Thursday, July 19, 2018

Go Local. Staycationing in Montgomery County.

Summer is a time when people often travel. But not everyone can get away, or wants to. One way to see the world without leaving the comforts of home is by book. We talked about this in last week's Shout Out post. Another way to see the sights is to go local. There are many things to see and do right here in Montgomery County. No driving for hours. No getting assigned the middle seat on a long flight! That happened to me on a five hour flight to California.

Below are few highlights from the many things to see and do in Montgomery County this summer. For a more extensive look at Montgomery County as a travel destination, try the Visit Montgomery website. Visit Montgomery is the official visitors bureau of Montgomery County.

The C & O Canal and Towpath
The C & O Canal and Towpath
People often travel hundreds or thousands of miles to visit national parks such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, but we've got one right here in our backyard. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, known locally as the C & O Canal, is over 180 miles long, running from Georgetown in Washington DC, through Montgomery County, all the way up to Cumberland, Maryland. The C & O Canal features a mostly level, packed-dirt towpath perfect for running, cycling, and walking, as well as the remains of the original canal, parts of which have been restored. Other highlights of the C & O Canal include the Billy Goat Trail, which has both challenging and less strenuous sections, and the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, which offers great information about the history of the canal. You can learn more about the C & O Canal and all it has to offer through The C & O Canal Companion: A Journey Through Potomac History by Mike High.

The miniature train at Wheaton Regional Park
Wheaton Miniature Train (Photo credit: Montgomery Parks)
Montgomery Parks, our local parks division, also offers an array of options for summertime fun. Brookside Gardens is an award-winning 50-acre garden that includes a butterfly garden, an aquatic garden, a woodland walk, a children's garden and much more. Both Cabin John Regional
Girl getting splashed with water at SplashPark
(Photo credit: Montgomery Parks)
Park and Wheaton Regional Park have miniature trains that will delight adults and children as they carry visitors through local woodlands. At Wheaton Regional Park, you can also find the Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel, which was built in 1915 and features 33 horses, three zebras, and two chariots. Looking for a place to cool down with the kids? The South Germantown Recreational Park offers SplashPark. Enjoy a water maze, a cave with a waterfall, water bucket drops, and a slide. Montgomery Parks offers lots of special events and festivals during the summer as well.

Our county is a great place to see a play or musical too. The county's numerous theaters include The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, and the Round House Theatre. Through mid-August, you can enjoy productions of The Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore at Olney Theatre Center. Last year, our family enjoyed a performance of Irving Berlin's White Christmas at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre. Round House Theatre will put on a production of the play Small Mouth Sounds from August 29 through September 23, 2018. It's a humorous, but sensitive look at the awkward, comical ways people break down barriers in order to connect with one another.

Finally, don't forget about another county treasure, your award-winning local library system, MCPL! We've got a summer read and learn program for babies through teens to fend off the summer slide, Science in the Summer sessions to spark the imaginations of 2nd through 6th graders, and lots of other fun summertime events.

Learn more about local and long distance travel in our recent Library Matters podcast episode, "From Farm Tours to National Parks, It's Time to Travel."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Travel by Book

A pedestrian street in Siracusa
For the last three summers I’ve traveled to far-off places for vacation, but this year I’m straying no farther than a Maryland lake. There will be plenty of time for reading and, though I’ll be close to home, I can travel anywhere in my imagination within the pages of a book. 

Nonfiction travel writing is one option, but I’ve always believed that reading international fiction is one of the best ways to learn about other cultures.

International Fiction from Goodreads

These two lists give plenty of options, but don’t forget you can always ask a librarian at your library to make personal recommendations. Or check out the lists and reviews by librarians at MCPL’s Readers’ Cafe.

My own fiction recommendations for this summer’s reading all share the perspective of seeing a vacation destination through the eyes of visitors. Sometimes throwing people together in a new environment upsets the status quo, making for drama, intrigue, and unexpected revelations. Perfect ingredients for engrossing fiction.

Book cover for Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
This sumptuous novel is set in an Italian village on the shore of the Ligurian Sea and spans fifty years of the characters’ lives. It weaves together a story of World War II with the making of a Hollywood movie in 1962 (Richard Burton makes an appearance) and a contemporary search for a lost love, by turns romantic, heartbreaking, and hilarious. This book is a pure escapist joy to read.

Siracusa by Delia Ephron
Two American couples agree to vacation together in this idyllic Sicilian resort town on the shore of the Ionian Sea. Big mistake for two of them, because the husband of one and the wife of the other are having an affair. This trip is just a pretext for them to spend time together. Of course their plan goes awry with devastating consequences. 

Skios by Michael Frayn
A case of mistaken identity at a scientific conference on the Greek island of Skios sets this farcical send-up of academia in motion. A young and handsome adventurer is mistaken for the keynote speaker while the pompous old professor is lost on the other side of the island. Hilarity ensues.

Dutch author Koch sends a motley crew of people off to a luxurious villa on the Mediterranean in this follow-up to his best selling The Dinner. Among the people lolling around the pool are several married couples, two teenage girls, and a famous film director with a girlfriend half his age. When a violent incident shatters their idyll, the group is consumed with anger and suspicion. What really happened explains a later mysterious death.
Book cover for Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Tangerine by Christine Mangan
In this modern noir, newly married Alice has just moved to Tangier when her former college roommate Lucy shows up unexpectedly. Alice is unhappy, hating her new surroundings and refusing to venture out in the oppressive heat. But Lucy falls in love with Tangier and soon makes a curious alliance with a local man. As the story is told, with flashbacks from both women’s perspective, the tension mounts. What is Lucy really doing there? She shows no sign of leaving and her twisted motivations lead inevitably to tragedy.

Enjoy your summer of reading!

Blogger Rita T.

Rita T.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Meet the Refreshed Connie Morella (Bethesda) Library

Exterior of Connie Morella (Bethesda) LibraryMCPL’s Bethesda branch, located at 7400 Arlington Road in Bethesda, was refreshed and reopened this spring, on April 14, with a new name, the Connie Morella Library.

The facility was renamed to honor Connie Morella who served Montgomery County in the Maryland General Assembly from 1979 to 1986 and represented Montgomery County and Maryland’s 8th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives from 1987 to 2003. Following her congressional service, Ms. Morella was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 2003 until 2007. She is a founding member of the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame and served as second president of the Montgomery County Commission for Women.

In addition to a new name, the refreshed facility includes new sit-stand circulation, information, and self-checkout workstations; renovation of the public restrooms; new roof, painting and flooring; two new collaboration spaces; upgraded-lighting with improved energy-efficient and brighter LED lamps; outside enhancements which include a new book drop and refurbished bike rack; some new furniture; motorized window shades, and upgraded walkways and entrances that improved accessibility for people with disabilities. Stop by and check it out!

Now let's meet some of the staff at Connie Morella Library...

Virginia “Ginny” Baran is a Library Associate II-J at Connie Morella. She is proud to be a native Washingtonian. She and her husband, Bob, live in Bethesda and have raised two children in the home where she spent most of her childhood.  Now she enjoys introducing the wonderful world of books to her two granddaughters, who frequently attend library storytimes. A graphic artist, elementary school substitute teacher, and a family daycare provider are some of the positions that she has held over time.

In 1997, she began her career with MCPL as a Children's Library Associate at the Silver Spring branch. She says, “I experience real joy when a child returns to the library with the request 'Do you have any more books like the one you gave me last week?'" It's a difficult choice, but if she had to name three of her favorite authors they would be Avi, Chris Van Allsburg, and Jon Scieszka. She loves reading and is passionate about exploring nature through gardening, kayaking, and bicycling. Ginny says, “I am delighted to be at the Connie Morella Library, my home library. Even though the building and its location are different from when I would visit as a youngster, the wonderful sense of community remains strong! Please stop by and introduce yourself.”

Asmeret Bekit is a Library Associate II at Connie Morella. She was born in Asmera, the capital city of Eritrea, a small country in East Africa. She comes from a large family of five brothers and four sisters. In 1988 she immigrated to the United States and joined her brothers in Boston. Asmeret worked in retail and the restaurant industry while attending college. After moving to Montgomery County from Massachusetts, she graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in accounting. While working for Marriott in their accounting department, she also subbed as a circulation specialist for MCPL. After two years, she married and subsequently had two children.

Asmeret decided to work part-time and left Marriott for MCPL. She worked at Long Branch, Twinbrook, Silver Spring, and Bethesda (now Connie Morella). Even though she enjoyed working at the circulation desk, working as an information specialist was one of Asmeret’s goals. She achieved that goal when was hired as a Library Associate and completed the State of Maryland's Library Associates' Training Institute. One of her favorite jobs has been working with new technology and teaching customers how to download audiobooks and e-books from our collections. For the last two years she has participated in training older adults in using basic iPad technology. This program was in partnership with OATS, Older Adults Technology Services … “Harnessing the power of technology to change the way we age.” Asmeret loves her work but, when not at the library, she enjoys spending time with her family. All of her siblings, and her mother, have become US citizens and most live in the Silver Spring area. Since family is very important to them, they have frequent get-togethers. She also enjoys cooking and listening to audiobooks.

Chris Borawski with Connie Morella and a coworker
Chris Borawski (left) with Connie
Morella, and a MCPL coworker.
Chris Borawski is the Senior Librarian/Assistant Branch Manager of the Connie Morella branch. Born in Youngstown, Ohio and raised in Battle Creek, MI and southeastern PA, he received his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Central Michigan University and his Master’s of Science in Information from the University of Michigan. Though he has been working in libraries since high school, he began his MCPL career nearly 15 years ago as a children’s librarian at Wheaton. He has been a senior librarian since 2007, first at Wheaton and then Silver Spring, Bethesda (now Connie Morella), and Poolesville (now Maggie Nightingale), before returning to Bethesda in 2013.  He’s also spent temporary stints at Potomac and MCPL’s Administrative Offices. Outside of the library, he enjoys singing in his church choir, walking/hiking in many of our nearby parks, travelling, rooting for the Nationals and Orioles, as well as his hometown Tigers, and spending time with his brother, sister-in-law, and baby niece who are currently living in Arlington, VA while stationed at the Pentagon.

Colleen East
Colleen East is a Library Desk Assistant (LDA) at Connie Morella. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Maryland. She started her career at MCPL in 2014 as a library aide at Long Branch. She volunteered to take photos at special library events and to represent the libraries in the annual Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade and the Community Greening program.  She eventually became a substitute LDA working at Aspen Hill, White Oak, and Gaithersburg libraries. In 2015, she secured a position as an LDA at Bethesda (now Connie Morella) where she loves serving customers at the circulation desk and maintaining the community bulletin boards and local resource areas within the branch.

Colleen says her strength is learning from others as she believes that other people’s experiences stimulate her own growth to come up with new ideas on her own to perform her job more efficiently. Her greatest asset is delivering great customer service, greeting customers with a smile, and assisting them with all library needs. She enjoys learning and exploring new opportunities, particularly in digital technology innovation. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, playing guitar, writing songs, reading mysteries, attending community events, outdoor sports, and being first mate while sailing with her dad.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Summer Read and Learn Progress

chart of activities completed showing 1,103 completed activities
MCPL’s Summer Read and Learn program has started, kicking off a summer full of fun! Customers from birth to age 17 can celebrate that Libraries Rock! all summer long. Since the program started on June 9, customers from around the County have already completed over 1,100 activities!

Participating is easy:

  • Sign up online or in any library branch
  • Visit a branch to pick up a game board and your minor league baseball ticket
  • Earn points to complete the program
  • Visit your branch to pick up your prizes while supplies last
Woman holds up rocks in front of a room of children
Energy Express presenter shows participants coal
There are a wide variety of programs available on various themes. In the Energy Express programs offered in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Protection, children in grades 1–5 will learn about conserving energy at home through fun, interactive programs. Check the calendar of events for more details about dates, times, and locations. Space is limited, and some events require registration.

children dancing in colored lights
Having fun at a Libraries Rock! Dance Party
Looking for other events? Panda Karate: Sticks and Stones uses comedy and storytelling to teach kids how to respond to bullying without their fists. During MCPL Expeditions events, children can go on a virtual reality journey across the globe, through time, or into outer space. Our Outreach staff will also be hosting awesome Libraries Rock! Dance Parties around the County with photo props, a bubble maker, and music.

Check out our Calendar of Events for these and many other Summer Read and Learn programs, which are sponsored by the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County and local Friends of the Library chapters.

We also have special extended hours during the summer with five branches, Connie Morella (Bethesda)GaithersburgGermantownRockville Memorial, and Silver Spring, open 10am–9pm Fridays and Saturdays through August 25. Stop by to pick up a book, cool off, or check out a program.

If you sign up online, don't forget to stop by a branch to pick up your gameboard and your various prizes (all while supplies last). We can't wait to celebrate each and every participant who completes Summer Read and Learn.

left: two children wearing medals; center: child wearing medal between two adults; right: child wearing medal next to a poster
A few of our finishers so far!
Sign up now; you have until September 9 to log your activities.
Summer Read and Learn 2018 @ MCPL —  Let’s rock!

Hear more about MCPL's Summer Read and Learn in the Summer Read and Learn episode of our Library Matters podcast.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Library Tourism

Large glass building on a busy intersection
Halifax Public Libary. (Citobun - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
What do you like to visit when you go to a new city? Some people seek out the best burger joint, while others look for the best city parks. I like to see the library (or libraries). I once left my family standing on a corner to cross the street and go in the Halifax Public Library.

My husband has gotten so used to this quirk (or maybe just so tired of being abandoned on street corners) that he has started looking up the locations of notable libraries every time we travel to a new city, so we can work plans to go to them into our trip. Over the years, we've gotten to see notable libraries in Pittsburgh, Seattle, Halifax, and Salt Lake City, among many others. These libraries represent a diversity of designs and eras from historic community libraries in operation for over a century to newer buildings that are testing the ideas of what a library could or should look like.

I love walking around these buildings—and their grounds, when they have them—finding out how they organize their collections; exploring their non-library services, like community partners and cafes; seeing their art installations; and, most interestingly, observing how people use their libraries.

Small building with ramp and balloons tied to railing
Noyes Library Ramp Opening 2016.
But you don't have to travel thousands of miles to see the many shapes that libraries can take. The twenty-one public libraries here in Montgomery County range from the one-room Noyes Library for Young Children in Kensington, which opened in 1893 and continues to offer innovative programs and services to young families in Montgomery County, to the new three-story Silver Spring Library in downtown Silver Spring, which opened in June 2015, and there are
many sizes and shapes of libraries in between. Whether you're driving around the County for work or planning a family staycation, consider dropping by an MCPL branch you haven't seen before. You might be surprised by what you find.

Want to expand your travel beyond libraries? The latest episode of our podcast, Library Matters, is all about travel both inside and outside of Montgomery County Public Libraries. You'll also get some insights into how MCPL can support you wherever you plan to go.

Happy travelling!