Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Explore History

explore history - globe
There's just something exciting about history! Behind the dates and facts were, and are, real people who lived real lives. That's why it's so thrilling when history comes to life. What was it like to live during that time period? What were they thinking when they made that decision? Would things have been different today had certain events not happened? Where have we come from? What can we learn from yesterday that we can use to help us today? At MCPL we have a variety of ways that you can connect to and learn about fascinating people with fascinating lives.

founding fathers signing the Declaration of Independence
Did you know that with your MCPL library card you have online access to authoritative and informative history databases? We have History in Context (both U.S. and World History) and the History Reference Center databases with articles, primary source materials, maps, charts, and more. For African-American and African history be sure to have a look at the Oxford African American Studies Center. It includes articles, primary source documents, maps, charts, and timelines. We are also a partner on the Lincoln Park History Project to help find, document, and preserve the rich cultural heritage of one of Rockville's oldest African-American communities.

Challenger astronautsIf you want to learn about the fascinating lives of people who made history try Biography in Context. It provides articles from reference books and periodicals and is great for both searching and browsing. Don't have a specific person in mind? You can also search by occupation, nationality, dates, and more. If you are looking for a book or e-book to read, or an audiobook to listen to, MCPL has many engaging biographies and memoirs. Ask your local librarian or our What Do I Check Out Next librarians for biographies or memoirs that you would enjoy.

Bronze Star ceremonyWant to know what was reported on newsworthy historical events when they actually happened? Read articles from the Washington Post Historical going back as far as 1877. At the Rockville Memorial Library you can use their computers to access the New York Times Historical articles back to 1851. I know I have a sense of awe getting a chance to read the news and know what people living during that time actually read themselves.

Women aviators WWII
Want to explore your own personal history? Have a look at our genealogy online resources. HeritageQuest Online is a rich resource for genealogists, including Census and U.S. military records and over 25,000 full-text family and local histories. It includes PERSI, an index to genealogical magazines. Also included are helpful genealogy websites as well as sources to help you find obituaries and death notices.

civil rights march
Music is also a great way to get in touch with the past. We have streaming music from American Song that covers U.S. history from Native Americans to the Civil Rights era. For a more classical bent try the Classical Music Library and the Classical Scores Library.  Looking for some jazz? Try the Jazz Music Library.

navajo code talkersWe've got many engaging history books in print, e-book, and audiobook formats that are delightful as well as informative. Many of them are nonfiction that read like novels, but if you like to read fiction try a historical fiction book. These can be great at giving a taste of what the time period was like and some often have actual facts, or an event fictionalized, and interwoven into the story. Not sure where to get started? We've got suggestions!
Your local librarians and our What Do I Check Out Next librarians would love to help you find the type of history or historical fiction books about the time periods you are interested in.

Explore history to learn about fascinating lives and extraordinary events at MCPL today!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Every Hero's Story

Summer Reading is in full swing here. Registration for our Every Hero Has a Story (ages birth–12 years) and Unmasked (ages 13–17 years) opened on June 1.

As of this writing, 13,256 children and teens have completed the online registration through our Beanstack portal. These children and teens (plus the approximately 1,400 adults who have created profiles) have logged an amazing 48,450 books read. The children and teens have earned 29,057 badges for their reading, earning incentives like water bottles, as well as stickers for their booklets (English and Spanish language booklets available in all branches while supplies last).

One of the reasons summer reading is special is that it is open to all kinds of reading. Research suggests that allowing kids to select their reading material, encourages reading for fun and helps prevent “summer slide,” which can leave children unprepared for the next year of school. Our program encourages just that: kids can log any book read, whether they read it by themselves, listened to it read by a parent, or read it aloud to a younger sibling, or a Grandreader, or a dog.

Have a hard time finding anything your kid wants to read? Our staff can help, as can our summer reading software. Connected to the Zoobean summer reading software, the summer reading portal can send you a weekly reading recommendation based on your child’s reading level and interest and selected from our collection. These recommendations will continue after the summer reading program ends on August 31 for year round reading fun. Of course, you can also talk to our staff in any branch who will help you find the right books for your child, from picture books to chapter books to graphic novels.

Of course, we can’t talk about Summer Reading without talking about programs! This summer children across the County have enjoyed visits from horses to hedgehogs, from goats to penguins, from music to magic to science, so there has been a little bit (or maybe a lot!) of everything. Teens can participate in financial literacy programs, teen writing clubs, game clubs, and movie nights.

… And we’re not done yet! Registration for Summer Reading remains open through August 9. Registered participants can log books read (and earn badges) through August 31, and programs will also continue throughout the month of August. Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Do you ever have trouble finding someone to discuss your favorite book with? Are your friends and family members tired of hearing you suggest your current favorite book to everyone you meet? Do you just have trouble finding other readers who are as excited to talk books as you are?

Full disclosure: I tend to do this, when I have a new favorite book. My husband is getting really tired of hearing me recommend Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Lunar Chronicles to everyone I meet—even downloading the audiobook of The Lightning Thief to his phone. (But… if you like fantasy, you really should give them a try. Watch this YouTube video of one of our teen librarians recommending Cinder.)

At MCPL, we completely understand these experiences. That’s why we’re hosting Meetup—Readup—Speakup, a special event for book lovers in their 20s and 30s. The event, which will be held at Rockville Memorial Library, starts at 7 PM on Saturday, July 18. At this event, you can meet other readers who love the same genres, exchange book recommendations and favorite authors, and discuss and debate every plot discrepancy between the Song of Ice and Fire books and the Game of Thrones TV show. (Hey, anyone want to guess when the next book will finally come out?) With luck, you’ll come away with a list of great “next reads”—and maybe a few new people to exchange book recommendations with!

chair with books
Expand your to-read list
by attending our event!
This event is completely free, and no registration is required. Coffee and snacks will be served. The event runs from 7-8:30 PM. Rockville Memorial Library, which is located in the Rockville Town Square, has extended Friday and Saturday hours from 9 AM to 9 PM all summer long. Check our website for more great events, or just stop by for a book or quiet spot to read.

To request sign language interpretation or other deaf/hard of hearing services for this or other library-sponsored programs, email, preferably at least three business days before the event. To request other accommodations for this program, or for more program information, contact the Rockville Memorial Library Information Desk at 240-777-0140.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In The City of Dreaming Spires or A Librarian in Oxford

tolkein's grave
After decades of longing, I finally took my dream vacation to England in May. Naturally I was eager to experience London, the countryside, and ancient ruins, but one of my “must-see” places was Oxford, “the city of dreaming spires.” I’d been a fan of authors (and Oxford professors) J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (“Lewis Carroll”) since my childhood, and was delighted to see the walls and towers of the universities where they taught—and to enter the “quad” of Exeter College, where Tolkien studied philology as a young man. We stayed at a tiny bed-and-breakfast right across the street from the cemetery where Tolkien and his wife Edith are buried. Late on a misty afternoon, we followed small wooden signs to their picturesque plot filled with blooming forget-me-nots and tokens left by fans, including a beautifully hand-stitched White Tree.

organ pipes
Our too-brief visit included a tour featuring William Morris and the other pre-Raphaelite artists of the mid-19th century. Rain was expected and I’d lost my umbrella the day before, but I found a compact, charmingly flowered and ruffled umbrella at the original Oxfam charity shop for just a few pounds. Fortunately we experienced only a few scattered rain showers. Students were studying hard—it was examination week-- so we could not enter the interior of the Student Union to see some of the earliest Pre-Raphaelite art. However, we were privileged to enter Rhodes House, which contains one of my favorite parts of the tour, one of the Romance of the Rose tapestries designed by Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.   One of the last stops on the tour was Harris Manchester College, founded by the Unitarians so their faith would have a presence at the great university, to see the chapel with stained glass windows and uniquely decorated organ pipes.

spiral staircaseThe tour included discounted admission to a special exhibit, "Great British Drawings," at the Ashmolean Museum (you can still catch that exhibit if you're fortunate enough to be in Oxford before late August). The exhibit held not only had many pre-Raphaelite drawings but also works from medieval times through the end of the 20th century.  The main collections at the Ashmolean included more literally jaw-droppingly-amazing items than I've ever seen in a museum, including the very first archaeological find recognized as valuable—the Alfred Jewel—found in the 1600s.

Simply walking around the city, and taking buses with the locals, was an experience.   I quickly realized why so many of the people I’ve seen on the TV version of Inspector Morse mysteries use bicycles rather than cars—the narrow old streets and throngs of people make driving often as slow as walking.  Many places—such as one of the city’s oldest pubs, right alongside the original city wall—are accessible only through narrow alleys.

nesting mother goose
We finished our time in Oxford in the southern end, near the beautiful spires of Magdalen College, where C.S. Lewis taught, and we walked in the Botanical Gardens, site of the final scene of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. During our visit, I’d imagined Lyra clambering around the numerous, close-together roofs of her Oxford, and at this final stop my husband and I each took our turn sitting on a quiet bench as she and Will each do in the story.   Then we boarded the bus to leave Oxford, with me already planning a return someday—which I hope will include a detailed exploration of  “Alice in Wonderland” sites.

Beth C.