Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

What Ever Happened to Washington's Birthday?

Many of us remember celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birth on February 12th and then, shortly after, George Washington's on February 22nd. How and why did those two holidays disappear and President's Day take their place? It's a convoluted story that started in the late 1960s when Illinois Senator Robert McClory proposed moving a bunch of federal holidays around to give American workers more three-day weekends. His plan was met with a lot of resistance from those states with specific attachments to the holidays. For instance, Virginia, where Washington was born would have preferred to continue celebrating its favorite holiday. Eventually, with support from the labor unions, McClory convinced lawmakers to pass the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved Washington's Birthday to the third Monday of February. Over time, thanks in part to retail marketers who capitalised on the three-day weekend by advertising "President's Day" sales, the public stopped thinking of the holiday as Washington's Birthday even though that is still the official, federal designation. has a great article on the transition from two holidays to one.

Chicago Restaurant Week

the Parthenon CookbookRestaurant Week is here. Celebrate with cookbooks from Chicago restaurants and chefs.
Alinea by Grant Achatz
The debut cookbook from the restaurant Gourmet Magazine named the best in the country.
The Berghoff Café Cookbook by Carlyn Berghoff
Serving traditional German cuisine & steins of beer in an old-world setting since 1898.
Chicago's premier vegetarian restaurant featuring creative vegetarian & vegan takes on comfort food.
Frontera by Rick Bayless
A must-have for anyone who has eaten at Rick's restaurants or just can't resist the undeniable pleasure of a margarita and its perfect complements.
Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izard
The first and only woman to win Top Chef presents 100 recipes from her restaurant, The Girl and the Goat, along with creative meal pairings and cooking 
The Parthenon Cookbook by Camille Stagg
A collection of recipes from old favorites to unique house specialties and a tribute to the oldest restaurant in Chicago's Greektown.
When Restaurant Week is over, remember February is Food Month at Eisenower. We've programmed a series of delicious, food-related movies, classes, and other events, including a visit from the best selling author, James Beard Award winning food blogger, podcaster, and Seattle restaurateur Molly Wizenberg. Read more at

Academy Awards

Today, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their nominations for the 88th Annual Academy Awards. As usual, we're holding our annual Oscar predictions contest.

Look for Academy Awards Contest entry forms in the library or download one HERE.

Entries with the most correct answers will be eligible to win movie themed prizes. In the event of a tie, prizes will be awarded by means of a random drawing. One entry per person please. Entries will be accepted at the library Answers Desk until Sunday, February 28th or at that evening's After Hours Awards Party where we'll be celebrating Hollywood’s most glamorous night of the year by watching the broadcast live at Eisenhower. There will be a trivia contest during the show, as well as prizes and snacks. Register online or by calling 708-867-2299.

Although we will be viewing the awards ceremony, this event is not sponsored by or affiliated with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Wandering Through the Stacks

Browsing shelves in the library provides a serendipitous pleasure that browsing the Amazon Marketplace never will. When you're on Amazon everything is an algorithm, you're seeing everything you're supposed to see. When you wander through the stacks in a library you run into all kinds of different topics. Maybe you've never really been interested in space, but you might pluck Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History off the shelf. Or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. How could you not pick that up? Because I work in the library this is something I get to do most days. I see all kinds of interesting things throughout the course of my day.  Sometimes library patrons will recommend their favorite books, sometimes it'll be a brand new book just shipped to the library, and other times it'll be something we find when we weed. Weeding is a part of collection development that librarians have to do to keep our collections fresh and relevant.

While weeding the labor section I came across an unassuming book with no dust jacket or cover art called Roll the Union On: A Pictorial History of the Southern Tenant Farmer's Union as told by it's co-founder, H.L. Mitchell. The book is a short history of one of America's major labor movements (one I'd never heard of). H.L. Mitchell and his colleagues fought a long and bitter battle through the 1930s and 1940s for sharecroppers and farmers's rights. The work the STFU did served as a launching point for the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The book includes songs, poems, and pictures of the labor movement. It's just one example of hundreds that we come across at Eisenhower every year when we review our collections. Every time I wander into the stacks I think 'What am I going to become interested in today?'

Bill Gates' Reading List

Bill Gates is back with his annual list of recommended books. Gates lists a few of his favorites from the year with short synopses and links to much longer, personal, and thoughtful reviews. Every year, the list is a fascinating glimpse into the thought process and reading life of one of America's most prominent business people and philanthropists.

All of Gates' favorite books are available to borrow from our library system.

The Road to Character by David Brooks
Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe
Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas
Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open, by Julian M. Allwood & Jonathan M. Cullen
Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever? by Nancy Leys Stepan
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
The Vital Question by Nick Lane.

Reading Challenges for 2016

Characters from the Gilmore GirlsA new year is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to reading. There are tons of reading challenges and games around the internet to make it more fun. has posted their annual Ultimate Reading Challenge, a printable checklist that will help you explore books in a variety of genres. suggests going on a Reading Road Trip by reading a book set in each of the fifty states. takes that idea a little further with an Around the World Challenge. Book Riot hosts social media groups and offers title suggestions to help you make it through their Read Harder Challenge. Fans of the classic television dramedy The Gilmore Girls can try to catch up with Rory Gilmore by reading all the books she was seen reading on screen over the course of seven seasons with the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

Whatever you choose to read, we're here to help you find some great books.

Literary Maps

Your average atlas won't contain any of the cartographic curiousities collected by Frank Jacobs on his blog Strange Maps.

Spanning centuries, continents, and the imagination, Jacobs combines rare and off-beat maps with quirky statistics and smart social commentary. Did you know some seventeenth century mapmakers believed California was an island. Thomas Jefferson proposed dividing the Northwest Territory into ten states with names like Polypotamia and Assenisipia? Or that alternative historians imagined how Europe might have looked if Germany had won World War I.

Of course, my favorites are the maps of literary places and events. If you ever wondered about the layout of Maycomb, the fictional Alabama city that was the setting ofTo Kill a Mockingbird, there's a map of it. Would you like to know the exact route Captain Ahab steered the Pequod in search of Moby Dick? There's a map of that. Maybe you'd like to compare Jack Keruac's cross country journey in On the Road with John Steinbeck's similar trip in Travels with Charley. There's a map for that, too.

A few years ago, Jacobs collected some of his blog's most interesting maps into a book of the same name. Place a hold on Strange Maps now.

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection

Previously only seen at special screenings or on bootlegs tapes, Penelope Spheeris’ three-part documentary series chronicling the punk scene of the ‘70s, the heavy metal scene of the ‘80s, and the anti-establishment, homeless teens of the ‘90s, has been restored and collected in a four DVD set. A fascinating look into three decades of counter­culture lifestyles in Los Angeles, Decline is a glorifying, damning, and sometimes heartbreaking look at alternative American lifestyles.

Find The Decline of Western Civilization in the library.

Best Albums of the Year

I don't have a whole lot of time to read music reviews so when NPR starts to put out their "best of" lists at the end of every year I usually just put them all on hold through the library. The list has a lot of different genres and artists that I probably wouldn't hear on the radio. This is their list of their Top 50 Albums of 2015. There's a lot of really great stuff out there. If you don't want to put them all on hold yourself, let us know and we can help.

Mad Max: Fury Road

This summer, after thirty years away from the silver screen, audiences were treated to a new Mad Max adventure. George Miller, creator of the original trilogy, has rebooted his post-apocalyptic universe with Mad Max: Fury Road. Set in his familiar Australian wasteland, Miller once again introduces us to Max, (this time, played by Tom Hardy) a drifter who accompanies the rebel Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) as she tries to escape from a warlord with several of his female prisoners. Free from the financial and technical limitations that restricted his vision for the original film, Miller has given us a modern take on good old-fashion action films. A sequel, entitled Mad Max: The Wasteland, has already been announced. Highly recommended.

Find Mad Max: Fury Road in the library or drop by for one of our Modern TImes Film Series screenings, Tuesday, December 15th at 6:00 pm or Tuesday, December 29th at 2:00 pm.