or at home from your computer.

So what is NoveList? It’s a website which “suggests” books. For example, I happen to love books by Michael Connelly but I’ve read practically all of them. When I want suggestions for books to read that are similar to Connelly’s, I go to NoveList and type in his name. After a thorough explanation of his books, there’s a button called “read-alikes”, library-lingo for similar books. In this case, NoveList suggests titles by Ian Rankin, James Ellroy, James Lee Burke and Harlan Coben to name a few.

You can also find information on award winners or book discussion guides or book reviews. If you’d like, you can even keep your own private list of books on NoveList if you choose to create an account. (It’s free). NoveList isn’t only for adults either – there’s information for all ages, and we even have a separate database called NoveList Plus K-8 which can be found in the online reference section too.

NoveList is not the only resource of this type. One of my other favorites is WHICHBOOK because it's not only informative, it's fun and well, goofy. It’s like a mood ring that tells you what to read next. This free website at http://www.whichbook.net/ lists a series of moods, qualities and characteristics you might find in a book, for example, happy, sad, optimistic, short, unpredictable, serious etc. You click on the qualities which describe your mood and WHICHBOOK suggests some titles. I chose “funny” and “down to earth” and received a list of book suggestions, starting with Cynthia Ozick’s Puttermesser Papers.

Of course, as far as the Readers’ Services staff is concerned, the best way to get a suggestion is to ask us. We are all book-crazy, and for that matter, movie and music-crazy too. Come up and visit us and we’ll guess your mood!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Discover Classical Music @Your Library OR Beethoven: The Original Master of Funk

Over the years, a number of people have told me: "I don't really like classical music, but I love ___________." (Insert name of composer or composition here.) When people say this, I often wonder if there are other classical compositions they might enjoy—they just haven't discovered them yet.
You don't need a Ph.D. in music theory or years of music lessons to experience the pleasures of Beethoven and Brahms, just a library card and a sense of curiosity!
But where to begin? Let's say you love Beethoven's 5th Symphony, but you're not sure what to try next. You can dive into the rest of his symphonies: we have the complete Beethoven symphonies performed by the magnificent Chicago Symphony Orchestra under conductor Sir Georg Solti, as well as the complete symphonies performed by the Berlin Philharmonic under conductor Claudio Abbado. My personal favorite is Symphony No. 3 (the "Eroica")--the first movement really soars--and we have, in addition to the CDs mentioned above, a recording of Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic that also contains a lecture by Bernstein, entitled "How a Great Symphony Was Written." (Bernstein was an enthusiastic teacher as well as a composer and conductor.)

Want to sample a variety of Beethoven's work? Check out Essential Beethoven: 24 of His Greatest Masterpieces. This compilation includes movements--or sections--of symphonies, piano sonatas, violin concertos, string quartets and more.

If you want to explore symphonies not only by Beethoven, but by other composers as well, a fun place to start is Discover the Symphony, which contains movements of symphonies by composers including Mozart, Schubert, Brahms and Stravinsky.

Or, let's say you really enjoy violin music and you want to sample several composers and performers. There's an excellent series called "Mad About . . ." which includes the CD Mad About Violins: The Greatest Stars, The Greatest Music. The CD contains movements from works by Beethoven, Paganini and Tchaikovsky among others, performed by some of the best violinists around—Anne-Sophie Mutter, Gidon Kremer and Shlomo Mintz. Some of the other titles in this series are Mad About Italian Opera, Mad About Romantic Piano and Mad About American Music. One quibble with the American Music title: it doesn't include anything by American original Charles Ives. However, we have many CDs featuring Ives, including The American Album, which includes his startling and inventive Variations on "America," arranged for orchestra by another American composer, William Schuman. Once you've heard it, you won't forget it!

These are just a few of the CDs in our classical collection. We have many, many other others, including Maurizio Pollini's performance of my all-time favorite classical composition, Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Opus 110. Although it was the second movement that first caught my attention—parts of it are as funky as anything Prince ever wrote—it's the third and fourth movements that keep drawing me back: there's an alternately thunderous and haunting, other-worldly quality to this music that makes me think that if we could hear the music of the spheres, it would sound like this.

Do you have a favorite piece of classical music? Do you have a favorite classical performer or composer? Is there music that you turn to for solace or inspiration?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kinship on the Shelves

Have you noticed the machines in the aisles of the library emitting high-pitched beeps? Usually there is a person standing at the machine doing a dance of reaching and sliding with a book or dvd. This has all been in the name of RFID - Radio Frequency Identification. The use of this technology will translate into more efficient check out and check in of library materials.

One day while engaged in this workout of putting the RFID metallic stickers on the backs of books, I let my mind wander from the job at hand, and started paying attention to the titles and book jackets. Much to my amazement, there is a lot of kinship on the shelves.

I noticed many a title with a relationship word in the title. Hitler's Niece, American Wife , Fortunate Son, The Husband. So what’s up with all these? Do they have something in common? If you like one, will another prove to be appealing as well? Does the title describe the antagonist or protagonist? Which relationship noun is used most? Using the library catalog* searching the Des Plaines Library collection, I found “Wife” is used 150 times, “Husband” 39 , “Daughter” 180, “Son” 83, “Sister” 84, “Brother” 46, “Niece” 3, “Nephew” 2. When “Cousin” came up empty I decided to stop.

Now on my reading list is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, a title that escaped me when it was a bestseller in 2002. It’s been made into a movie and is coming out in December. Also on my list is A Partisan's Daughter by Louis De Bernieres. Once upon a time, I read another book by the same author titled Corelli’s Mandolin and loved it. Lighter and sure to be delightful is The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith.

*Want to do the search yourself? We’ll be happy to show you the power search capability. Stop at the desk or give us a call at (847) 376-2840. Speaking of kinship on the shelves and RFID tagging, the photo up above features mother-daughter team Kathleen Barnes and Gail Bradley, both DPPL employees.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Do You Want to Know A Secret?

My Secret Love

Some of us were talking about the HBO comedy The Flight of the Conchords when a certain member of the administrative staff who shall remain nameless blurted out "I love Jemaine," one of the lead characters. Suddenly, like the waters of the mighty Des Plaines overflowing its banks, everyone started to confess their very real crushes on very fictitous people. Since we are going to create a Romance section on the third floor, and love is in the air, I thought I'd blog about my first secret love, oh-so-many-years-ago.

It was February 9, 1964 and I was watching television after Sunday dinner at my grandparents' home. "Ladies and Gentlemen," Ed Sullivan said, "The Beatles," and I've never been the same since. I had Beatles bookbags and Beatles boots and Beatles buttons and every known teen magazine with the Beatles on the cover. I started a Beatles club which met every Tuesday. I wrote a pledge of allegiance to them, and made my friends memorize it. When A Hard Day's Night came to the local theater, I saw it 13 times. Then I spent all my First Communion money on Beatles bubble gum trading cards and got in trouble with my mother. My punishment? - couldn't listen to my Beatles records for a day.

Who was my favorite Beatle?- what day was it? The heart of a young girl is fickle. I used to dream that I was married to Paul but as I got older John seemed more mysterious so I switched. Then, I dreamed I was married to John and Paul was my twin brother. For some reason Ringo was only a friend. Even today, almost 45 years after I first laid eyes on them, I still feel that the Beatles are the stuff of which dreams are made. So who am I to snicker at a certain member of the administration whose name begins with a "R" who loves Jemaine?

So, it's time to fess up. Who's your secret love? It can be a character in a book or a movie or a rock star or an author. And remember, dreams can come true. Sir Paul is available and was cited driving down Route 66 this summer!

See the Beatles on Ed Sullivan:

See all Beatles music at the library

See all Beatles books at the library

See all Beatles movies at the library

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's the Economy

I was recently talking with a friend who's a big movie fan, and it went something like this:

I've been signed up with Netflix for the past few months. It's great. It's only $4.95 a month and your movies just come in the mail. You should sign up!

You know I work at a library, and I can get just about any movie I want there (and by the way so can you)?

But you have to choose from what the library has.

You'd have to search pretty hard to find a title through Netflix that we can't get through the library. I place holds on the titles I want, and they show up when they're available.

But you still have to pay, right?

Nope, it's free.

But with Netflix they come to my door, I'd still have to come to the library right?

Ok, You got me there. But is that really a bad thing?

Now I have nothing against Netflix. From what I hear it sounds like a great deal. But free is still less $4.95. And $4.95 a month adds up to nearly $60 a year. In this economy every little bit helps. It seems that when times get tougher the library get busier. It got me thinking about other ways the library saves me (and you) money.

I used to subscribe to 3 or 4 different magazines. Now I read them at the library or check them out. That probably saves me close to $100 a year. Most obviously, I don't need to buy books when I can check them out for free.

I can save money on going out to the movies when 1) The library shows movies, and 2) The library has great programs. Just this month we have offered two book discussions, several films, several programs on Abraham Lincoln and more. We occassionally have musical or dramatic performances as well. If you have kids there's a ton more. Check here for our event calendar.

It is so simple too. You can browse our catalog online from home, place holds and when they're here we'll give you a call or an email. That is no harder than ordering through Netflix

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Reference on the 3rd Floor?

While the fourth floor is your go-to spot for reference questions about taxes, history, population stats or whatever you need answered, the third floor also has our own reference materials. Ours are just a little bit more fun.

Behind the information desk are reference books about great reads for teens, guides to mysteries, historical fiction, and sci-fi, Videohound and Leonard Maltin film books to help you find that particular movie you're looking for, and so many more. Stop by the desk the next time you're searching for something to read. These books cannot be checked out, but you can pull up a comfy chair and leaf through the pages until a title catches your eye. Then we can find it in the catalog for you, and suggest other titles you might like as well!

My favorite reference book at the 3rd floor desk isn't a guide to any particular genre- it's What's Next: Books in a Series. This book lets you look up any author by last name- let's use Janet Evanovich because she's my favorite. Go to the E section, find Evanovich, and there you'll find all of the titles in each of the series she has written in the order that they go in. This book is really helpful for when you find a book you like on the shelf and you read on the back that it's the second in a trilogy. Wanna know what comes first and last? Ask to see the What's Next book!

What happens when you're at home and a series question arises? Never fear! Because What's Next is also conviently located online. From our website click on Great Reads, then scroll all the way down to Internet Sites for Fiction Lovers, then scroll all the way down to What's Next: A Searchable Database of Novels in Series. Just click on that, and when the site comes up just put in your author's last name (you don't need anything else) and click search. Your authors name will come up with a + sign next to it--click on the + to see the individual series and the titles.

The directions may sound slightly confusing at first but go check out the website and you'll understand what I'm describing. If you're having difficulty working the site, or want to know more about our 3rd floor reference books, just ask one of us for help! We'd be happy to show you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"Natural" Selection by Roberta

Darwin thought of natural selection as akin to the way farmer's combine strains of grain to create a better crop, or breed sheep to achieve thicker fleeces. Library staff use the word selection when we talk about choosing books for the library's collection. Were you ever curious how we pick what is on the shelves?

Our collection development policy sets guidelines for everything the library owns. Ours is written with an eye to offering the community current, popular, reliable and easily accessible information and entertainment, is reviewed and updated by the library staff and Board of Trustees every two years, and covers books, magazines, music, movies, CD-ROMs and electronic resources.

I select fiction, science fiction and audiobooks (I love all three) for the adult collections, and my first step is usually reading reviews in magazines like Booklist, Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly, as well as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune book review sections. I also look at Audiofile, Locus (a great SF and fantasy magazine), and four different audiobook catalogs. Online, I visit Amazon's Forthcoming lists, LJ's Prepub Alert (a great preview of bestsellers about three to four months away), and Give 'Em What They Want, which looks at books featured on TV, made into movies, featured on Oprah, etc.

Some authors come to us automatically in enough quantity to fill our patron holds and have copies on the shelf for the passerby; these are the Grishams, Pattersons, and Evanoviches (I originally wrote Higgins Clarkses, but really looked funny). I try to order books at least six weeks before they are published, and whatever I order gets entered into the catalog right away, so you can place your hold before the book comes out.

Of course, we happily receive patron suggestions. If you can't find the new Bentley Little book in the catalog, or an audiobook of the latest Philippa Gregory, let us know! Call (847-376-2840), email (readers2@dppl.org), stop by the desk; we want to know what our patrons want. People tell me about books they heard about on C-Span, on the golf course or from their carpool partner.

Our "natural" selection process keeps our collection rich and varied, popular and individual, timely and classic. It's a fairly scientific process, but allows for happy accident too. Frankly, I think Darwin would be proud.

P. S. I'm really excited about Ender in Exile coming out! What books are you looking forward to? How did you hear about them?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hobby or Obsession?

There's a fine line between a hobby and an obsession.

Am I the only person who has ever started a small project and had it grow until it began to consume all of your time and space? For example, once upon a time my youngest sister invited me to a party where rubber stamps and other craft supplies were offered. We made some cute greeting cards and of course I bought a few supplies so that my sister could get free stuff. Then I decided to make Halloween cards, so I had to go to Michael's to buy more supplies, and then I discovered Archiver's in Niles and now I have enough stuff to open my own shop. However, I don't make that many cards because I have so many paper crafting supplies stashed in boxes that I can't find what I need to make a simple thank you note!

Knitting? Don't get me started. What began as an innocent project, to give me something to keep my hands busy while watching mindless television, has ballooned into bags full of yarn and rarely used "accessories" that looked so great in the store. My husband, sisters, nieces, and even the brother-in-laws know that they're going to get a scarf each year. (I tell them I don't care what they do with it, just take it!) Even my cat has a scarf. (It's just a little wider so that he can actually lay on it.)

Gardening? Okay, I really don't want to go there.

Hobbies and crafts are so popular that they are now covered in what I like to call "niche" mysteries. The titles below are just a small sample of the many mysteries available that feature hobbies, sometimes known as obsessions.

Corpus de Crossword - Nero Blanc (crossword puzzles)
Invitation to Murder - Elizabeth Bright (card-making)
Bound for Murder - Laura Childs (scrapbooking)
The Cracked Pot - Melissa Glazer (ceramics)
Death by Cashmere - Sally Goldenbaum (knitting)
The Unkindest Cut - Honor Hartman (bridge games)
Hooked on Murder - Betty Hechtman (crocheting)
Sinister Sudoku - Kaye Morgan (sudoku puzzles)
A Pour Way to Dye - Tim Myers (soapmaking)
At Wick's End - Tim Myers (candlemaking)
Stamped Out - Terri Thayer (rubber stamping)
Wild Goose Chase - Terri Thayer (quilting)
Weeding Out Trouble - Heather S. Webber (gardening)

So what's your obsessive hobby? And don't try to tell me you don't have at least one.

Linda Knorr - Readers' Services