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.  Looking to celebrate the love of poetry with others?  Come to one of our poetry events this month!

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:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Read • Learn • Meet | Leer • Aprender • Encontrarse

World Languages Collection at Rockville Memorial
World Languages at Rockville Memorial
We think of the Library as a place for books and magazines. Perhaps for movies, and sometimes for newspapers. As time passes, more and more MCPL users think of us as a source for downloadable e-books, streaming audiobooks, and free music downloads.

Do you think of the Library as exclusively providing English-language materials? Allow us to introduce you to our World Language collection and language resources!

MCPL has an extensive World Languages collections for both adults and children in Amharic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. If you speak or read one of these languages, our website can direct you to the nearest branch with collections in your language. TumbleBooks also provides children's e-books in Spanish and French.
Children's Amharic Collection
Silver Spring Library

Looking for programming in a language other than English? Join one of our language-specific book clubs to discuss your latest reads with others from your community. Clubs are available for Chinese, French, and Spanish. For children, we offer a variety of bilingual storytimes, as well as Spanish storytimes.

Maybe you can read English—you are reading this blog post—but you would like a chance to practice English in a relaxed setting. Several of our libraries offer conversation clubs, with no registration required. If you are looking for more formal instruction in English, we have information about local English Classes.

We were excited that our conversation clubs were recently featured in a video from My MC Media. Check it out to hear what participants have to say about this experience. My MC Media also has a second story about our language resources on their website.

Learning another language? We can help you with that as well! English speakers can learn more than 44 languages with Mango Languages. Mango also provides English-learning courses for speakers of over 13 other languages. For children learning a new language, Muzzy Online provides interactive language learning, with animation and games, for 8 languages. We also have Spanish Conversation Clubs at multiple locations. Like the English Conversation Clubs, these are drop-in meetings to practice conversing with volunteers and other learners.

Of course, not all users are concerned about finding spoken-language resources. Readers who do not read print books, may be interested in information about talking books, available from MCPL and other sources. We also have some braille books, primarily for children, available. Users of ASL will want to investigate our collections and programs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. MCPL offers occasional sign language classes, registration required, as do other local organizations. Our website offers more resources for learning sign language.

Whatever your language proficiency or goals, MCPL is here to support you—check out what we have to offer


Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Las Vegas Skyline at Night - Joey BLS Photography 

Last year I took my first trip to Sin City, NV.  My expectations (low though they might have been), were wildly exceeded.   It was all so……well, so LAS VEGAS!

Many people have written about the glitz, the glitter, the sheer scale of the place and the mega-casinos, the seedier aspects,  the flamboyant characters—everything rolled up together that makes Las Vegas.

Las Vegas has been an inspiration to writers for years, and MCPL has a great collection of both fiction and non-fiction that will make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the Strip on a Saturday night.

Fear and Loathing..
The quintessential book set in Las Vegas is, of course, Hunter S.  Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Originally written for Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, Thompson was on assignment to cover a motorcycle race in the Nevada desert, but wound up writing about a thinly veiled version of himself going to Nevada to write about a motorcycle race.  This crowning achievement of Gonzo Journalism places Thompson in the persona of Raoul Duke, the central character in a drug-fueled wild ride, chasing the American Dream through a decadent and culturally corrupt Las Vegas.

A novel published just last year, Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg, follows the transformation of Sal Cupertine from legendary Mafia hit man into Rabbi David Cohen, leader of a Las Vegas synagogue. After a mob hit gone wrong, Sal must take on a new persona.  Some intensive training, a bit of plastic surgery and Sal finds himself quoting the Torah and guiding his flock. But the Mafia, as always, isn’t done with Sal. Gangsterland is a wickedly dark and funny story by an entertaining writer who draws comparisons to Elmore Leonard.

Winner Takes All
In Winner Takes All, Wall Street Journal reporter Christine Brinkley offers this story of the trio of tycoons who took over Las Vegas and transformed it from a slightly seedy gambling mecca into a place where entertainment can be provided with good taste. Deal-maker Kerkorian, casino visionary Wynn, and professor-turned-mogul Loveman battled it out to build the biggest and the best pleasure palace, and, in the process, created the wide range of upscale restaurants, Broadway caliber shows, and headline acts. Brinkley also portrays the older Vegas, where aged Mafia barons dined on the osso buco at Piero's Italian restaurant..

Last Honest Place...
To journalist Cooper, writing in Last Honest Place in America, the dynamiting of the Desert Inn (Vegas home of the Rat Pack) in 2001 marked the moment when old Vegas “cool” died and the new corporate model claimed definitive victory. In his journey through Sin City, Cooper takes the reader from the top of the Luxor Hotel’s glass pyramid, down “the Strip,” past the golden glow of the Mirage, and into the neighborhoods the poorer residents call home. A cast of characters ranging from casino king Steve Wynn to the leader of the Vagabond Motorcycle Club people Cooper’s story. “For me,” writes Cooper, “Las Vegas is the last, most honest place in America. Vegas is often described as a city of dreams and fantasy, of tinselish make-believe. But this is getting backwards. Vegas is the American market ethic stripped completely bare, a mini-world totally free of the pretenses and protocols of modern consumer capitalism. Watching it operate with barely any mediation generates nothing short of an intellectual frisson.”

Las Vegas has also served as background for films ranging from noir detective thrillers to raucous buddy comedies. MCPL has a few of these in our collection.

The Hangover
The Hangover is a fast paced comedy about a a 24-hour trip to Vegas gone very wrong. Doug and his three groomsmen head to Vegas for a night out before Doug's wedding. The next morning, Doug is missing, and no one has any idea what happened or where he might be. Phil, Stu, and Alan set out to track him down with only the smallest pieces of information, and it's a race against time to get him back to LA in time for his wedding.

Ocean's Eleven
Three prestigious Vegas casinos.  More than $160 million. In Ocean's Eleven, Danny Ocean and his handpicked team of conmen and grifters are ready to carry out the most elaborate casino heist in history, and they just might get away with it. This caper film is a remake of the 1960's film that starred the original Rat Pack, and was given prop's for the climatic heist scene.

I'll be heading back out to experience more of the Vegas magic later this year. If you're up for some grownup fun, but can't swing the airfare, try a few of titles mentioned in this post, and you'll feel like you're right there!


Me and Dude