December 2007 Archives

Your Weekly Reference Question

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When is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and continues through January 1st. It is an African American celebration of family, culture, and community. This holiday has roots in ancient African celebrations of the first harvest. In fact, the term Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits." Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African American scholar and activist, held the first modern Kwanzaa celebration in 1966. Learn more about Kwanzaa at the holiday's official Website.

Looking for a fun way to celebrate Kwanzaa? Today, Thursday, December 27, children ages 6-12 can come to Atkinson Library from 2:00-3:00 p.m. or Martin Luther King Library from 2:00-3:00 p.m. to make a Kwanzaa craft to take home.

Computer classes start again

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The Milwaukee Public Library's very popular series of computer classes is starting up again at the end of January. The series starts with the most basic computer skills, and each class builds on the one before it for seven weeks.

The classes are:
Computer Basics
Internet Basics
Internet Search Tools
Email Basics
Intro to Word Processing
Intro to Spreadsheets
Intro to Powerpoint

The classes do require pre-registration. Registration opens January 2, 2008 at 8:00 a.m. Starting at 9:00 a.m. the librarians at Ready Reference can register individuals over the phone at (414) 286-3011. Registration can also be done over the internet from the Events Calendar.

Your weekly reference question

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How long did the Orphan train run?

The Orphan Train Movement lasted from 1854 through 1929. In that time, approximately 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children were put on the so-called "Orphan Train" and were relocated to the American West. The Children's Aid Society thought that in this way, these children might gain new families while helping out the pioneers who were settling the frontiers.

The train stopped in 47 states and in Canada. At each stop, townspeople who were interested would gather to inspect the children, and take home those they thought to be likely candidates. After the children had successfully completed a brief trial period, they would become indentured to their host families.

While this program is widely thought of as the beginning of documented foster care, it was not without controversy. Interestingly enough, the controversy came from both sides of the abolitionist movement. Many abolitionists believed that the children were ending up being slaves to their host families, while those who advocated slavery saw it as an outgrowth of the abolitionist movement. After all, who would need slaves when these children provided labor that made slaves unnecessary?

Because there were a large number of children who went west on the Orphan Trains, some genealogists have had problems tracing the ancestry of their relatives who may have hailed from the Orphan Train Movement. There are some resources available for those who are attempting to follow the ancestry of those children. Since so many of them came originally from New York City, many of these resources are from the city.

Find a good book with Pearl's Picks

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Author, librarian, bookseller, and action figure model Nancy Pearl is the queen of reading recommendations. She has written several books about books, including Book Lust: recommended reading for every mood, moment, and reason. She provides reviews of great reads covering all genres. She includes everything from mysteries to non-fiction to children's books. In fact, her most recent work, Book Crush, recommends titles especially for children and teens.

You can now read her latest picks right from MPL's Website. Each month Nancy provides reviews and information on her latest recommendations. Simply go to MPL's home page, click on her picture, select a month, and discover a new favorite book!

Mock Newbery Caldecott Awards Program

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Unfortunately, our Mock Newbery Caldecott Awards Program was cancelled due to the weather.


Our children’s librarians still want to get the word out on the best books of 2007. We’ll be posting our comments here so be sure to check back often for a look at all the good books you might have missed. Feel free to add your comments as well if you’ve read a great children’s book this year that you can’t wait to talk about.

Your weekly reference question

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Milwaukee Earthquakes

Did you know that Milwaukee feels the occasional earthquake? It's true, in fact the last tremor that Milwaukee felt was on June 28, 2004, and the epicenter was in northern Illinois. There have been at least 20 different occasions where tremors have been felt in Milwaukee in the last 140 years.


So even though Milwaukee lies within one of the zones of least hazard for earthquakes, it still gets the occasional tremor. For more information on earthquakes in the United States and the world, check out the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Center web site.

Bookseller at Milwaukee Public Library

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Did you know that Central Library has a used book store and a cafe?

Visit the Bookseller, a used book store selling used, new and collectible books and media, operated by the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library and located on the first floor of the Central Library. Hours vary Monday through Saturday - call 286-2142 for exact times. Proceeds from the sale of books are used to fund special projects for the Milwaukee Public Library.

The Bookseller features thousands of children's and adult books - both hardcover and paperback, old and new - which are on sale for 25 cents to $2. Inventory is constantly changing so come and take a look and, while you're there, enjoy a beverage from the No More ZZZ's Cafe housed in the same location.


Jane Austen's 232nd birthday party success!

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The staff of the Adult Programming Committee prepared a tea party to celebrate the 232nd birthday of Jane Austen. A beautiful display of the Milwaukee Public Library staff’s tea cups and related items was prepared to complement the celebration.

Authors Victoria Hinshaw and Kim Wilson in the Rare Books Room.

Regency romance author Victoria Hinshaw and tea aficionado and author Kim Wilson gave talks about Jane Austen’s life, her books and the history of tea in England. A trivia quiz was distributed and the authors’ books were given as prizes. Several kinds of teas and cookies, some brought by generous participants, were enjoyed by all.

The event took place in the Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room at the Central Library on Saturday, December 8, from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. The event was a great success with the 28 participants raving about the program and there were several requests that a similar program take place on an annual basis.

Chess 4 Life Skills

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This month several of MPL's neighborhood libraries will be offering Chess 4 Life Skills for children ages 8-14. Participants will learn to play chess while discovering how to be effective decision makers. Quan Caston, President of Chess Academix, Inc., will help students use the game of chess as a thinking tool.

Call your library to register. Walk-ins are welcome if space is available.

Atkinson Library, Wednesday, December 26, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Capitol Library, Wednesday, December 26, from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Martin Luther King Library, Thursday, December 27, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Center Street Library, Thursday, December 27, from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Villard Avenue Library, Friday, December 28, from 10:00 a.m to 2:00 p.m.
Mill Road Library, Friday, December 28, from 2:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Zablocki Library, Saturday, December 29, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Forest Home Library, December 29, from 1:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

A helpful online service

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Holiday catalogs got you down?


The holiday season is in full swing, and that means that on top of all that goodwill towards your fellow humans, your mailbox is probably stuffed with catalogs of all shapes and sizes. If the catalogs are starting to outnumber the holiday cards, you may want to consider Catalog Choice.

Catalog Choice is a free, online service that lets you opt out of those pesky catalogs that clog up your mailbox. It will save you time and aggravation, and also helps to preserve the environment.

It's also easy to use. You just sign up, you search for the catalogs you want to decline, and Catalog Choice contacts the companies for you. It can take up to 10 weeks for the process to complete, but once it does you shouldn't receive any more of the unwanted catalogs. If the catalogs continue to come, you just need to let Catalog Choice know, and they will report the infraction for you.

Your weekly reference question

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In honor of the snow we have been experiencing in Milwaukee over the past week or so, here are some quick weather facts from the Ready Reference Quick Fact File. These should help us feel a little better about the weather we have been having this December.

(Weather map from December 2, 2007 showing accumulation of snow across the country. Source: NOAA Weather Maps)

Coldest day:
The record low temperature for Milwaukee was set on January 17, 1982 at negative 26 degrees F. This mark was tied on February 3, 1996. (Source: National Weather Service)

Hottest day:
The record high temperature for Milwaukee was set on July 24, 1934 at 105 degrees F. (Source: National Weather Service)

Records for snow:
Maximum snowfall in a 24 hour period: 20.3 inches on February 4th – 5th, 1924.
Largest single snowstorm: 26.0 inches from February 19th – 21st, 1898.
Maximum snowfall in a single month: 52.6 inches in January, 1918.
Maximum total winter snowfall: 109.8 inches in 1885/1886.
Maximum measured depth of snow: 33 inches on January 27th, 1979. (Source: Extreme Weather by Christopher Burt, 2004, 551.5 B973)

Record for wind chill:
The record wind-chill was set on January 10, 1982 at negative 83 degrees F. (Source: National Weather Service)

The City of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Public Library faced some difficult budgetary choices for 2008. In order to preserve the most critical library services, purchase new and replacement materials, and support staffing levels to maintain library hours, a policy change affecting media holds requests has been initiated.

Holds requests have more than doubled since 2002, and have exceeded 500,000 in 2007. Of the growing number of holds requests received by the library, media requests represent a significant portion and require considerable staff time to locate and process. Staffing available to process these requests has not increased to meet the demand. The following change is necessary to meet City budget reduction targets, and will result in more popular media items becoming available for MPL customers.

Effective January 2, 2008:
The following media items owned by the Milwaukee Public Library will no longer be holdable:

1. All feature films and television programs on DVD and VHS
2. Music CDs in the young adult and adult collections

The following media items owned by the Milwaukee Public Library will continue to be holdable:

1. All non-fiction DVDs and videos classified as educational, informational and/or
2. All children’s CDs

Other items such as books, audio books, and CD-ROMs will continue to be holdable.
However, the maximum number of all items that may be requested at any one time is now 20 per library card holder, down from 40.

A list of frequently asked questions has been prepared for your reference. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please complete an online comment form.

Your patience and cooperation during this transition are appreciated, and we thank you for using your Milwaukee Public Library.

Comment Form

AskAway Library Chat

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Did you know that Milwaukee Public Library participates in a statewide and national cooperative of libraries providing 24 hour reference service? The Wisconsin AskAway service is part of a national consortia called QuestionPoint which involves librarians from dozens of institutions nationwide.
Log on to at any time of the day or night and chat with a librarian. Click on the AskAway link found on the right side of the MPL homepage to get started. In addition to live chat, the library also provides e-mail reference service to assist with questions. During regular library hours, call Milwaukee's time honored Ready Reference service at (414) 286 - 3011 for telephone service. Also, don't forget your Central and Neighborhood Libraries for in person assistance.

Mock Newbery and Caldecott Discussion

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The Central Library will be holding its annual Mock Newbery and Caldecott Discussion in Centennial Hall Tuesday, December 11 from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Meet with other adults and librarians to discuss the best children's books published in 2007.


The Newbery Medal is named for John Newbery who was an 18th century publisher of children's books. It is awarded once a year by the Association for Library Service to Children. It was first awarded in 1922.

The Caldecott Medal is named for Randolph Caldecott, a 19th century English illustrator. It is also awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children. It was first awarded in 1938.

Registration is required, so go to our Events Calendar to do so.

Caroline Kennedy Book Signing

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Please join the Milwaukee Public Library and Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in welcoming Caroline Kennedy to Central Library on Thursday, December 13. Beginning at 6:00 p.m., Ms. Kennedy, editor of A Family Christmas, will be signing books in the Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room. The Milwaukee Children's Choir will also be part of the evening's festivities. Tickets for the event are $32 and may be purchased at any Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop or online at One ticket includes admission to the event, an autographed copy of A Family Christmas and a $5 tax deductible contribution to the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation. Tickets and additional books will be available at the event. We hope that you will be able to join us!


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2007 is the previous archive.

January 2008 is the next archive.

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