Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Library Card Sign Up Month 2017

Three students holding a big MCPL library card.
September is National Library Card Sign Up Month! Do you remember getting your first library card? Back when I got my first library card, the requirement was that you had to be able to write your name. As soon as I could, my mom took me to get my first library card. It was a special feeling and privilege to be able to use my own library card to check out picture books. I still remember my favorites like Corduroy and Make Way for Ducklings. Now there's no age limit to getting a library card! Anyone, at any age, can get a library card and start his or her life-long learning journey with free access to e-books, e-magazines, audiobooks, online classes, downloadable and streaming music, online articles, test preparation, and so much more! All you need is the most powerful card in your wallet - a library card!

Want to learn more about what a library card can do for you? Here's a list of 20 free library resources and services that might be new to you.
  1. Explore science themes with your kids by checking out a STEM Go! Kit.
  2. Check Consumer Reports from home.
  3. Learn to play a musical instrument, sing, or make art through ArtistWorks.
  4. Learn a language online.
  5. Find a musical score online.
  6. Stream one of 250 performances of the world's leading plays.
  7. Borrow books from libraries across the country.
  8. Prepare for the SAT, LSAT, NCLEX and more.
  9. Search your family history with HeritageQuest Online.
  10. Take an online technology, business, or creative class with Gale Courses.
  11. Download e-books.
  12. Start your own business.
  13. Download music from Freegal.
  14. Renew your materials online.
  15. Download audiobooks.
  16. Read an e-magazine from home.
  17. Discover your next favorite book
  18. Check out exercise videos.
  19. Find articles, encyclopedias, and biographical information for your school project.
  20. Put a book on hold online.
You can also find engaging programs for you and your children in our Calendar of Events.

Library cards empower their users. So tell your family; tell your friends! Tell us how much your library card means to you by sharing a photo or story in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest using #MCPLCard. We'll be resharing photos and stories on social media and our website.

There's so much you can do with a library card. Sign up for one today!


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Taking MCPL Back to School with You

Chalkboard surrounded by colored pencils with Back to School written on it
Montgomery County Public Schools students won't be back in the classroom for another couple of weeks, but as private and public schools around our region head back, you can't turn on the radio or the television without seeing a back-to-school ad or story. Yesterday, I got to spend most of my day with media specialists and other staff from MCPS discussing how the public libraries can support our students as they head back into the classroom. It seemed like important information that others might like to hear; so I am highlighting a few takeaways of our discussions.

two boys pose on either side of a large sitting dog.
Read to a Dog at Long Branch
First, we have a variety of events to support and supplement classroom learning. Several MCPL branches offer homework help programs. These programs range from teen volunteers assisting younger students with homework to writing clubs where teens and tweens can flex their writing muscle. We also have Reading Buddy and Read to a Dog programs at many branches. These programs allow young readers to practice and strengthen their reading by working with a non-critical human or canine volunteer. You can explore the full listing of homework programs.

We also offered special webpages to provide targeted information to different audiences. For parents and caregivers we offer our All Children Excel webpage. This provides tips and resources for promoting literacy at different ages from early literacy skills for babies and toddlers to homework and learning resources for elementary and middle school students. For kids who are old enough to explore the web more actively, our Kids page offers books lists, homework resources, and more (including our August poll: Who is your favorite book character turned TV star?). Our Teensite includes information about our Teen Advisory Group, homework resources, booklists, and links to programs.

The Montgomery Times An African-American Times Publication
After reading those descriptions, you might be asking yourself, "What the heck is a homework resource?" I'm referring to the wide variety of online databases available with an MCPL card. These databases include online access to a variety of major and minor national newspapers, including local African-American paper The Montgomery Times, later the African American Times, from 1992-1999. They also include online access to full current and back issues of popular magazines for kids, teens, and adults. We also have a variety of historical databases that are great resources for researching biographies of contemporary and historical figures from Presidents to artists to religious figures as well as historical events.

This is far from a full list of how we can support you or your loved one as you dive back into the school year. If there is something else we can do, please let us know—we're ready to help you. Happy studying!


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Get Started With Your Interior Painting Project at MCPL

Book cover for 300 Tips for Painting & Decorating by Alison JenkinsMany homeowners are aware of the benefits of improving the appearance of their home. Painting is a popular interior design project. Interior panting is popular because it adds the basic d├ęcor, sets a mood for a room, and provides an updated appearance. You can begin your planning with the resources of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL).

You may have many questions in the beginning. Do you do it yourself or hire a professional? How do you paint a room? How do you select paint and paint colors for a room? How do you prep the walls in a room prior to painting? It can become very stressful and confusing. A great place to answer many of these questions is MCPL.

MCPL has a wide range of print and online resources to assist you. The library catalog is a great source to help you find books about house painting and interior decorating.

Three databases, Consumer Reports, the Home Improvement Reference Center, and Washington Consumer Checkbook (in-library access only) will get you started with your interior painting project. Consumer Reports, for instance, provides a paint buying guide, plus ratings and reviews of specific brands.

The Home Improvement Reference Center offers how-to videos on prepping prior to painting, patching drywall, and selecting paint. It also has articles on basic design, color, and decorating principles. Many of the articles in this database are from magazines such as Complete Guide to Painting & Decorating, Australian House & Garden, and Arts & Crafts Homes & the Revival, which may be hard to find at your local hardware or big box store. You'll also find articles related to selecting paints low in volatile organic compounds, which have fewer hazards to those who with chemical sensitivities. Finally, the Home Improvement database has articles written by interior designers and home improvement experts to ease any confusion about selecting paint from the paint chips cards found in the stores' paint departments.
Top view of three paint cans, one blue, one purple, and one white.
Washington Consumer Checkbook provides rating for local professional contractors in the Washington metropolitan area, customer reviews, and contractor contact information. You can narrow or limit your search of local contractors to those closest to your neighborhood. Washington Consumer Checkbook also provides information about paints and which paints are less toxic.

So, when you think about your interior painting projects, start with MCPL’s online resources and home improvement books. Our librarians are also available to help you develop search strategies and locate materials in print and online resources.  MCPL is a great resource to locate helpful information and learn how to manage your project.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Solar Eclipse

Drawing showing the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, and Earth during a solar eclipse.
Photo credit: Sagredo
Update on Solar Eclipse Glasses 8/16/17: Several MCPL branches are hosting eclipse-related programs. Some of those branches will offer a limited supply of eclipse glasses for those programs only. The Friends of the Library, Montgomery County was selling eclipse glasses in their bookstores but those glasses have now sold out.

As you’ve probably heard by now, a total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of the United States on August 21st, 2017. While we’re not in the path of totality, when the moon completely obscures the sun, we’ll still be able to view a partial eclipse where the moon will obscure approximately 80% of the sun (source: Vox interactive solar eclipse map). This is definitely one of those things to check off your bucket list!

To view a solar eclipse, it is essential that you have appropriate protective eyewear! Sunglasses are not sufficient for this purpose. You will need glasses with special filters designed for viewing the sun. MCPL was lucky enough to apply for and receive a supply of eclipse glasses from Starnet Libraries through a grant funded by the Moore Foundation. Several MCPL branches are hosting eclipse-related programs. Some of those branches will offer a limited supply of eclipse glasses for programs.

So, what if you can’t make one of our programs but you still need eclipse glasses? There are also reputable companies manufacturing eclipse glasses recommended by NASA - American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. The most important thing to look for in your eclipse glasses is that they meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard. For more information on safely viewing the eclipse, head over to NASA’s Eclipse Safety website. (Editor's Note: An earlier version of this blogpost mentioned that Friends of the Library, Montgomery County was selling eclipse glasses in their bookstores. Those glasses have now sold out.)

Tips for enjoying the eclipse:

• In Montgomery County, the eclipse will peak at approximately 2:42pm.
• Always wear protective eyewear! Make sure your eyewear is not damaged or scratched and that the lenses are completely secured to the glasses. Check that they meet the ISO 12312-2 requirement.
• Do NOT view the eclipse through a camera, telescope or binoculars even if you’re wearing your eclipse glasses. A specialized filter is needed for optical devices.
• Be prepared for the long haul! The eclipse can last about 2.5 hours from start to finish. If you plan to be outside, bring sunscreen and water.
• Check the weather forecast. If we luck out and it’s cloudy during the time of the eclipse, you can live stream the event on the internet. Some libraries may also do this if views are obstructed.

If you’d like to read up on all things eclipse and space related, check out these titles in our collection:

For adults: The Total Skywatcher’s Manual : 275+ Skills and Tricks for Exploring Stars, Planets & Beyond by Linda Shore, David Prosper & Vivian White of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

For kids: When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz; illustrated by Eric Freeberg


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Meet the Acting MCPL Director

Acting MCPL
Director Anita Vassallo
The Shout Out blog is happy to introduce Anita Vassallo in her new role as Acting Director of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL).

Can you describe your career with MCPL?

I have had a pretty varied career with MCPL, and worked my way up through the ranks, you might say. I began with MCPL at age 15, as a library page at the former Four Corners library in Woodmoor. I was already an avid library user, and lived close enough to be able to walk to the library, so it was an ideal job. Later I was a desk assistant at the White Oak branch, and I held this job up until 1974 when I took a merit position as a library clerk at the old Bethesda branch on Moorland Lane. I moved around a bit, working at the Aspen Hill and Gaithersburg branches for short stints, and finally wound up at Film Services. Film Services provided 16 mm films to customers, and there were big machines that we ran to clean and repair them. I began working towards my MLS while at Film Services, and took my first librarian job as a children’s librarian at Kensington Park after receiving my degree. I have also worked as a librarian at Silver Spring and Gaithersburg. I worked at the Germantown branch as the senior librarian, at Davis as the manager, and most recently as the Public Services Administrator for IT Infrastructure, Digital Strategies and Emerging Technologies. Technology in libraries is a strong interest of mine, and I really enjoyed that position. I began my new role as Acting Director on August 1. I look forward to guiding MCPL until a permanent Director is appointed by the County Executive. MCPL employees are great, and I have an excellent team to work with for the next couple of years.

What are you looking forward to most in your new role as Acting Director of MCPL? 

I am looking forward to working with MCPL staff, other Montgomery County Government departments, our non-profit partners, and the community in order to provide the services that our residents need and want to enhance and improve their lives.

What do you like best about working in libraries? 

The people who use the libraries. The wide variety of reasons they have for using them keeps the job fresh and interesting. You can’t be bored working in a public library. Each day and each challenge is different, and the satisfaction when someone thanks you for your help is so immediate and real. I know that this phrase might sound trite, but libraries DO make a difference, and I love that we serve everyone and anyone no matter what.

What's your favorite read? What are you reading now? 

I love fantasy, I always have, but I read pretty widely. When I was working in the branches I made it a point to read things that were not exactly to my taste, so that I could be a reasonably well informed reader’s advisor. I just finished Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the 2017 One Maryland One Book selection. The author will be speaking Tuesday September 26th at Gaithersburg High School, which is very exciting for Montgomery County. Next on my list is the Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, and Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan, so you can see I’m all over the place.
Horse with rider
One of Anita Vassallo's horses,
"Dude's a Treasure."

What are your hobbies? 

I am fortunate enough to be able to have my own horses at home. Trail riding, and organizing Mounted Games competitions are my main hobbies I would say, although I do a bit of vegetable gardening. My other main hobby is commuting!

What else do you want us to know about you? 

I think that an important quality for anyone working to provide service to the public is the ability to listen, and take other people’s input into consideration when making decisions, while still staying focused on the mission and values of the organization. I think I’m a good listener, and I know that using the abilities and strengths of staff is crucial to the success of a library director.