Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Health Resources for You!

health resources for you - apple
What are your New Year's Resolutions? One of answers that comes up most frequently is to lose weight, especially after indulging in all those great end-of-the-year feasts and sweets! So with health on a lot of minds we thought it would be a great time to show you all the fabulous resources and programs that MCPL offers for free!

Researching Health Topics

health topics on chalkboard
Health information is vast, rapidly changing, and sometimes presents contradictory viewpoints. It must be evaluated critically by the user so it is vitally important to make sure you are getting health information from authoritative sources. We have gathered reliable resources to make this easier for you. The Health and Wellness Resource Center database is a trusted source for articles on health, medicine, and wellness from magazines, journals, and reference books. It includes information on diseases and conditions but also includes trusted health websites and a medical dictionary. Another great source of health information is Consumer Reports on Health which you can access online in our Flipster database. It provides informative articles on health topics and healthy living,

To also help we have gathered a list of trusted health websites. Three of them that I like to use to answer questions are MedlinePlus, the Mayo Clinic's Health Information, and PubMed. MedlinePlus and the Mayo Clinic's Health Information have user-friendly sites and information on health topics and drugs and supplements. PubMed provides a vast array of bio-medical research articles. 

Finding a Doctor

doctorsIf you would like to research doctors that you are interested in seeing based on  years of practice, medical school attended, primary specialty, state of license, and board certification, Reference USA is a good source. You can research physicians' state licences, including disciplinary actions, for Maryland and Washington, D.C. on our health resource guide. To find rated doctors, hospitals, and more have a look in the Washington Consumers' Checkbook, in-library access only.

Finding Health Services

Need health care? You can enroll in Maryland's Official Health Insurance Marketplace the Maryland Health Connection through January 31. Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services also offers many health, disability, and crisis services as well as services specifically target for children, teens, and seniors. InfoMontgomery is also a good resource for finding health services. It is a collaborative effort of public and private agencies to provide information about health and human service resources throughout Montgomery County. Have a look at even more health services.

Exercise and Events

people doing yoga
Want to learn or try some new exercises but don't want to go to a gym? Have a look at our array of exercise DVDs. We have quite a selection of videos on fitness, yoga, tai chi, and more. If you find more motivation in group activities come to one of our engaging and informative library programs on yoga, tai chi, meditation, Alzheimer's, or other health events.

For Kids

A great way to introduce exercise and healthy eating habits is when kids are young. We have a selection of books and websites to get you started. The USDA's Choose My Plate is a good website to start with. It has information, games, activity sheets, online tools, recipes, and more. Don't forget to try our fun exercise DVDs geared toward parents and kids.

At MCPL we are happy to help you get fit, be fit, and stay fit in 2016 and beyond!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Extreme Endurance: A Reading List

You can call it schadenfreude,1 but in colder months I find it soothing to cozy up in a warm house and read accounts of extreme human discomfort. Like dystopian and post-apocalyptic scenarios, physical and mental struggles against seemingly insurmountable odds can be compelling reads. I’d like to share a few books that explore the absolute limits of human endurance.

Louis Zamperini examines damage to his plane
Louis Zamperini in 1943
Among classic stories of endurance is Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea, about a fisherman’s struggle to bring in the catch of a lifetime. In the 1950s Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote a series of articles about Columbian sailor Luis Velasco’s survival at sea, later published as The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (Relato de un nรกufrago). Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage paints a harrowing portrait of the explorer’s troubled Antarctic expedition. More recently, Laura Hillenbrand brought the heroic struggles of WWII POW Louis Zamperini to life in Unbroken.

If you like historical fiction, Michael Punke’s The Revenant is a story of survival based on the life of mountain man Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a bear and left to die by his fellow trappers. Read it as a companion to the movie (starring Leonardo diCaprio as Glass), coming out December 25.

If you were intrigued by the film based on Andy Weir’s runaway bestseller, The Martian, you may want to read this tour de force rescue story in which an astronaut—inadvertently stranded on the inhospitable red planet—works out a way to survive long enough to be rescued. A real-life rescue effort is described in Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet below the Chilean Desert by Marc Aaronson. The struggle to survive impossible odds makes compelling cinema, too. All is Lost stars Robert Redford trying to stay afloat after a freak accident damages his sailboat.

No stranger to extreme endeavors, Jon Krakauer wrote a chilling (literally) account of his assault on Mount Everest, Into Thin Air. Krakauer’s Into the Wild follows a young man’s misguided attempt to survive off the land in Alaska. And no list of books about enduring intense conditions would be complete without Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void, chronicling a mountain climber’s amazing odyssey back from the brink of death.

Extreme endurance can mean making unthinkable choices to avoid starvation. One example is described in Ethan Rarick’s Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West about the ill-fated pioneer wagon train stranded in the Rockies in the winter of 1846. The plight of plane crash victims in the Andes in 1972 is covered in both Piers Paul Read’s Alive: Sixteen Men, Seventy-two Days, and Insurmountable Odds and Nando Parrado’s Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home.

But having to endure life-challenging conditions isn’t the always the result of fate or luck. Some athletes set extreme endurance goals to drive themselves to excel. In A Life Without Limits, Chrissie Wellington describes her triathlon training journey to win at the World Ironman Championships. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, and Ultramarathon Man, by Dean Karnazes, reveal secrets of the world’s greatest distance runners. Finally, you can place a hold on long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s, Find a Way, arriving in branches soon.

Laura S.

1Webster’s online dictionary defines schadenfreude as “pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reading for a Challenge

pile of books with checkmark in front of them
We're closing in on two weeks left in 2015. And everyone knows what that means, right?

It means it's make or break time for your Goodreads Reading Challenge (or other reading challenge of choice)! Now, knowing both that my response to competitive activities is generally to hide under the covers and opt out, and that opting not to read anymore would be an extremely poor life choice for a librarian, I've never publicly posted a challenge goal in my 3+ years as an avid user of the Goodreads site. But you can bet your bestseller list that:

  • I keep track of my stats; 
  • I DO have a goal in my head (last year it was so many pages read, this year it was a certain number of books); and 
  • I grow more keenly aware of how likely I am to reach that goal as the year progresses.

books from NoveList Plus
NoveList recommendations to go with Smile
Whether your own reading goal is private or public, MCPL can help you generate an emergency list of books that just might get you to the finish line by January 1.

One great resource for finding potential reads that you can access from anywhere is NoveList Plus. I often use it to help customers find read-alike lists for their favorite authors and books. You'll also see suggestions and reviews from NoveList Plus when you look at a title in our online catalog. It offers great options to limit your search by genre, audience, author's nationality, length—or a combination of the above!

The hectic pace of November and December means they're often not big reading months for me. So in September I started trying in earnest to get to the 50-book (now you know my secret!) goal I had set for 2015. I selected my books using a combination of resources: NoveList Plus, other book lists I found online, titles from my to-be-read list, and recommendations from customers. Some turned out to be not my cup of tea, but others were fantastic—and I might not have picked them up if I weren't trying to read the maximum number of books in the minimum amount of time.

wonder cover
Since I help all age groups daily, I considered all types of books fair game when trying to reach my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal. While I didn't count picture books towards my total, some of the best books I read were fiction books for older children. Wonder by R.J. Palacio has won a host of awards since its publication in 2012, and my five hanky, review-inspiring reading of it left me with no doubt about why.

Similarly, the sometimes-controversial 2007 Newbery medalist The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron is a winning and beautifully illustrated story, with tender wisdom about life, love, and family. Speaking of illustration, Raina Telgemeier's graphic novel Smile, which is so often requested by bright-eyed, excited young readers in our libraries, is a gem that should convince any skeptical parent of the merits of the graphic novel format.

There is great literature for all ages being produced by graphic novelists, and Roz Chast's 2014 National Book Award Finalist Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a good place to start for any adult who still has their doubts. Two other legendary adult graphic novels, Maus and Persepolis, still loom large on my to-be-read list, but, alas, I will not get to them this year.

man seated at a desk in a room with bookshelves on the wall
Tolstoy in his study
In more traditional adult reading, it doesn't get much more satisfying for those of us who have been defeated so far by Tolstoy's epics War and Peace and Anna Karenina, than to polish off the exceedingly slender Death of Ivan Ilyich. Not only did it count as one more legitimate whole book towards my challenge goal, it gave this reader an unforgettable taste of why the Russian master is a literary giant. Maybe I'll finally conquer one of his longer works in 2016.

Reading the iconic Death of a Salesman by eminent American dramatist Arthur Miller, on the other hand, was one of the more depressing experiences I had this year. The power of Miller's writing was not lost on me though, and I plan to watch one of the several well-regarded performances.

I savored every word of modern American writer Marilynne Robinson's short-ish Housekeeping (Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award  winner). Robinson's prose dazzled me when I read her slightly longer Gilead a few years back, and the deliriously beautiful language of Housekeeping only reminded me why she is such a master of her craft. Similarly, although slightly beyond the 300-page limit that I initially chose for what I thought of as my Great Short Reads project, Maya Angelou's heartbreaking memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, made the reasons for Ms. Angelou's outsized literary stature abundantly clear. I've never been so keenly aware that a non-fiction writer is also a poet than when reading her story, and am eager to dive into her later volumes. Memoir is a favorite genre for me, so I also tackled the more recent, well-reviewed Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget during my autumn reading binge. Although Sara Hepola's tale of her downward alcoholic spiral is a bit weak in its second part, it is still well-written and compelling, and could be a lifesaver for readers who struggle with drinking.

how I live now cover
I finished my fiftieth book, Meg Rosoff's stunningly imagined if disturbing teen novel How I Live Now, on November 30. With two more books currently in progress, I may just reach that most coveted, book-a-week number of 52 by New Year's. Don't let the stats fool you, though. I spent several weeks last winter poring over Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain and only got a little more than halfway through before giving up on the philosophical tome. The two or three books-a-week pace I kept in September and October pushed me over the finish line, and strategic choices definitely helped. In 2016, I aim to get back to The Magic Mountain, as well as John Hersey's short but grueling Hiroshima—one of the first books I put on my short reads list—which I started but didn't finish.

If you need help crafting your own list, whether for a Goodreads Reading Challenge or any other reason, just stop by any MCPL Information Desk or fill out our What Do I Check Out Next online form to have reading suggestions emailed to you. There's nothing we librarians like more than a good reading challenge! (And keep an eye out for MCPL's 2016 Reading Challenge—details coming soon!)

woman's face
Caitlin M.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hour of Code Comes to MCPL

Hour of Code LogoWhat's coding?

What isn't?

These days, there is coding in our phones, our cars, our refrigerators and—oh yeah—our libraries!

Some of the most basic ways coding comes into view in the library is through the library website and online catalog. There are also the databases, of course, including e-books, downloadable audio, e-magazines, articles, and more at your fingertips 24-hours per day. And then there are special portions of the website such as the research guides and this blog.

And, yes, coding makes them all possible.

Boy sitting at a computer
2014 Hour of Code Participant
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022, there will be over 1 million open computing jobs in the United States, as a result of job growth and turnover. These jobs will be in multiple industries, across all states, and will require varying sets of computer skills and backgrounds.

That’s why learning coding is especially important for K-12 students. There are a variety of opportunities for students in Montgomery County to start coding, but right now we are in the middle of the Hour of Code™™™, nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.

MCPL is participating in the 2015 Hour of Code with programs at three branches: Gaithersburg, Long Branch, and Marilyn Praisner. Students of all ages will have an opportunity to learn a little about what coding is and how it works. We hope to see you there!

Can’t make it out to one of our programs? Try coding either at home or on a public computer at one of our branches. The Hour of Code organization provides a variety of free tutorials appropriate for different age groups and experience levels. Many tutorials are available in multiple languages.

Check our calendar for other coding events at our branches throughout the year, or start the first step (or next step) in your coding education with an exploration of our collection; you'll find a variety of print and, yes, online books and resources related to computers and coding.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

6 Ways the Library Can Help You Plan Your Wedding

If you are anything like me, you like things free. Weddings are not free and can end up costing a pretty penny. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is $26,444. I'm pretty sure I just heard your jaw hit the table when you read that number. Mine did. Use these tips and let the library help you through this exciting and hopefully not expensive time in your life.

1) Books and e-books: Search "wedding planning"in MCPL's catalog and you get 206 results of both physical and electronic books. There are so many possibilities for planning your wedding. Have a small budget? Pick up The Budget Wedding Sourcebook. Need to help your friend plan her wedding? Check out The Best Friend'sGuide to Planning a Wedding. Don't forget to look in the craft and general party section, too. There is great material in there for making your own decorations and planning showers.

2) E-magazines: Do you know how much one issue of Martha Stewart Weddings costs? $4.99. Do you know how much you have to pay to have access to 2 years' worth? $0 with your library card! If you log into Zinio with your library card you can have all the Martha Stewart Weddings you want. What more could a bride ask for?

3) Consumer Reports: With your wedding planning there is also registry planning. Registries can be complex and you don't want to ask for something only to realize that it gets 1 star on every review site. Consumer Reports breaks down their reviews into easy to read ratings. Use it for such registry items as kitchen knives, pots and pans, vacuum cleaner, coffee makers, and even cell phone plans for those couples who aren't on a joint account. Don't get stuck with gifts that break within a year.

4) FOL Book Sales: If you are anything like this librarian bride, you are having books and book page decorations at your wedding. The Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, Inc. have several store locations and also host local book sales where they sell ridiculously low priced used books. You know those fancy letter cutouts from Anthropologie? Get your own used books and make them yourself. Use books as centerpieces or backgrounds. Give books as wedding party gifts or favors. Or just find a good one to read on your honeymoon. There are endless possibilities when it comes to books.

5) Travel Guides: We are constantly getting in new travel guides both in a physical format and electronic. Use these guides to help you plan your honeymoon: where to stay, what to eat, places to visit. Most books come with a map inside so you can navigate once you're there, too. Check them out for 3 weeks at a time and renew online if you are on an extended trip.

6) Language learning materials: Going to a country where you don't speak the primary language? You better prepare yourself to say "Hello," "Goodbye," and "Where is the bathroom?" in the language spoken in your destination. Download and sign into the Mango Languages app on your smart phone using your library card and pick from one of it's 71 languages to learn.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Find Consumer Information

People holding customer sign. Find consumer information.
Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

With the end of the year holidays approaching, and much gift buying and giving happening, that old phrase keeps on popping into my head. I was wondering just how long we have been concerned with scams and buyer's remorse. We can probably trace it back to 1523, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, when writer John Fitzherbert wrote to warn buyers to ride horses first before purchasing one to see if the horse is tame or wild. Just like back then we hope, when purchasing a product or service, to find the one that makes us the happiest. At MCPL we are committed to providing information to help our customers make informed choices in the marketplace. Here are some great resources to help you be an informed consumer.


family buying a washing machine
Looking to purchase a cell phone, computer, washing machine and dryer, vacuum cleaner, car, or other product? You can research these types of products online using Consumer Reports. It is a great source to get unbiased product testing and ratings information. Their general information about products is a great way to help customers know what to look for when purchasing a product. Once you know what features you want you can check that product's ratings. Products are rated from excellent to poor based on test results, features are mentioned, and they have their recommendations for best buy.


If you are interested in a local service and not sure what company to go with have a look at Washington Consumers' Checkbook. It has ratings, comments, and advice on many local services from Accountants to Wood Finishers. Once you find the service you are interested in you can limit the companies to within a specified number of miles of your zip code. Companies are rated for quality, price, and the percentage of customers who rated the service as superior on their survey for overall performance. You can also access their customer survey results and comments. Washington Consumers' Checkbook is available online, but can be accessed only at a library branch.


seniors driving a car
In addition to ratings on automobiles (Consumer Reports) and auto repair services and auto insurance (Washington Consumers' Checkbook), you have online access to Auto Repair Reference Center. It contains up-to-date repair and maintenance information on almost all domestic and imported vehicles. ASE-certified technicians created all of the content. Interested in purchasing or selling a car? Have a look at the Kelley Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) for car values. Automobile Recall and Defect Information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and information on Maryland's Lemon Law can be found on our Automobiles resource guide.


Health is another consumer area that you really want to make certain you are getting the most authoritative information.  The Health and Wellness Resource Center is a trusted source for articles on health, medicine, and wellness from magazines, journals, and reference books. It includes information on diseases and conditions but also includes trusted health websites and a medical dictionary. If you would like to research doctors that you are interested in seeing based on  years of practice, medical school attended, primary specialty, state of license, and board certification, Reference USA is a good source. You can research physicians' state licences, including disciplinary actions, for Maryland and Washington, D.C. on our Health resource guide. To find rated doctors, hospitals, and more have a look in the Washington Consumers' Checkbook. Health information is vast, rapidly changing, and sometimes presents contradictory viewpoints. It must be evaluated critically by the user.

Nonprofits and Charities

This time of year a lot of individuals donate to nonprofits and charities. With so many organizations it can be difficult to find those that match your interests. It's also good to know what the nonprofit or charity does with your donation. For example, the State of Maryland has a Charitable Organization Division that registers, regulates and renews charitable organizations doing business in Maryland. We have resources to assist you in researching and evaluating charities.

Government Help

And don't forget that there are government organizations to help you.  With Montgomery County's Office of Consumer Protection you can file complaints and search their complaint records. The State of Maryland also has a Consumer Protection Division where you can file complaints and get important consumer information. From the Maryland State Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation you can check to see if businesses or individuals are licensed in Maryland before doing business. The federal government also has many consumer protection agencies and departments.

We’re happy to provide you with the resources you need to make informed consumer choices this holiday season and beyond!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Something Familiar, Something Unusual—Music from Freegal

I have a long commute and sometimes travel out of state, so I like to have a full MP3 player to keep me company. Most of my music CD collection is on it, and, when MCPL got Freegal, I tried it out not only so I could explain it to library customers but so I could add to my own collection. As many people have said, Freegal is "eclectic," containing some unusual musicians while short on or some major artists. But Freegal has music in dozens of genres from acid rock to zydeco, and as you’ll read, my tastes are pretty eclectic.  Also, free music—five songs a week!—is not to be dismissed easily.

As a child of the 70s, I was delighted to find some Billy Joel right away, and, as time went on, Freegal added more of his titles. Recently, I found a few karaoke recordings so I now have fun doing my own rendition of "Only the Good Die Young" on the way to work in the morning. There’s also karaoke of another favorite of mine, Weird Al Yankovic. Use the word "karaoke" with your favorite artists to search (be careful: some recordings do have lead singers on them). A family sing-along might be fun on your next long trip—at least for a while.

My husband’s music interests have fostered my love of classic and big band jazz. Freegal has provided me with a wealth of songs, including at least a hundred by my favorite jazz vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald. Some of  "How High the Moon" is just one Freegal tune that includes her legendary scat singing. And when I heard a young jazz vocalist and songwriter, Cecile McLorin Salvant, on the radio I was delighted to be able to download some of her songs right away.

On Freegal, I’ve found classical vocal music I sang in college, multiple versions of "Les Miserables" and "West Side Story," and Tuvan throat singing—something I’d never heard till I went to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival soon after moving to the metro DC area. I recommend "Khoomei (Styles of the Throat Singing)" for a sampling if you’re curious. Freegal also has a generous collection of traditional and popular music from around the globe, so if you want to find some music from your home country or from a culture you learned about on a documentary or YouTube video, try Freegal.

It's also a great place to check out music you might not ordinarily buy. I tried out a couple of of songs by one of my teenage nephew's favorites, the Irish-American punk band Dropkick Murphys (songs not recommended for children younger than teens!). Now I have new insight into my usually-quiet nephew's personality.

Downloading five songs each week—remember, for free—lets me experiment with new music, as does the "preview" segment you can try before deciding. So explore for yourself, whether it's for something new or old favorites, add them to your computer or the MP3 player of your choice, and enjoy!

Beth C.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What'll I Read?

Do you ever have one of the moments when you just don’t know what to read?

cover of Winter by Marissa Meyer
I've been waiting months
for Winter to come out!
Maybe you’re waiting for the next title in your favorite series to come out, and you want a special read to get you in the mood (without re-reading the beginning of the series for the second, third, or eighteenth time).

Or maybe you’re trying to complete a Read Harder Challenge (like this one from Book Riot) and you really need to find the right book to check off the _______ box. (Personally, I’ve been procrastinating a poetry selection.)

Believe me, we’ve all been there. We know how hard it can be to find just the right book to fit what you’re looking to read RIGHT NOW. We know there are moments when that huge To Be Read list on your nightstand or in your Catalog Wish List just doesn’t include a single book you want to read at the moment.

But, your luck is about to change, because we’ve got six great tools to get you what you want to read:

  1. In-person Readers’ Advisory: This is an old standby. Come to a branch and ask a librarian. They can talk to you about what you’ve read and what you’ve liked and help you find something you want to read.
  2. Online Readers’ Advisory: If you don’t have time to come to a branch, try our online Readers’ Advisory services. Our What Do I Check Out Next? Service is staffed by our expert librarians. Fill out a few questions about what you like to read (and what you don’t like to read), and they’ll provide personalized recommendations for you to try. They’ll even try to match your preferred format (print, e-book, or audiobook). We also offer a few online databases for that suggest other books to read, including Beanstack and NoveList K–8 for young readers and NoveList Plus for adults.
  3. Librarian’s Choice: It’s probably no surprise that our librarian’s read a lot. And, every month, they review a title and tell you why you might enjoy it. The detailed reviews also include information about similar and related titles. This month’s review of Orange is the New Black includes information about the hit TV show as well as other books related to the events in Piper Kerman’s well-known memoir.
  4. We Recommend: We recommend doesn’t provide the detailed personalized reviews of Librarian’s Choice. Instead, it highlights items from our collection that focus on a specific theme. Books range from novels to memoirs to scientific tracts. It’s a great place to find books you might not have heard of on themes that interest you.
  5. If You Like lists: If you’re having the classic dilemma “I want to read something like what _______ writes, but I’ve already read all his/her stuff a bunch of times,” than our If You Like lists are a great place to start. With lists available by author or genre, there are a number of options to help you when you just don’t want to read your favorite author or you’re looking to get into a new genre.
  6. display of books for Halloween at Damascus Library
  7. Book displays: Stop by any branch and you’re almost sure to spot a book display or five. Whether it features staff favorites, recently returned titles, or books on a certain theme, book displays can be a great place to find an unexpected gem.

Try out one of these services and then let us know what you think in the comments. You might discover a great new author or genre you’ve never even heard of. Whatever happens, it’s a great way to get reading!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Maryland STEM Festival

two people run through a tower of plastic cups
Participants in the Germantown Cup
Challenge on November 6
The first Maryland STEM Festival is going on right now (November 6–15) and MCPL is proud to be participating! The purpose of the STEM Festival, as stated on its website, is to provide “inspiration, educational, and accessible programming in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) throughout Maryland.”

To that end, the Festival has gathered information about STEM events happening around the state into a central calendar where members of the public can look for events of interest happening near them. "The Festival," the website says, "provides STEM opportunities to all of Maryland without requiring them to travel significant distances."

group of four people surrounded by colored lights
Participants at a previous Light
Painting event at our Olney branch.
MCPL is excited to be offering STEM Festival events for all ages at multiple locations around the County. Events range from LEGO® and Duplo® building events for young children to chess clubs for older children and adults. The Wheaton branch will welcome FutureMakers for two light-painting events for teens and tweens on November 12. We are also excited to offer two special events in cooperation with Goddard Space Flight Center, Hurricanes and Clouds and Precipitation, both at the Aspen Hill branch on November 14.

STEM is a key part of our ongoing programming, especially for children and teens. Customers are also encouraged to drop in anytime to explore our STEM stations for children. Caregivers and children can also take advantage of our Go! Kits, which provide a mini-iPad, books, and specialized toys to explore selected STEM themes. Go! Kits are available for two ages of children: Little Explorer kits are intended for ages 3–6 and Young Voyager kits are designed for kids in grades 3–6.

STEM is an important and growing field that touches every aspect of modern life from entertainment to communication to medicine and beyond. We are excited to work with the Maryland STEM Festival in their goal to “give Maryland a vibrant STEM economy to make us a national leader in the 21st century economy.” Please join us!

Monday, November 9, 2015

We're Here for You! Expanded Hours at MCPL

New Hours at Chevy Chase and Potomac
MCPL is expanding the hours of Chevy Chase Library and Potomac Library. Starting, Monday, November 16, both Chevy Chase and Potomac will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 8 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, they will be open 10 am - 6 pm.

MCPL understands that our residents have a variety of work, school, and other time commitments. We are dedicated to being there for you when you need us. This expansion of hours is the latest in a series MCPL has implemented over the last few years.

There are now 13 libraries throughout the county opened on Sundays, 1 pm - 5 pm.  We've got the workweek covered too, with 9 branches open 9 am - 9 pm Monday through Thursday. In addition, all MCPL libraries, except Noyes, are open 10 am - 6 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. For a complete list of all MCPL branch hours, locations and phone numbers, see our Library Branches and Hours page.

During those rare times when our branches aren't open, fear not, we're still here to serve. We have music for you, to download or stream for free, from our online music resources. A wide variety of e-books and e-magazines are available any time of the day or night as well. Books, movies and more can be found, and placed on hold, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through our catalog.

Connect with us, We're here for you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stories of Migrant Youth

On October 7, 2015 County Executive Leggett and MCPL Director Hamilton joined students from Sherwood High School and their teachers for a special ceremony celebrating the opening of a new exhibit, Stories of Migrant Youth, at Silver Spring Library and to honor the students whose work forms the exhibit.

At the ceremony, County Executive Leggett discussed a recent study by Wallet Hub that named Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Rockville, and Germantown as among the top ten ethno-racially diverse cities in the country. He continued by explaining how multiculturalism is part of everyday life in Montgomery County. Mr. Leggett described his recent experience with two cultural celebrations taking place in Silver Spring on the same day. "One might look at this and say, this is, in fact, the exception,” he told the audience. “It is not an exception: it is the usual thing that you see in Montgomery County."

Turning the spotlight to the works of these students, Mr. Leggett said, "We need to tell the story of how we got here... This helps us to do that." The display consists of books created by English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students at Sherwood High School that tell the story of their journeys from their home countries and the new lives they have built in Montgomery County. The students come from around the world, with the largest contingent coming from Central America.

The students whose works are included in the display were among thirty who participated in a community outreach program with the Sandy Spring Museum in the fall of 2014. During the program, they learned bookbinding skills, participated in trauma-informed informal art therapy sessions, and created the highly personal narratives that form the exhibit.

Video from the event is available on the Montgomery County Public Schools website. The video includes interviews with some of the participating students, Sherwood High School ESOL teacher Aileen Coogan, and artist Beatriz del Olmo who worked with the students on the project.

The books will be on visible in the display case on the first floor of the Silver Spring Library through November 15. Stop by to see this moving and powerful exhibit today. The ceremony and exhibit are sponsored by the Office of Community Partnerships, Montgomery County Public Libraries, CASA de Maryland, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce—Montgomery County, and the County Executive’s Latin American Advisory Group.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Music for You

music for you. download or stream today Music and books have more in common than you might think at first glance. Both are art forms and like art, we love books and music that speak to us. Books and music can give us that feeling that we are not alone in the universe. Sometimes we want a book or song that complements the mood we are in, that makes us think, raises our spirits, helps our children learn, is from our favorite genre, and sometimes we just want something that entertains us.

Most people think of books when they think of libraries but we also have a variety of choices for free music both to download and to stream. Here are some resources you can search or browse to find music you enjoy.


teens singing
With Freegal you can download five MP3 songs each week. The songs free and legal to download and the songs are yours to keep. You can choose from a database of over 3,000,000 recordings on Sony and independent record labels. Freegal works with any computer, any portable music player, and iTunes. It has apps for both Apple and Android devices.  Download limits are reset early Monday mornings at 12:01 am.


We also have a variety of streaming music you can choose from as well.  Try one of these exciting options.

Music Online. Search across all of the following music products at once. Plus almost 140,000 tracks of rock, pop, punk, new age, metal, holiday music, hip-hop, rap, electronic, film and theater soundtracks, and more.

American Song. Listen to music from America's past. Songs by and about African Americans, American Indians, immigrants, slaves, children, pioneers, and cowboys. Songs of Civil Rights, political campaigns, Prohibition, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, anti-war protests, and more.

Classical Music Library. Choral works, symphonies, operas, vocal and instrumental music, chamber music, and more. Ranges from medieval to contemporary music.

Classical Scores Library. Over 13,000 classical scores from both in-copyright and public domain editions. Scores span all genres and time periods from the Western classical canon.

Contemporary World Music. Reggae, worldbeat, neo-traditional, world fusion, Balkanic jazz, African film, Bollywood, Arab swing and jazz, and other genres such as traditional music - Indian classical, fado, flamenco, klezmer, zydeco, gospel, gagaku, and more.

Jazz Music Library. Listen to streaming music from thousands of jazz artists, ensembles, albums, and genres.

Smithsonian Global Sound.  Over 35,000 tracks of animal/nature sounds, dramatic performances, poetry, political speeches, war and protest songs, and traditional music performances from around the world.

Singing with Kids

singing with children screenshot
Did you know that in addition to being fun, singing with young children is a key element to get your child ready to read? Starting from birth, singing songs and saying rhymes increases your child’s awareness of the sounds in words. It helps break down words into syllables that your children hear when a word is sung. This helps prepare your child to sound out words when they read.

Music also exercises rhythm, word knowledge and memory skills, all crucial to becoming a proficient reader.  Children of all ages can enjoy music and we have some suggestions for children's music. Have a look at Freegal, Music Online, and American Song for some good selections that you can find by browsing or searching.


1,2,3 Con Andres at Chevy Chase
Looking to enjoy music with others? We have exciting music events for all ages! Since music is such an important part of getting kids ready to read it's a regular part of our storytimes. But don't forget that we've got great music performances for adults as well.

Holiday Music

With the holidays quickly approaching don't forget to start with Freegal and Music Online for seasonal music. Music is a great way to get into the holiday spirit and to get your loved ones singing together in celebration.  Both have fun selections for the upcoming holidays as well as celebrations all the year through.

Find your music beat at MCPL today!  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Food for Fines

food for fines
You thought you’d return that book… until you found it on your bookshelf sandwiched between two other books. You thought you had gotten that movie back… before you realized it was still in the DVD player (computer, etc.).

Listen, fines happen. (They happen to me a lot more often than I want to admit.) We get it. And we’re here to help.

That’s why from now through October 30, every canned good or non-perishable food item you bring to your library will reduce your existing fines or hold fees by one dollar. Food for Fines program is part of our support for Montgomery County’s Community Service Week. Donations cannot be used towards other fees. Customers with no existing fines are also welcome to drop off donations at our branches during this program.

canned goods
Some donations at Rockville Memorial
All food will be donated to the Manna Food Center. Shelf-stable foods, such as canned fruits, vegetables and meats, dried beans, brown rice, quinoa, low sugar cereals, baby food, formula, and vegetarian items will be accepted as donations. Unfortunately, we cannot accept home-canned items, opened foods, or foods past their expiration dates.

“Food for Fines is a great way for people to clear up their outstanding library fines while helping some of our neediest neighbors,” explains our Director, Parker Hamilton. “We are very pleased to be partnering with the Manna Food Center in this effort.”

Since the program started on October 16, we have already received very positive reviews from the public. “Just dropped off our canned goods & baby food what an amazing idea... feeling good and paying fines,” one customer said on Twitter.

Visit our website to find your closest branch and plan your donation.

Read the official press release.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dystopian Doom: A Reading List

Fahrenheit 451 Cover
I’d like to pay homage to Post-Apocalyptic Survival Month with some gloomy future scenarios.

Feeling down about the world’s current state of affairs? Cheer up! Things can get much worse, according to dystopian books. Twentieth-century classics like George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange set the tone for dystopian literature by devising nightmarish totalitarian societies.

More recently, Susanne Collins’s Hunger Games series is among a number of young-adult books that deal with a dark, difficult future. YA dystopian sagas include Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Veronica Roth’s Divergent and James Dashner’s Maze Runner books.

never let me go cover
Michael Grant’s Gone series begins with the premise that everyone over 15 has suddenly vanished from the face of the earth. In Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It trilogy, the lives of several typical teens are changed forever when an asteroid knocks the Moon off its orbit, triggering massive floods and other natural disasters. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go follows a group of young clones whose only reason for existence is to provide organ transplants for their DNA twins.

Lest you think teens are the only ones struggling in the future. In The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, women have lost their civil rights. Atwood’s speculative Oryx and Crake trilogy also explores a post-apocalyptic world. Hugh Howey’s Silo series of novellas deals with a community living in a giant, underground silo, deep beneath the Earth’s ruined, toxic surface.

Perhaps the most depressing future imaginable is depicted in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Less grim, yet equally compelling, is Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars, about survivors of a virus that wiped out most of the earth’s people.

overheated cover
And don’t forget about zombies! Experience the problems unleashed by the undead in The Walking Dead graphic novels and TV series.

Lastly, if you prefer facts about the future, nonficton books like Andrew Guzman’s Overheated and Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet paint a worrisome portrait of encroaching climate change. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and Michael Tennesen’s The Next Species predict the next mass extinction and its likely aftermath. If all this apocalyptic angst and dystopian doom is more than you can bear, delve into Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us and enjoy thinking about the future of the planet after humans have vanished completely.

Happy reading!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Star Wars Reads Day

Star Wars display
Star Wars on display
Do you love Star Wars? We do!

In the nearly four decades since the first Star Wars movie was released, the series has made a deep impression on generations of fans. But we probably don't have to tell you that. It is likely that you have seen—or even owned!—some Star Wars-themed items, which range from books and toys to bedspreads, mugs, and even phones! One of our librarians mentioned having the R2-D2 sound as her text alert.

Are you unfamiliar with the series, seeking to revisit old favorites, or are hoping to introduce Star Wars to a new generation of fans? You can check out Star Wars-related books, movies, and electronic resources for all ages in our collection.

Personally, I have fond memories of watching the Star Wars movies for the first time. My dad was a huge fan and couldn't wait to introduce me to them as soon as he felt I was old enough. (I have slightly less fond memories of watching them again on the bus during various school trips.) When Episodes I-III were released in the early 2000s, my father and I made sure to go to every one in the theater, even though we felt they didn't live up to the original.

Star Wars coloring
Star Wars-themed coloring
This Saturday, we're taking our love of Star Wars to a new level. Join us to celebrate Star Wars Reads Day with activities for all ages at multiple locations around the County. Children visiting can make a mini-lightsaber (while supplies last) at the Wheaton branch or participate in fun games and crafts at Aspen Hill, Silver Spring, and Little Falls branches. Costumes are also encouraged.

While adults and teens are welcome at all events, Silver Spring will also have adult-focused events, which include a screening of Return of the Jedi at 1 pm. They can also participate in Star Wars coloring for adults, as well as a trivia contest with an opportunity to win cool prizes.

See you Saturday—May the Force be with you!

blog author

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Language Learning

Language is everywhere! Montgomery County is such a diverse area, and I was curious to know just how many languages were spoken here. So I had a quick look at the Montgomery County Public Schools site to see how many languages were spoken by their students. Did you know they have enrolled students from more than 157 countries speaking 138 languages? Wow! Learning a language is such a fun way to make new connections to people and cultures as well as a great way to get ahead in your career. MCPL is here to help!

For online learning have a look at the over 70 languages available through Mango Languages. It also includes English courses for speakers of about 20 languages. It emphasizes conversational skills. If you want to keep track of your progress you should set up a username and password in Mango. Mango Languages offers free apps for Apple and Android devices. To use the app, first log in to the Mango website with your library card number and create your Mango account. Then download the app to your device. On the whimsical side, be sure to try their Pirate language lessons!

Muzzy Online
Muzzy Online
Looking for online language learning for kids? Try Muzzy Online for its fun, interactive language learning games and vocabulary lessons. Don't forget to watch some Muzzy movies that help kids learn as well.

We also offer audiobooks and e-books to learn on the go. The Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium (Overdrive) has both e-books and audiobooks to help you learn many languages. OneClickDigital has a variety of the popular Pimsleur Language Learning audiobooks. A good place to find French and Spanish e-books for kids is TumbleBooks.

If you are interested in learning sign language MCPL has many great offerings. We have Beginner Sign Language classes that adults and teens can register for at Germantown. For adults we also have engaging book discussions in American Sign Language. For babies some sign language is included as part of our Born to Read storytimes at Bethesda. All ages can enjoy the event Flying Fingers of Fall that will teaching seasonal sign language words at Little Falls.  If you are looking for individual study we have many books and DVDs that teach or are about sign language. You can find more resources about sign language on our Deaf and Hard of Hearing webpage.

Looking for print books? Since 1986, MCPL has purchased adult and children's books and periodicals in certain world languages to serve the county's diverse population. Today we have books in our World Languages collection in eight languages: Amharic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

English Conversation Club at Olney
English Conversation Club at Olney
Speaking a new language is a great way to learn and you can do that at our Conversation Clubs. They are a friendly, comfortable place in which to practice speaking. We offer Conversation Clubs in English, French, and Spanish. Want to practice speaking by reading and discussing books? Come and enjoy our book discussions in Chinese, French, and Spanish.

Amharic storytime at Silver Spring
Amharic Storytime at Silver Spring
We also have some other engaging and educational resources that kids will enjoy. Looking for events? Try our fun and educational bilingual storytimes. We offer bilingual storytimes in Amharic, French, and Spanish. Language learning DVDs can be checked out to learn Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish. Kids' dictionaries in several languages such as ChineseFrench, and Spanish can be checked out as well.

There's something for everyone at MCPL! Enjoy learning a new language today!