Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Celebrate National Financial Literacy Month 2017

National Financial Literacy Month piggy bank with dollar sign
It's one of those things that I've always been meaning to do. I'm going to have a look at my finances. What am I'm currently doing to plan for retirement? What could and should I be doing? Could I do a better job budgeting my money? Can I find more areas in my life to save money? Should I think about investing? If you too have been meaning to have a look at your finances or you want to do a financial health checkup, join MCPL in celebrating National Financial Literacy Month this April!

Company Research, Investing, and Investor Education
If you're thinking about investing, or already are investing, its important to do research. MCPL has many online databases you can use in our branches or at home for your investment research. These databases are free to anyone who has a MCPL library card. We have resources for both company and investing research.

money tree growing out of a bookWant to know how well a company or industry is doing? Have a look at Business Insights: Global and Business Source Premier. With Business Insights: Global, you can search by company name or industry. A company search provides key financial figures, compares the company with similar companies and industries, and includes many articles about the company. Business Resource Premier offers company and industry articles from business journals. You also won't get stuck behind a paywall with our online access to the Wall Street Journal, where you'll find great financial information about publicly traded companies.

There are some good options for investing research too. Morningstar Investment Research Center, Standard & Poor's Net Advantage, and Value Line provide financial information on publicly traded companies as well as stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded-funds, and more. You can also find industry information. What I really appreciate about these sites is that all offer financial education resources. We've gathered some additional investor education information as well.

coins and stem growing out of a book
Managing Your Money
Managing your money, whether personal finance or planning for retirement, is important to do. There are many great organizations and websites that help with these two aspects of financial planning, and we've gathered some of the best for you. One I'd like to highlight, since it is National Financial Literacy Month, is the Financial Literacy Month site. It has a variety of tools to put you on the path to achieving financial wellness, including free webinars, financial worksheets, and a 30 step plan.  We have also gathered online resources to help you track your spending and saving, make financial calculations, and find housing assistance. Some local organizations offer classes on money management and finances. While we often think about our own fiances, it's important to remember that financial literacy is important for any age, including kids and teens.

Books and E-Books
And (of course!) we have books and e-books on finances that can help consumers make more informed choices. Looking for books on money management? Books for women on taking control of their finances? Books about money for kids or teens? We've got you covered! In Safari Books Online and Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium/OverDrive you'll find business e-books on money management and finances. 

From building wealth to planning for retirement, we've got financial literacy and Money Smart Week (April 22 - 29) programs you won't want to miss!

money smart week logo with Benjamin Franklin
tax information, money, calculator
Don't forget that taxes are due Tuesday, April 18! We have printed federal and Maryland state tax forms at select branches. We recommend calling ahead before visiting a branch for this material. At all branches, with the exception of the Noyes branch, tax forms can be printed off on public computers. Select branches also offer free income tax preparation by trained volunteers for low-to-moderate income Montgomery County taxpayers by appointment.

We're excited for all ages to learn about investing and personal finance! Start your journey to achieving your financial goals today!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Marching into April

Gentle reader, I don't know about you, but for me, March has just dragged on. I'm ready to be done with it. So I'm going to forgo the March theme post I was considering and skip to April, which is National Poetry Month.

Meandering March: a Haiku

March. Make up your mind.
Sun. Snow day. First day of spring.
Time for a new month.
Book cover for Grass Sandals
You may have learned about this type of poetry, known as haiku, in school. This style originated in Japan. Traditionally, a haiku poem consists of 3 lines. The first and third lines of the poem are 5 syllables. The middle line is 7 syllables. Often haiku poems are about nature. You can find many fine haiku poetry collections, for adults and children, in our catalog. A number of these collections feature poems translated from Japanese into English.

There are many other styles of poetry, of course, such as sonnets, limericks, narrative poems, and free verse. Sonnets are 14 lines poems that rhyme. Our friend William Shakespeare is well known for his sonnets.

Limericks are 5 line witty, sometimes nonsensical, poems. Historically, limericks had a tradition of being, well, racy. That is less the case nowadays. Limericks have a unique, specific rhyming scheme. The first, second, and fifth lines are longer and rhyme with each other. Then the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.

A Library Limerick

There once was a library poem.
That wasn't exactly a tome.
It had the right rhyme.
Written on the right line.
But its punch line made people groan.

Narrative poems tell stories. They have a strong sense of plot and character. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is an example of a narrative poem. It is about a sailor who crashes a wedding to recount the tale of his supernaturally tragic sea voyage. The heavy metal band Iron Maiden wrote a song based on this poem in the 1980s.

Book cover for Tales from the Odyssey: The One-Eyed Giant
A subset of the narrative poem style is the epic poem, which features a long, sweeping story. The Odyssey, attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer, is the story of Odysseus' long, dangerous journey home from the Trojan War. It is an classic example of an epic poem. In addition to the full version of The Odyssey, MCPL offers several versions for children, including the very approachable and appealing Tales from the Odyssey series by the prolific Mary Pope Osborne.

I have a 10,000 line epic poem I wrote that I'd like to share with you...

Oh, not right now?

Some other time then...

Free verse is, well, free. There are no rules to writing free verse. No standard format, no requirement to rhyme, no traditional number of stanzas. Free verse poems can even ignore punctuation. The author can use whatever format or lack of format he or she thinks best conveys the idea of the poem. Famous poets who wrote free verse poems include Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and Nikki Giovanni.

I won't burden you with any of my own free verse, but instead will offer an example by Walt Whitman with his poem A Noiseless Patient Spider -

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

MCPL has many poetry collections for adults and children. Stop by and check one out today. Our librarians will be happy to help you find something suited to your taste.

May your April be fill with poetry...and sunshine.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Beware the Ides of March

Book cover for The Assassination of Julius Caesar: a People's History of Ancient RomeNext week is March 15, the Ides of March. This date is the modern equivalent of the day, in 44 BC, that Julius Caesar, the famous Roman general and ruler, was assassinated at a meeting of the Roman Senate. It marked a key event in the transition of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. There's one legend that says Caesar was warned by a seer that harm would come to him on the Ides of March. According to the tale, Caesar was on his way to the Senate that day when he passed the seer and mocked him, saying “The Ides of March have come.” The seer responded, “Aye, but it is not yet gone.” When Caesar reached the Senate, he was stabbed to death, the result of a conspiracy led by a once close ally, Brutus. The conspirators feared that Caesar, who had recently been declared dictator of the Roman Republic, intended to abolish the Senate.

The Ides of March has taken on an ominous tone, but that's a relatively modern phenomena. In ancient Rome, it simply meant the 15th of March. The modern, sinister implications of the date, plus the phrase “Beware the Ides of March,” are brought to us by William Shakespeare. His play, Julius Caesar, dramatized the assassination of Caesar and its aftermath. I remember reading and studying the play in high school. I particularly liked the speech by Mark Antony, a supporter of Caesar. In Shakespeare's play, Caesar's assassins allow Mark Antony to speak at Caesar's funeral as long as he does criticize the assassins. Mark Antony begins his speech with one of the most famous lines in Shakespeare, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” He then proceeds to praise the assassins, referring repeatedly to Brutus as an honorable man. But, as his speech progresses, his praise of the fallen Caesar grows. Without explicitly criticizing the assassins, he turns the crowd against them, inciting a riot. It is a fantastic piece of rhetoric that even I, as a clueless sophomore, recognized as brilliant.

If you want to learn more about Julius Caesar, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, or Mr. Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, you've come to the right place. MCPL has what you need. An excellent place to start learning more about the lives of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare, or perhaps the honorable Brutus, more formally known as Marcus Junius Brutus, is from one of our biography databases, such as Biography in Context. For more information about the history of the Roman Republic or the Roman Empire, try one of our history databases, such as History in Context – World, or History Reference Center.

Rome DVD cover
Of course we have many fine books, videos, and audio books about the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, and the transition from one to the other. We also have copies of the play Julius Caesar, as well as Shakespeare's other plays and poems. Was Julius Caesar a tyrant or faithful benefactor of the Roman people? Decide for yourself with one of our many fine biographies. A few years ago, HBO and the BBC produced a 2 season historical fiction drama, titled Rome, that is set during Rome's transition from a republic to an empire. Be forewarned, it is history in the raw, with much extreme violence, crude language, and explicit sexuality.

If all this talk of failing republics, faltering senates, and emerging empires sounds familiar, you may recognize these elements in another, less graphic tale, set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.