107 NE Monroe Peoria, Illinois 61602-1070

Hot New Titles Coming in May 2018

By Robin Helenthal

Love and Ruin: A Novel is the latest historical fiction story by author Paula McLain. Martha Gellhorn, is a determined young woman looking for adventure when she travels to Madrid as a journalist in 1937 to cover the Spanish Civil War. As she is proving herself to be a worthy member of the press, she meets and falls in love with the author Ernest Hemingway. As World War II is about to begin, both their careers take off, Hemingway publishes his book, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Gellhorn is becoming known as a great war correspondent. Gellhorn has a tough decision to make. Will she give up her career to become a famous man’s wife or will she take the chance of losing Hemingway as she continues to move forward as writer herself and break both of their hearts?

The Favorite Sister is a new thriller by Jessica Knoll. Five women agree to appear on the reality series, Goal Diggers, two of the women are sisters and only one will make it out alive. Brett is the fan favorite, she is 27, tattooed, owns her own spin studio and just got engaged to her girlfriend. Her older sister Kelly is her business partner and the most recent recruit for the show and has been described as a hanger-on. Stephanie is the first black cast member and also the oldest of the five women. She is a well known author of bestselling erotic novels whose is married to an out of work actor-husband with a roving eye. She and Brett used to be best friends but a rift has developed and that is the focus of the show this season. The show ends with a murder, but who did it and why?

How to Walk Away: A Novel by Katherine Center begins with Margaret Jacobsen starting her future with a new dream job, a fiancé and what looks to be a picture perfect life. Then in an instant it all comes crashing down. She is now in the hospital, with a guilty fiancé who expects to be forgiven, a sister Kit who shows up after being away for three years and a tough-as-nails physical therapist named Ian, who will not let her wallow in pity. Will Margaret be able to find joy and happiness in the least likely place she ever thought she would find herself?

Peoria Speaks Talks Elections and New Bellwether Project

On Thursday, April 12th from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at North Branch, Dennis Anderson, executive editor of the Peoria Journal Star, will lead a Peoria Speaks community conversation exploring what 2018 election issues participants are concerned about, how they’re reacting to debates and campaign developments, and why. This event is free and open to the public.

At this event, Illinois Humanities and the Peoria Journal Star will launch The Bellwether, a public-opinion storytelling project designed to help Americans better understand one another’s perspectives on politics and the world - and to generate media coverage of politics that starts with what ordinary Americans care about. As the 2018 election kicks into high gear, so does the flood of media coverage.  The public will hear from the candidates about why voters should choose them, from the commentators who dissect those candidates’ statements, and plenty of predictions from pollsters about who’s got the edge.

The Bellwether project will follow 10 to 12 participants from April to October. After attending the initial Peoria Speaks discussion, members of the group will receive text messages up to once a week from Journal Star staff to stay in touch about how they’re responding to the election, and the media’s coverage of the election, as it progresses.  In October, just before the general election, the group will come together once more and explore how their perspectives have developed since April.

Project participants from all backgrounds and all levels of political engagement - Democrats, Republicans and independents; likely voters as well as non-voters are welcome.  No prior experience is needed: the only requirements are a cell phone with text messaging (SMS) capability and a willingness to participate in two community conversations and respond to a text message about once a week.

The Bellwether offers an opportunity to connect with a diverse range of people in the community for open, constructive dialogue about the issues that matter to you.  In an age when partisan shouting matches dominate social media and cable news, it’s an opportunity to talk across political divides in a way that’s about listening and building understanding, not winning a debate.  It’s also a chance to make your voice heard in the media: your input will help guide the Journal Star’s election and politics coverage.

Those interested in joining the focus group, visit the following link to complete our prospective participant survey: http://bit.ly/2tgcYSj 

Anyone may attend the intial Peoria Speaks discussion, it is not necessary to fill out the survey to attend.

Library Journal Names Roberta Koscielski 2018 Mover and Shaker

Library Journal has named Roberta Koscielski, Peoria Public Library Deputy Director, as a 2018 Mover and Shaker! This prestigious national award comes as a result of Roberta’s long history working toward goals that benefit the community with the library and with Common Place Family Learning Center.

Roberta has been involved in helping launch projects such as Don’t Shoot, Peoria Reads!, and educating the community on the skyrocketing opiate epidemic. Roberta believes libraries are” a place to learn about issues, discuss them together, and work on solutions.”

Congratulations, Roberta!

Photo by Mitchell L. Rose


Embrace leadership at your library: Celebrate National Library Week April 8-14

For National Library Week 2018, libraries nationwide are celebrating the many ways libraries lead their communities through the transformative services, programs and expertise they offer. 

April 8 to14 is National Library Week, an annual celebration of the life-changing work of libraries, librarians and library workers. Libraries aren’t just places to borrow books or study—they’re also creative and engaging community centers where people can collaborate using new technologies and develop their skills and passions.

Libraries of all types have long been evolving to meet the needs of the communities they serve. Diverse groups including elected officials, small business owners and students depend upon libraries and the resources they offer. Resources like e-books and technology classes, materials for English-language learners and programs for job seekers are just a few ways libraries and librarians are transforming to lead their communities. Community members can also develop their own leadership skills at the library, with endless opportunity to build skills and confidence through resources and programming.

Peoria Public Library helps lead the community by making sure every Peoria Public School student has the opportunity to have a library card, leading the way with education and resources on the opiate epidemic, providing meeting space for a wide variety of civic and not-for-profit groups, offering free access to the music and art created within our community, and spearheading literacy efforts in areas where the ability to read is life-transforming.

“The library helps lead our community by advocating for widespread access to crucial services and lifelong learning,” said Leann Johnson, Executive Director. “Libraries level the playing field for people of any age who seek information and access to technologies to improve their quality of life.” 

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April.

Wilhelm, William, Bill, and Billy…What’s in a name?

By Amber Lowery

I’ve always loved names. As a young adult, I loved going through baby name books to look up meanings and similar names. Perhaps this was an early sign that I was meant to be a genealogist, my love for names. It also gave me a great base of knowledge when I started my genealogy journey.

Many people like to talk about name changes at Ellis Island (which did not usually happen that way). But families forget how our ancestors assimilated to life and culture in America. There was not the legal court process of changing a name that there is in place today. Some immigrants came looking forward to new opportunities; a new country, a new occupation, a new culture, a new language, and a new name. Others changed their names to simplify things. 

Wilhelm transitioned to the more English-sounding, more Americanized name of William and quickly got nicknamed to Bill or Will, and for the little ones, Billy and historically, Willie. Even better, they usually liked the name so much or followed traditional naming patterns such that each generation in the family would have more than one William or some derivative of that name.

One of my favorite names to use as an example is Margaret. Maggie, Margie, Megan, Molly, Peggie, Polly, Rita, Greta, Daisy and Maisie are common and, in some cases, historic nicknames for Margaret. I could go on. Just look at the number of nicknames for other well-known names such as Elizabeth, John, Mary Anne, and Robert. 

 Learning name variations for not only nicknames but other languages can be extremely helpful when it comes to researching your family history. Reading about traditional naming patterns can help identify the next link in your line. 

The next time you wonder about your name and the names of your ancestors, come visit us at the Main Library in the Local History and Genealogy section and learn more about your families’ names.

Hot New Titles Coming in April 2018

By Robin Helenthal

The author of Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier, returns to the era of the American Civil War with In Varina: A Novel. Varina Howell has limited choices for marriage and when she marries Jefferson Davis who is older and a widower, she hopes this will give her security as the wife of a Mississippi landowner. Davis decides to pursue a career in politics and becomes the president of the Confederacy which puts Varina in the middle of one of the darkest moments in American history. When the Confederacy begins to fall, her marriage over and the country divided, Varina takes her children and escapes Richmond and travels south. The book is a novel of an American war and its after effects. It is also the story of a woman who finds herself and her family fugitives due to the political activities of her husband. She must suffer the consequences of her involvement in those activities.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer begins with Greer Kadetsky, a shy college freshman, madly in love with her boyfriend Cory, but still trying to figure out her purpose in life. When she meets Faith Frank, a woman who has been a leader in the women’s movement for decades and is also a great motivational speaker, she feels her inner world light up. As Faith mentors Greer to make something more out of her life, it begins to take her away from her love story with Cory and point her towards a future she has only dreamed about. This is a novel about ambition, friendship, mentorship and power. It is not just about who we want to be, but also who we want to be with.

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith is a story of love, hope and friendship that takes place during World War II. Val Eliot, a young English woman, is working on a farm during the war when she saves a Border Collie named Peter Woodhouse from an abusive situation. Val soon realizes that he would be safer with Mike, a U.S. Air Force pilot that she has met and become friends with. Peter Woodhouse soon becomes Dog First Class and the base mascot while Mike and Val fall in love. When Peter Woodhouse brings Ubi, a German corporal into their midst, it sparks a friendship but also a great risk that could endanger them all. Is the power of friendship enough to bring sworn enemies together?

Peoria Reads! Features Events Based on Station Eleven, 2018 Book Choice

Peoria Reads! will offer a variety of programs and discussions in March and April to enhance and expand the discussions around Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, this year’s one-city, one-book choice. The book examines a world that has fallen to a pandemic and what happens 20 years after most of the world’s population is wiped out. No ordinary disaster story, this one is seen through the eyes of a troupe of actors and musicians who save Shakespeare and classical music. Complete information about Peoria Reads!, the book, the events and more is available at www.peoriareads.org and updates are found on the Peoria Reads! Facebook page as well.

The project launched with an exhibit The Museum of Civilization, in the Main Gallery at Peoria Public Library Main Library. It ends on Saturday, February 24, but is modeled after the museum in the book, that showcases items once highly used daily and now obsolete as civilization changes.

A variety of book discussions will be held at various locations, including on Sunday, March 18 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. A further discussion into plague literature will be lead by Dr. Lirim Neziroski on Thursday, April 19 at North Branch. Other discussion times are listed at peoriareads.org.

On Thursday, March 15 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m., experience what it’s like to face a pandemic like the one in Station Eleven with an evening at Methodist College, 7600 N. Academic Drive. See a live action simulation of the progression of an epidemic outbreak in a hospital and its effects on the population and health care providers. There will also be an interactive lab on transmission of diseases. Then attend the final “debriefing” discussion while enjoying refreshments. Registration is limited, so please contact (ckarn@methodistcol.edu) to reserve your spot.

Children in grades 3 through 5 are invited to take part as well with the American Red Cross Pillow Case project on April 2, 3 and 4 at various library branches, when they will learn to prepare for a disaster. Since a graphic novel is a key element in Station Eleven, a J.M. Hunter Cartoon Workshop will be offered on April 4 at North Branch from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Registration is required for these events. Please email programmingdept@ppl.peoria.lib.il.us or call 497-2143.

The Peoria Reads! events wrap up with an examination of severe weather here in Illinois with Chris Miller, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service, Lincoln, Illinois during which, in a fascinating presentation, he will present the facts about the history, and current statistics about, severe weather in Illinois. See the big picture in a way weather is seldom presented. It takes place on Thursday, April 26 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at North Branch

Peoria Reads! is entering its 16th year of asking Peorians to read and discuss the same great book. Peoria Reads is a joint project of Common Place and Peoria Public Library. While funds are not available this year to provide free copies of the book, many copies may be borrowed from Peoria Public Library as books, e-books and audio books.

Nationally Recognized Peoria Author to Present Nuns, Nazis, and Notre Dame

By Jamie Jones

Nationally recognized Peoria author Tim Pletkovich will speak at the Peoria Public Library McClure Branch Library at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, and at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 17, about his new book, Nuns, Nazis, and Notre Dame: Stories of the Great Depression, World War II, and Fighting Irish.  

Pletkovich will examine the early life of decorated U.S. Army veteran Gerald A. O’Reilly. The son of a prominent Wall Street banker and grandson of a U.S. ambassador under three presidents, O’Reilly was raised in Brooklyn, New York, during the 1920s and ‘30s.  His story takes us from the bleachers at Ebbets Field in trolley-car Brooklyn to the hallways of Notre Dame during legendary football coach Frank Leahy’s national championship years, to the innermost thoughts of an elite Tenth Mountain Division soldier thrust into the horrors of battle in Italy’s harsh Apennine Mountains.

A brother-in-law of former United States Senator James L. Buckley and the late William F. Buckley, Jr., O’Reilly provides glimpses into the lives of one of the twentieth century’s most revered political families.  His nephew, novelist and humorist Christopher Buckley, recently described his uncle’s narrative as “quietly heroic.  His splendid soul is on full display....” Buckley said.  “I have known [Gerry] for over half a century, and knew that he had served with valor in World War II in the fabled Tenth Mountain Division.  But until I read this memoir, I had no idea what he went through.  And why would I have?  He was not the kind to talk about it....To quote James Michener: ‘Where do we find such men?’” O’Reilly is the last surviving member of his military company.

Pletkovich will be autographing copies of both Nuns, Nazis, and Notre Dame and his award-winning debut work, Civil War Fathers, at the March 15 and March 17 events.

Celebrate the Illinois Bicentennial with #PeoriaStoryChallenge

By Mary Spengler and Pat England

Calling history lovers of all ages! Peoria Public Library is offering an exciting challenge to celebrate Illinois’ 200th birthday. From April 1 to May 31, email “selfies” or other photos of yourself visiting five historical sites and monuments around Peoria from a list of the twenty we provide, and you will be entered into a drawing to win some amazing prizes.

Participants 18 and up have the opportunity to win one of two prizes. The first prize is an Ancestry DNA kit, perfect for exploring your roots and using alongside Ancestry Library Edition, free at all Peoria Public Library locations. The second prize is a Peoria Historical Society sponsored tour, for the winner and a friend, of two of Peoria’s most famous homes, the Flanagan House Museum, constructed in 1837, and the Pettengill-Morron house, once home to abolitionist Moses Pettengill who was close friends with Abraham Lincoln.

Teens or children 18 and under who take part will be entered into a drawing to win an Instax mini-camera.

Participants who provide photos of themselves visiting a minimum of five locations may also complete our local history trivia sheet to have two extra tickets entered into the prize drawing.

#PeoriaStoryChallenge is the perfect opportunity for children and adults to learn more about Peoria’s rich history. Giant Oak Park, Peoria Public Library Lincoln Branch and Richard Pryor’s hometown statue are just a few of the fun destinations that will be listed. All photo entries and trivia answers must be submitted by email to programmingdept@ppl.peoria.lib.il.us no later than 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, and may be posted to the Peoria Public Library website and social media to promote #PeoriaStoryChallenge. Be sure to check the website at peoriapubliclibrary.org for more information.

The Luck of the Irish...DNA

By Amber Lowery

When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), suddenly everyone you know becomes Irish. Everything becomes green in honor of our collective Irish heritage. This is mildly amusing as the color of St. Patrick is supposed to be blue according to many trivia and historical websites. In fact, I once read there are more people who claim to be descendants of Ireland in the United States than there are actually Irish people in Ireland. But nowadays that is easy to prove with DNA.

If you ask anyone who spends significant time around me, they will tell you that I’m always talking about DNA. I talk to family, friends, coworkers, patrons of the library, and even total strangers about DNA testing and genealogy. Some would say I’m obsessed with DNA. I will admit that I just might be.

We’ve all seen the ads for commercial DNA testing from some of the top companies in the United States. Among them are recognizable names such as Ancestry.com, 23andme, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage. These companies spout beautiful commercials with picturesque scenery about discovering who you are. But trust me; this is only the tip of the iceberg of what you can learn with DNA. For much like said iceberg, DNA goes deep. It can also rip a massive hole in your titanic mountain of research. But let us look at the positive features of DNA.

Recently, I used DNA matching results to break a reinforced brick wall in one of my Irish lines. I had done the traditional research, trailing back through census records, hunting down obituaries, obtaining death records and all information stopped at my great-great-grandparents. As far as I knew, they left Ireland around the time of the Great Potato Famine, but HOW? Did they come alone? What part of the massive wave of Irish immigration were they? Did they know each other long before they married in 1863 and settled down in Peoria to start a family? Brick. Wall.

Fortunately, I was recently contacted by a match, but she wasn’t sure where our families connected. Using our mutual matches provided with our DNA results, I realized very quickly which family line she matched, but based on how close our DNA was, she had to be related further back than I had information on. So, I did what any good genealogist does, I dove into research, scouring other family trees, checking records, and contacting people who had done a DNA test, but did not show a family tree.

With all my gathered information, I went to my DNA buddy. Like Sherlock Holmes, I laid out my evidence, showed my work, drew my conclusion and then waited with bated breath. My DNA buddy agreed with me. After six years of searching and coming up short, my reinforced genealogic al brick wall went down without a fight.

With access to AncestryLibrary at Peoria Public Library, I was then able to track down and find baptismal records for my great-great-grandmother, which included her parents’ names, baptismal records for her older siblings, her parents’ marriage record, and more.

So what does this have to do with the library? Everything. Do you have questions about doing a DNA test? Come to the library. Have you taken a DNA test and do not know what to do with the results? Come to the library. Want to learn more of your Irish (or not-Irish) heritage? Come to the library. We are here to help you discover more about you. Perhaps the luck of the Irish will be with you, too.