Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Get STEM-y this Summer!

Text Science Information Photo chemistry beakers
I've been a Star Trek fan since I discovered the original show through reruns on Saturday mornings when I was growing up. There was something, dare I say, fascinating, about this group of friends-who-are-like-family exploring the universe and going where no one had gone before.  And, of course, I was over the moon excited when I read this year that a self-funded team led by an ER doctor actually invented a medial Star Trek device, a tricorder!  Science fiction can become science fact!

Science also includes technology, math, and engineering (STEM). All these subjects drive us to question, explore, create, and move beyond what anyone thought was possible. We're excited to encourage all ages to dream big, discover the world around them, and be curious!

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.

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.

kids STEM event with marshmallows
Summer is the perfect time to engage your children's minds with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fun. 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 print 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. And, of course, don't forget to visit our branches for exciting STEM programs and explore our STEM Stations that allow children to explore and discover the science of the world around us.

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.

You and your kids won't want to miss our exciting STEM programs that are happening this summer! Here are some highlights:
child extracting DNA from a stawberry
  • Science in the Summer: Science of Sports. Discover how science helps athletes perform at their peak. At several branches. Registration required. 
  • Energy Express. Learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency in a fun and interactive hands-on way. At several branches. Registration required. 
  • Sciencetellers-Tall Ships and Pirate Tales. Set sail on a thrilling, action packed adventure about a crew of quirky pirates marooned on a desert island. They must find a way to construct a ship before all hope is lost. Rockville Memorial July 8, 3 pm.
  • Cosmic Adventures. Explore the universe and stargaze in comfort with a traveling planetarium. Germantown July 12, 3 & 4 pm. Registration required.
  • Science Spectacular with Eric Energy. A wild and wacky scientist, will have you mesmerized by some of his greatest eye-catching experiments. Olney July 10, 2 pm.
  • Solar Eclipse events. On August 21st, there will be a solar eclipse partially observable in Maryland. Advanced programs help you prepare for the event, including safety tips. Other events practice safe eclipse viewing. At several branches. Some branches registration required.
  • Animal Homes. Meet some live animals and find out about their homes. Rockville Memorial Aug 12, 2 pm. 
  • Mad Science. Be amazed at science that spins, pops, and goes boom. At several branches. Some branches require tickets.
  • Reptiles Alive. Meet fascinating reptiles. At several branches. Some branches require tickets.
  • Under the Sea. Discover the exciting animals that live under the sea and in the Chesapeake Bay. At several branches. Some branches require tickets.
image from digital media lab, teen on railing
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!  Behind great science are people and the next inventor or scientist may be you! Maybe in the future we'll be beaming to places for vacation thanks to you!

Scotty, one to beam up!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Baseball Through Biographies

baseball field with players
Washington Nationals Opening Day 2017
Devoted baseball fans know to count down to Pitchers and Catchers report day every February. This marks the start of spring training and the beginning of the end to a long winter without baseball. However, I usually start wishing for the return of baseball by late November (the World Series usually ends in late October or early November). Of course, for many others, thoughts don’t turn to baseball until after opening day.

Regardless of your level of baseball interest, how can the library support your love for America’s pastime? Well, baseball has long been a subject for fiction and nonfiction alike, but here are a few great selections from recent years.

Pedro cover showing Pedro Martinez pointing at the sky Pitchers are, by default, at the center of the action on the baseball field, and some draw significant attention with their off the field action as well. Pedro by Pedro Martinez and Michael Silverman is the memoir of the colorful Hall of Fame pitcher who retired in 2009 after 18 seasons in the majors with teams including the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets. In the book, Pedro discusses his quest to overcome the negative perceptions caused by his small stature and become a dominating pitcher, as well as his historic run with the Boston Red Sox to end their 85 season World Series drought.

Phenomenon cover showing Ankiel looking at the camera Of course, most pitchers don't have Martinez's record-breaking career. Rick Ankiel debuted as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2000, but was never able to pitch successfully at the major league level. After struggling unsuccessfully against a condition known as the yips, he left baseball only to later return as an outfielder and play seven major league seasons for a variety of teams, including the Washington Nationals (2011 & 2012). Ankiel's new book, The Phenomenon, written with Tim Brown, tells the story of the condition that derailed his original career plans and the process he went through to overcome these challenges.

The streak cover showing gehrig at top and ripken at bottom For those interested in local players, Cal Ripken, Jr. will be one of the subjects of the forthcoming The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record by John Eisenberg. Rather than being a biography, the book explores the environment of baseball in the early and late twentieth century. New York Yankee Gehrig's streak of playing 2,130 consecutive games stood from 1939, when Gehrig took himself out of the lineup due to playing difficulties caused by his not-yet-diagnosed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—now commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. The record stood until 1995 when it was broken by the Orioles' Cal Ripken, Jr. whose streak ended at 2,632 consecutive games.

42 cover showing actor playing Jackie Robinson standing on baseball field Prefer to watch instead? Check out the 2013 movie 42 (PG-13) about Jackie Robinson's major league breakthrough. The movie shows that Robinson's role as the first black player in the majors was anything but accidental. Robinson's life both in and out of baseball has also been the subject of numerous biographies for readers of all ages.

Happy reading!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Oh No, Gotta Mow. Again.

Lawn mower and half cut lawn.Ah summer. The sun, the pool, the beach. And the noise of a small engine turning a blade at 3,000 revolutions per minute. Yes, it's time to mow the lawn again.

Who decided to surround most suburban houses with a small, or not so small, grassy field? Depending on who you ask, the human cultivation of lawns began thousands of years ago or just a few hundred. Some cite humanity's longstanding desire for a clear field of vision in order to spot predators as a primal motivation to cultivating artificial, low cut meadows. Others point to the clearing of land around castles in medieval Britain and France to prevent attackers from approaching fortifications unobserved. Others note the village commons, a shared cleared space for the grazing of everyone's livestock.

Whatever the ancient history of lawns might be, the rise of the lawn as a symbol of American suburbia is dated to the late 1940s with the building of the first Levittown development on Long Island. The suburb was the first American suburb to come with lawns. Neighborhood newsletters emphasized the importance of keeping one's lawn neat and trim (lawn shaming?) and included lawn care tips. According to a recent Freakonomics podcast episode, nearly 2% of land in America is some type of lawn. That's more than the 1.3% of the country that's paved.

Book cover: Lawn Gone!
These days, a perfectly manicured lawn is not always met with universal acclaim. Concerns about water shortages, pesticides, noise pollution, and other environmental impacts have many rethinking the lawn as a suburban staple. A few years ago, for instance, Montgomery County became the first large municipality to ban cosmetic pesticides from use on most lawns. Native plants, more trees, gardens, and clover are all being proposed as greener alternatives to the traditional turf lawn. The University of Maryland Extension program, part of the agriculture department, has a page suggesting alternatives to a conventional lawn.

Of course MCPL has a number of resources about lawns and landscaping to help keep your property splendid. There are standard lawn care books, such as Lawns: 1-2-3: Expert Advice from the Home Depot, as well as eco-friendly titles such as Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard.

If you've got questions about your greenery, MCPL can help. From April through September, master gardeners from the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension are available at branches throughout the county to answer your questions about your garden, lawns, and landscaping. This service is free and no registration is required.

Whether you love lawns or loath them, MCPL is here to help you make your garden, yard, and life a little greener.

Mark S.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

SafeTrack Is Back

Mark a Plan for SafetrackSafeTrack is returning to Montgomery County. SafeTrack is WMATA's accelerated maintenance and repair plan to improve the Metrorail system's safety and reliability. WMATA will be working on a Red Line portion of the system from Saturday, June 17 through Sunday, June 25, 2017.
WMATA anticipates that trains will run at "near normal" service times on other portions of the Red Line.

The County's Department of Transportation offers bus, MARC train, and parking options for residents during this surge.

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.

View or download a list of services for telecommuters as a PDF.