Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Inside Scoop—Workplace Tales from Insiders

You wouldn’t believe the crazy stuff that goes on around here!

"Oh, hi boss, just updating the Shout Out! blog, nothing to see here."

Anyway, the other day…

Cover of Driving the Saudis
Driving the Saudis
The workplace can be a lot more than just spreadsheets, strategic planning, or sore feet. Put a group of relative strangers together, add some stress, a deadline or two (this post is due today!), a dash of public service, and you can find some interesting stories. Of course, it’s not all gossip and scandal. There are stories of compassion and selfless service too.

If you loved the old TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, you’ll find the memoir Driving the Saudis enlightening. Having fallen on hard times, L.A. actress Jayne Larson finds work as the only female chauffeur in a troupe of 40 hired to serve members of the Saudi royal family while they vacation in Beverly Hills. The shock and glamour of the family’s immense wealth fades as Larson gets to know several members of one of the world’s richest, most secretive families.

Cover of Slow Getting Up
Slow Getting Up
You can find a rougher sort of glory in Nate Jackson’s Slow Getting Up. Nate who? Don’t worry, no one else has heard of him either. Nor have they heard of 90% of the rest of the players in the NFL. Jackson recounts his 6 years as one of the NFL’s largely anonymous “regular” players. These are the guys who aren’t RGIII or John Elway. Life can get a bit stressful when a single injury can end your career. The pay is great—when you’re playing—training pay’s not quite so grand. And when you do play, and some 300 pound guy lands on you and dislocates your finger? Don’t blow your chance. Let coach pop it back in and get back out there!

Cover of Island Practice
Island Practice
You’ll get more than a realigned finger and a friendly tap on the helmet from Timothy Lepore. He’s the only surgeon on the island of Nantucket. From bicycle wipeouts to unfortunate incidents with fish hooks, Dr. Lepore is there to serve the 10,000 people of the island, located 30 miles south of Massachusetts' Cape Cod. In an age of often impersonal medicine, Dr. Lepore makes house calls. He encounters his patients at the grocery store, at the gas station, or on his front step when they stop by his house. New York Times reporter Pam Belluck shares Dr. Lepore’s story with us in Island Practice: Cobblestone Rash, Underground Tom and Other Adventures of an Island Doctor.

Cover for Cat Calls
Cat Calls
Got a cat in the Big Apple? Jeanne Adlon is there for you and your furry friend. She was New York City’s first full-time cat sitter. She shares stories of tending to cats from Brooklyn to Park Avenue in the book Cat Calls: Wonderful Stories and Practical Advice from a Veteran Cat Sitter, which she wrote with former Cat Fancy editor Susan Logan.

Cover of Free for All
Free for All
And the inside scoop on libraries? Pshaw, nothing raucous ever occurs around here. It’s all temples of knowledge and an occasional exuberant storytime (well, and many other awesome events.) Though, apparently, library life is a little more rowdy out in California, where public library employee Don Borchert shares his adventures in Free for All, a look at library life on the wild West Coast.

If you have your own stories to tell, you could share it with the world in the traditional way, by starting a blog! Writers Digest has some tips. If you’re looking for a more retro method to share your story, try You Can’t Make this Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind. However you choose to share your workplace experiences, just make sure you say nice things about your awesome, empathetic, and always supportive boss.

Mark S.

Monday, March 30, 2015

All Children Excel at MCPL

picture of kids at MCPL reading to a dog, using the AWE computers, families reading, checking out Go! Kits, storytimes, and homework learning

All Children Excel @ MCPL! We've got resources, tools & programs to help your child soar!

We offer many resources to start children on the road to lifelong learning as they grow as individuals and expand their knowledge of the world around them. One of our important missions is to help All Children Excel. To accomplish this MCPL offers:

Storytimes for babies through preschool that help children and parents develop the important pre-reading skills every child must have before learning to read.

Singing to children is a great way to introduce them to rhythm and rhyme as well as increase their vocabulary. It increases your child’s awareness of the sounds in words and this helps prepare your child to sound out words when they read. Looking for some songs to sing? MCPL offers both streaming and downloadable children's music.

Playing is another way children learn and discovery the world around them. Make a reservation for your children (newborns - age 8) to encourage learning through play at one of our Discovery Rooms.

Looking for programs for your elementary school age child? MCPL has many great programs for grades K-5 to help them learn and grow.

Interested in your child learning another language? Try Muzzy Online and Mango Languages.

kids at an Eric Energy science program
Want to engage your children with STEM? MCPL has Go! Kits for ages 3 - 6 (Little Explorer) and for grades 3 - 6 (Young Voyager) that are designed to encourage the parents and children to actively explore the world around them. Each kit contains several books, science tools, and a mini iPad with preloaded apps. Looking for a way for your child to engage in STEM activities with other children? Come to one of our many STEM programs for children at MCPL branches.

Looking to help teach your child to read or want to increase their reading skills? Try our e-books and audiobooks for children.  Looking for a fun way for your child to practice their reading skills and gain confidence reading aloud? Come to one of our Read to a Dog programs. Our dogs are great listeners!

dad reading Dora book to daughter
Does your child need help Homework Help? Not only does MCPL have in person Homework Help events, they also provide many great online resources to help with projects and papers.

Many branches also have Early Literacy Billingual and After School Edge Stations which are special computers preloaded with child tested software that makes learning science, math, geography and reading fun for young children. These programs are designed to inspire children to become life-long learners through education and technology.

Enjoy learning with your child at any age—be our partner in helping All Children Excel!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

National Poetry Month 2015

April is National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and we are inviting you to celebrate it with us!

Customers of all ages are invited to submit Book Spine Poetry. Teens 13–18 can also enter our Teen Poetry Competition.

Create a Book Spine Poem

Book Spine Poem:  Where'd You Go Bernadette/Far From the Madding Crowd/North and Sound/Into the Wild/Lost and Found
Compose a poem from book or movie titles, take a picture, and send it to us. Your pictures may be posted on our social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and our Pinterest Book Spine Poetry board where you'll find some great book spine poems to inspire you!

We can't wait to see your book spine poetry this April!

Send your picture to us via:
  • Twitter:  Tag us @MCPL_Libraries and #MCPLpoetry #NPM15
  • Facebook:  Reply to our posts via comments or send a direct message.
  • Instagram: Tag us at @mcpl_libraries and #MCPLpoetry #NPM15
  • Or submit it using the form below.
Fill out my online form.

Teen Poetry Competition

teen poetry competition iPad with poetry words on it

Share with us your rhythm and rhyme!

The MCPL Teen Advisory Group's (TAG) Teen Poetry Competition 2015 for Montgomery County teens ages 13-18 is open from March 20 - April 17.

Competition rules:
  • Competition is open to Montgomery County teens ages 13-18.
  • Entries must be received by midnight on Friday, April 17, 2015.
  • One entry per person, 300 word maximum.
  • Poems can be any style.
Entries will be judged on these criteria: 
  • creativity
  • mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar--where applicable)
  • adherence to style guidelines (like having the right number of syllables in haiku or lines in a sonnet)
  • figurative language
  • overall impact
Judging and winners information:
    MCPL Teen Adivsory Group
  • Judges will rate poems in three categories: Free Verse, Rhyming and Short Structure verse.
  • One 1st Prize award and one Honorable Mention will be given in each category.
  • Prizes will be awarded at the Award Ceremony at Rockville Memorial Library on Saturday, April 25 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Judges for the contest include librarians and members of the MCPL Teen Advisory Group.
  • All teens who enter are invited with their family and friends to attend the Award Ceremony and have the opportunity to read their own entry during the ceremony.
Fill out my online form.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ice Dreams

The ice and snow have finally gone and signs of spring are peeking out all over, so naturally my thoughts turn to… Iceland? On a recent day of welcome thaw I decided It was time to make my travel plans to Belgium this summer for my aunt and uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary celebration. Browsing the confusing array of competing airline deals online, I suddenly remembered something I had seen years ago and slotted into the memory bank for future use. If you fly to Europe by Icelandic Air, they offer stopovers in Iceland on either your outbound or return flight. I acted impulsively, booking our return flight with a two night stay in Reykjavik and a “Golden Circle” tour of the major historic sites and natural wonders of Iceland. This will be my first actual visit to the land of the sagas, Vikings, volcanoes, geysers, the Northern Lights, unpronounceable names, and Bjork, but I've been traveling there for years by book. That’s the beauty of reading. You can go anywhere, and it's free if you use your library! 

Here are a few of the books I've enjoyed and some I plan to read before my trip: 

Despite being such a small country (population just over 300,000 in 2013), Iceland has its own Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Halldor Laxness, who received the award in 1955. MCPL owns several of his more than twenty novels including Independent People, an epic of twentieth century rural Icelandic life in the tradition of the ancient sagas.

Last year Australian Hannah Kent won popular and critical acclaim for her first novel Burial Rites, based on a true story she heard while living in Iceland as an exchange student. In 1829 Agnes Magnúsdóttir was convicted of murdering her master and sent to live with a family on an isolated farm while awaiting execution. If this sounds a strange arrangement, it was apparently normal practice in the Icelandic justice system. At first afraid of the young woman placed in their care, the family learn there is another side to the story of the murder. Fascinating history, lyrical evocation of Iceland’s bleak landscape, and an emotionally involving story make this a standout novel.

Just after reading Burial Rites, I chanced upon another novel set in Iceland which was also a standout read. Where the Shadows Lie is the first book in the Fire and Ice series by Michael Ridpath, which features Magnus Jonson, an Iceland-born Boston detective. Magnus is sent to Iceland for protection after running afoul of a drug cartel in Boston. There he becomes involved in the search for a lost Icelandic saga which has surprising connections to the unsolved murder of his own father years before. A propulsive plot interwoven with history of the Icelandic sagas make this essential reading for thriller fans and history buffs. The second book in the series, Far North, is also available from MCPL and two more can be ordered through Interlibrary Loan.

Iceland has not missed out on the popular craze for Nordic Noir. Move over Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo, here is Icelandic Noir practioner Arnaldur Indriðason. I’ve read one of his Reykjavik-set Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson series Silence of the Grave, a Golden Dagger Award winner, and I plan to read the entire series. Erlender is a compelling character whose investigations lead him into troubling secrets from Iceland’s past; in this case, a skeleton unearthed at a building site that turns out to date from World War II and reveals a chilling story of domestic abuse.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is Iceland’s answer to Karin Fossum. Sigurðardóttir's noir series delves into Iceland’s more ancient history of demon-worship and witch hunting. The first of her Thóra Gudmundsdóttir mysteries, Last Rituals, opens with the discovery of the body of a German student with strange symbols carved into his chest. It turns out he was studying Iceland’s history of witch hunting and his murder may not have been a random crime. Yrsa leavens this very dark history with wry humor and an appealing female lead character.

I’ve added a couple of nonfiction books to my pre-trip reading list: Iceland: Land of the Sagas, which includes stunning photographs by Jon Krakauer, and Viking Age Iceland.

To learn more about the Icelandic Sagas check out Masterpieces of Medieval Literature in the Modern Scholar series. You can read the sagas in the original Icelandic, Old Norse, or, thankfully, English, online at the Icelandic Saga Database. The Guardian makes the case for reading the sagas with this provocatively titled article "The Icelandic Sagas: Europe’s most important book?"

Perhaps Iceland isn't your cup of (iced) tea? Pick a destination for actual or virtual travel from 1,000 Places to See Before You Die or Lonely Planet’s 1,000 Ultimate Experiences. Whether you go by air, sea, land, or book, Happy Travels in 2015, or as the Icelanders say, Hamingjusamur Feroast!

Rita T.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wifi, Phones, Internet, and Protecting Your Privacy

eye watching
When we use a smart phone, our governments, federal, state, and local, and a wide variety of corporations can track where we are, who we talk to and when, and what we do online. The result is they often know more about our activities and our tastes than even our closest relatives. Our phone and internet service providers track us. Google keeps extensive records on us, and many of the apps we use report back on our activities to their source. When we use unsecure wifi in public places—coffee shops, stores, libraries—it is possible for someone to electronically grab any information we enter, including passwords, and view our online activities.

So how do we maintain our electronic privacy? The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides information about how to prevent online tracking: "In less than 10 minutes, you can drastically improve your privacy online and protect yourself against unwanted and invisible tracking."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Surveillance Self-Defense website. has more suggestions for how to protect your privacy for a variety of needs: journalists, activists, students, and a basic starter package for the beginner who wants to protect his or her privacy online. This starter package takes you through several steps to help you determine what threats you face and what you can do about them.

duck duck go homepage
There are search engines that do not track you. I have found Duck Duck Go, which does not track users, to be better than Google for general searching. Google is not as much of a search engine as it used to be. It is becoming more of a push engine. It provides results based on what it knows about you, and on what businesses pay Google for search related services. Sometimes that is helpful, but it also prevents you seeing results you might want that fit your search, but which do not fit Google's profile of you.

For privacy using public wifi, many recommend subscribing to a virtual private network or VPN. Not familiar with VPNs? Find out more about what a VPN is and why you should use one. Then find recommendations for the best VPN services. And, for serious privacy concerns, which VPN services offer the best anonymity protection.

Safari Books OnlineThe Library has books on electronic privacy under 005.8 on the shelves, and quite a number of up to date resources available in Safari electronic books.

For more on electronic privacy, see the following websites: