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.