Monday, August 31, 2009

Birds in Iowa Week . They're watching.

Aaaahh! How would you like to look out your window and see this giant blue jay peering in at you? It wouldn't be pleasant. And you should be worried because blue jays will eat mice and frogs and dog food. What if it's hamburger casserole night at your house? On the bright side, blue jays are credited with increasing the oak population as they will carry as many as 5 acorns in their bills and throats then bury them for later. Not unlike squirrels, they never find everything they bury. Hence the forests. Did you know the ones in northern climes actually migrate? In flocks of ten, bills full of acorns. Just spreading the wealth.
Source: Iowa Bird Watching
Photo courtesy Gerry Rowland

Friday, August 28, 2009

Error! Error!

If you're a Star Trek fan, you're thinking 'this does not compute'. You know who you are. There are days when nothing computes. Those are days when you run into inscrutable error messages that say something like 'html potato launcher not enabled l46soe89'. Just for you I have found a web site at which you can make your own error messages. I have no idea how you could make one pop up on your brother's computer, but the site's fun to play with. Maybe someday I'll get a sensible message from my computer, like "Error! It doesn't matter what you click on, this computer will not give you what you want". That I could understand.
Error Message Generator

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Switcheroo - Central

You'll never guess what got switched at Central. The Teen and magazine areas! I know, Teens being switched at two separate libraries in the space of a few days. Coincidence? Or massive conspiracy? I'm going for the 'sprucing up for the school year' theory. The new magazine area offers a reading nook close to the internet array for customers who are waiting to use the computers. Also with this new layout the Iowa magazines, which were previously shelved in the Iowa Collection, will now be shelved with the other magazines thus allowing for easier browsing. (Plus less loneliness. You should have heard Wallaces Farmer whining.) The new Teen area gives teens their own seating space separate from the adults along with more shelf space for the teen collection. And it's right at the top of the stairs! You can't miss the Teen books now. Which is kind of the point. Still making it better for you.

Kristelle Larsen, Information Services, Central Library, provided the information for this post.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Switcheroo - Forest

Forest has relocated both Foreign Language and Teen Spaces! Just switched them with each other, like overnight. Those guys are fast. And strong! Plus the foreign language CD's and DVD's are now adjacent to the foreign language print materials which is oh so handy. The photo is of Teen Specialist Ashley Ansah whose brainchild this is. So now the Teens live next to the magazines, in what we hope will be a comfy and relaxing atmosphere. Because we all know, teens need that so they can use 3-4 forms of electronic media at the same time. That's not as easy as it looks. OK, it probably is for them, but it's still nice to have this new seating area. You know, where the foreign language collection had been. It all makes sense now! Making it better for you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


For years we've answered the question with a negative. Do you have Rosetta Stone? (Apparently this is the premiere language-learning software.) For years we said no, no, no and no. Guess what! Now we can say yes yes yes! The Forest Avenue Library has a computer with three, count 'em three languages loaded: English (American); French; and Spanish (Latin-America). These are installed on the computer which means there's nothing to take out of the building. You get to use them at Forest! Which is looking great, by the way. Bon voyage!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Making it better for You Week - Pay Online

Yay! Now you can give us money online by using your credit card! Just like on the real internet! Sooo convenient. You can pay for your DVD rentals, or for the little bit of a fine you accumulated while you were on vacation (we all do it). Just go to our home page at and click on Search at the upper right of the page. Now you're on the page where you search our catalog and newspaper index. There is a new tab that says ... Pay Fees! Click on it, type in your Des Moines Public Library card number and PIN and away you go! Once again, making it better for you. We live for that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

You Too Can be a Modern Artist

Are you familiar with David Hockney? A modern artist of many styles, he actually taught at the University of Iowa for a while. Love the Iowa connections! Hockney is perhaps most identified with his use of photographs. He'd layer them so as to produce a fractured portrait. Or use them as color elements to create a single massive photograph. Like fractals! (OK, kind of.) A zillion photos of a bridge would be assembled into one huge image of said bridge. Anyhow, we found you a generator that will allow you to turn ordinary photographs into fascinating art. I recommend a colorful image with good contrast. And choose the 'polaroid' option, it's much more striking. Hockneyize away!
The Hockneyizer!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Des Moines has Fun Facts - Really!

We have quite a few bits of Des Moines History in FF, as those who are 'in the know' call it. Select Des Moines - History and go past the one about the angel statue. I know you want to read it but you can go back. It will still be there. Just go to page 2, second entry, for another interesting State Fair Fact. There. Now you can read about the statue. Don't you feel virtuous?

While you're at it, take a gander at Our state fair : Iowa's blue ribbon story / written by Mary Kay Shanley

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More State Fair Fun Facts

If you're heading to the Fair, today's Fun Fact is so doing you a big favor. Click on the category Iowa State Fair and check out the second one listed. Am I right? Is this not good to know on a really hot day? Now you see how the Fun Facts site is not only entertaining, but has information vital to your well-being. You're welcome.

Iowa's tradition : an ABC photo album of the Iowa State Fair / by J.O. Parker and Debbie Tindle Parker

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fun Fact Week - Musical

Did I mention Fun Facts is a work in progress, so it will just keep growing and Growing and GROWING? At a stately pace. Do you want to read the lyrics of a Girl Scout song you may never have heard of??????? Click on Children and ... wait! There's nothing here about a song! This is a tricky one. You have to click on the number 2 at the bottom of the list to get to the second page. Just keeping you on your toes.

Graphic source: flickr Tracy Hunter

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week full o' Facts that are Fun

Hey! Did you know we have a little collection of knowledge we like to call Fun Facts? Yesseribob, right on our very own Des Moines Public Library web site. This just seems like a good week to highlight it. To get to the Fun Facts follow these steps:
Go to our home page at (Notice the new address? Short, right? Making it better for you.)

From the home page click on BLOGS/WIKIS.

Then to the left click on Fun Facts.

Boom! You're there. A good way to browse is to click on the black 'down' arrow next to All Categories and pick one. Try Beauty Contests and learn something about babies and the Iowa State Fair.

Fun Facts is in its infancy so some subject headings don't have facts yet. But they will. Stay tuned this week as we explore!
Graphic source: Karen's Whimsy

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fun with Higher Education

I have a couple degrees. Bachelor's in History, Master's in Library Science. Solid, respectable degrees. But what it I really want is a degree in Watching TV While Reading a Book. I am really good at that. Or Asking People to Speak Up When I Can't Understand Them. I consider this a skill, not a problem with aging. With Ad Letters's Diploma Generator you can give yourself, your friends, your philodendron the acknowledgement they deserve. It's even fancier than the one pictured - I cut off the seal and signatures so you could read the example. Oh, the possibilities! Excuse me while I manufacture for my husband a degree from the Dr. Seuss Ecole de Musique.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Iowa and Authors

We maintain a list of Iowa Authors. Aren't you pleased? And here is how we define an Iowa author: " born in Iowa or ... lived here at least twenty years". So not just anybody qualifies. (Even if an author was born in Iowa we reserve the right to decide whether or not to list them). There's an Iowa Author whose name you probably would not guess. He worked at the University of Iowa in various levels of professorship from 1970 - 1986. So he was in Iowa when he wrote his first novel which became a HUGE hit and inspired several movies. The author is David Morrell, - tada! - and yes, Rambo was conceived in Iowa!!! First Blood was published in 1972 and Morrell has written many fine novels since. Here's your chance to read books by a very famous Iowa Author. David Morrell's books

Source: Biography Resource Center

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Edna Griffin and the Bystander

The Des Moines Public Library owns copies of The Bystander, (sometimes Iowa Bystander) Central Iowa's African-American newspaper. Over the past few years publication has been off and on, but we have a solid run from 1894 to a few years ago, with some gaps. Our newspaper index picks up a grab bag of years before 1986, and here's what turned up when I did a search for Edna Griffin and looked at the information on the oldest article listed:

Publication: Bystander
Date: 1951 5 17
Title: Young Mother Has Many Interests
Subjects: Griffin, Edna
Page: 05
Column: 2

You just never know what you'll find. If you'd like to read this articles and others, microfilm of old newspapers are at the Central Library, 1000 Grand. Come on down!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ah, the Old Farmer's Almanac.

Just when I think I have plumbed its depths completely they add more stuff. Now they have a handy-dandy list entitled How Long Will it Last?. An excellent question. Because I haven't a clue. As far as I know your refrigerator lasts as long as you do. Does this mean it breaks down when you have passed on? I guess I'll never know. Because the Old Farmer's Almanac does not address fridges. Here are a few answers to the burning question How Long Will it Last?.

Vinyl siding: 30 years.
Fiberglass tub/shower: 10-15 years.
Driveway, asphalt: 10 years.
Oak or pine flooring: lifetime. BINGO! All I'm saying is, don't buy my house when I'm 95.

For more, go to How Long Will it Last?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtellle, a tragedy...for me

Ever read a book so good that when it ended badly you just wanted to throw it across the room? (You know I didn't do that. It was a library book, for Pete's sake) So The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The characters are interesting and engaging and you like them very much. You want to meet them and have lunch in their house. You want to watch Edgar, who does not speak, put their dogs through elaborate training by use of sign language. These people endure catastrophe and pain and fear and pull themselves through and in the end.... Any fans of Sigourney Weaver's Alien movies out there? Remember the 3rd one, on the desert prison planet? 'Nuff said. Wouldn't have mattered so much if the book hadn't been amazing up until then. Sigh. I usually hate spoilers but could have used one this time. Does everyone else think the book is perfect the way it is?
The story of Edgar Sawtelle

Friday, August 7, 2009

Eyes and their limitations

How many times have you been to the eye doctor? About a zillion for me since I got glasses when I was 5. So that's 4 decades of this is one, this is two, this is one, this is two, and I can't tell the difference!!! So I just guess sometimes. I also usually couldn't tell if the red circle or the black one was darker and clearer. I want to be able to answer the questions. And the optometrists/opthalomologists are so nice. Even when they have to dilate my eyes and I can't see for the next 4 hours, I still like them. But the whole thing would be more fun if the eye charts had secret messages. Go on and make up your own. Custom Eye Chart

Thursday, August 6, 2009

EbscoHost - Sciency Science

Academic Search Elite. The database of choice if you're doing research for college, or just on a subject that isn't covered heavily in general public publications - say the latest developments in string theory. Scientific studies are at the tips of your fingers! And thumbs! Such as:

The Proteasome Is a Molecular Target of Environmental Toxic Organotins
Environmental Health Perspectives; Mar2009, Vol. 117 Issue 3, p379-386, 8p, 1 diagram, 6 graphs

Six graphs. Are these people thorough or what? Didn't think you'd find that outside a university library, did you? Well, I didn't anyway. But that's the beauty of EbscoHost! It has information you can't even pronounce!

Source: Academic Search Elite via EbscoHost

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

EbscoHost: Healthy and Healthier

We have two, count 'em two, sources chock full of medical facts. Health Source: Consumer Edition and Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. You can see the difference right away. Consumer Edition will provide explanations I can readily understand. Nursing/Academic covers more esoteric disorders. So if you want info on why your sinuses drive you absolutely nuts the Consumer edition is just the thing. If you want in-depth studies of acromegaly, dive into Nursing/Academic. By the way, acromegaly is a "disorder that is caused by chronic overproduction of growth hormone by the pituitary gland and is characterized by a gradual and permanent enlargement of the flat bones (as the lower jaw)..." And I know this because both databases include Merriam-Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary. Bonus!

Information and graphic source: Health Source via EbscoHost

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

EbscoHost - Ebsco Animals

Now this is an exotic bird. The bateleur eagle, on its wingspan of five-to-six feet reaches speeds of 30 to 50 miles per hour with hardly a wingbeat. They weigh between 4 and 7 pounds and are known for tumbling, diving, rolling, somersaulting, and cartwheeling. The feathers around the head and neck are sometimes fanned, which makes the head look larger. (Seriously, it's like it's not a bird. I think it looks like a guy wearing a bird costume). This baby has a broad palate. She eats snakes, monitor lizards, rats, hares, fish, birds, and small antelope. Yikes. Look at those feathers! They don't taper at all and look so soft. I'm not saying you should try to touch one. Small antelope.

Source: Encyclopedia of Animals via Ebsco Animals
Photo Credit: Gerry Rowland

Monday, August 3, 2009

Your Host, Ebsco

This week we're going to take a stroll through one of the most comprehensive online sources your public library is likely to offer. We bring you EbscoHost. Tada! Ebscohost provides articles and information from various databases. When libraries talk about databases they tend to mean collections of data they have purchased that can be searched by subject, keyword, etc.. I say this because you'll be seeing the word 'database' often this week. The differences between these databases and what a search engine pulls up on the Internet are authority, accuracy and reliability. You can't wait to try it! Here's how to get to EbscoHost from home:

1. Go to our homepage at
2. Click on Online Resources.
3. Click on Ebscohost.
4. Type in your Des Moines Public Library card number and PIN.

You're in! Whee! Pick a database, type in your search terms and go to town. A tip: on the left of the search screen you will find a box next to the words Full Text. Check that box. It ensures your search results will only include complete articles. And that's the way we like it.