Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Job Hunters and Career Changers

Various people in different careers. Words: Jobs & Careers
Ask anyone who is looking for a job or wants to change careers and I'm sure they will tell you they feel exactly how I felt when engaged in this process. It was overwhelming and felt as if the search itself was a full-time job. I remember graduating and not realizing how long the job search  process could take, nor what resources were available to help my search. My job search started all over again when I decided that I was going to go back to school and change my career path to library science. After shadowing a librarian at Silver Spring for an afternoon, I knew I wanted to work at MCPL. I so enjoyed the helpful staff and the customers of all ages with their myriad of fascinating information and reading questions. So of course I was over the moon when I got the call from the MCPL that they were offering me a position at the Wheaton branch as a children's librarian! We want you to have that same over the moon feeling about landing a job or making a career change and we're excited to share with your resources to make that happen!

Online Resources
Looking to gain more skills to leverage your expertise on your resume or at your interview? With Gale Courses you can take highly interactive, instructor led courses entirely online. There are a wide range of courses to choose from including accounting, business, computer applications, design, legal, teaching, technology, and writing. There are discussion areas where you can communicate with your classmates and instructor. It is a great way to gain skills to enhance your resume or stand out in a an interview.

Job search symbols. Words: Job Search
Thinking about college, graduate school, law school, or need to take a career exam? Testing & Education Reference Center has over 300 practice tests and courses online. Included are practice tests and help for career exams such as Accountant/Auditor, American Foreign Service Officer, Cosmetology, Firefighter, Nursing, Postal, Real Estate, Teaching, and more. Need help building a resume or advancing your career? Their resume builder has over 1,000 brainstorming phrases and career modules that cover subjects from career change to salary negotiations.  Their Virtual Career Library has valuable tips that cover areas such as changing careers, creating resumes, writing cover letters, preparing for interviews, and networking skills.

Looking to develop your technology, computing, and business skills? Safari Books Online offers you current e-books in those areas. Some examples are Java, the web, mobile, photography, graphic design, engineering, math, science, statistics, and more.The e-books contain the complete content of over 8000 books, with charts, graphics, and cut-and-paste code segments.

More Job Hunting and Career Changing Resources
Jobs listings and magnifying glass. Words: Jobs
In addition to our valuable online databases, we have other resources to help you search for jobs locally and nationally. We also offer job hunting books as well as resources to help you create resumes,  cover letters, and prepare for interviews. Thinking about a career change but not sure what career fits you best? You can explore career options with online resources and books. Two local employment assistance centers are WorkSource Montgomery and the state of Maryland's Professional Outplacement Assistance Center. Both provide services for teens, adults, seniors, and veterans to help them find fulfilling job opportunities. If you have lost your job, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations offers unemployment insurance. If you've lost your health insurance coverage, help is available. To learn more about companies you are interested in working for, try our company research resources.

There are upcoming events you won't want to miss out on.
Computers and WiFi
Computer keyboard and tablet with job application.
If you need computers or WiFi to create resumes and apply for jobs, you can do that at our branches. Computers for public use are available in all MCPL libraries, except Noyes Library for Young Children. You can print from these public computers. All libraries provide WiFi access. Laptops can be borrowed for in branch use at select locations. If you need help learning how to use computers we offer many computers classes.

Jobs & Careers at Montgomery County and MCPL
And, of course, Montgomery County Government, including MCPL, offers a wide variety of exciting and fulling career opportunities that you should be sure to explore. MCPL also offers part-time shelving jobs.

We're excited to help you meet your job and career goals by connecting you to the resources you need!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Great Fire of London

Painting from the 1700s of the Great Fire of London
My visit home to London last year coincided with the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, probably the most famous event in English history that isn’t a battle. The anniversary was marked by a special exhibit at the Museum of London and a thrilling reenactment of the blaze in a replica of the 1666 city constructed on floating barges in the Thames.
Street sign for Pudding Lane in London

As all English schoolchildren learn, the Great Fire broke out on September 2, 1666 at a bakery in Pudding Lane and soon spread, raging for three days and destroying most of the medieval city. Eighty-nine churches, St. Paul’s Cathedral, numerous public buildings and businesses, and about 13,000 houses went up in flames. By the time it had burned itself out, only a fifth of the old city was left. The most famous contemporary description of the fire is by Samuel Pepys in his diary. A master of the small human detail, Pepys gives a vivid account of panicked Londoners, even the birds:
Portrait of Samuel Pepys, London diarist
Samuel Pepys

“I rode down to the waterside, and there saw a lamentable fire. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.”

The writer John Evelyn gave a rather more apocalyptic description:

“Oh the miserable and calamitous spectacle! Such as haply the world had not seen since the foundation of it, nor be outdone till the universal conflagration thereof.” 

Proving that scapegoating and conspiracy theories are nothing new, rumors spread that the Dutch and French were responsible and that foreigners were seen “with balls of wild fire in their hands.” Preachers blamed the wrath of heaven and warned that worse was to come if Londoners did not repent of their sins.

Book cover for By Permission of Heaven: the True Story of the Great Fire of London
To learn more, check out this readable and thoroughly researched account: By Permission of Heaven: the True Story of the Great Fire of London by Adrian Tinniswood.

Of course, an event as dramatic as the Great Fire has inspired many novelists:

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor
When a body is found in the smoldering rubble of St. Paul’s Cathedral it turns out the man died not by fire but from a stab wound. Government spy James Marwood investigates in an atmosphere of crisis and dissent.

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen
Romance, politics, and intrigue at the Restoration court of Charles II, the Merry Monarch who surprised his subjects by his bravery in joining the fire fighters.

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
Called the Gone With the Wind of English history, this is the story of a penniless orphan who becomes a mistress to Charles II and lives through the dramas of his reign including the plague and the Great Fire of London.

From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins
In the aftermath of the Great Fire, lady’s maid Lucy Campion joins other stunned Londoners in the clean up effort, but becomes involved in investigating the death of a man whose body is found in the ruins, mysteriously untouched by fire.

Image of the Monument to the Great Fire of London
Monument to the Great Fire
From the ashes of London there arose a more beautiful city, much of it designed by the great architect Sir Christopher Wren. St. Paul’s Cathedral is his crowning achievement, but visitors to London should not miss the many surviving little Wren parish churches scattered throughout the City. A walking tour of these churches is one of the most memorable field trips of my schooldays. On my recent visit to London we made a pilgrimage to the Monument to the Great Fire, also designed by Sir Christopher Wren, which stands at the corner of Pudding Lane. From the top you have a panoramic view of 21st century London, worlds away from the cramped wooden city that burned in 1666.

English inscription describing the Monument to the Great Fire of London
Monument inscription
London skyline seen from the Monument

Rita T.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring Financial Education Extravaganza at MCPL

Money Smart Week with Ben Franklin logoHappy Spring!

As you get ready to tackle your spring cleaning activities, why not take the opportunity to tidy up your financial picture as well?

Wondering how or where to get started?

Montgomery County Public Libraries has that covered!

During Money Smart Week®  (April 22-29), our Chevy Chase, Damascus, GaithersburgGermantown,  Long Branch,  Olney, Rockville Memorial, and Silver Spring  branches will be offering a Money Smart Week®  Spring financial education extravaganza, with workshops, seminars and programs for everyone, presented in a no-pitch, no-sales, no-obligation atmosphere.  Just easy, fast financial information from reputable local financial educators.

Whether you’re hoping to win the lottery or you’re well on your way to achieving the financial goals you’ve set, or you’re somewhere in between, wherever you fall on the spectrum, MCPL has a Money Smart Week®  workshop for you.

If you’re like most people, your formal education probably didn’t include coursework on managing money, getting out of debt, buying a new house or saving for retirement. And since money doesn’t come with instructions, we could all use some help when it comes to managing our finances.

It’s never too early to start teaching children about money.  Why not use this opportunity to start a money conversation with your kids. Middle schoolers in grades 6-8 can earn a prize by entering our Money Smart Week®  Essay Contest. Get the whole family involved in our Can You Guess How Many Pennies event and Money Smart Week®  Game Day at our Olney library.

Toy house and calculator representing home refinancing Get tips on how to achieve financial success (regardless of income level) and the best ways to prepare for home ownership – at our Steps to Financial Success  (April 24) and A Guide for First-Time Home Buyers (April 28) seminars at our  Rockville branch.

Refinancing? Or thinking about it?  Head over to our Germantown branch for Ins and Outs of Refinancing on April 25 @ 7pm.

If your goal is a financially secure and comfortable retirement, don’t miss our Silver Spring and Gaithersburg sessions of Preparing for Retirement.  The #1 independent financial planning firm in the nation, Edelman Financial Services, will share what you need to do to take charge of your retirement, manage your investments and generate the income you need for retirement. (Gaithersburg April 25 @ 6pm/ Silver Spring April 26 @ 6:30)

Women, did you know that you are often at greater risk than men when it comes to achieving a secure retirement?  The president of the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement will discuss What Women Need to Know about Retirement at the Chevy Chase branch on April 27th at noon.

Bring your laptop to a powerful, hands-on Live Your Life by Design NOT by Default session facilitated by the Society for Financial Awareness. You'll be shepherded through the process of creating your own financial roadmap at Olney library on April 24 @ 6:30 pm.
4 credit cards on top of one another

Behind in paying your bills? Or are a creditor’s records mistakenly making it appear that you are?  In this Debt Collection: Know Your Rights! session, the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection, helps you spot abusive practices.

Get inspired to take a fresh look at your finances this spring during Money Smart Week® and Financial Literacy Month.  Come away with improved financial decision-making skills and feeling empowered to take control of your financial life.

Catch a session during your lunch break, or in the evening after work. Here's a complete list of our Money Smart Week events.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tax Day Cometh

Tax Information, money, calculator
With April 18th quickly approaching, many people are thinking about Tax Day! (Although I'm breathing a sigh of relief writing this post since I've already got my taxes filed). Yes, the date taxes are due has actually been extended this year to Tuesday, April 18 so you've got a few extra days to get them in.

I often think of paying taxes as being such a modern concept, but paying taxes has actually been around since ancient times. The Egyptian Pharaohs had their own tax collectors known as scribes. At one point cooking oil was taxed and households were audited to make sure that they weren't trying to find tax loopholes, such as using alternatives to cooking oil. When Greek Athenians needed funds for war, they imposed a tax. If the taxes collected exceeded what they needed, they provided tax refunds. The Romans taxed imports and exports, and Caesar Augustus actually started a 5% inheritance tax that was used to fund retirement pay for the military.

Map of colonial Massachusetts
From my classes in U.S. history I remember learning about the Boston Tea Party when Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty boarded ships in the Boston harbor and threw 342 chests of tea overboard. Taxation without representation led to the American Revolution, with the U.S. going to war with Great Britain. Taxing did, of course, continue in post-revolution America. The individual income tax was first instituted in America during the Civil War to pay for war expenses. It was later repealed. The income tax as we now know it started with the passage of the 16th amendment, which was ratified in 1913. Tax Day used to be March 15, but then it was switched to April 15. Why, you ask? To give tax payers an extra month to recover from end of the year holiday expenses. And to silence all the jokes about the Ides of March. Not sure what the Ides of March is? I'm glad you asked because my colleague wrote a witty and informative piece about it!

1040 tax form and refund check with the Statue of Liberty
Do you prepare your own taxes or do you have someone else prepare them for you? One Pew Research report found in 2013 that 33% of Americans were still preparing their own taxes while 56% had someone else prepare their taxes for them. If you are in the former category, we have help for you! Looking for tax forms? We have print forms at select MCPL branches. We recommend calling the branch ahead of your visit to make sure the forms you need are still available. You can also find links to forms that you can print from home or from one of our branch computers. We also offer tax preparation help, by appointment, at many of our branches for low-to-moderate income county residents.

Every wonder what your county taxes are used for? The Montgomery County Office of Management and Budget has a visually appealing online version of the county Operating Budget. This year's approved FY17 budget has a great pie chart that breaks down how much of the budget goes to schools, libraries, transportation, and more vital county services for residents.

After getting your taxes filed and done, be sure to listen to this peppy song that Irving Berlin wrote during World War II called I Paid My Income Tax Today. Here is a version of the song sung by Gene Autry. You'll be singing it all day long!