Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Gandhi Brigade / MCPL Tech Team

The Gandhi Youth Media Brigade and MCPL have been working together since the opening of the Long Branch Digital Media Lab in 2014. We are excited to have taken the next step in this collaboration with the introduction of free 12 week video production and graphic design classes for high school students.

Instructor stands in front of a whiteboard facing two teenage students sitting at a table
Students participate in the fall classes.
This collaboration launched last fall with classes at five locations during the fall semester. We really enjoyed seeing the teens expand their skills and knowledge over the course of the classes as they worked on their projects.

This spring, the classes will expand to seven locations. Classes at Silver Spring, White Oak, Marilyn Praisner, and Olney start Monday, January 23. Classes at Rockville Memorial and Kensington Park start January 24, and classes at Twinbrook start January 26. Silver Spring will offer graphic design. All other locations will offer video production. All classes will meet 3:30–5:30 pm once a week for twelve weeks. Participants are asked to register in advance. Register now open for all locations!

MoComCon January 21, 2017
Want just a taste of graphic design? Gandhi Brigade will also be joining MCPL at our first comic convention, MoComCon, January 21 at our Silver Spring branch. They will be running one-hour Adobe Illustrator workshop classes introducing the tools, materials and procedures used to create a digital portrait trace of comic super hero characters. The workshops will be held at 12, 1, and 2 pm. Registration will be held in person at the Silver Spring branch beginning at 11 am on January 21.

The collaboration on these classes has also led to other cooperative efforts. After the fall classes, Gandhi Brigade staff worked with Olney branch staff to produce our winter-themed video. This winter-themed video is about all the resources MCPL has to offer and features Olney staff, volunteers, and friends. The lyrics were written by Heather Wright, Head of Children's Services at Olney. Gandhi Brigade staff recorded the video. Sing along and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Are Comics Doing In a Library?

With MCPL’s first Comic-Con coming later this month, people of all ages—including many library staff members—are excited about the crafts, panels, and workshops involving comic books, superhero movies, and related topics. Other people are likely thinking: “Why is a library promoting comics and graphic novels? Libraries used to be about providing real books, with words.”

At top: Banner with flags and "Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales." Main art: Portrayal of Harriet Tubman in woods with a lantern. Text at bottom: "The Underground Abductor".
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales:
a comics series about historical events
Comics in various forms, including the graphic novels we have in the library, have gotten more
respect over the last twenty years or so. One reason is the more serious content, as mentioned in a recent Shout Out post. Another is that they can help children and teens (and adults) who have reading difficulties. Children and teens who are reluctant readers or have reading disabilities, as well as anyone learning to read a new language, find comic books a bit easier to understand than regular books.  The pictures in a graphic novel provide context: through showing action, emotions expressed on characters’ faces, and objects, they help the reader understand the words and the story. Graphic novels can also provide insight into another culture or time period—just as books do, only with visual information as well.
 "Extraordinary XMEN" at top; art of six superheroes flying in sky in action poses.
Extraordinary X-Men: a
 new X-men series at MCPL

Then there’s the fun factor: people are attracted to comics because of the pictures. The artwork is beautiful or silly or edgy or grim according to the artist’s style and the type of story. Readers usually choose a comic that has both a story and artwork style that fits their interests, although I have occasionally broken out of my taste for “pretty” art to read something like classic comics creator R. Crumb’s adult-level interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

Drawings are not only shorthand for part of the story but are part of it—they set the scene, let you know exactly what characters look like without going into paragraphs of description, and show whether a character is sincere or is being sarcastic or dishonest.  The sense of action of superhero comics such as The X-Men, the intricacy of Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story, and the retro, frequently-in-your-face art of Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor add to the creativity of the work in a way words do not, and add to the reader’s enjoyment as well.

 Title "Glue & Go Costumes for Kids" with pictures of kids in variety of costumes.
“But the pictures mean readers don't use their imagination!” you might think. That may be true in some cases, but graphic novels do inspire creativity. Fans who use graphic-novel characters as a basis for their costumes put effort into creating a character’s clothing and appearance using fabric, glue, makeup and other material. They find innovative ways to portray a character while working with a much smaller budget than movies and TV shows have. Then there are the fans who are inspired to create their own comic books, on their own or collaborating with a friend or two. And as a manga and anime fan, I’ve known many fellow fans who decide to start learning Japanese, either in school or on their own. (I’m one of the latter myself.) 

If you stop by Silver Spring during the Comic-Con, or visit other branches for related activities, you may see some of this creativity—drawings of original superheroes, people in homemade costumes, aspiring writers, and professionals in the comics field.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired yourself to join in, or at least try, a graphic novel for the first time.

Beth C.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How to Live a More Conscious, Purposeful 2017

Book cover for Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearThere’s hardly ever anything new on my New Year’s resolution lists. Do you feel the same? Each of my resolutions include the word “more” and none included “start” or “begin.” This made me realize that since we all seemingly know what we’d like to change or improve upon each year, maybe there’s a broader goal we should aim towards – slowing down and living a more conscious and purposeful life. Here are ways in which I hope to accomplish this goal in 2017:

1. Live more creatively. I recently listened to the audiobook Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Gilbert makes plenty of valid points about living a creative life and escaping fear in the process. One huge takeaway I got from this book was that creative living can be small and not intimidating. Creative living doesn’t mean quitting your day job to pursue dreams of becoming a novelist. Living more creatively can mean joining a writing group, attending a makerspace program or refurbishing a piece of furniture. These are small, attainable creative pursuits that can have a huge impact on how we feel and deal with stress. Gilbert reminds us that creative expression has been a part of the human experience for thousands of years. We are not machines.

2. Do more yoga & meditation. I once read that when you feel like you don’t have the time to meditate, that’s precisely when you need to mediate. Before my young daughter was born, I practiced yoga several times a week but after she was born, that stopped completely due to lack of time and motivation. Recently I’ve decided to try doing yoga with my daughter. The book Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers: 8-minute Routines to Help Your Child Grow Smarter, Be Happier, and Behave Better by Helen Garabedian is a wonderful guide to practice yoga with your toddler. I find that simply breathing and looking into my daughter’s eyes is a way of centering and bonding with her. My body & mind feels so much better after our mini-yoga sessions and my daughter seems calmer and happier too! For those who want to practice yoga in a group setting without children, there’s also free yoga and meditation classes for adults at the library.

3. Be more original. Did you know great innovators procrastinate, feel fear and have bad ideas? This is just one of the surprising (and oddly comforting) findings that Adam Grant describes in Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. This book challenged me to think differently and remember the revitalizing energy that comes with nonconformity and originality. It inspired me to take more chances at work and at home, overcome fear and not to be too hard on myself if things don’t work out.

Here’s to a more centered and successful 2017!

Are you all about changing and improving? Follow us on social media. On Mondays, we feature articles, tips & tricks to help you improve your life on social media with the hashtag #makeachangemonday.

Adrienne M.H.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Comics and Graphic Novels

Comics and Graphic NovelsWhen I think about comics, my earliest thoughts are warm childhood memories of reading the Garfield comic strips. There was something so laughable about that smart aleck cat, his put upon owner, Jon, and his always blissful dog, Odie. And who didn't love the friendship and adventures of Calvin and Hobbes? Of course, I also grew up with superhero comics, like Superman and Batman. It wasn't until I came to work at MCPL that I saw how comics, and now graphic novels, had grown into an amazing array of genres for kids, teens, and adults. It was so exciting and opened up a whole new way to enjoy stories with words and pictures!

Since history is a subject I'm always intrigued by, I was curious about how comics and graphic novels got started. So I had a look in our History in Context - U.S. resource where I found this great article from the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture about this amazing melding of words and pictures. My guess was that comics started out in the newspapers and turns out I was correct. It was in the late 19th century when comic strips first started to appear in newspapers. Comic strips in the 1930s started to be put into comic books that focused on cartoon characters and, you guessed it, superheroes.

Eventually some comic books started to be marketed with the term graphic novels and the form developed from there. It was the publication in 1986 of the award winning Maus by Art Spiegelman, about his father's captivity and survival during the Holocaust, that really catapulted the genre of graphic novels into mainstream reading. It was the first most widely read graphic novel. Other graphic novels in the 1980s also became well known, like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Watchman by Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons. As the increased interest in graphic novels grew, a specific type of Japanese comic art called manga was also included in the graphic novel category.

From there graphic novels have grown in popularity and into a wide variety of genres, including horror, Westerns, science fiction, mysteries, and memoirs. Some books for adults are getting in on the action and now have both a novel format and a graphic novel version, This includes one of my favorite series, Game of Thrones! Comic books and graphic novels are attracting critical buzz and have become an innovative way to tell engaging stories in the perfect blend of the visual and written word for kids, teens, and adults.

MoComCon January 21, 2017
So now that you are super excited to start checking out comic books and graphic novels, I have to share with you something that has been on my dream list for awhile and is about to become a reality! I have always wanted to attend a ComicCon and now I (and you!) have a chance come to one at our Silver Spring branch! We are thrilled to be holding our very first comic convention, MoComCon! It'll be a fabulous way to meet others who share your passion and also for those who are new to comic books and graphic novels. The event will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay — all free of charge. So save the date for January 21 from 12-4 PM (Inclement weather date February 4)!

Eager to find the engaging comic books and graphic novels you've been missing out on? Here are some ways to find the perfect comic book or graphic novel for you:

We invite you to discover new and exciting comics and graphic novels that you’ll enjoy today!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What is Boxing Day?

19th century street scene on Boxing Day in England
Boxing Day by George Cruikshank 

As an immigrant to the U.S. from England, one of the most perplexing questions I’ve had to answer is “What is Boxing Day?” Growing up in England I never questioned why the day after Christmas, December 26, is a holiday too. It just is, in the way we take for granted the traditions we grow up with. I had some vague notion that it had to do with putting the empty boxes from Christmas gifts away in the attic, though we never actually did this ourselves. I also associated it with Dickens, and thought it probably originated in Victorian times. All I knew for sure is that it had nothing at all to do with the sport of boxing. So I had to do some research to come up with a satisfactory answer to Americans' questions. It turned out to be true that actual boxes are involved, but not in the way I thought.
Church alms box
Alms Box, All Saints Parish,
Moulton, Lincolnshire
attr. Richard Croft

The origin of the Boxing Day holiday goes back to early medieval times. Traditionally it was on December 26 that the alms boxes kept in churches to collect money for the poor were  opened and the contents distributed. The word “alms” has a very ancient history as I discovered by consulting the online Oxford English Dictionary. Originating with post-classical Latin and the Old English “aelmyssen” the word means “charitable relief given to the poor or needy usually in the form of money or food."

The probable reason December 26 was chosen for opening the alms boxes goes back even further in history. December 26 is the Feast Day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, whose story is told in the Acts of the Apostles. He was appointed one of seven deacons chosen to distribute food to the poor. 

In one of the earliest literary references to Boxing Day, Samuel Pepys wrote in his famous diary on December 19, 1663:
"Thence by coach to my shoemaker’s and paid all there, and gave something to the boys’ box against Christmas."
In the early 18th century, Jonathan Swift grumbled about the amount of giving required of him:
“I shall be undone here with Christmas boxes. The rogues of the coffee-house have raised their tax, every one giving a crown, and I gave mine for shame, besides a great many half-crowns to great men’s porters.”
But according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first mention of Boxing Day in literature was indeed by Charles Dickens. In The Pickwick Papers we find the rather obscure reference: “no man ever talked in poetry ‘cept a beadle on boxin’ day.”

By Dickens’ time, December 26 had evolved from a day when only the church distributed alms to a day when the “wealth or rank possessing” gave boxes of leftover foods and money to their servants. Servants and other lowly workers were required to work on Christmas Day so Boxing Day became their own traditional holiday. This led inevitably to complaints by censorious Victorians about the lower orders drinking and carousing in an unseemly manner!

Fox hunters and their dogs
Saltersgate Farmers Boxing Day Hunt
attr. David Ward

Although the sport of boxing itself has nothing to do the day, other sports are traditional on Boxing Day. In the countryside there are annual fox hunting meets (often accompanied by animal rights protests) and horse racing, while armchair sportsmen watch soccer matches. The more adventurous participate in 
Dips, swimming in the cold sea, sometimes in fancy dress. Modern times have also seen the rise of the sport of shopping. Boxing Day is the busiest shopping day of the year in England, with mobs of shoppers stampeding into stores as Americans do on Black Friday. We can be glad that some Boxing Day traditions have fallen by the wayside, such as the medieval practice of horse bleeding described in this poem by Thomas Naogeorgus:

Then followeth Saint Stephens day, whereon doth every man
His horses jaunt and course abroad as swiftly as he can
Until they doe extreemely state, and than they let them blood,
For this being done upon this day, they say doth do them good
And keepes them from all maladies and sicknesse through the yeare.

A modern movement to return Boxing Day to the spirit of St. Stephen encourages charitable giving.

Here are some online resources to help in choosing a reputable charity from our Nonprofits & Charities guide:

  • Charity Watch - A list of top-rated charities that spend 75% or more of their donations on programs.
  • Charity Navigator - A star system rating of over 8,000 charities.
  • Giving Wisely - This resource from the Maryland Secretary of State includes a searchable database of charities.
  • Montgomery County Volunteer Center - This Montgomery County Government resource lists local charities and the types of donations they accept.

These books in the MCPL collection include information on Boxing Day:

Whichever tradition you follow, may you enjoy this holiday season!

 Rita T.