Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Comics, Graphic Novels, and a MCPL Comic Convention

Comics and Graphic Novels
If you asked my colleagues what one of my current favorite book or tv show series is, I'm sure they would tell you it's Game of Thrones. When I find another fan (including our Acting Director!) in our offices and branches, I have to discuss with them the latest theories and plot twists. Maybe it was all of the figurines and pictures around my desk that were the reason I was asked to be a guest on our Library Matters "Game of Thrones" podcast episode?

Game of Thrones Graphic Novels
With such a long wait, the next season of Game of Thrones may not come out until 2018, I decided to recap what I know and, having read and listened to all the books and seen all the episodes, I reached for the graphic novelization of A Game of Thrones. It was really such a good recap of season one and the visuals are amazing! My reading even got slower as I got to a certain scene near the end of the story... Fans, you know what I'm talking about!

A person dressed up as a Stormtrooper and another person as Kylo Ren
If you haven't read a comic book or graphic novel, you must! There are comic books and graphic novels just for you. They come in a wide variety of genres, including horror, westerns, science fiction, mysteries, and memoirs. Some books for adults are getting in on the action and now have both a novel format and a graphic novel version, like Game of Thrones series I was talking about. Comic books and graphic novels are attracting critical buzz and have become an innovative way to tell engaging stories in the perfect blend of the visual and written word for kids, teens, and adults.

So now that you are super excited to start checking out comic books and graphic novels, I have to share with you something that I can't wait to go to! Our first comic convention was such a resounding success that we are thrilled to be holding our second comic convention, MoComCon! It will be held on January 27, 2018 from 11 AM - 4 PM at the Silver Spring branch. (Inclement weather date February 10).  It'll be a fabulous way to meet others who share your passion and also for those who are new to comic books and graphic novels.

MoComCon 2018 logoThe event will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay — all free of charge! It's not only comics, though. MoComCon is fun for everyone. Have you ever wanted to take your kids to a superhero storytime? We'll be kicking off the event with one at 10:30 AM, before MoComCon starts. Have you ever wanted to create a dragon egg out of clay? You can do that. Listen to an expert talk about the creation of Batman? You can do that. Travel the world? We'll have Google Expeditions that can take you there. Do you want to create an LED lightwand? You can do that, thanks to FutureMakers, who will be leading an all-ages workshop. Do you want to write and publish a fantasy novel? We have an expert leading a workshop on that, too. Ever wanted to compete in a cosplay contest? You now have your chance. We will also have fandom rooms, exhibitors, and crafts. Doors open for registration at 11 AM. Can't make it that day? We are having engaging events at all our branches leading up to the main event!

For the first time, we are holding an art contest! Grades K - 12 and adults can draw or paint your favorite comic book, television, or movie character, or create your own. Preschoolers may complete and submit a coloring sheet for display only. Submit your art at the information desk of any MCPL branch. Images will be on display at the Silver Spring branch throughout the month of January. The submission deadline is Sunday, January 7, 4 PM.

A man dressed up as Dr Who and a woman dressed up as Wonder WomanThe cosplay contest is back again! Dress up as your favorite character from any fandom, book, television show or movie, or invent your own original character! Register on the 3rd floor of the Silver Spring branch starting at 11 AM. The contest begins at 3:30 PM. Find more details and entry forms here. We can't wait to see your creativity!

Eager to find the engaging comic books and graphic novels you've been missing out on? Here are some ways to find the perfect comic book or graphic novel for you:
We invite you to discover new and exciting comics and graphic novels that you’ll enjoy today! And we can't wait to see you at MoComCon!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winterize Your Exercise

Wooden walkway covered in footprinted snow in a forest. Finding the motivation to exercise can be challenging. It's especially tough in winter. If it's not raining, it's snowing. Even when the sun is shining, it's cold. I'm a runner myself. I feel your pain. I've skipped more than a few runs as the days have gotten colder.

Thankfully MCPL is here to help. Not ready to face the cold and dark of winter? Exercise inside! Our branches have a wide variety of exercise books and videos to help you keep fit while the weather outside is frightful. We have videos for cardio work, as well as strength training. We also have more focused material, such as our therapy exercise books for those with arthritis, osteoporosis, and other medical conditions. We even have exercise videos just for kids. Ask your librarian for suggestions. Whether you're looking for an intense 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels or something more mellow like The Pain Free Program, we can find something to keep your winter active.

Blue background with yellow silhouette of a figure in a yoga pose.
If you're looking for peace of mind as well as fitness, a number of our branches offer tai chi and yoga programs. Of course, we have tai chi books and videos, as well as books and DVDs about yoga.

Perhaps you view winter as more opportunity than obstacle. Judging by the number of skiing books we own, it's a popular pastime. My one experience on the slopes didn't go so well, so I'll read about it instead. Two Planks and a Passion: a Dramatic History of Skiing may be worth a look for the title alone.

If you prefer skates to skis, we've got you covered. Whether you're a hockey player, figure skating, or beginner, we've got plenty of books and videos to smooth your glide. Montgomery County doesn't have any public ski slopes, but we do have two very fine ice rinks, at Cabin John and Wheaton. While you're there, tell the Montgomery Parks folks we said hi.

As for me? Well, our Canadian neighbors say it's still possible to run in winter, if you're well dressed and careful. Or, there's always the dreadmill...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Star Wars movie cover with the face of Darth VaderA Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

These words have thrilled fans for over 40 years, since the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was released in May 1977. It was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. When it opened, many theaters were reluctant to show it, preferring what they thought would be a more profitable film, The Other Side of Midnight. No, I've never heard of The Other Side of Midnight either, but we do own the Sidney Sheldon book it's based on.

If you want to relive the glory days of A New Hope, MCPL is there for you. We have the original movie of course, as well as DVD's of all the sequels and the Clone Wars television series. For the truly dedicated, there's even a Phineas and Ferb Star Wars movie. Alas, we do not own the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, but perhaps that is for the best.

Star Wars: Complete Vehicle book cover with an At-At
But wait, there's more! There are so many Star Wars books. How many, you ask? Well, more books than you can imagine! MCPL's own collection of Star Wars books might not fill the hold of a Star Destroyer, but we've still got about 300 or so. There's the Shakespeare versions, starting with Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope and continuing on through The Force Doth Awaken. There's the LEGO Star Wars books. And lots of guide books to the art, characters, and spacecraft of the Star Wars universe. My kids and I wanted to use the Star Wars: Complete Vehicles to build an AT-AT in our backyard, but we figured the neighbors might complain.

The book I find most intriguing is A Certain Point of View. It's a collection of 40 short stories written by a surprising variety of authors that recount moments in the original Star Wars movie, but from the point of view of minor characters. Meg Cabot explores the perspective of Aunt Beru. Will Wheaton tells of the story of the rebels left behind on Yavin during the attack on the Death Star. And Nnedi Okorofor gives voice to the monster in the trash compactor.

This week, Star Wars fans are eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi, which officially opens Friday, December 15. Why must the Jedi end? If Rey is trained in the use of the Force, but she's not a Jedi, what is she? And what happens to Luke? After all those decades of struggling for freedom in the galaxy, does he get to retire? I guess we'll have to wait until the movie comes out. As one wise Jedi Master once said, "Difficult to see, always in motion the future is."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Second Chances with MCPL’s Career Online High School

So maybe you or someone you know, a friend, relative, colleague, employee, a family member of an employee, left high school early without getting a diploma. It happens for a variety of reasons, key among them, the need to help with family finances, lack of family support, lack of individualized attention in the classroom, or difficulty adjusting to a traditional classroom setting.

For the over 60,000 adults in Montgomery County lacking a high school education, MCPL is offering the opportunity of a high school education and a second chance, through our innovative Career Online High School program. This program reengages adult learners without high school diplomas, brings them back into the education system, and prepares them for careers. Students graduate from the program with accredited high school diplomas and credentialed career certificates, helping position them for success in the workforce.

A grandmother and one of six who recently graduated from MCPL’s Career Online High School program said that she dreamt about earning a high school diploma for so long, but often thought it was just a dream. “I can finally say that it is reality….I am now about to go out in the world and see what other accomplishments I can achieve!”

Ideal for the full-time worker with family obligations, the Career Online High School program comes with built-in support in the form of guidance from assigned academic coaches and a curriculum that lets students master skills at their own pace. All classes are web-based, so students have anytime anywhere access to courses.

Graduates of the MCPL program praise the convenience and accessibility factor. A full-time working mom put off getting her diploma for years out of fear that it would be too difficult. Now she says, “It was super easy to access online and the option to have it read aloud and take notes in the program is excellent!”

MCPL is embracing this opportunity to help residents transform their lives, broaden their careers, and expand their educational horizons. Learning takes place in our libraries every day, through online courses , maker sessions, and various programs for kids , teens , adults, and seniors. Career Online High School students will experience MCPL’s supportive learning environment, replete with quiet study rooms, free WiFi access, and public computers.

Let our Career Online High School Program help you advance your career, fulfill your personal goal of a high school education, and broaden your horizons. Re-write your story with these 3 simple steps:
  1. Complete an online self-assessment
  2. Successfully pass a two-week prerequisite course in one of 8 career area
  3. Have a successful interview with our enrollment team. Once these steps are done, your application will be considered for a seat in the full online program. It’s that easy!
We’re excited about transforming lives through our Career Online High School program and our extensive jobs and career resources.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Read E-Books & E-Magazines and Listen to Audiobooks

red headphones with iPod Touch and words: E-Books Audiobooks E-Magazines
By listening to audiobooks, I've discovered that I love stories that surround me. While I enjoy reading print and e-books, there is something about a captivating narrator (or narrators!) on an audiobook that takes you into the story. I can listen to audiobooks while commuting, doing household chores, and even walking my dog. It's great to be read to at any age!

Not only do we have free and popular audiobooks, but we also have e-books and e-magazines that you can check out digitally. You can access these items from wherever you are and the items return themselves at the end of their checkout. No fines or fees to worry about. Speaking as someone who uses these services, they are amazing! And they are also perfect for traveling light with your reading during the holiday season or anytime.

Boy & girl reading on tablets
We have two e-book services that have downloadable fiction and nonfiction for adults, teens, and children. These services are cloudLibrary and Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium/OverDrive. Both have apps that you can download to your smart phones and tablets to connect directly to great titles. Have a look to find your favorite titles that you've been wanting to read!

If you are looking for children's books, you should try Tumblebooks. It is an online collection of animated, talking picture books. It includes story books, chapter books, nonfiction, videos, and more. You read them within your browser as they are not downloadable.

If you like e-books on information technology, computing, and business, have a look at Safari Books Online. It contains the complete content of over 8,000 books, with charts, graphics, and cut-and-paste code segments. Like Tumblebooks, the books in Safari are not downloadable. They're designed to be read from within your browser.

Family listening to girl on headphones
Enjoy listening to books or don't have enough time to sit down and read? Audiobooks are a great choice! I often am reading one book (and another for my book club!) and listening to an audiobook too. We have two audiobook services, Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium/OverDrive and RBdigital. Both services offer apps that you can download to your smart phone and tablets. Have a look to find stories that will sweep you up into the tale!


Three adult men-two listening on headphones & one reading on a tablet
Love reading magazines but hate paying a subscription fee? We can help you save 100%! We have two e-magazine services with popular titles for all ages, both current and back issues. They are Flipster and RBdigital Magazines.

Flipster has many popular titles including:
  • Bloomberg Businessweek  
  • Ebony 
  • Entertainment Weekly 
  • Fortune
  • Ladybug 
  • People 
  • Ranger Rick 
  • Rolling Stone
  • Time and many more
RBdigital Magazines has many other popular titles including:
  • Cosmopolitan 
  • The Economist 
  • Food Network Magazine 
  • Kiplinger's Personal Finance 
  • National Geographic 
  • Newsweek 
  • The Oprah Magazine
  • Seventeen
  • Smithsonian 
  • Us Weekly and more. 

Have a look at at our many other e-magazines offerings as well.

Consumer Help
A group of people holding up the words Customer
You may already own a smart phone or tablet to read or listen to these great e-books, audiobooks, and e-magazines. But if you don't, or you are looking to purchase one as a gift, we've got information to help you make the best choice. We have access to Consumer Reports articles, where you can find expert ratings for many consumer products.

Whether you are traveling near or far this month, or staying home, you have access to a wealth of e-books, audiobooks, and e-magazines that can come directly to you.  Get started today! All you need is your device and a library card. Happy reading and listening!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It's Not Called SafeTrack, But It's Back. Red Line Closure Ahead

Outdoor Metro rail station with a train running through the station. Beginning Saturday, November 25 through Sunday, December 10, Metro will close the Red Line between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations. The Tacoma Park station, including all of its parking facilities, will be closed during this time.. This closure will allow Metro to completely replace a "mainline interlocking," where trains cross from one track to another. Limited free shuttle buses will be available between the Silver Spring and Fort Totten stations.

On the weekend of December 2-3, the work will be extended to the Glenmont station. The Glenmont, Wheaton, Forest Glen, and Silver Spring stations will be closed during this weekend.

For more information, see the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Red Line closure page. This WMATA page includes more details on the work being done during this closure, as well as alternative transportation options commuters may use during this time.

Have you considered telecommuting during this Red Line closure? MCPL library card holders will find the following telecommuting resources in our branches -
The following resources are available online to MCPL card holders -
Get your library card today to enjoy these and many other MCPL resources and services.

The words #MCPLTelecommute over a background of public library computers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

National Book Awards 2017

Today is the day! I know everyone is as excited as I am... right?

Save the Date Sixty-Eighth National Book Awards November 15 2017
OK, I guess I'll save you flipping back through your calendar and trying to remember what you've forgotten about today and just tell you: it's the 68th National Book Award Ceremony. For those who are excited about this event, you can stream it live.

I've been following the National Book Awards since I started working on social media for libraries five years ago. Don't get me wrong, I loved books long before that, but literary awards were only something that I was vaguely aware of and rarely rose to the level of active consciousness, at least in advance of the ceremony. I'm not sure I even knew that the lists of nominees (for most awards an initial "longlist" and then "shortlist" or list of "finalists") were announced publicly months in advance of the ceremonies themselves.

The National Book Awards, presented by the National Book Foundation every year since 1950, are specifically open to authors who are US citizens and published by a US publisher. The eligibility period is a publication date between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the award year. Books are nominated by their publishers. (Read more.)

Over the years, the National Book Awards have honored a diverse group of authors and styles from Flannery O'Connor to Ralph Ellison to William Faulkner, among many other notable names. The awards ceremony itself has elicited many moving moments, such as Congressman John Lewis's speech after winning the 2016 award for Young People's Literature for March, Book 3. In his speech, he shared a story of being refused entrance to a segregated library as a child and reflected on the path that had brought him to that award.

This year's awards season has been especially exciting for me because one of the fiction finalists, Carmen Maria Machado, has been my friend for over a decade. Carmen and I met as undergraduates and have kept in varying degrees of touch over the years as our lives have moved us around the country and through a variety of career and life transitions. I've followed her writing career and been aware of her collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties, since it was first accepted for publication. However, despite all of that, I wasn't anticipating seeing a familiar cover in the National Book Foundation's longlist announcement:

Perhaps you can understand how this changed my interest in the awards season? I started emailing and texting other friends, tweeted at our alma mater, and immediately memorized the announcement dates for both the finalists (October 4) and the award announcement (today, November 15). Needless to say, we'll be following the awards ceremony closely tonight.

Want to find Carmen's book or the other 2017 National Book Awards finalists? Check out the full list.

Happy reading!

Lennea smiling at the camera holding a sign and sitting next to a tablet

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Veterans Day

Image of marble statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln in the interior of the Lincoln Memorial
In the United States, November 11 is a national holiday, Veterans Day. It is a day for honoring all those who have served in the American armed forces. It is different from Memorial Day, which is set aside to remember those died in military service. Veterans Day is for all US military veterans.

Some federal holidays, such as Columbus Day and Presidents Day, are officially observed on a Monday, to give everyone a long weekend. Veterans Day is different. Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11 because of that date's historical significance. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of World War I. That war's fighting officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, or 11:00 AM, November 11, 1918. After World War II, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars. Despite the name change, Veterans Day remains linked to its historic origin. 

Who are America's veterans? Here are some figures from the US Census.
  • There are about 18.5 million American veterans
  • 1.6 million are women
  • Over 9 million are age 65 or older. 1.6 million are younger than 35
  • 7.1 million living veterans served during the Gulf War, 6.7 million during Vietnam, 1.6 million served during the Korean War, and 768,000 served during World War II. 
View of rows of soldiers in uniform. If you want to learn more about our veterans, MCPL has many fine non-fiction books and videos about veterans.  I was particularly intrigued by the book Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel, which follows the lives of several members of an infantry battalion after they return home from a 15 month tour of duty in Iraq. This book has been made into a movie, which was released in theaters on October 27, 2017.

A wide variety of novels feature veterans as prominent characters. These books range from literary fiction to thrillers, historical fiction, and even romance novels. The Whiskey Rebels by Davis Liss, for instance, is a historical fiction novel that follows the lives of two Revolutionary War veterans struggling to establish lives amidst the turmoil and intrigue of our nation's early years.

MCPL has many resources for veterans entering the civilian workforce. Our Jobs and Careers page has links to career and self-assessment tools, as well as resources for creating resumes and cover letters. MCPL also offers online courses and tools to help veterans prepare for entrance and vocational tests such as the SAT, LSAT, NCLEX and many more.

Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services has a page dedicated to local veterans. This page offers information about local events of interest to veterans, as well as information about community organizations such as Serving Together that help veterans access local resources.  In addition to local resources, Maryland has a state level Department of Veterans Affairs that supports Maryland veterans with employment services, training, health services, and financial programs.

Finally, among its many services, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a Returning Service Members section dedicated to military personnel transitioning to civilian life from service in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

We thank all veterans for their service and appreciate the contributions they continue to make to our community.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017

Black and white feather pen with the words "Come write with us this November!" around it.
Are you a writer?

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In this month, participants from around the world compete (against themselves) to write a novel of at least 50,000 words.

Participants can elect to register for free on the official NaNoWriMo website. NaNoWriMo offers additional fun resources for participants, including special pep talks from published authors, regional forums and events, and theme-based communities.

Whether you are participating in the official program or just trying to improve your writing, we want to help!

In November, we are offering writing events for customers of all ages. These include
More of a solitary writer? Come write in one of our branches. We offer:
  • WiFi;
  • Public Computers;
  • Electrical outlets; and
  • Writing resources in our collection;
Our Gale Courses database includes many writing classes, and they're all online! These writing classes include Write Fiction Like a Pro, Writing the Fantasy Novel, Mystery Writing, and more. Ready to move to the next step? Check out our valuable publishing resources!  

Already published? Find information for authors wishing to be considered for our collection.

Whether you're participating in NaNoWriMo 2017 or not, let us know how your writing's going this month! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

STEM is Everywhere!

Words STEM with STEM icons surrounding it
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is everywhere! Sometimes people think of it as something kids learn in school or something that doesn't have anything to do with them, but it does. STEM shapes our lives and our everyday experiences.  From the weather that surrounds us (science), the smartphones we use (technology), the bridges we drive over (engineering), and the money we use to pay for our groceries (math). That's why STEM is for everyone! It's for all ages. It's for children to be able to be successful in school and potentially establish a career in a STEM field. And for everyone it's a chance to understand the world around us. We invite everyone to go on an STEM exploration journey with us this month and beyond!

Maryland STEM Festival logo
MCPL is thrilled to be part of the Maryland STEM Festival for the third year in a row. The festival runs from October 31 - November 12. The festival's mission is "To encourage students of all ages, regardless of background and experience, to take a greater interest in STEM with the hope they will pursue a STEM based job or career." MCPL is excited to be offering STEM Festival events for all ages at multiple locations around the County. Events range from LEGO® and Duplo® building events and storytimes for young children to chess clubs for older children and adults. Let your inner architect design at cup challenge events. Learn fun math concepts with boxes. Try 3D printing. Learn coding. Make recycled paper and more on Science Saturdays at the Olney branch. Love transportation? So do we! We have events on flight, rockets, boats, and trains! Adults and seniors can learn about computers, downloading e-books and audiobooks, and more at our technology programs.

Two sisters coding with an ozobot
Looking for authoritative and free science information online? From applied science to space, you can find science articles and biographical information from Science in Context and Science Reference Center. If you know your child's Lexile number you can limit the content searched in both databases by your child's reading level. Science Reference Center also offers lesson plans and worksheets for teachers. World Book Online is a great encyclopedia database with science information for all ages. If you are looking for biographical information on famous and fascinating scientists, be sure to have a look at Biography in Context. You can browse or search under scientists or under specific occupations such as chemist, engineer, or mathematician.

Kids and teacher learning about how beans transform into chocolate
Looking for a science e-books to read? Gale Virtual Reference Library has always available e-books on subjects such as the environment, medicine, science, and technology. Safari Books Online also has a wide variety of always available e-books on computer technology, software development, information technology, engineering, math, and science. Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium (Overdrive) is good source for computer technology and science e-books to check out and read.

We've got online resources and more to engage your children's minds with STEM. Looking for science experiments to try at home? Science in Context, Science Reference Center, and World Book Online all have exciting science experiments to learn from. We have science experiment books on a variety of topics as well as online science fair project resources. Looking for STEM e-books for your kids to read over the summer? We've got those too.

Go! Kit with backpack, playaway launchpad, DVD, book & folder
Another great way to explore STEM topics with your children is to check out a Go! Kit. The kits are designed to encourage the parent/caregiver and child to actively explore the world around them. Each kit contains several books, science tools, a tablet device with preloaded apps, and a list of the contents of the kit. Each kit can be borrowed for 2 weeks. We have Little Explorer Go! Kits for ages 3-6 and Young Voyager Go! Kits for ages 7-12.

Interested in trying out new technology? Come to our Digital Media Labs where you can learn and create digital photography, storytelling, video production, graphic design, music videos, social media, animation, computer programming, art, and more. Digital Media Labs are designed for teens and adults.

We invite you to explore, discover, learn, and invent! Discover the world around them through STEM with MCPL!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Visit to Ireland

Irish field filled with sheep
View of Ben Bulben from Drumcliffe, County Sligo
This summer I visited Ireland, the home of my grandparents, for the first time. The experience left me wondering why I had waited so long. The beauty of the landscape and the welcoming kindness of the people were overwhelming. We stayed in the small village of Drumcliffe, north of Sligo, in the west of Ireland. This is the country beloved by W. B. Yeats, the subject of many of his poems, and the place where he is buried. It was an emotional experience to visit the great poet’s grave in the churchyard of St. Columba’s. The simple stone bears the epitaph he wrote himself in one of his last poems, Under Ben Bulben.

Quote - "Cast a cold on life, on death. Horseman pass by. W.B. Yeats June 13, 1965 - January 28, 1939

To prepare for my trip, I brushed up on Irish history with The Story of Ireland by Neil Hegarty and read the new two-volume biography of Yeats by R. F. Foster. My own college copy of Yeats’ poems, The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats edited by Richard J. Finneran, was so battered and falling apart that I had to get a new one to take with me. .

Celtic cross at ruins of an Irish abbey
Ruins of an abbey on the island of Inishmurray
Once in Ireland, we were so busy visiting ancient Celtic sites, ruins of medieval abbeys and castles, stunning scenery on the Wild Atlantic Way, and of course pubs, that I had little time for reading. But since returning home I’ve extended my visit vicariously by reading some new Irish novels. Here is a sampling:

Eggshells by Catriona Lally
This debut is a finalist for Irish Book of the Year. Lonely Vivian wanders the streets of Dublin longing for a friend. Told by her parents that she was a changeling “left by the fairies,” she has never quite fit into the real world. In desperation she advertises for a friend, who must be named Penelope. When a Penelope answers the ad, Vivian is drawn away from her search for a portal to the fairy world. Whimsical and touching.

Book cover of Grace by Paul Lynch
Grace by Paul Lynch
This historical novel is not for the faint hearted. It is a searing journey through Ireland at the time of the potato famine in the company of Grace, a teenage girl whose mother sends her away from home dressed as a boy so she can get work and perhaps survive. Told in a lyrical language with the weight of ancient myth, this is an unflinching portrait of the sufferings of the Irish people and their desperate struggle to survive.

The new novel by the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the story of one man’s life in Ireland from the 1940’s to the present. We meet Cyril Avery before he is born, when his teenage pregnant mother is denounced by the priest and banished from her village. In Dublin she gives her baby up for adoption to the Averys, an eccentric couple who constantly remind Cyril that he is not a “real Avery.” Dickensian in scope and spirit, brimming with irreverent humor and pathos, this is an indelible portrait of Irish life through decades of change.

Himself by Jess Kidd
The comic tale of an orphan’s quest to find the truth about the mother who may or may not have given him up willingly. Mahoney returns to his birth village of Mulderigg, unleashing a chaotic blend of gossip, intrigue, murder, and hauntings.  A very Irish mix of humor, eccentric characters, and unexpected plot twists make for a completely captivating read.

A Prayer for the Damned by Peter Tremayne
For mystery fans I can recommend two wonderful, though quite different, series set in Ireland:

Peter Tremayne is a pseudonym of Celtic scholar Peter B. Ellis. He writes the Sister Fidelma series, set in ancient Ireland. The heroine and amateur detective is a nun trained in the 7th century Brehon law system. Readers can learn about ancient Ireland while enjoying these well-written and intricately plotted mysteries.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and Ken Bruen’s hard edged series that has been dubbed “Hibernian Noir.” The protagonist Jack Taylor, fired by the Garda, the Irish Police, for drinking, is now a private detective in Galway. These mysteries take us into a world of gangsters and murderers far from the cozy image of tourist Ireland.

To discover more Irish reading, check out this list of contemporary authors. And don’t forget the classics!

Léitheoireacht shona! (that's Happy Reading in Gaelic).

Woman looking over the top of a book
Rita T.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Food for Fines 2017

Fines happen. Whether it's a book that slid under the car seat during the drive to the library or a movie that never made it back into its case, many of us owe a dollar or two (or more!) to the library.

However your fines happened, we are pleased to be offering our third annual Food for Fine campaign!

Every canned good or non-perishable food item you bring to your library October 22–29 will reduce your existing fines or hold fees by one dollar. (Donations cannot be used towards other fees.) The Food for Fines program is part of our support for Montgomery County’s Community Service Week.

All food will be donated to the Manna Food Center. Shelf-stable foods such as canned fruits, vegetables and meats, dried beans, brown rice, quinoa, low sugar cereals, baby food, formula, and vegetarian items will be accepted as donations. Unfortunately, we cannot accept home-canned items, opened foods, or foods past their expiration dates.

No fines, but still want to get involved? No problem! All customers are welcome to drop off donations at our branches during this program.

Visit our website to find your closest branch and plan your donation.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Montgomery County Public Libraries Have Something for Everyone!

Imagine your favorite thing about the library. Is it books? Magazines? Using the public computers? Now imagine your frustration if your aging eyes could no longer read the standard print in most books or if you used a wheelchair and the public computer tables were too low for you to fit your wheelchair under.

Libraries are gateways to information and ideas. At MCPL we are committed to offering all Montgomery County residents free and equal access to our services and resources. We recognize that things like small print and old, inhospitable buildings and furniture can act as barriers to service for people who have disabilities. We’d like to share with you a few of the ways we are breaking those barriers down.

In this post, we’ll focus on the fine print, so to speak.

Many books, newspapers, and magazines have small print that can be difficult, or impossible, to read. Even those of us lucky enough to enjoy 20/20 vision as youngsters will probably benefit from alternative reading options as we age, because our eyesight tends to change in ways that can make it difficult to read the standard size text in printed materials. Large print books, audiobooks, e-books, and E-magazines can be good options when standard print is too small to decipher.

Large print books feature type significantly larger than standard type, which makes for much easier reading. The MCPL large print book collection includes thousands of fiction and nonfiction titles, including bestsellers and award winners.

Side by side comparison of the standard text and large print of the same text from the book Ancillary Mercy
Standard print on left, large print on right, of the same text from the book Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

For those who like to read print books and magazines on a tablet, computer, or phone, we have downloadable e-books and e-magazines, many of which have text and images that can be enlarged.

And if you prefer to listen to your books, the MCPL audiobook collections include fiction and nonfiction books on CD, on Playaways, and through downloadable audio. Audio readers who enjoy a rousing book discussion are invited to join the Talking Book Club that meets monthly at the Rockville Memorial Library.

Desktop computer sitting on an adjustable height table and next to a desktop screen magnifier
Assistive Technology Workstation
If you come to the library to use a public computer and need to be able to slide your wheelchair under the table, or find the screen images too small to see clearly, or you want to magnify printed text you already have in hand, we’ve got you covered!

Each branch has a public Assistive Technology Workstation that features a height-adjustable table, a desktop magnifier that reads printed text aloud, and a computer with assistive technologies, including screen reading and magnification software. These features provide easier computer access for people who have low vision, are blind, have a reading disability, or use a wheelchair.

For more information about what MCPL offers for Montgomery County residents who have disabilities, visit our Library Services for People with Disabilities webpage or contact us at 240-777-0001.

Elizabeth L.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Get Fit. Be Fit. Stay Fit.

green apple with health terms
Most people associate October with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But breast cancer and other health issues are important topics to discuss and think about all year long. Just yesterday I was reading an article about how sitting is a silent killer. Sitting too long, even if you exercise, is detrimental to your health. I've recently enjoyed reading local author Florence Williams' book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, as well as other books about how to be healthier. I've added more walks to my day at lunch and with my dogs. I'm trying yoga. And I'm taking the time to make those preventive visits to the doctor! As Count Rugen says, from the forever quotable movie The Princess Bride, "If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything," Here at MCPL we thought it would be a great time to show you all the fabulous health programs, books, and online resources we offer!

Exercise and Events

hand with words about alzheimer's
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 health or exercise programs. We have programs on yoga, tai chi, meditation, Alzheimer's, and bone building. Talking to doctors and trying to figure out Medicare can be intimidating and confusing. We have a program about how to speak up for yourself when talking to health professionals (registration required) and an information session on Medicare. With Halloween at the end of the month, we also have a Halloween safety event featuring Sparky the Fire Dog (limited seating).

Researching Health Topics

blackboard with health words written on it
Health information is vast, rapidly changing, and sometimes contradictory. 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 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. This magazine provides informative articles on health topics and healthy living,

We have also 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.

MCPL has many print books in the collection on health and medicine, so be sure to have a look in the catalog for specific subjects of interest. We also have many e-books and audiobooks as well. The opioid crisis has been in the news a lot lately and, if that is a topic of interest, be sure to check out our e-books and audiobooks on addiction

Finding a Doctor

health professionals
If you would like to learn the length of service, medical school attended, primary specialty, state of license, and board certification of doctors that you are interested in seeing, 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? Have a look at Maryland Health Connection, Maryland's official health insurance marketplace. Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services also offers many health, disability, and crisis services, as well as services specifically targeted 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. See our Health Services guide for links to even more health services.

For Kids

kids practicing yoga
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 website 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!