The Northwest Denver Toy Library gets the lead out

When Congress ratcheted up restrictions on lead and other harmful chemicals in children's toys last year, it was a victory for child safety: So long, Thomas the Tank Engine, goodbye Dora the Explorer. But the move has proven challenging for a beloved institution and repeated Best of Denver winner: the Northwest Denver Toy Library, in the basement of Smiley Branch Library, 4501 West 46th Avenue.

Denver's one and only toy library has been in service since 1980, letting pint-sized library-card holders borrow toys for free several times a week — and now it could be facing its biggest shakeup. Toy Library volunteers have been hard at work contacting the manufacturers of all 400 of its toys to see if the items meet the new federal safety standards. Because some don't — and some of the manufacturers can't be determined — up to three-quarters of the library's treasures may have to be tossed.

To replace those toys, the all-volunteer institution is turning to the community. It has set up wish lists at Target (List ID 012399101254839) and Walmart (First name "Toy," last name "Library"). Tastes Wine Bar & Bistro, at 4267 Tennyson Street, is hosting an ongoing fundraiser called Wine for Toys; anyone who brings in a new toy, game or puzzle worth more than $20 will get a free glass of vino. On December 12, Tastes will also offer lunch specials that will raise money for the Toy Library.

For other wish lists, keep an eye on the Toy Library's website, This holiday season, a donation to the Toy Library really will be a gift that keeps on giving.

Swept away: We've long been fond of, the automated service that partnered with Denver's Department of Public Works to provide monthly e-mail reminders to people to move their cars the night before street-sweeping day. We even gave the free service a 2009 Best of Denver award. So imagine our dismay, then, when a Westword operative failed to get his MyMotorMaid e-minder last month and therefore forgot to move his car (luckily he still came away ticket-free).

So what happened? A Google search revealed that the website has been compromised by viruses and other techno-gremlins — a problem that the city has known about for a while, says Public Works spokeswoman Ann Williams. The site's manager promised to fix the problem, but that was in June, or maybe even earlier, and the site's still gunked up.

(MyMeterMaid was created a few years ago by two Berkeley undergrads, Andrew Siemion and Suneet Upadhyay, as a reminder service for Berkeley students, and was eventually expanded to other cities like Denver and San Diego. An e-mail sent to Andrew Siemion, who manages the site, was not responded to by press time.)

In the meantime, the DPW developed an in-house version of the service and swapped out the MyMotorMaid link with

Since MyMotorMaid's reminders seemed to still work, however, the department didn't actively publicize the switch. While the old service now seems to be on the fritz, Williams says DPW will wait until spring 2010 to advertise its new reminder service, to coincide with the resumption of street sweeping.

We can only hope so — or come April, a lot of meter maids will be loving MyMotorMaid.

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