Best Toy Store Suited to Short Attention Spans 2002 | Denver Toy LibrarySmiley Branch Library | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Parents, you know how it is with kids and toys: The contraptions your tykes beg you for unmercifully for weeks on end usually land under the bed, oh, about two minutes after they finally get them. But there is a remedy: Rather than selling your soul to Toys R Us in order to keep up with juvenile whims, come to the toy library, which features over 400 toys and games for kids up to age eight. Believe it or not, this volunteer-run basement adjunct of the Smiley Library has been around for twenty years, dispensing toys you can check out, three at a time, using your regular library card. Toy library hours are 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to noon Thursdays and Saturdays (the Thursday hours coincide with the library's weekly story time), but call ahead before coming. And don't forget to dig your borrowed treasures out from under the sofa cushions and return them on time, or they'll rack up ten-cent-a-day late fees, just like library books.

With the taste of Girl Scout cookies still fresh, it's hard to think about the school fundraising season ahead. If you're lucky, this year the co-workers' kids will be hawking something useful like shampoo or conditioner rather than gift wrap or yogurt-covered pretzels. Beautycares, the brainchild of Danny Mostajo, president and CEO of Spectrum Salon Consultants, offers a beauty-products catalogue for schools and other organizations to sell for fun and profit: Thirty percent of the sales plus a donation of 5 percent of the profits from manufacturers go into a foundation to help participating schools.

Think globally, shop locally, and save some green with the Boulder Independent Business Alliance's Community Benefit Card. Started as a way to help local businesses compete with big-box and national chain retailers, the Community Card costs $15 a year and offers discounts at more than eighty Boulder businesses on items ranging from CDs to legal fees. Get yours online ( or through one of the local nonprofit groups that get to keep a share of the proceeds, listed on the BIBA Web site.

Summer vacation is a couple of months away, but many parents are already thinking about transportation arrangements for the coming school year. (They get that way.) If you're thinking of carpooling, the Denver Regional Council of Governments' RideArrangers SchoolPool program can put you in touch with other parents in the same frame of mind. If your child's school participates in the program, let the coordinator know you'd be interested in sharing driving duties. You'll have the whole summer to get to know the other families who want to carpool, thanks to the contact information provided by RideArrangers, so by the time that bell rings at summer's end, you'll be ready to get the kids there -- even if they aren't ready to go back.

Any dedicated bus rider will tell you that trying to figure out a printed bus schedule is a literal pain in the neck: By the time you've added the estimated minutes between your stop and the timed stop notated on the schedule, you've already missed the bus you needed to catch minutes ago. Or something like that. But RTD's new service takes the guesswork out of getting there on time: It's a real-time voice-recognition phone service that traces your requested information to the exact stop and scheduled run you need. RTD says Denver's system is a national first, and word is it actually works.
If the travel-and-tourism industry comes back, students at Arapahoe Community College will be ready to help customers book trips with the experience they've amassed as interns at ACC Travel, which is run by the school's travel-and-tourism department. They don't get paid, but they work like pros, booking real travel for real customers of the agency, a satellite office of DTR Travel. If you're finally ready to get away, you can book that vacation at ACC and help a struggling college student learn valuable lessons.

So, you want to know everything there is to know about a prospective employee, tenant, business partner, date, fiancé, soon-to-be-ex-spouse -- but just can't bring yourself to shell out the big bucks to a private investigator for a background check? Log onto, a 300-page do-it-yourself Web site that provides anyone with Internet access an exhaustive directory of public-information databases and ways to search them completely free of charge. If the database you need is not online, or requires the services of an "information professional" to access it, there are helpful tips on how to work around the restrictions or how to hire the company to work for you. And why stop at rooting around in other people's lives? With a few clicks, you can also learn how to locate missing persons and/or hidden assets, as well as how to protect yourself from identity theft...except by those who follow the helpful tips on the site.

Employers who want to keep their workplace computers free of recreational use or abuse by workers -- who should have better things to do than spend all day bidding on kitsch on eBay or checking out the latest trends in video games -- now can turn to Vericept ( The Englewood company formerly known as eSniff makes software that monitors every move of every employee's mouse, from the moment that each employee logs on to the Internet. The beauty of this arrangement is that Vericept products rarely announce their presence -- unless an employer wants them to. So if you don't want the boss to know where you're surfing, don't do it on company time. Listen to the worker bee: Do your job or get stung. Why do you think they call it "work"?
At the other end of the workplace surveillance continuum is the oh-so-Boulder FastTracker, software that allows everyone in a company to share their best Internet practices and the information they collect. Instead of the boss surreptitiously spying on individual workers,

all employees know that in most cases their online activity is transparent to everyone else in the company and can quickly learn to surf responsibly. Maybe that's why Human Resource Executive magazine recognized FastTracker as one of the year's ten best new products in 2001.

As layoffs continue to rise, so does conflict, anger and resentment among those remaining on the job. Rather than let bad feelings fester into workplace violence, managers are learning how to manage conflict through programs offered by the Conflict Center. Workshops are conducted by local and national experts and offer training in practical supervisory skills, such as recognizing when co-workers are angry, ways to diffuse a conflict, and how to create a fair work environment free of harassment and discrimination.

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