Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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You are busy. You are over scheduled. You have many items clamoring for your attention at the same time. Me too! Did you know we have a great way to keep you up to date about your library account? It's email notification!

What can email notification do for you? Have a look at these wonderful reminders!

Sign up for email notification and receive emails from MCPL:
  • 3 days before and 1 day before your checked-out items are due;
  • when your holds are available at your pickup location;
  • when an item you have checked out is 1 day, 10 days, and 21 days overdue; and
  • 1 month before the annual expiration date of your library card.
Sign up for email notification or update your email address today to keep informed about your library account!

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Also, to be sure you are in the know about our exciting library events, services, resources, and news, you can sign up for our e-mail newsletter, Check Us Out! It's a great way to get to know us and what we have to offer.

Thank you for being part of our MCPL community!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Nowruz, the Persian New Year

Every culture and religion has deemed spring a special time. For Christians, Easter is celebrated. For Jews, Passover. But for the Persian culture, it means something different. It is the new year, called Nowruz (literally translated as The New Day) and it’s marked with many traditions that are celebrated by Iranians and the ethnic cultures that were once under Persian influence.

Who was once under Persian influence, you ask? Try The Persian Empire, for adults, or Ancient Persia, for kids, to learn more about Persian history. For the true enthusiast, there's Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, a well regarded English translation of the Persian creation story. For a glimpse of private and public life modern Iran, try Persian Mirrors.

Originally begun under the Zoroastrianism, Nowruz has developed into a secular observance and become a time for family and friends to gather together and celebrate, no matter where or what country they now live in.
Fire jumping

Nowruz may have been the origin of spring cleaning, as houses are stripped clean for the event before the New Year celebration. Several days before the New Year, Chahārshanbe Suri is celebrated when everyone goes outside and lights bonfires because it is good luck to jump over the fire.  It is a triumph of light over darkness, spring over winter, which is also a Zoroastrian tradition. To see this celebration in action, check out film Fireworks Wednesday. It's set in Tehran as the city is preparing for Chahārshanbe Suri. For more movie magic, see MCPL's large selection of Iranian films.

The main event, however, is the Haft Sin.  Literally it means 7 items placed on a table that begin with the letter “S” in Farsi. Yes there are more than 7 items listed here, but the more the better!
Traditional Persian New Year table items
Nowruz Table Setting

Seeb-apple (the earth)
Sabzeh-wheat (growth)
Samanu-a sweet pudding (wealth)
Senjed-a dried fruit (love)
Seer-garlic (health)
Somaq-dried berries (sunrise)
Serkeh-vinegar (age)
Sonbol-hyacinth (growth and what a wonderful aroma!)
Sekkeh-coins (wealth)

Friends and family drop over to view the Haft Sin and enjoy the special foods. And what Persian celebration would be complete without delicious, special foods? It is deemed good luck to eat sabzi
Sabzi Polo Mahi
polo mahi. This is a fish and rice dish cooked with green herbs symbolizing the growth associated with spring. And for dessert, baklava and samanu.  On the thirteenth day (the unlucky day) after Nowruz, everyone goes outside for picnics and the custom is to bring your sabzeh (the wheat you've grown) with you and throw it into a running stream to get rid of your bad luck. You can try creating a dish of your own with Happy Nowruz: Cooking with Children to Celebrate the Persian New Year.

Want to learn more about the Farsi? We have a variety of language learning material for Farsi. In addition, our Gaithersburg and Marilyn Praisner branches have book collections written in Farsi. Try One Thousand & One Persian-English Proverbs: Learning Language and Culture through Commonly Used Sayings for a glimpse into both the Farsi language and Persian culture.

When you meet Iranians in the next few days, you may wish them a Happy New Year or in Farsi “Aideh Shomah Mobarak” or literally Happy Party to You! May spring be a happy and prosperous time for all of us!

Lisa N

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Women in Leadership

During Women's History Month, we are excited to highlight several of the women who hold leadership positions within MCPL.

Rita W. Gale, Public Services Administrator (PSA) for Facilities & Strategic Planning

Rita Gale speaking at an event
PSA Rita Gale speaks at the
closing ceremony for the previous
Silver Spring Library building.
Career with MCPL
I began my career with Montgomery County in 1986 after working in public libraries in Webster Groves, Missouri and Elk Grove Village, Illinois. I started with MCPL as the branch manager of the Potomac branch and was later transferred to Rockville Memorial as its branch manager. I was soon promoted to my current position as a PSA.

Current Role
In my role as a PSA, I have overseen different regions of the branches and have done customer service and personnel work.

What excites you most about working in libraries?
The opportunity to learn something new every day. In my career in MCPL, I’ve had exposure to personnel work, customer service, and now facilities and strategic planning. I’ve gained experience by “doing” the work and by interacting with great staff who have shared their knowledge and experience and helped me to grow my own knowledge and experience.

In my free time, I enjoy traveling (particularly visiting national parks in the United States), going to local craft shows, and collecting small boxes, baskets, and Marie Osmond dolls.

What are you reading now?
In preparation for a trip to Glacier National Park this summer, I’m reading the Moon travel guide to Glacier National Park.

Parker Hamilton, Director

Parker Hamilton speaking at an event
Director Parker Hamilton speaking at the
launch event for the Library Link program
with Montgomery County Public Schools.
Career with MCPL
I began my career with MCPL in 1981. I was employed in positions at Aspen Hill, Chevy Chase, and Long Branch, and eventually served as branch manager at Long Branch and Davis. At the senior executive level within MCPL, I served as Public Services Administrator for Human Resources from 1993 to 2001. I served as an assistant chief administrative officer (ACAO) for the County prior to my appointment as MPCL's director in 2005.

Current Role
As the director, I have guided the system into the 21st century with new technologies; creative staffing; inventive service deliveries; focused partnerships with non-profit and community organizations; and strategic planning for the future. I am proud to have been recognized for my dynamic and innovative leadership and commitment to diversity and inclusion.

What excites you most about working in libraries?
I love and am excited to work in libraries because of comments I receive from customers such as, “I love my library because it saved my life, taught me English, and got me a job.”

I enjoy playing games on my iPhone (favorites include Words with Friends, 7 Little Words, Monkey Wrench, and Letterpod); watching the Seattle Seahawks; and traveling by train.

What are you reading now?

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, to begin reading soon. I am also waiting for another hold, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

Carol Legarreta, PSA for Human Resources & Community Engagement

PSA Carol Legarreta leads a storytime at Germantown Library
PSA Carol Legarreta leads a storytime
at the Germantown branch.
Career with MCPL
I started at MCPL in 1982 as a Librarian I in Children's Services at Long Branch. After 11 years, I was promoted to a Librarian II; then a Senior Librarian; manager at the Silver Spring branch; then, in 2007, Public Services Administrator. Much of my professional career has been devoted to Children's Services, and I worked with a small team of Senior Librarians to bring the first early literacy training to MCPL. Over the years, I have trained MCPL staff in time management, book talking, weeding, and outreach.

Current Role
In my current position, I oversee the Outreach Team, Virtual Services, Programming and Community Engagement, and Human Resources; handle the Department's Memorandums of Understanding with partners; manage Noyes Library for Children; and am the Early Literacy Coordinator for MCPL.

What excites you most about working in libraries?
I am most excited whenever I can connect customers with the programs, resources and services of MCPL. This happens when I am planning a new program, scheduling outreach, developing a partnership that will help MCPL reach a larger portion of the County’s residents, and planning and implementing a project, such as the Barbershop collections, that will not only reach new customers, but also help to close the County’s achievement gap.

I enjoy playing with my grandchildren, reading, and gardening.

What are you reading right now?
Right now I am reading King Lear for the second time. The first time was to experience the beauty of the language; the second time is to understand the dynamics of the plot, characters and historical contexts.

Shorter versions of these bios also appeared in our March Check Us Out newsletter. Didn't see it? Subscribe today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Online Learning @ Your MCPL

Have you heard about all the online learning folks are doing these days? Want to join in, but don't know where to start?  Start at your library!

Do you want to learn more about technology? It doesn't matter if you're new to computers or an information technology expert, you can learn more with free MCPL resources. One of our most popular technology learning tools is Safari Books Online. It is a collection of e-books about many aspects of technology and business. Safari books are read in a browser, there's no downloading involved. Safari books are available 24/7, but there are a limited number of simultaneous users, so if you can't get in right away, you may have to wait a bit and try again.

Safari includes many electronic versions of books you may have seen on our shelves, such as the For Dummies series and the O'Reilly technology books. Some of these books are for the serious techie. Recent titles of this type include Managing Digital Certificates Across the Enterprise and Bash Pocket Reference. I don't even understand what the titles mean, but I bet those who do are thinking, "This is good stuff!"

If you're interested in technology, but not quite ready to administer your own server, Safari has books for you too. There are books about Microsoft Office software like Word and Excel. There are also books that focus on ways to use technology, rather than particular software.  For instance, I just ran across an introduction to blogging called The Elements of Blogging, and a more focused book titled Blogging for Photographers.

If you're a child, or child at tech, there are books for you too. They also run the gamut of sophistication, everything from Teach Your Kid to Code to more esoteric fare like Rapberry Pi For Kids for Dummies. What is Raspberry Pi? According to its Wikipedia entry, Raspberry Pi is a "...series of credit card–sized single-board promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries." I don't know about you, but that explanation only sort of helped. When I was a kid, raspberry was for jams.

Safari has more than just technology books. There's a whole category devoted to personal and professional development. These books cover many business topics: time management, public speaking, investing, business writing, and more. The boldly titled Career Courage helps you decide what you want to be when you grow up. Once you start that great career, you may be giving lots of presentations.  Don't worry. How to Be a Brilliant Public Speaker will help make your presentations shine.

High schoolers, college students, and adult brushing up on their science and math will find an entire category of material in Safari devoted to those topics. There are introductory and advanced books on algebra, calculus, chemistry, physics, statistics, and more.

Learning new skills through online courses has become very popular. MCPL brings this interactive learning to you for free through Gale Courses, a collection online, high quality, free courses, and career training programs. Areas of study include accounting and finance, general business, computer and web technology, healthcare, legal matters, personal development, and writing.

Each course runs for six weeks. New sessions begin every month. Let's say you want to take the Spanish for Medical Professionals course. There are upcoming sessions that begin March 16, April 13 and May 18. This course contains 24 hours of instruction time. You have 6 weeks from the start date of the course to complete those hours of instruction. The course includes a discussion board where you can interact with other students. It also has some quizzes. When you complete the course with a passing score, you receive an award of completion.

Whether it's computer programming, public speaking or advanced statistics, MCPL has what you need to advance your career or take another step on your journey of lifelong learning.

Mark S

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Counting Sheep

I’ve loved the English Lake District since I was a child reading the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. When I was sixteen I went on a hiking holiday there with three friends. We stayed in Youth Hostels including Black Sail, the most remote in England. We hiked the fells with the help of our Cumbria Ordnance Survey map and climbed to the top of Helvellyn with its glorious views of the vales and lakes. I longed to go back and many years later I did when my children were teenagers. It was a memorable trip in a different way. My daughter put fashion before practicality and insisted on wearing sneakers without laces instead of hiking boots. Slipping and sliding on sheep droppings on the steep fells soon made her regret her decision. Meanwhile, as my husband and son disappeared over a ridge to see a tarn, a thick mist swept over the fells. Only I knew how dangerous was their situation. Every summer, when inexperienced tourists swarm the fells, there are numerous incidents of helicopter rescues. This time we were lucky and made our way safely down into the valley.

Book cover of The Shepherd's LifeThe Lake District I loved was the romantic landscape of Wordsworth’s verse, of Constable’s paintings, of Beatrix Potter, of Wainwright’s fell walking guides. The sheep dotting the fells were just another appealing part of the rustic scenery. But in a wonderful new book, The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks, I learned that the real Lake District belongs to the working farmers who follow an ancient way of life little changed for thousands of years. The sheep on the fells don’t just make the scenery pretty, they represent centuries of careful breeding and backbreaking hard work. The book follows the seasons of the sheep farmer’s year interspersed with autobiography. I highly recommend it whether you are interested in sheep or not. For if you think sheep all look alike and that sheep farming doesn’t take much intelligence, you will learn otherwise.

Rebanks tells of his anger when he finds out in school that poets and painters and hikers think they own the place that is his family heritage. His is an amazing life story. He hates school, preferring to work on the farm amid his beloved sheep. He leaves school at 16 having failed all his exams and becomes a full-time farmer alongside his father. But he discovers books, becomes a voracious reader,
and eventually realizes the point of education. If he wants the family farm to survive in the modern world, he must find another source of income. Incredibly this self-educated farm boy, who lists his occupation as stone wall builder, talks his way into Oxford University. During most holidays he returns to work on the farm but, realizing he needs some professional experience, he spends a summer working as an editor in London. Here he finally realizes why city people idealize wild rural areas like his home; the need to escape the suffocating city is overwhelming. So when he graduates, Rebanks returns to run the family farm and develops a professional career that fits in with his first love. He is now an expert advisor to UNESCO on sustainable tourism policies that preserve traditional cultures.

Over the years I’ve visited the Lake District vicariously many times through books, just as I did as a child. Here are a few of my favorites:

Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
Part of the popular Inspector Lynley series, in this mystery he heads to the Lake District to investigate the drowning of a member of a prominent local family. Was it really an accident? George’s talent for evocative descriptive writing is put to good use in this landscape.

The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid
When a tattooed body is found on the fells, a Lake District legend about Fletcher Christian of the Bounty and a lost Wordsworth poem is revived. Wordsworth scholar and Lake District native Jane Gresham finds herself in danger as she tries to locate the missing manuscript.

Book cover of The Arsenic Labyrinth
Haweswater by Sarah Hall
In the 1930’s, a Lake District community is threatened with destruction by plans to flood the valley for a new reservoir serving industrial cities in the midlands. Hall’s lyrical writing brings the wild beauty of the Cumbrian landscape to life.

The Lake District Mystery series by Martin Edwards
Titles in this series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett and Oxford historian Daniel Kind, who retires to Tarn Cottage in the Lake District, include The Cypher Garden, The Serpent Pool and The Arsenic Labyrinth.

And if like me you fall in love with the Lake District, check out this list of more reading suggestions and enjoy a virtual visit to the Lake District National Park. 

That's all for now, baa baa.

Post author, R Tull

R Tull