Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lifelong Learning at MCPL

ipad, chalkboard, apple
Did you know that MCPL can help you prepare for tests, advance your career, and increase your knowledge?

The Testing and Education Reference Center provides free practice tests and study materials for over 300 tests and courses including the GED, SAT, ACT, AP, CLEP, TOEFL, GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, SSAT, NCLEX, civil service, nursing, military exams, the citizenship examination, and others.  Thinking about college or grad school? Check out their college or graduate school searches as well as nursestheir scholarship searches. If you are looking for a job help, try their career tools such as Building a Resume and Career Assessment. They also have a Virtual Career Library that offers tips and advice on the career-seeking process, from searching for jobs to preparing resumes and cover letters to negotiating job conditions.

business meeting
Gale Courses offers high-quality, interactive, instructor led free courses and career training programs you can take entirely online. There is a variety of classes to choose from including accounting, grant and creative writing, computer software, graphic and web design, health care, digital photography, GRE, SAT/ACT, resume writing, database management, and many more.  Courses run for six weeks and new sessions begin every month.  Don't forget to browse their most popular courses to find even more classes of interest.

Looking for books to increase your information technology, computer, or business skills?  Read our e-books from Safari Books Online.  They have computer and IT e-books on many topics such as Apple, Java, mobile, and web development just to name a few. Want to design the next biggest game? They got books on game programming too! Interested in personal or professional development? There are many e-books on topics like health, hobbies, personal finance,stress management, time management, work relationships, networking, and retirement planning. Small business owners and dreamers will find help in the e-books geared to small business and entrepreneurship. There are also many exciting math and science e-books from algebra to physics and even includes ones on nanotechnology.

teens sitting on bumper of car Want to practice taking the Maryland Driver's Permit test before the real exam?  Try The site provides permit practice tests for the State of Maryland for cars, motorcycles, and CDL. While the results cannot be used as proof of DMV course completion it does help you prepare for the permit test. It also includes the Maryland Driver's, Motorcycle, and CDL Handbooks for study purposes or to just brush up on the rules of the road.

Looking to learn more about a specific subject that has always been of interest to you? Try the Great Courses series! They have CD books and DVDs on everything from Algebra I to Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers—and everything in between. They have course on specific subjects in math, history, science, religion, music, public speaking, and many more!

All of  the online resources you can access with a library card from inside our branches or wherever else you study best. We're committed to your lifelong learning at MCPL!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

LEGOS & Libraries

Kids at LEGO table at Marilyn Praisner
LEGO Table at Marilyn Praisner

Kid building LEGO tornado at Davis
LEGO Builder at Davis
While it might seem that little blocks of plastic and a place to borrow books don't have a lot in common, LEGOS are popping up at many libraries these days.  Several MCPL branches have LEGO tables, where children (or adults!) can create structures whenever the library is open. They may work with other children and adults who are nearby, or happily build their own individual masterpieces.  Libraries with LEGO tables are Aspen Hill, Little Falls, Marilyn Praisner, Twinbrook, and White Oak.

Kid LEGO building at Davis
LEGO Builder at Davis
There are also libraries that sponsor LEGO clubs.  These programs give children a chance to work in a group, and to learn from teen or adult volunteers.  The library might have hundreds of assorted pieces of LEGO or there might be boxed sets with specific instructions included.  In either case, the children will have a chance to explore in a new environment with new people.

Kids LEGO building at Poolesville
LEGO Builders at Poolesville
Why are so many libraries encouraging children to play with LEGOS?  Studies have found that play is a crucial component of childhood development.  Playing with construction toys like LEGOS has particular advantages.  According to the Association of Library Service to Children it provides open-ended play and free expression while increasing the use of fine and large motor dexterity, social skills, and problem solving techniques.  In addition, LEGO building stimulates imagination, creativity, math, science,language and vocabulary development.  And libraries certainly support growth in all of these areas.

LEGO homes and airplane built at Chevy Chase
LEGO Structures built at Chevy Chase

In addition to providing the actual building blocks for fun at the library, there are also books that can be taken home to continue the inspiration.

The Lego Adventure book coverThe LEGO Play Book cover

So start playing!  Find LEGO events or a LEGO table for open play at a library branch near you.  And don't forget to check out some new LEGO books.  Be creative and be constructive!

Kids building LEGOS at Silver Spring library
LEGO Builders at Silver Spring
Barbara S.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Library Was Dukedom Large Enough

"My library was a dukedom large enough,"
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Engraving by Martin Droeshout, 1622
Some say that everything written in English is based on either William Shakespeare or Jane Austen… well, I say that, anyway. So, as homage to Shakespeare’s 451st birthday on April 23, let’s look at some modern titles that are actually based on one of his plays or on Shakespeare himself, or some form of him.

Quality of Mercy by Faye Kellerman: one of my favorite Kellerman’s novels and very different from her Peter Decker mystery series: Rebecca, a Converso who practices Judaism in private and helps fellow Jews escape persecution, meets a dashing young actor and playwright, William Shakespeare. We see touches of The Merchant of Venice and even Romeo and Juliet in this thoroughly enjoyable, mystery and love story.

My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield: In this riotous novel about the parallel lives of Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a ne’er do well graduate student studying his namesake, William Shakespeare, we see eerily similar patterns in both their lives. Each alternate chapter features either Willie or William both 20 years old. It is funny with lots of drugs and sex in both centuries.

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips: When Arthur and his twin sister find an undiscovered Shakespeare play, The Tragedy of Arthur, given to them by their con-artist father at the end of his life, they go on a quest to find out if this is the real thing. But like Kate Atkinson’s works, this novel is a puzzle within a puzzle. Both the author and the main character are Arthur Phillips. Is The Tragedy of Arthur about the King or about himself? Read this multilayered novel and you can decide.

The Madness of Love by Katharine Davies: First time novelist Davies calls upon Twelfth Night as inspiration for her own comedy of manners involving twins, disguises, and unrequited love in a modern Welsh setting… with a background of Twelfth Night as the school play.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley: Did you know that this best seller was inspired by King Lear? Well, it was news to me. Set on a large farm in Iowa, owned by a father and 3 daughters, this retelling of an aged father too old to work the farm anymore is from the point of view of the oldest daughter. It is a novel of love, jealousy, and fear. Sound familiar?

Ophelia by Lisa Klein is a character sketch of Ophelia’s life in Hamlet’s court designed for young adult readers.

And here are some movies also inspired by The Bard:

  • "Haider" is an Indian adaptation of Hamlet set in Kashmir (coming soon to our collection)
  • Caesar Must Die: As inmates at a high security prison in Rome rehearse for a production of Julius Caesar, they discover there is much that they have in common with the characters in this play.
  • Throne of BloodA Japanese adaptation of Macbeth set in feudal Japan.
  • Shakespeare UncoveredIn this documentary an array of Shakespearean actors assemble to explain Shakespeare and his plays to the theater going public.

There are many more lists of Shakespeare inspired works. Check out "
Top 10 Novels Inspired by Shakespeare," a list organized by Shakespearean play, and a list from the New York Public Library.

Remember, we have Shakespeare, as well as the books inspired by him, in print, CD Book, Large Print, and e-book.

L. Navidi

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We're all going there someday...

I was one of those weird kids who loved visiting cemeteries, on vacations or locally, and I was probably one of the youngest fans of the 1970s show "Quincy, M.E.," about a medical examiner who solved murder cases. Modern forensics programs, both reality TV and fictional (Ducky and Loretta are two of my favorite "NCIS" characters) fascinate me. So when I  heard an interview last summer with Caitlin Doughty, mortician and author of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, naturally I had to read it.

Cover image for Smoke gets in your eyes : & other lessons from the crematory / Caitlin Doughty.I was thrilled to learn exactly how a crematorium machine works and enjoyed Doughty’s humor about her coworkers, body-transportation issues, and her very first task working at a mortuary (I won’t spoil it for you).  I was also impressed by Doughty’s respect for the bodies she handled and for the grieving family members she often worked with. Although she uses humor to “break the ice,” Doughty's book has more serious themes. She is concerned about modern Western society’s reluctance to talk—or ask—about preparation and disposal of their body after death. Many older or seriously ill adults—and their families—are uncomfortable with the subject, and few people in general know about state laws or their options for burial and mourning practices.   Doughty’s concerns spurred her to not only write her book but also to  co-found The Order of the Good Death, a website of resources  to help others learn more about post-death processes and how to make them more meaningful and healing for family and friends. I've found the website well-written, helpful, and even comforting. As an environmentalist, I was intrigued to learn about various new “green” practices; and, as a cat lover I was moved and enlightened by Doughty’s videos on losing one's pets, including her own beloved video sidekick The Meow.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes wasn't my first foray into literature on the fate we all face. I'm a longtime fan of humorous science writer Mary Roach, whose book Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers made her career as a bestselling science author and humorist. Stiff is emphatically not for the squeamish, who might want to try her second book, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife first and then consider trying Stiff.  As in Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Stiff draws readers into first-hand experience about the many routes for donated human bodies as well as more intense topics (cannibalism is rarer than rumored these days, you’ll be glad to know).

faces of seniors
The last stage of one's life is at least as difficult to face—and to talk about—as death. Fortunately, a new bestseller on end-of-life care, Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, has opened the conversation for hundreds of thousands of readers. Modern medicine can often extend elderly or seriously ill people's lives, but the cost can be painful treatments or loss of independence. Patients and their loved once are provided multiple options that medical staff often don't have the time or training to discuss helpfully. Gawande points out that the "best" choice depends on what a patient considers important to quality as well as length of life. Gawande presents stories covering numerous medical conditions and family situations—and just as much variety in quality of health care. As a physician himself, Gawande knows how little time medical staff have, but he points out the need for conversations to improve patients' health, and sometimes save time and resources as well. Best of all, he offers practical solutions! 

"Villages" are one option for independent living
for seniors--click here for local information!
Gawande also explores the ongoing revolution in caring for people who cannot live independently, not forgetting the often-agonizing issues of finances and a life worth living. Like Doughty in her discussion of death, Gawande approaches the topic of dying with a top-notch physician’s compassion for everyone: young parents with terminal illness, family members who juggle caring for three generations, and overworked staff asked to take on even more duties to benefit their patients’ well-being. 

As the middle-aged child of two elderly parents, I found all these books endlessly helpful for matters to consider and conversations to bring up well before my parents—or me and my spouse—have to make decisions about the last parts of our lives.  And I've enjoyed this particular reading journey that encompasses medicine, social issues, humor, compassion, and love.

Beth C.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Going Wild for Spring

Even though I love snow and cold weather, spring always makes me happy. I can get out hiking or walking without worrying about snow and ice on the trails and sidewalks, there are beautiful green signs of new life popping up all over the place, and I can open my windows and let the fresh cool air blow away the winter doldrums from my home. (My cats appreciate that last one, too!)

View from the top of Crabtree Falls Trail in Virginia. Photo by Tina R., September 20, 2014.

Warmer days get me thinking about what new outdoor adventures I can have. Work and funds don’t always allow me to get away to exotic locations for extended times, so I plan short excursions and day trips to find new trails and natural areas that let me escape the feeling of urban living. You can find “green getaways” all around Montgomery County—there are probably more than you think! We also have the nation’s largest wildlife research refuge nearby at Patuxent, where you can find lots of trails and educational activities for the entire family to enjoy. Venture farther afield and spend a day on one of the many trails in Maryland State Parks. (Some maps are now available in a downloadable format.) There are several long distance trails that pass through the state if you really want to get ambitious. The two best known long distance trails in the region are the Appalachian Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O) Canal tow path. You can find several access points for both of these trails, which is nice if you want to hike the distance in small sections over time rather than doing it all in one long expedition. Most of our branches have guidebooks for hiking locally and afar, too.

Not a hiker? Live vicariously through a book without the pain of blistered feet, the aching legs, the swarms of gnats, or the dilemma of what exactly to do when you are nowhere near the porta-potty and (ahem) nature calls.

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is a perennial favorite about inexperienced hikers hitting the Appalachian Trail. Plenty of humor makes it an enjoyable read and the audiobook version would be a great listening choice for a family road trip.

Cheryl Strayed created a big sensation with the book Wild and saw her experience translated into a movie last year. More soul-searching than Bryson’s book, this one chronicles not just a physical journey but also a mental one.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau is the classic reflection on giving up "modern" life and getting back to nature. Even in the mid-1800s, someone wanted to get away from it all!

If you are a biker instead of a hiker, you still have lots of options! Not all hiking paths allow biking so make sure you check before going. In the local area, there are lots of interconnected trail systems that can take you pretty much everywhere from DC to Baltimore and beyond. Montgomery County has an interactive bikeways map (click on Bike Request, Maps and Racks for interactive bikeways map of the county) online to help you find a trail near you. The Rails to Trails Conservancy has an online list of trails with detailed information about where to park and what to expect along the trail as well as with comments and ratings from people who have used the trails.

Maybe you are not the outdoorsy type but you do enjoy watching nature videos. A walk through the 500’s section of the library should yield some engaging DVDs that you can watch from the comfort of your own home. Why fight the tourist crowds at the National Zoo when you can view their live web cams any time? My personal obsession for the last few weeks has been live footage of a bald eagle nest from Hanover, PA. The two little eaglets that hatched recently and are growing through their awkward stage rapidly. I can’t wait to see them start flying (predicted to happen by mid-June).

Whatever way you decide to connect with the natural world, I hope you have fun "going wild!"

Tina R

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reading Poetry with Children

April is National Poetry month, and we are celebrating here at MCPL with events and contests. We have also chosen April to highlight our children's resources, from e-books to streaming movies to homework clubs. So, what better opportunity could we find to discuss children's poetry?

For the very young

Poetry is not just for older kids, it's for babies and toddlers too! Reading poetry and rhymes to your babies and toddlers is not only fun, it increases your child’s awareness of the sounds in words. This helps prepare your child to sound out words when they read. Did you know we have books with rhymes geared toward babies and toddlers? Try starting with the fun Welcome, Baby!:  Baby Rhymes for Baby Times to get you and your little ones started!

Poet A.A. Milne may be best-remembered for the stories of Christopher Robin, Pooh, and the rest of the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood. However, his children's poetry books, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, have memorable poems that even young children can learn and enjoy.

For the beginning reader

Looking for an enjoyable way to encourage your beginning reader and read together? Try one of the amusing books in the You Read to Me, I'll Read to You series. These short poems and rhymes are designed to be read aloud by two voices, both adult and child, with occasional parts to share. The color-coded type makes it easy to know who should be reading. It's a perfect transition book for kids moving to beginning readers. It's words will engage beginning readers while the illustrations give the books that entertaining picture book feel.

For children of all ages

The immortal words of Dr. Seuss are a suitable inspiration for children of all ages. From the simple rhymes of Fox in Socks and Green Eggs and Ham, to more complex social messages in books like The Lorax and Oh, the Places You'll Go, Dr. Suess offers poetry the whole family can enjoy. You can also find translations of some Dr. Suess titles, including Spanish and Chinese in our collection.

Shel Silverstein's books of poetry appeal to both the young and the young at heart with inventive rhymes and imaginative ideas and illustrations that capture the things that many wonder about but never dared to say aloud:
"Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?"
-"Whatif" from A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Do you have other suggestions for good poetry books for children? Other ways for families to celebrate National Poetry Month? Let us know!

Thanks to blogger Tom Burns for this "Poetry Is Actually Kind of Cool" post, which helped inspire our list.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Inside Scoop—Workplace Tales from Insiders

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

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

Anyway, the other day…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark S.