Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. My name is Lauren Martino; I'm your host today. Black history month is right around the corner and with us today are two MCPL staff members ready to give you some background on African American fiction as well as some titles to read for black history month and all year round. With us today is Christian Wilson who is a librarian at the Silver Spring library, hi Christian?
Christian Wilson: Hello, how are you doing today Lauren?
Lauren Martino: I'm good. How are you?
Christian Wilson: I’m doing well, I’m doing well.
Lauren Martino: And with us as well as Diane Betsy who is a library associate with Collection Management and has run the African American book club in Rockville for the past 15 years, is that it?
Diane Betsy: Yes, 15 years, we had our 15th anniversary.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that's exciting, welcome Diane.
Diane Betsy: Thank you, I'm so glad to be here.
Lauren Martino: Let's start with, how do you define African American fiction? What makes something African American fiction?
Christian Wilson: I would say African American fiction is fiction written by African descendants of slaves that were brought here from the beginning of colonial times, so 1619 until slavery was abolished in 1865 in the United States of America and its territories. I would say fiction by any other authors who are African or Afro descended, but are from say the Caribbean or from Africa themselves would not count as African American fiction, because they just don't have the shared experiences that we do as descendants of slaves in the United States.
Lauren Martino: So something like swing time that takes place in Great Britain primarily is -- would be something that wouldn’t quite qualify?
Christian Wilson: Unless it’s written by an African American author who was a descendant of slaves in the United States, it probably would not qualify like Adichie’s books; they would not qualify, even though she was reared here, she doesn't have the African American experience of being descended from slaves that were brought here. She was -- she's from Nigeria, so that's completely different worldview.
Diane Betsy: Okay, we see things a little different...
Lauren Martino: Okay, let's discuss this.
Diane Betsy: In the African American Book Discussion Group of Rockville Memorial Library, that's our official name. Forgive me. We started out thinking African American book discussion was basically African American authors; that is people, black people born in the United States who wrote books about black people born in the United States. Over the years though, we've expanded our definition so that we include -- actually we tell people we read books by and about people of African descent.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Diane Betsy: And therefore we read Zadie Smith, who's an English author, Chimamanda Adichie, we read a lot of Edwidge Danticat from Haiti, we read a lot of authors from the -- what they call the black Diaspora, Diaspora. So when in our book group and we say African American authors, we really mean people born or people who are descendant from Africans not specifically just the United States of America.
Lauren Martino: Okay, I guess you can define America pretty broadly too depending, it’s like…?
Diane Betsy: Yeah, because America as well…
Lauren Martino: Is Haiti part of the Americans?
Diane Betsy: The American, yeah the American content, so to say the Americas you would be including the America, so you’d be including Canada, the United States, South America. In our book group, we just say African American authors and -- but we mean, black people who were – people who were descendants from Africans from all over, we read from all over the world.
Lauren Martino: So there's a couple of different definitions and I imagine there are books that you just don't want to pass up on, because they are just that good.
Diane Betsy: Exactly, yeah.
Lauren Martino: So can anybody comment on like the history of African American fiction, kind of where does it have its roots, where did it begin?
Diane Betsy: I have a little problem with that question, because if you're saying African American fiction, if you do research on that question, do you know what you get? Slave narratives; which is not fiction.
Christian Wilson: It’s not fiction at all.
Lauren Martino: No.
Diane Betsy: So, but everything that you read if you go to Google, if you go to Wikipedia, they all say slave narratives, I'm going, “Wait a minute, that's not fiction.” But I guess some people consider that fiction, but to me fiction would be Uncle Tom's cabin, which was 1852 that would be African American fiction, I would think.
Christian Wilson: Yeah, I would also go back to like even Phillis Wheatley, her poems, she was writing in the 1700s. She was kidnapped from what is now modern day Senegal, you know she was writing very well back in those times and so I was -- considered her to be one of the progenitors of African American fiction definitely.
Diane Betsy: Fiction, exactly.
Christian Wilson: I would say that there are so many writers and if you just have to take the time and look that wrote other things besides slave narratives during the time of colonialization and slavery and then reconstruction 17/1800s passing to that time even – as you said before Uncle Tom's cabin, that's really the start. It didn't just start in the 1960s where everyone was writing for The Civil Rights Movement, it's been here since…
Diane Betsy: It started with Harriet Beecher Stowe, who by the way was not an African American.
Christian Wilson: yeah, decided to write African American fiction, so it's been here for a while, it's been here for -- since the first slaves were brought here, African American fiction has been here, I will say that.
Diane Betsy: Well yeah, if you want to count the narratives, oh well there's been fiction that we didn't know about is what you're saying.
Christian Wilson: Right.
Diane Betsy: They weren’t published, we didn't know about them, but maybe there were some fiction. But in terms of fiction we know about, I'm thinking Harriet Beecher Stowe, because her book was published in 1852, I can't think of anything that was published before that about African Americans or slaves. That was fiction.
Christian Wilson: Yeah.
Diane Betsy: So then we get to fiction when we hit the Harlem Renaissance.
Christian Wilson: Absolutely.
Diane Betsy: That started from the 20s and it went all the way to the 40s. Now you have actual fiction, you've got -- the first one I could find was a Nella Larsen.
Christian Wilson: ‘Passing.’
Diane Betsy: She wrote ‘Passing’ in 1929 and she got it published in 1928, she wrote Quicksand and then you had, of course Zora Neale Hurston, she's still being taught in universities in the United States. Her very first novel was that ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ that was published in 1937. And then I think I had Richard Wright in 1944 ‘Native Son.’ Those were works of fiction and they became very popular in the Harlem Renaissance 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, to me that's where African American fiction began.
Christian Wilson: And it took off at that point and just went like a rocket ship from the Harlem Renaissance and other cities where there were renaissances as well. It just really just start -- it was always there, but it just really just defined itself as the sort of like the gatekeeper, the fictional gatekeeper to the entity which is African Americans at that point.
Diane Betsy: Yeah. And I think what made that happen, that explosion in a sense if you will, is the fact that white Americans knew about it. These works of fiction that was being written about in newspapers and magazines that white Americans read. So for example, you had in the 50s, you know we had ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ this huge play by Lorraine Hansberry that was on Broadway, there's no way that got to Broadway just because of black people, I mean white people had to back that show, they had to agree to a put that show on. It was a tremendous hit and you had Ralph Ellison doing the ‘Invisible Man’ in 1952 that is still a classic. I think you were asking us about classics at some point. ‘Go Tell It on The Mountain’ by James Baldwin, 1953. Those were crossover books, those were books that the white publishers and booksellers were aware of and they were moving them and because of that, more African Americans learned about them. See, there were books possibly before, but the average African American working every day never heard of them.
Christian Wilson: I’m kind of curious as to the role of librarians and all of this. But I don’t suppose – I didn’t ask you that ahead of time, so I won't.
Diane Betsy: Well no we need to talk about a little bit, but it’s a little bit touchy, it's a little bit touchy.
Lauren Martino: Do you know? Oh really, why?
Christian Wilson: Well they weren't really allowed to promote African American books, because the libraries themselves were segregated. So African Americans could not go into the library and borrow books, even though they were paying for the library services with our tax dollars.
Diane Betsy: Exactly.
Christian Wilson: If they wanted to borrow books, they would have to do it through their churches or backdoor…
Diane Betsy: Or through a backdoor somehow, they were not allowed to go into the library building. So I think I could have this date wrong, but I think as recently as 1960…
Christian Wilson: It sounds about right.
Lauren Martino: There were two or three black men who were actually arrested for walking into a library in Virginia.
Lauren Martino: Wow!
Diane Betsy: And taken out, because up to that point, it was still against the law for black people to enter a library. So black people weren't learning very much in libraries, because they weren't allowed in. Remember originally during slavery, it was against the law to teach a black slave to read. So that grew into black people were not allowed into the library. And that was true up until, I would say the 60s probably; it was a cut off.
Christian Wilson: Mid 60s, yeah.
Diane Betsy: And we're talking now across the country that may not have been true in New York City, let's say or Washington DC possibly, but across the country it was…
Christian Wilson: Especially in the Deep South.
Diane Betsy: Deep South for real.
Lauren Martino: Wow! Now that I'm thinking about it, there's this picture book about this African American astronaut as a boy, like walking into a library and like I think maybe he got like special permission, like maybe the librarian like passed him a book. I have to look that up and maybe put it in the show notes, yeah.
Diane Betsy: I remember that story, there were many -- actually there was a children's book, wasn't it?
Lauren Martino: Yeah, it was like a picture book.
Diane Betsy: Yeah, a children's picture book right. There are a couple of books that document the difficulty that black children had getting into a library that went away eventually, but black people would not have been learning about black writers in a library. It would have been a newspaper or a neighbor, somebody they worked for said, “Oh, have you heard about this book?” Church perhaps. Not the library.
Christian Wilson: Yeah, church definitely is one of the big focal points of the African American community. So they definitely would have been learning about it through church. But the caveat, anything that would have been suggestive would not have been in the church's library, my parents’ old church in Philadelphia where I'm from, they have their own church library, but not every church could afford to have a personal library full of the box and what's going to go in there was only things that they're going to say that are appropriate for the church parishioners. So you may not get blues for Mister Charlie, which is one of my favorite James Baldwin books in the church. You may not get ‘Their Eyes Are Watching God’ you may not get A Native Son, because they made -- have determined that those books are not appropriate for the church parishioners.
Diane Betsy: Yeah and depending on year you're talking about they may not have heard of their eyes were watching God. Remember Alice Walker gave the world Zora Neale Hurston. She was doing research and she discovered this black writer named Zora Neale Hurston and she gave the world ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ prior to Alice Walker no one I knew, no school teachers, no publishers had ever heard of ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God.’ When did Alice Walker come along? In the 60s, so we didn't even know about Zora Neale Hurston in the 50s and the 40s, the average black person I'm saying.
Lauren Martino: So she had been -- she had published her work by then, but just nobody – it wasn’t on anybody’s radar?
Diane Betsy: She had fallen into obscurity; she did not get along with the powers that be in the Harlem Renaissance. I'm going to just slide right over all that. And she sort of left the north in disgrace, a lawsuit and all that was really ugly. And so she died virtually in poverty. She was on the welfare when she died cleaning people's homes. And Alice Walker was going to -- I think it was either Brown or -- the name, the expensive big colleges for women in the north?
Lauren Martino: Radcliffe?
Christian Wilson: Smith’s or–?
Diane Betsy: She was born in Smith -- Smith or Vassar one of those two colleges she was going to. And she was doing research…
Christian Wilson: I think it was Vassar.
Diane Betsy: And needed information on Voodoo. And as she was searching the library, she found a couple of books written by this woman named Zora Neale Hurston and turned out to be a black woman she's never heard of her. And she did a lot more research, a lot more research and discovered this writer and did her doctoral thesis on Zora Neale Hurston. And that's how the world learned about Zora Neale Hurston all over again.
Lauren Martino: So she’s kind of this literary tradition like with slave narratives and poetry that I guess you didn't really -- I'm sure people, black people weren't encouraged to write fiction, do something as frivolous as that back then way, way back in the beginning, but…
Christian Wilson: Yeah.
Diane Betsy: Well you talk about a time in American history; I think when the average person wasn't necessarily graduating from high school. So white people clearly -- black people clearly were not graduating from high school and they were lucky if they were getting out of the third grade before they had to go to work. So I'm talking about the average person now, I'm not talking – there was a black middle class across the country, very small but yeah, they had their advantages, they were going to college.
Lauren Martino: So talk a little bit about the origins of African American fiction, can you tell us a little about why African American fiction is important Christian?
Christian Wilson: It gives -- African American fiction gives African Americans a voice and literary and Cultural Community of the United States. That's why it's important. It's important for people who are represented here in the United States via population, via entertainment to be able to tell their own stories. I find as a children's librarian, it's very frustrating sometimes because we do have African American fiction in the children's department, but they're not written -- the books are not written by African American authors, they're written by white authors.
Lauren Martino: Not all the time?
Christian Wilson: Not all the time, but it's important for African Americans to be able to tell our own stories within the literary scheme, because a lot of the stereotypes are that black people don't read or black children don't read. It's important to say, “Okay, look yes they do read, not only are they reading Harry Potter, but they're reading P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia. You know it's important to have our own voices out there to show that yes, we do contribute to the cultural life and of the United States beyond rap music or R&B music or you know entertainment comedy, but we do like there are -- we are multifaceted. That's why I believe African American literature fiction urban fiction is so important.
Diane Betsy: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that African American fiction is important. First of all for the same reason that fiction is important period, all fiction makes it clear to us the reader that we are not alone. I learned that from Diane Rehm.
Christian Wilson: It’s true.
Diane Betsy: That so close to my heart when she said that, because that's really true. She had another famous one, why do we have book clubs? Because it's the only place where we can discuss life. I think that's true for my book club. We get together, read the books and we discuss life. I think that some of the other points though that Christian was making is important, the members of my book club really read the black fiction for the history. We learned so much of our own history by reading fiction, not just historical fiction, but regular fiction informs us about the black experience in different parts of the country and tells us a lot about our history. Now, my book group tends to be 45 and up in terms of age. So when we were in school, in public school, I was in public school in New York City. There weren't a lot of books for us to read that were written by African Americans. So we tended to read Dickens and -- you know the story said everybody else in class read. The children who are going through school today, the black children have a wealth of black authors that they can read. They get more of the black experience at a younger age, but the people in my book group are hungry for stories about themselves, their mothers, their grandmothers, what things were like, where do we get that? We're getting that from the fiction, because it wasn't taught to us in school or the movies didn't give us that. Historical fiction is very, very popular in my book group. So for example, we loved and adored ‘The Good Lord Bird’ that was about John Brown's hanging at Harpers Ferry as…
Lauren Martino: Harpers Ferry, yeah.
Diane Betsy: Harpers Ferry. Okay, there's another book out on that same subject that talks about the five black people who were hung with John Brown.
Lauren Martino: You know by name?
Diane Betsy: Right, there's a book about it, right?
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Diane Betsy: Well there's history that we're getting, this is a work of fiction. The Good Lord Bird was a work of fiction. ‘Darktown’ by Thomas Mullen, we read a couple of years back that was about the first eight black police officers hired in Atlanta and the fact that they were not allowed to carry guns, they would not allow to ride the car. And if they arrested someone, they had to call the white police officers to come and the rest them, this is a work of fiction, but it was heard so much about what it was like for the first black police officers. ‘Douglass' women’, has anybody read that one?
Lauren Martino: No.
Christian Wilson: That’s why it’s on my to-read-list.
Diane Betsy: Jewell Parker Rhodes, fascinating book…
Lauren Martino: She wrote adult book?
Diane Betsy: Pardon?
Lauren Martino: She wrote adult too?
Diane Betsy: You didn't know?
Diane Betsy: She started out writing adult book, her first book I think was called Voodoo about a madam Marie…
Lauren Martino: Yeah, Madam Marie Laveau.
Diane Betsy: Marie Laveau, I mean you should read that one, but she wrote a book called Douglass' women, it was about Frederick Douglass and the fact that he was married to a black woman named Anna, who he referred to as a black log.
Lauren Martino: A black, what?
Diane Betsy: Log.
Christian Wilson: Like Log.
Diane Betsy: Like a tree.
Lauren Martino: Tree stump.
Diane Betsy: Right. His daughter wanted to marry someone and he said, “No, you can't marry that person and he's not educated.” And she said, “But dad, we're in love.” And he said, “Do you want to spend your life tied to a black log like me?”
Lauren Martino: Oh Gosh.
Diane Betsy: That was a work of fiction, but the information for the book came from the diary of his daughter which is in archives. He had an ongoing affair with his assistant who was a German woman named Ottilie. And in the summer time when he wasn't traveling and she wasn't handling his speeches, Ottilie would go home with him and Ottilie stayed in the room at the top of the house and the wife and the children were downstairs and the daughter's diary talks about trips that dad made upstairs in the middle of the night.
Lauren Martino: Oh gosh.
Diane Betsy: How would we ever have known that, all right? Somewhere in history someone asked Anna Douglas why? Oh, she refused to read. That was why Frederick Douglass was angry with her. Why did she refuse to read? And her answer was, when I look at the things that people who know how to read have done, I don't ever want to learn how to read.
Lauren Martino: It's a little heartbreaking.
Diane Betsy: Anyway, I learned that through historical fiction, it's called Douglass women, Jewell Parker Rhodes that's one of the things that people in my book group get out of these books, we are learning our history.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. So these are books that are -- they're fiction, but they are well researched…?
Diane Betsy: Historical fiction very well researched.
Lauren Martino: Based on…
Christian Wilson: Colson Whitehead's, ‘The Underground Railroad’ that's another good one.
Diane Betsy: That’s another good one, right? That was just recently, did he get the National Book Award?
Christian Wilson: I think he got like…
Diane Betsy: Pulitzer, no he got the Pulitzer for ‘The Underground Railroad’
Lauren Martino: About two years ago, I think.
Diane Betsy: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Now that's the magical realism and that is such that I just love to have someone sit down with me and say, okay, this happened, this happened, this happened and this happened.
Christian Wilson: Did you get a chance to read it?
Lauren Martino: I did read that one.
Diane Betsy: Was that fun?
Lauren Martino: It was a little bit -- I kind of felt, what's the right word? A little dizzy.
Christian Wilson: There was a long…
Lauren Martino: It was a long crazy trip.
Christian Wilson: There was a lot going on.
Lauren Martino: There was a lot going on, yeah.
Christian Wilson: But there was a lot of history in that book. So that's a good one Underground Railroad is another good historical fiction. Now you know there really wasn't an Underground Railroad, I mean there wasn’t…
Lauren Martino: I know I got that much.
Christian Wilson: He created the train.
Lauren Martino: It's really fun to imagine, like that imaging like…
Lauren Martino: It's like first of all you know there's no conductor and then there's like no track, it just kind of gets like harder and harder.
Christian Wilson: But I keep saying to myself, but it could have been true when you think of all the underground tracks that were made for coal mines. People could have connected car, I mean I kept saying, but it could have been true, because in my end its fiction, okay it's fiction, but it's historical fiction.
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Diane Betsy: Yeah and it's bringing to light things that you'd never would you know pick up the journal to read.
Christian Wilson: Exactly.
Lauren Martino: So we talked a little bit about Harriet Beecher Stowe. I'm kind of curious whether you all will agree on this or whether there's going to be some controversy. Do you have to be African American to write African American fiction?
Christian Wilson: Okay, so I'll answer this one. I think that if you have an affinity to African American descendants of slaves in the United States, as I said before, I think I opened it by saying, you know this is what I believe African American fiction is. It's the stories of African American descendants of slaves. I don't think that you have to be African American, but I think you need to understand and know our shared experience. I think if you're coming in from say Japan and you just want to write a story about the black struggle, like you need to really like live it and be in it, in order to write it. I think just writing like superficially is not going to really do anything about the black experience. Like bring it to life or you know give it a voice, because it's not authentic. It just feels like you know the soul singers of the 80s like you know Teena Marie and George Michael, like they sung soul music, but they intergraded themselves into the black music scene. So like their sound songs were authentic, I mean I still know people who didn't believe that Teena Marie was Caucasian. I mean to this day people…
Diane Betsy: A lot of people still think that Teena Marie is black, she's just a light skinned black person.
Christian Wilson: Like Ezra Jack Keats?
Diane Betsy: Yeah.
Christian Wilson: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Like I’m looking for an African American author, can I get a book by Ezra Jack Keats…
Christian Wilson: And you are like sorry, he is Caucasian. So yes, it's possible and it has happened in the past and when we get to urban fiction, I'll discuss more about how people who are not African American are writing urban fiction.
Diane Betsy: I think that as Ezra Keats is an example of what you're saying, he could write a story about a little black toddler in the snow, because there isn't -- I mean a little black toddler in the snow is like a little white toddler in the snow or a little Asian toppling the snow. There really isn't any difference there, but when you get into adulthood now you've got serious differences. So, but I think that you're right, if you are serious about your subject and you know your subject, you can be Caucasian and you can write good books about African Americans or people of African descent. I have examples here, ‘The Secret Life of Bees’, Sue Monk Kid was not an African American; did you know that? A lot of people -- then movie came out with Queen Latifah; a lot of people were shocked to find out that Sue Monk Kid was not a black woman. Another one would be, Henrietta Lacks, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, remember that? The author…
Lauren Martino: It was nonfiction, but yeah…
Diane Betsy: That was nonfiction, but the author was Rebecca Skloot who was not an African American, but she lived with that family like it was her own. And she could write that story. How about this one was in the movies, the book was great though. The Help by Kathryn Stockett…
Christian Wilson: I was just about to say that.
Diane Betsy: Okay, ‘The Help’ was not written by an African American woman. And that was one – that the first five minutes of that movie had everybody -- we went as a book club to see and we sat there passing tissues, I mean we were crying the first five minutes. Do you know -- I forgot the actress that played that part. But in the first five minutes, someone off camera says, “Tell me about your life as a housekeeper.” And before she can speak, she gets emotional and everybody in the theater was crying, it's just incredible. But anyway, the author of The Help was a white woman named Kathryn Stockett. And then we have Uncle Tom's Cabin, we talked about that. And my favorite, this is going to surprise you, Mark Twain.
Christian Wilson: You know I have mixed feelings about him, because he used the N-word so much in his literature, but he was writing about African American character.
Diane Betsy: Have you read Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson?
Christian Wilson: I've read parts of it.
Diane Betsy: You should read the whole thing.
Christian Wilson: I need to read the whole thing.
Diane Betsy: It is his first and only book actually about an African American family, a slave woman who was pregnant and her mistress was pregnant and her master had gone off to war. They had babies on the same day, but the mistress died and the slave woman switched the children and made a scar on the white babies hip and a scar on her own hip so she could prove he was hers, but he wasn't. So it's a detective story in the sense that eventually, Pudd'nhead Wilson who's an attorney who can't get a job, who has this little game he plays with a new scientific concept called Fingerprinting, eventually it goes to court and they figure out who belongs to who? And so people have said that this book was a very good research and is it your life experiences that determines who you are or your genetics? Because we see what happens to this white child who was raised as a slave son. So, I think that is a fascinating book. My Book Club read and they adored -- they hated it, I mean they were like, I'm not reading Mark Twain, but I got them to read that book and they were like, “Oh my God, they just…” we were overwhelmed. So yes, yes to your question, you do not have to be African American to write a good book about African Americans.
Lauren Martino: I guess it really takes all of it. You need the people that have lived these experiences, whose parents have lived these experiences and also the people that are maybe the very interested outsider. There's got to be a tall order to immerse yourself into it in order to do a really job.
Diane Betsy: Well Mark Twain spent a lot of time on Mississippi river boats.
Lauren Martino: He did?
Diane Betsy: It would have been really, really hard for him to miss African American's on those river boats. They played the music and they were the –
Christian Wilson: Yeah, cooked the food.
Diane Betsy: They cooked food…
Lauren Martino: And watch the children, yeah.
Christian Wilson: But you have to look at it from a certain perspective, you can't look at it like you know your typical person availing themselves of these services, you've got to…
Diane Betsy: You have to be sensitive to what you're seeing happening around you, yes you do. Yes, but you can, you can get away with that very easily.
Lauren Martino: So we've talked about a lot of good books so far. If you could take any one book that's part of African American fiction and make everyone in the United States read it, what would it be?
Christian Wilson: I will start with ‘Waiting to Exhale’ by Terry McMillan. This is why I want to say it, because it doesn't deal with what people stereotypically think African American women should be. It's not about welfare queens, it’s not about drama -- I mean it does have drama, I will say that.
Lauren Martino: It's a book?
Christian Wilson: It’s a book it always has drama, but it's depicts for -- middle to upper middle class African American women living in a different part of this country than you would expect. They're living in Phoenix, Arizona in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. And how they navigate their lives as middle aged women just to show that you know we're more alike than we are different as Americans, you know? We’re more alike than we are different as women; we're more alike than different as we are people, we go through the same exact things, you know? Heartache, divorce, adultery, drug use, you know, all these things happen and it's not class based, it's not race based, it's just this is just human things that happen. Now, I will say this, if you haven't read the book, there is something in there that does happen that's like you know whoa, I didn't expect that to happen. But you know, the way that Terry McMillan writes books -- she has a nice way of closing things up and in a very satisfactory ending, she doesn't leave cliffhangers. So if you're looking for a book that leaves a lot of cliffhangers or you know a lot of disappointment, that's not what you're going to find. But if you're looking for a good story told by a great storyteller, I would suggest ‘Waiting To Exhale’ and also the sequel ‘Getting to Happy’ because there are things that happen in ‘Waiting To Exhale’ that do get resolved in ‘Getting To Happy’, but both of those together, you know those are great books and they are great options for anyone.
Lauren Martino: I’m a sucker for a good ending.
Christian Wilson: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: ...to make this one up, Diane what do you have?
Diane Betsy: Well, my choice would be ‘Cane River’ by Lolita Tademy, because ‘Cane River’, is another – my favorite historical fiction novel. This is the story, the real story of an American black family that begins with this slave woman who was sold into Louisiana on the 19th century and we follow her daughter and what happens to her and her daughter and what happens to her all the way up to the present generation. And the family members that get sold away from each other, the slave girl that a white master fell in love with and killed her husband to make sure that he could have possession of her. The black family who in the 20s inherited all this wealth of acres of land left to them by a French grandfather and all of that land was taken legally in court by the white people in that town. She actually has pictures of the court papers in the book, but because the book is fiction, because she can't -- in the fiction you don't mention certain names and stuff, you find out what happened, but nobody gets sued. And that's why I've always said if you want to read the truth, read fiction. If you want to lie, read nonfiction, because they're so busy protecting people in nonfiction.
But in this story ‘Cane River’ you get the history of black slavery in America, what happened to those children? The children that were able to slip into white America and crossover and no one knew they were black. The children who stayed behind who eventually were disinherited from thousand -- and the papers are still in that courthouse in that town, but the book ‘Cane River’ gives you the entire story of what happened to that family over six, seven, eight generations. And it is a fabulous read, she was one of the authors at the book festival on the mall about four or five years back. It is a fabulous book. It is one of the best books you'll ever read and it's called ‘Chain River.’
Lauren Martino: So now we're talking about fiction as kind of a mask that allows you to talk about the history, not just something that brings it to light, but it kind of gives you the safe space in which you can tell what happened?
Diane Betsy: Exactly.
Christian Wilson: Absolutely.
Diane Betsy: Exactly the safe space that you can tell what happened.
Lauren Martino: That's amazing. Like my notion of fiction has been exploded. We've talked about a lot of different kinds of African American fiction; can we talk a little bit about some of the sub genres. I know some like urban fiction have gotten some mixed kinds of attention. Can you tell us a little bit about that Christian?
Christian Wilson: Well, you know there's different sub genres, Christian fiction, urban fiction, well you know the Christian fiction actually has nothing to do with me, it has just been more about the living Christianity…
Lauren Martino: Not your fiction…
Christian Wilson: It’s not my fiction, right. But urban fiction is a special stand out, because it really started out of the genesis of the civil rights movement. You had a guy named Iceberg Slim and I don't believe that, many of his books are still in print any more that you could probably find them on Amazon and eBay. He started writing about; you know the tribulations of living in a poor African American neighborhoods that were urban in the 1960s and 1970s. And so many authors caught onto what he was doing, but it kind of went dormant until the 1990s when it really started picking up again. You had authors like Omar Tyree, sister Souljah and Nina Foxx and Sapphire starting to write books. Of course Sapphire is probably the most famous urban fiction writer next to sister Souljah, because she wrote ‘Push’, which is the novel that ultimately became precious…
Diane Betsy: Precious in the movies, right.
Christian Wilson: Which was the movie that was inspired by the novel ‘Push’ that had all the big time stars, it had Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, in that movie with -- what's her name? Mo'Nique, the comedian.
Diane Betsy: Right Mo'Nique, right.
Christian Wilson: So it was a way for people who really did not have their voice heard and they were not suspected of being readers or being consumers of literature to be heard. And it really did document what was going on in these neighborhoods at that point of time in their lives. And it does – I mean it's very hard to read if you're not used to it, it's very hard to read, because you're just sitting here and you're reading it and you're like, “I can't believe these experiences are happening to people, I can't live. This is really reality for many people.” And I will say that, you know, 80% of the African American community does not live in poverty, does not experience what's going on, but 20% does. And so this is a voice for the 20% and this is a voice for the marginalized and this is a voice for the oppressed.
Diane Betsy: And I think another sub genre would have been the crime novel.
Christian Wilson: Like the Walter Mosley‘s?
Diane Betsy: Walter Mosley's the ‘Devil with the Red Dress’ started a series – sorry…
Christian Wilson: Devil in a Blue Dress.
Diane Betsy: Devil in a Blue Dress started a series; the reason why I love that book so much though, is that it gives a tremendous history, African American history. Because if you ever wanted to know how did all those black people get to Compton, how did all those black people windup in California? Read the ‘Devil in a Blue Dress ‘ and you’ll find out that all those black people moved up from Texas to California during the war to go to work in the plants to make parachutes, etcetera. That is how all those black people got -- how did I find that out? I read the ‘Devil in a Blue Dress’ by Walter Mosley. And so there's a lot of history in this particular series on Easy Rawlins as a detective, a lot of African American history.
Christian Wilson: And then also very briefly, I would also say that it's not only African Americans writing urban fiction, you have a whole now even sub-sub genre of Latino urban fiction, that's out there. And you know one of the reasons I found this out was because when I was coming out of my undergraduate university, there were people who would just set up book stands. And these books were not in any library yet and it would just sell urban fiction on the street corner for $5 a book. They'd self publish, self edit and it would just sell these books.
Diane Betsy: And that's the way a lot of black poetry got started when Nikki Giovanni in the 60s standing on street corners selling her poems and eventually a publisher approach her.
Christian Wilson: Exactly.
Diane Betsy: Alright and now we have this whole field of black poets, but she started it by standing on a street corner in the 60s.
Christian Wilson: And now you have this whole field of black urban fiction being sold -- not sold, but borrowed in libraries and being circulated in libraries.
Diane Betsy: Well, Montgomery County Library -- while we're on the subject back in 2010, we would get urban fiction, maybe seven copies, maybe eight. We move up to 2017/18. We've got 23 copies of each one every…
Diane Betsy: Yeah, for every library.
Diane Betsy: Things have changed in Montgomery County Libraries when it comes to urban fiction.
Lauren Martino: I'd like to think we've made a little progress in libraries since the 60s and even as far back as 2010.
Diane Betsy: That's a lot of copies though.
Christian Wilson: It’s a lot of copies, it’s a lot of copies and I mean it's less than I would like to see, but we're doing better.
Diane Betsy: For a sub.
Christian Wilson: For a sub genre.
Diane Betsy: Sub genre of African American, it's a lot of copies, because we don't get that many copies initially of something done by Coates t or Ta-Nehisi Coates and people like that.
Lauren Martino: So we've got one more question we like to ask all of our guests on a library matters and that is, what are you reading right now?
Diane Betsy: Right at the moment, I am reading Washington Black, it is one of the best stories I have ever read. It’s written by Canadian -- a black woman named Esi Edugyan and its winning all the awards in Canada and in Britain, now I imagine in time it'll win awards in the United States. But it's about a black slave named George Washington Black, he's a little boy and he gets given to a scientist and the scientist is building contraption no one has ever heard of before, today we call them air balloons. And so he has a million adventures, sort of like the Secret Life of Pi, but it's that exciting, the things that happen to him, there’s an explosion, his face was scarred, he gets older, he winds up in Alaska. This is one incredible story; I have not read anything this good in a long time. She is married; she lives in British Columbia which is…
Lauren Martino: Who is she, the author?
Diane Betsy: The author Esi Edugyan. They live in British Columbia which is right across the Washington state line in Canada. She is married to a white man who's Canadian, who is on the best seller list. His name is Steven Price and his bestseller is called By Gaslight, came out in I think 2015; he's also an award winner for poetry. They take turns taking care of their kids and writing.
Diane Betsy: I think she's the descendant from -- parents from Ghana, but she was born and raised in Canada, fascinating book, ‘Washington Black.’
Lauren Martino: All right, Christian, what's yours?
Christian Wilson: Animal Farm by George Orwell. Oh you know it’s so funny that I picked it up because I was like you know what? This is one of the only books by him that I have not read. And so I'm reading it and you know it's very -- not interesting, but it showcases human nature and in through the animals on the farm and you're just learn the pig is superior, because he's telling everyone what to do and no one is questioning him. And it's just like, you know everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than the others.
Diane Betsy: So it's the nature of politics in the United States.
Christian Wilson: Not to get political.
Diane Betsy: I’m shocked you didn’t have to read that in schools, so I was in school…
Christian Wilson: Not political, we had a choice between Animal Farm and 1984 and I chose 1984.
Diane Betsy: See, they give the kids choices these days, when I was in school you didn't have a choice, you were told read this; this and this and one of them was animal farm.
Christian Wilson: And then also we had to read all the King's Men and so that one you know, but I was like, I need to come back and read this one these days, I do. And you know, this month was like the month I'm like, okay, this is the book I'm going to read this month.
Diane Betsy: I am so glad you read that book, I really am.
Lauren Martino: Well, I'd like to thank you so much, Christian and Diane. This has been a fascinating discussion.
Diane Betsy: Thank you.
Lauren Martino: And I'm really glad you could be guests today.
Christian Wilson: Thank you so much.
Lauren Martino: Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the apple podcast App Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts. We'd love to know what you think. Thank you very much and we will see you next time.
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m Lauren Martino and I’m here with my co-host, Julie Dina.
Julie Dina: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And today, we are here to talk about decluttering. Happy January, the holidays are over. Your house is probably packed with stuff. And it’s New Year, it’s a time for new beginnings and it’s a season to declutter. So with us today, we have two MCPL staff members, Fred Akuffo.
Fred Akuffo: Hello, everyone.
Lauren Martino: Who needs decluttering and has some very creative strategies he tells us to – that have worked for him that he’d like to share. I’m really curious to hear this, because I need this myself. And with us today as well is Angelica Rengifo.
Angelica Rengifo: Hello.
Lauren Martino: Who assures me she is on a minimalists journey. Angelica and Fred, can you define decluttering for us? What is it and why should we be thinking about it?
Angelica Rengifo: So, one of the first things that I will like to may clear is that decluttering is not organizing.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: So, decluttering is to get rid of things.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: Get rid of things you don’t use. Get rid of things you don’t want anymore. Get rid of things that are broken and you’re not thinking of fixing or getting fixed.
Julie Dina: Or you are thinking, but that’s all you’re doing.
Angelica Rengifo: Or you’re not going to get to it.
Julie Dina: Yeah
Angelica Rengifo: Yeah. So decluttering is making a space for things that matter in your life and taking away declutter that it doesn’t allow you to see and appreciate those things.
Fred Akuffo: For me, decluttering is placing things back in their proper place for better flow in your life. If you listen to a lot of TED talks as a TED talk about flow and how gaining and comprehension of how flow works makes your life better. So for me, I think decluttering is a practice that can assist with that.
Julie Dina: So every one is talking about decluttering. Now, let’s dive in and find out why is decluttering actually a thing now where people just neither 20 years ago, or was the concept simply calls something else back then. What do you guys think?
Angelica Rengifo: Did June Cleaver ever declutter? Does she ever need it? It’s what I want to know.
Julie Dina: That’s a research we need to.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah. I think with the shows like Horrors and things like that, I think it cost people to maybe pay attention to more of what they have gone on in their own homes. Now the Horrors are you know, people who are on the extreme. But I think when you watch a show like that and then you turn around and look at your own place, you see, you know, some efforts that you could probably participate in as a practice.
So I think, yeah, with some of the media that has come out now, addressing some different things that people struggle with, decluttering has become a bigger issue. Also, cluttering is not just physical, it’s –
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Fred Akuffo: – sometimes I think you can have some mental cluttering going on and that can contribute to how it looks in your life.
Angelica Rengifo: Decluttering, again, going back to the question is a thing because we – maybe the gen – now people want to have experiences. They want to create memories instead of accumulating things and more things on top of things that we sometimes don’t even know that we have and then we end up buying the same thing twice or three times because we cannot find the original thing.
For example, right now you have TV show on Netflix based on the book of Marie Kondo, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” about how to tidy up. And we see the houses of these people filled with things that they don’t use, that don’t fit them, that were part of like a period of their lives that is long gone and we just accumulate things and that’s how I think generations have change.
We are not going to take all the stuff that we buy and we accumulate. We’re not going to take it with us once we are like sick in bed at the end of our lives. We are not going to say, “Oh, I remember that dress that I bought 15 years ago.” We’re going to remember all, “Oh, I remember the trip that I took with my kids for three days to the beach.”
Lauren Martino: All right. Have you read heard “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up”?
Angelica Rengifo: Yeah, I have read a quite a few books about decluttering.
Lauren Martino: I just love the facts that there’s a life-changing Manga. So, Fred, what made you aware your need to declutter? What got you started thinking about this?
Fred Akuffo: Okay. This is an interesting one. I’ll say comments form the internal customer and what do I mean by that? I noticed one day, one point, that I had – one of the cleaners who is in-charge with cleaning up the library asked me, “So you would like me to clean your desk for you?” And, you know, I was like, “No, no, I got it.”
And then a second question came from the same person thirty seconds later, “Not really, I can do that for you if you like.” And I’m like “No, no, no. That’ll be fine. I got it. I got it.” And then not long after, maybe another day that following week I had a volunteer who work at the branch and same question came up. “Hey, you know, I can come an extra day if you like and help you out with your desk.” “No, I’m all right now. I’m good.”
Lauren Martino: Was there a spill?
Fred Akuffo: No, no, no. I let her know, “You know, I’m okay. I’m going to be getting to it in a minute.” And then the same second response from her came, “No, no, no, I’m serious. I can do that. I can come another day and we can work on your desk, you know what I mean?” And so at that point, I’m starting to become aware that –
Lauren Martino: The sign.
Fred Akuffo: – there is something wrong here and –
Lauren Martino: The world is letting you know.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, yeah. So I took a quick glance maybe from a visitor guest point of view and just looked with some other eyes and noticed that I can’t see the color of my desk. It’s all white covered with papers, books, things like that. So, I made a mental note to myself, “Yeah, we might need to take care of that and do a little bit decluttering.” So I’m more of the folks that are need of the decluttering.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Angelica?
Angelica Rengifo: Three years ago, I could be found shopping at least once, twice a week, anything, food, clothes, shoes, accessories, decor, online, at the store. And then, I think I watched something on TV and I said to myself, “I want to travel. I want to see other things. I want to have memories. Other people are doing this, why can’t I do it?”
And I started analyzing my spending and realize that all of my money was going to shopping and things that I will wear once, maybe never. I have shoes – I had pair of shoes that I never wore. And – because they look cute on the store and they look cute on feet, but then I was not comfortable buying.
Lauren Martino: You can walk.
Angelica Rengifo: I mean, walking on them.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Angelica Rengifo: And I decided that all my money was going to go traveling. And last year, I just went too odd that I started a no spending year. This is my third month.
Lauren Martino: No spending year.
Angelica Rengifo: It has been hard. It has not been perfect.
Lauren Martino: So what are the rules of these, like clearly you have to buy food.
Angelica Rengifo: A no cloth – yeah.
Lauren Martino: Okay, okay.
Angelica Rengifo: And so essentials I buy, food, of course, gas, doctors appointments, rent, of course, just the essentials and I give myself once a week to like go out to eat.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: But I’m not allowed to buy shoes, clothes, decor. I’ve been looking at this blanket for like a month then I’m like I want it but I don’t need it. So it’s also changing the mentality of buying, of wanting and masking this want as need. So that’s what has changed my perspective on consuming goods besides food, which I need. But also, I was buying more food that I needed for a week.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Angelica Rengifo: So, things were going bad and it was – as a result, I was wasting money that way too. So I – trying to do at least planning from Sunday two meals per week to declutter my fridge as well and my pantry.
Julie Dina: So decluttering could be seen as a way of saving money as well.
Angelica Rengifo: Oh, it is a big way of saving money towards maybe paying your debt, student loans, which is usually a big one for everybody, paying your mortgage, your credit card, making finally plans to take that vacation that you have always wanted. And so –
Lauren Martino: You’ve done any of these traveling yet that you want to do? Where it begun?
Angelica Rengifo: Yes, I have.
Lauren Martino: What this enabled you to do?
Angelica Rengifo: I’ve been to few a cities in Italy. I’ve been to London, Paris, Amsterdam, a few other ones. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Wow. Is it worth it?
Angelica Rengifo: Yes. It has been really worth it. I’ve been getting rid of clothes at the same time and I really don’t need anymore right now, so, yes.
Lauren Martino: Do either of you have any resources you’d like to share that have been particularly helpful in your decluttering journeys?
Fred Akuffo: For me, I had read a book a friend of mine has suggested. It wasn’t a decluttering book, but he talked about things in a decluttering method. And this is a “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. And he talked about not having things build up by not taking care of things.
So, if you have something that needs to be done, do it, get it off your checklist, so it’s not building a pile up in the back of your mind. And the back of the mind, when you have a pile up building up, you start to lose other things to deal with that. So it’s kind of like I express to people sometimes and I say, “Look, if you tell me to do more than three things at a time, I’m going to start forgetting things. I’m going to start dropping things,” you know, because, you know, for me that’s what I can handle. You know, sometimes I tell my wife, “You know, only three things to the grocery list. If you had five, I’m going to forget the milk, okay?” So – but that’s –
Lauren Martino: It’s a Pat Hutchins’ book.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, yeah.
Lauren Martino: Don’t forget the butter.
Fred Akuffo: Right, right, right. So – but that’s what I’m talking about in terms of the nonphysical side of decluttering. Sometimes you got to declutter, you know, your thoughts, your mind, you know. And sometimes we don’t want to focus on meditations much because we got sits still.
And in today’s society, everybody is moving everywhere, you know, high rates speed and all that kind of thing. But sometimes it’s good to just take that time where there would be 15 minutes in two days. Just meditate on what you’re going to get – got going on and what you need to take care of. And then take care of those things and check them off so that your mind can be free and your flow can be better.
Lauren Martino: Angelica, what do you have to share with us?
Angelica Rengifo: Some of the people that I follow on YouTube are more towards minimalism, but they also give you an insight on things that you can’t use. You don’t have to follow every single thing, you don’t have to go to the extreme. But some of my favorite ones are “Pick Up Limes”. She has decluttered and she’s a minimalist not only in her lifestyle and her work, but also even her diet.
Julie Dina: How does that work?
Angelica Rengifo: She is all about plant-based diet and her meals are very simple, very repetitive in the sense that it’s not the same thing every day, but maybe every other week she repeats a series of meals. And by practicing what you are making, what you are cooking, it becomes easier.
Lauren Martino: You get better at them.
Angelica Rengifo: So it simplifies your life, what you’re buying at the store. You’re using it more. It doesn’t go bad and you know where to get it and at what prices you’re going or what places you’re going to get the best prices from. So I really like her.
Then Joshua Becker and, of course, “The Minimalist” are the two – or three in this, three guys that – or really the pioneers in the minimalist movement.” And they also have books. They have TED Talks. And they are really good at making you think a different way about things in your clutter, in your baggage. And what you have and what you don’t need in what to – or how to appreciate what you have that you’re not seeing.
Lauren Martino: Do have any particular titles by Joshua Becker you can recommend to us.
Angelica Rengifo: Well, I am reading – he has two books and I am reading right now “The Minimalist Home.” This is – Joshua Becker is a husband and he’s a father, and he started to declutter his home with his family. And he, again, is a pioneer in this movement and he gives you guidelines on how to simplify your home lifestyle and what issues contribute to home clutter. So this is a great book to maybe start with Joshua Becker in “The Minimalist Home.”
Lauren Martino: So do either of you have any tips for those of us who just doesn’t come naturally to?
Angelica Rengifo: We have to, one, to make a change, first of all, because we can’t read all we want and it sounds pretty and it looks pretty, and it’s the fad right now. But if we don’t really wanted, it’s not going to last and we will go back to our old ways. So, first of all, we have to want it.
And then I think it will be great to create a plan. Like, what do we want to get rid of? Why do we want to get rid of things? What are we going to do with the things after we peerage them from whatever they are?
Lauren Martino: That’s the challenge.
Angelica Rengifo: How are we going to get rid of them? And know yourself that you’re going to be able to follow through, that you’re going to do the things that you plan for. And that – and also realize that not every single method that you read or hear about is going to work for you. So, I do a little bit of everything I have read. I have read the book about “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson.
Lauren Martino: Which just sounds like a crazy well novel to me, right? This is – it sounds like fiction.
Angelica Rengifo: But it’s an easy read. It’s very short if you want to do it as an audio book. And she is an older person. She is a widow and she gave me this point of view of like, do I want my family to go through all my belongings when I’m dead? And of course the answer is no for 99.9 percent of us.
Julie Dina: Why should my descendant see that I bought this horrible blue dress in the ‘80s and –
Angelica Rengifo: Exactly. So that’s one thing that I have kept with me from her book. Then I have Marie Kondo in the does this make me happy? Does this make me want to go like, oh yes, I want it. I want to keep it. So, things say that not everything is going to work for you. So you have to know yourself to decide what is going to work and be willing to try what you think my worry can then decide what to keep.
Fred Akuffo: And in terms of knowing yourself, you know, sometimes I handle things from a lazy man’s point of view. So, if you’re – if you consider yourself more on the lazier side, one thing you can do is do they wanted a challenge? And that is any area that you want to take care of in terms of cluttering, get rid of your clutter. You can take one item out of that area each day and/or it could be one or two, you pick the number five.
But whatever number gets you to point where you’re tired to do it anymore, you pick that number once a day and then by the end of the week, you’ll have a noticeable change. And it will seem like you never did anything at all.
Julie Dina: And it’s like somebody has that. I think it’s Regina Leeds has that 8 Minute Organizer book that’s like, you know, just take eight minutes and do something today and –
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, yeah, sort of along those lines. Yeah.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Fred Akuffo: So you didn’t have to, you know, take all the time out of your life but, you know, you’re making progress in little moments as well.
Angelica Rengifo: Eight minutes.
Lauren Martino: Eight minutes.
Angelica Rengifo: Now, have I done this? No. Partially because I started doing it and then my husband rested up. So the new plan is to let’s do it together, eight minutes together.
Lauren Martino: Together.
Angelica Rengifo: Yes, so that we both see the fruits of our labor and can hopefully keep it that way.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah. If you’re going to do it a little bit out of time, you can’t put anything on top of it after you’ve it.
Angelica Rengifo: Yes, yes.
Fred Akuffo: So, you take those five pieces, make sure three pieces don’t get back on their.
Angelica Rengifo: And that’s the challenge, right?
Lauren Martino: Do either of you have any tips on decluttering sentimental items?
Fred Akuffo: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: This is the worst.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah. My tip would be, you know, sentiment is tough because sentiment means different things to different people. And they impact people in different ways in terms of gravity.
So one thing I suggest when dealing with sentimental items is – have you – when is the last time you visited the sentiment in your life? You know, you can ask yourself that question. You know, if it’s so important, when is the last time I actually dealt with this particular item in terms of how much I claim it means to me? If it was like five years ago when you last held this item in your hands, it’s probably not that much of a sentiment.
Angelica Rengifo: I think for sentimental items, again, they are really hard to get rid off. Like Fred was saying, is different. It’s a different item for everybody. It’s a different item size for every family member. But, why not make a part of the decor, get rid of all this other clutter around this item that doesn’t let you see what is sentiment – very sentimental to you or that you’re attached to it and show off this one that is more important than this other two or three.
So, sometimes you don’t have to get rid of sentimental items. You don’t have to feel guilty about keeping them. Show them off if they are that important to you. If it is a dress, like let’s say your kid’s baptism, why don’t you frame it and put pictures around it and something like that and keep it.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, I like that. Make it part of the decor, yeah.
Angelica Rengifo: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: So, now we’ve succeeded in decluttering, we hope. Let’s imagine we’ve gotten there. We’ve done it. Things are decluttered. How do we keep it that way?
Angelica Rengifo: So I will say some ways to keep it that way is not bringing in anymore items that you do not need. Do not bring into your kitchen single used gadgets. You don’t need a cutter for apples, one for your mangoes, one for your avocadoes; there is a knife. A knife does the same job that all those three gadgets does one way.
Think about ways that something you already have can’t – what this thing you already have can do instead of buying one new thing for just one purpose. Also, another thing that we can do is make plans for every single dollar in your budget. The way it’s planned it is like a promise to yourself that this money is going to – we’re going on a movie on Sunday and pizza afterwards. Those are memories.
Yes, you’re spending money but those are memories that you’re creating with people that you care about. Instead of bringing things into your house that are not going to give you space to lay down in the couch or walk around the bed or put your car in your garage because our priorities are so twisted that we are keeping things in our garage while we have an investment that is $30,000, $40,000 outside under the snow, rain and sun all year around instead of putting it inside the house in protecting this car that is costing us a lot of money.
Lauren Martino: It’s a good point.
Fred Akuffo: It’s interesting she said that. I – not that I’m hearing this, I’m thinking one thing that will help us stay away from the ad seen on TV store.
Angelica Rengifo: Oh, yeah.
Fred Akuffo: I’m talking about specialty item.
Angelica Rengifo: Pro-tip
Fred Akuffo: There’s a lot of –
Lauren Martino: Like the mango cutter you talked to –
Angelica Rengifo: Like that mango cutter.
Fred Akuffo: The mango cutter.
Angelica Rengifo: I almost bought it.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, the microwave, egg boiler.
Angelica Rengifo: Yup
Fred Akuffo: You know, all those things.
Julie Dina: Well, now that we’re towards the end of our episode, this is traditional final question that we ask our guests. What are you currently reading? Fred, let’s start with you.
Fred Akuffo: “Federal Mafia” by Irwin Schiff. And it’s about taxes and the nation. And when you clutter people down with all the taxes and stuff, you can’t think freely about, you know, the ones you do need to pay or should be paying or should not be paying. So the power is that maybe benefiting from the lack of clarity of all those different tax logic, got to pay attention to. I haven’t read the book all the way yet so I’m still finding out, but that’s one.
And then another one is “Creature from Jekyll Island.” And that’s the interesting one because it talks about the Federal Reserve and how it is intentionally doing what exactly the people who created it meant for it to do, which doesn’t look like what we think it looks like.
And so that kind of relates to the cluttering too because, you know, sometimes when you are in the midst of clutter, you can’t see what things look like until somebody says to you, “Hey, I can clean that for you.” So, you know, a lot of people –
Angelica Rengifo: Like a full circle.
Fred Akuffo: A lot of people think that the Federal Reserve needs to be cleaned up and so, you know, maybe we got some decluttering to do in that space of finance for the country as well.
Angelica Rengifo: So, I am reading right now “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I wasn’t originally – was not thinking about how it relates to declutter, but thinking about it that way, this is a period in time when France was occupied by Germany and how this dad and his daughter have to move to another town. And what will you take with you if you have to leave in a hurry at your house?
Lauren Martino: Oh, wow.
Angelica Rengifo: What is important to you?
Lauren Martino: What’s that important?
Angelica Rengifo: I asked myself that question a few weeks ago and I said, I will take my dog and my passport are I think what I will take with me. Everything else can be replaced.
Lauren Martino: I will like to thank both of you for coming to our program today. Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on our Apple podcast; we’ll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne. Today it's MoComCon time again. MCPL’s Annual Comic Convention MoComCon is always one of the highlights of the year for MCPL and we trust for the community as well. So with MoComCon 2019 around the corner delighted to welcome two members of the planning committee MoComCon this year Dana Alsup, Head of Adult Services at the Marilyn Praisner branch welcome.
Dana Alsup: Hi.
David Payne: I should say welcome back veteran of many appearances.
Dana Alsup: Yes, several appearances on the podcast.
David Payne: And still smiling. And also welcome to Beth Chandler from our Collection Management Division. Again, welcome back to you Beth.
Beth Chandler: Oh, thank you, glad to be back here and talking about one of my favorite events of the year at the library.
David Payne: Great. Well, I'm sure MoComCon, 2019 is going to be bigger and better than anything before but let's start with the basics perhaps. Let me ask you both to tell us a bit about what MoComCon is all about, when and where will it be taking place and what kind of audience is it for. We start with you Dana.
Dana Alsup: It's for everyone. It really is for everyone. We have stuff that goes from preschools through adults. It will be at the Silver Spring Library on January 19, 2019. There is a few different start times. So if you are one of those preschoolers or a parent of a preschooler we have two story times one at 10 AM, one at10:30 AM. It was very popular last year so we added a second one. And then you can start registering for our Cosplay Contests and our escape rooms at 11 AM. And then all of the programs start at 12 and they run until 4 o'clock.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, we have quite a bit. We have a couple of favorites coming back about focusing on a couple of new things. We are going to have WiiU with Mario Kart and also an Oculus Rift to play a VR game.
David Payne: You can tell us more about that, that sounds fascinating.
Beth Chandler: Oh, my goodness. It’s a large virtual reality glasses that you put on and the particular thing we have is called what’s the name again Dana?
Dana Alsup: It’s called Beat Saber and I like to describe it as dance, dance revolution for your arms. You hold onto two things in your hands and then what you see are boxes flying at you and you have to hit them in a certain pattern with light sabers. It's going to be pretty awesome.
David Payne: Right.
Dana Alsup: And we’re getting I think two of them and they come from the state library. They are loaning them out to us for this event.
Beth Chandler: Yes, one of the many things paid for by your state tax dollars. So if you want to get a bit of a return on that come try some virtual reality that's pretty much for all ages who are old enough to manage the equipment. We literally do have things for preschoolers through seniors, including author Don Sakers coming back. He is going to be doing just one writing and publishing workshop but we have got a nice big room to fit aspiring writers. And we also have someone coming from visionary comics to talk about comics publishing for people who are more along the lines of comics artists. FutureMakers are coming back with a special 3D craft. See what else do we have of course the Cosplay Contest.
Dana Alsup: We have the Cosplay Contest. Those are at 3:30 in the afternoon and we have children, teens and adults WiiU. There is only 20 participants for each so registrations are until 11. We also have the Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra coming they are sending a string quartet and they play different videogame and movie songs which should be very fun.
David Payne: That’s great. Where will they be located?
Dana Alsup: They will be in the third floor meeting room. So they'll be at 1:15. They’re sandwiched by Don Sakers before them, and then Chuck Sellner who is doing the comics publishing one on one after them.
David Payne: Well, it sounds really exciting. I think it's safe to say that MoComCon isn’t only for comic book lovers.
Dana Alsup: It's not. It's really for anyone. If you just didn’t want – even if you just want to come in and do some crafts or have your face painted there is lots of different activities. You don't have to be a super hero buff or comic person to join MoComCon.
Beth Chandler: We have our exhibitors too. We have a couple of people from stores that sell comic books and related items.
Dana Alsup: Although they will not be selling –.
Beth Chandler: Excuse me, no. They won’t be selling at the event but we will have some local groups you know costumers and people like that as well.
Dana Alsup: However, our friends at the library will be having their book sale again and they will also be selling T-shirts this year. They look different than the staff T-shirts but they will be selling those along with their graphic novels that they’ll have there on the third floor.
Beth Chandler: Yes, so if you want to proclaim to the world that you attended MoComCon ‘19 you can wear a T-shirt that says so.
David Payne: Looking back at last year’s event I can't remember offhand what the total attendance was. I remember it was quite staggering and I'm sure there’ll be a big turnout this year and I presume most of the attendees will come from the local Montgomery County area. But as word spreads about MoComCon do you know of people coming from further away on planet Earth at least.
Dana Alsup: I know that I think most people come from either Maryland or D.C. We did have and we had a presenter I think last year or the year before that came from New York to come and participate. So she came. I don't know if anyone comes from out of state yeah, but they definitely come from out of county. They’re not all Montgomery County residents that might have something to do with the fact that I drop off flyers in other counties as well.
David Payne: Right.
Dana Alsup: And we marketed outside of the county as well.
David Payne: Yeah, right. Now let’s turn to this year's event. What are some of the highlights we can expect at this year’s MoComCon and will there be anything new?
Dana Alsup: Well, we already talked about some of them. Some of the newer ones are the symphony orchestra quartet coming. Don has been there in the past two years and his event has been so popular that we put him in the big room. This year we haven't had or we’ve had video games and that we've had Minecraft before but we decided to switch it up and do Mario Kart and then have Oculus Rift, which we just found out about last week that we got that. FutureMakers has come before, but they are doing something different this year. It's called thermoforming which is used when making masks for all of this Cosplay things costumes, but this is not masks, they're just doing a simple thing to give you the concept of it.
And we’ll have our face painters and craftists same as last year and we will have an escape, we’ll have two escape rooms this year. One is run by Game of Rooms, which is an escape room company in I think Gaithersburg is where they’re located and they’re doing the eight to 13 age Harry Potter themed escape room. And then staff has put together another escape room for adults, teens and adults it's 14 and up, and its Game of Thrones themed. You don't have to have knowledge of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to play though you don't have to know anything about Jon Snow to be successful in our escape rooms.
David Payne: Anything you like to add Beth?
Beth Chandler: Yes, our crafts are new this year. So one of the ones that looks really Q is little superhero puppets. You can create your own superhero and put them together with Brad so that the arms can move and so we’re glad to be able to switch that up a bit.
David Payne: Sounds great. So with all this in mind let me ask you both what are you most looking forward to MoComCon 2019? Let me start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: Oh, I just like seeing all of the people who come having fun. Last year, I spent a lot of time with our Button Maker and people we go through scraps and find the piece that they want and you’ll cut it just the right shape and maybe color it if it's black and white. And we make little buttons so they can have cool buttons with a favorite character or something else cool on it. And people were just having a blast and it was fun to see all the different things people brought to make buttons and it really was all ages. We had parents making their own buttons as well as helping their little kids.
David Payne: That’s great and Dana.
Dana Alsup: This year although I love all the smiling faces. I think I’m looking forward to Oculus Rift I will be terrible at it. But I haven't seen it before, so I'm excited to experience it. And the first year we had VR but I didn't have time to do it, so we’re going to get it up and running the night before. So I think a staff can take a turn at it and only embarrass ourselves in front of each other and not.
David Payne: Get those arms to workout.
Dana Alsup: Right, not everyone else.
David Payne: Yeah, so let’s go back – back in time a bit as we mentioned this is the third year of MoComCon. Let’s go back to the beginning and tell us how MoComCon came into existence Dana?
Dana Alsup: It started with I think it was three or four staff members who wanted to do something specifically for teens and this was their proposals to do an event a comic con type event. And it quickly snowballed and gained interests, and so we developed it into something that was all-encompassing all ages. So as we’ve said at the third time preschool to senior. And it was accepted by the then director Parker and our Acting Director, Anita has graciously let us continue to do this. So it's – but I think they did a lot of research a number of other systems do this and it's been successful at other library systems as well.
David Payne: And Beth, have you been involved since the beginning?
Beth Chandler: I have indeed is the person who buys comic books and is someone who has worked with related programs in the past. I was absolutely thrilled and basically begged to get on the committee. So I'm delighted to have been one of the “founding members”. The first year it was a lot of work, but we learned how to streamline the work over the last couple of years and what sort of things we can and can't do as staff as well as finding a really generous array of local talent for people and organizations to participate and do the programming.
David Payne: Great, that actually leads me into my next question which is that as MoComCon has developed and grown over these past couple of years, what are some of the things you've learned about setting it up? Let me start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: Oh, I would say crowd management working out the best ways to do lines, when to do lines, when to do tickets. One of our challenges is keeping the area in front of the elevators clear so that people can get in and out of the elevators. One of the things that at times you’ll help create crowds but also help to entertain crowds is having some Star Wars Cosplayers in.
Dana Alsup: Yes, R2-D2 last year was epic I think is the correct word.
But we had to keep R2 away from the elevator as soon as he got out of the elevator we had to quickly get R2 away. Him and his handler I know he is not a real thing. I will say other challenges we've eliminated some things that were challenges or that created too much work as Beth said we streamline things. We had the themed fandom rooms and they took a long time to set up and so this year we eliminated them just to give ourselves a little bit of a break and so we could set up the rest of the event in a more timely manner because they were – they took a lot of time.
Beth Chandler: But if you enjoy Finnish things we do have scavenger hunts this year.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, we have two scavenger hunts.
Beth Chandler: Yes, one for kids and one for teens and adults. So we think that will provide a lot of enjoyment and of course people can always take pictures not just for the teen and adult scavenger hunt which is I think it's Snapchat based.
Dana Alsup: It’s an Instagram scavenger hunt. So you’ll have I think it's five or six clues or things you need to take pictures of like get your superhero squad and take a picture, find your favorite graphic novel, take a picture with it, with a specific hash tag. And then we’ll go through at the end and if you got all five or six of these clues then we’ll do a quick raffle and you’ll get a prize.
David Payne: So looking back to the very first MoComCon, did you both think that it will be an annual event, was that the intention or –?
Dana Alsup: I think it was the intention. But honestly we had no idea what was going to happen. And when the library opened at 10 and everything is set up and you're just standing there waiting I was down on the third floor at the tech bar which we use as the information desk and it was like are people going to show up, do they know that this happens. And within I don't know 15, 20 minutes I was saying the same thing for the next four hours, welcome to MoComCon, this is what you can do today, here is the events. This is what you can do, do you want to register right away and it was nonstop and I didn't realize I was tired until I sat down in my car. So on that first year no one knew what to expect and when creating an event from scratch is so much work. But now we use a lot of the same models and same outlines that we've had these past couple of years, so it makes it a slightly easier.
David Payne: Obviously it’s a great community event. What’s the most positive effect do you think MoComCon has on the community? Let me start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: I think one of them is people who might not otherwise think of coming into the library come in. I know we had a lot of teens and twenty some things come in. We tend to get a lot of families and senior citizens but we did get some of the younger people coming in and we also I think expanded people's ideas of what the library could be.
Dana Alsup: I agree with everything Beth just said.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, it also made teens lets people know that the library is a very a comics friendly place, a crafts friendly place, a fandom friendly place that we’re not just about your regular novels and children's books and educational things but we’re about fun and creativity and high-tech also.
David Payne: Yeah, and we should also mention that the whole event is completely free.
Beth Chandler: Completely free.
Dana Alsup: Yes that because we know it can cost over $100, sometimes several $100 to go to some of the big conventions. And this way, people don't have to worry about money. And one of the reasons that we aren’t selling things is the parents don't have to worry about their children begging to be bought something, but they can go home with several crafts if they want and pictures and of course a lot of memories.
David Payne: So if anybody looking to participate as a volunteer, how can one get information on volunteering?
Dana Alsup: I would contact us via social media, and then the social media team will forward that to me and I'll be in contact with them. But we are in – we’re always looking for volunteers the whole day, part of the day, you get a free T-shirt.
Beth Chandler: And yes, for teens, we can offer –.
Dana Alsup: SSL Hours.
Beth Chandler: SSL Hours.
David Payne: And for anybody unable to make it actually to the actual event can customers participate in any other way?
Dana Alsup: We’re having lots of – all the branches are having lead up programs or most of them are having lead up programs. And one of our presenters Don Sakers will actually be doing two events one in Olney and one in Germantown. And he has been extremely popular at MoComCon in past years where we have a – we had him in a smaller room and there was a limit and people were sneaking in. And so we were having him do some other events so more people can see him and more people can participate up county that way as well rather than down county and Silver Spring.
David Payne: Just look behind the scenes obviously for those people who go it's a spectacular event. But tell us how it actually comes about, what's the planning cycle and will he be planning for the next one almost straight after MoComCon 2019 is finished?
Dana Alsup: I will be. As the team lead I don't stop and MoComCon does not stop for me. A couple of weeks after the event we all come together and we have a discussion about what worked, what didn't work, what feedback we got from customers and how we can make improvements or change things to be better for the following year. And I almost immediately start figuring out how to make those changes happen. So it does, I get about a two week break and then it kicks back up again like halfway through February for me.
The rest of the team although I will say those that have been on the team, which most of them I think six or seven of us have done it all three years now. I don't think that the thought of it stops. I think that we see things and we write little notes about other possibilities or we meet someone as a presenter during summer reading and we try and pull that in. But the actual teen planning part doesn't start until June or July. So we spend seven months planning this and we meet in person once a month as a team and then there is many emails back and forth in between all those meetings and phone calls.
Beth Chandler: And documents created or updated.
Dana Alsup: Documents, yeah, we have a joint page where we should have all of our documents and calendars and things get changed. I mean, even now are the MoComCon schedule that's up on the website has been changed three times because we’ve changed you know, we added like we were adding our Oculus Rift or changed something and it doesn't stop.
David Payne: Yeah, so check the website for.
Dana Alsup: Yes, check the website for those up-to-date information.
David Payne: So with that in mind, let me ask you both what's the first thing you’re going to do when MoComCon is over. Let’s start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: I am going to collapse into a comfortable chair and probably at a restaurant have a nice dinner and get some rest.
Dana Alsup: It's similar. Last year I got into my car and it was so quiet and I just sat there reveling in the silence because it's very noisy in the building. And there is a lot of just kind of shouting things to other people across the room to try and tell someone something. So it's I like this silence and then I pretty much just go home and I forced my husband to figure out dinner that night. It’s usually Taco Bell then. And this year it's the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day so we get a full two day weekend after this, which is thrilling.
David Payne: So now and to put you on the spot you're going to be wearing the MoComCon T-shirt. But if you could come in costume, who would you come as Dana?
Dana Alsup: Jeez, I don’t know. Probably, I’m a Star Wars fan so I’d probably be like a Han Solo though I figure that out. Although, I’d leave my blaster at home because there is no weapons or fake weapons allowed at MoComCon. So we wouldn't have to have the question of who shot first.
Beth Chandler: Oh, I have the fantasy end covered. I’m a big Manga & Anime fan and I actually have a costume for Rahab, who is 800-year-old mage. She is a minor character in the Manga & Anime, the ancient magus bride and I just love elder wise women types so I'd probably do that.
David Payne: So from costumes to theme songs if MoComCon had a theme song, what do you think it might be? Start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: I was racking my brains. I mentioned this to my husband and being a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, he said why not the song from My Neighbor Totoro. I’m like oh, walking song. Hey, let’s go, hey, let’s go. I'm happy as can be.
Dana Alsup: I like that.
David Payne: Could you follow that Dana?
Dana Alsup: No, I can’t. I think it would need its own new song of course.
Beth Chandler: Well, that's an idea for next year. We have a song writing contest.
Dana Alsup: There we go, yet another contest. I think it would have to be like I don't even know the name of the song, but You're The Best Around like I just it feels that way to me and that’s how I feel about the team too. I would be completely lost as a team lead if it wasn't for that team.
Beth Chandler: Okay, I should add, we have the most fun meetings usually at meetings like okay, what's next on the agenda and you know, who wants to do this and we hear crickets. And ours it's something like okay, who wants to do the research on this video game like volunteers could you?
David Payne: Right.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, we do use a lot of terms from comic con type things like tribute or we’ll have floor prefects this year and I think I’ll have them wear peas.
David Payne: So are there any special characters that one should be on the lookout for?
Dana Alsup: We usually have the FIFO first come and so they are Stormtroopers and they walk around. They’re great for a photo op, get your like Christmas card photo for next year. Last year, Chewbacca came and R2 as I’ve already mentioned which when R2 came in I think I screamed. I was so excited about it. We haven't gotten word officially if R2 will be there or not but those are our main cosplayers are Star Wars cosplayers. And then people come, our first year we had a group of people come just because they were so excited and they brought their like very serious cosplay cast students.
Beth Chandler: Oh, those were the Mortal Kombat Cosplayers.
Dana Alsup: Yeah.
Beth Chandler: They were fantastic.
Dana Alsup: They were amazing and Wonder Woman was there as well. All those photos of them are on our Flickr accounts. They were amazing and they didn't even want to participate in the Cosplay Contest. They just wanted to be there as photo ops for customers to take pictures which I thought was very nice of them.
David Payne: So do have any idea what time the Stormtroopers might be there or –?
Dana Alsup: They usually get there before the branch opens and then they change and then they walk around and they usually take a break. The first year I can’t remember a kid said where is Kylo Ren. He is here, he is somewhere because he had been walking around and I had just given Kylo Ren a water bottle then I said even villains need water breaks.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, I've been really delighted to see the array. Last year I actually saw Nausicaa from Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. I mentioned, my husband and I are both Miyazaki fans and we were talking beforehand I would love to see one punch man. He is a Manga superhero who can defeat anybody and I mean anybody with just a single punch. And he looks like this ordinary, actually he looks like a very boring 20 or 30 something guy with a bald head, but yet I think it would be hilarious if someone cosplayed him. It’s very funny Manga. So I wouldn't be surprised if we see him. We have seen people play Haikyu, Hetalia and some other I know we’ve had at least one or two people from Naruto of course. So we’ve seen more Anime in a lot of the characters.
Dana Alsup: Always a few doctors.
Beth Chandler: Oh, yes.
David Payne: Yeah, so for those attending be prepared for anything.
Beth Chandler: Yes.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, you never know who you’re going to meet.
David Payne: Right, we’ll bump into, yeah. So for those interested in finding the most up-to-date information where can they check to find it?
Dana Alsup: On our website. So on the MCPL website just under the search box for a catalog you'll see MoComCon there and you can click on that and it's going to have the schedule of events which you can print out and bring with you, which I recommend because we don't hand out the schedules because we save paper. So we’ll have that there. And then there is also the registration forms for the Cosplay Contests there if you want to print it out and fill it out beforehand. If you are under the age of 18 your guardian must sign that form.
David Payne: So we hope the weather will be kind to us, but in case it isn't, is there a weather date?
Beth Chandler: Yes, we do. It's two weeks from then, I believe its February 2nd. Dana is checking on the precise date.
Dana Alsup: February 2nd, yes.
Beth Chandler: February 2nd and I would also like to add that when we say everybody is welcome we meet everybody. Although the crowds might take a bit to get through we are fully handicapped accessible library. And if anyone needs sign language interpreters just contact your local library and tell them that you intend to go to MoComCon and when you would like the sign language interpreters. If anyone needs a quiet space at that point our coloring room is going to be somewhat quiet. And the first floor should also be fairly quiet it’s just the post office and the coffee place.
Dana Alsup: Yes, I would assume the post office will be kind of quiet. We call it our superhero break room as our quiet room coloring room just little break.
David Payne: You want to get away from it all. Oh, yeah.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, take off your cape.
David Payne: So we traditionally close our episodes by asking the guests what are you currently reading comic book or otherwise. So let me start with you Beth?
Beth Chandler: Well, of course, I am reading Graphic Novels. I recently finished Upgrade Soul which is a very serious adult graphic novel dealing with the future way of making older people young again and of course the technology does not work as it's intended.
David Payne: Bit of a problem there.
Beth Chandler: Yes, it is. It’s multi-award-winning. I definitely recommend it if you want some really good serious science fiction and it is also wonderfully diverse.
David Payne: And Dana?
Dana Alsup: I’m on a bit of a biography binge. I just read Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's book Crazy Love, which is wonderful and she is a local author. And now I'm reading Michelle Obama's Becoming. And I have another biography on deck for next just in a biography binge.
David Payne: Well, Dana and Beth thank you very much indeed for coming in and sharing your knowledge of MoComCon 2019 and previewing it. It sounds like a great event. We’re really looking forward to it. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and write to us on Apple podcast. We love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
David Paine: Welcome to Library Matters with me; David Paine.
Lauren Martino: And I'm Lauren Martino.
David: And today we are looking at mental and physical wellness. As these winter days get shorter and temperatures continue to drop, many of us begin to experience what we might call as winter blues. But while winter can be a challenging time for many of us, health and wellness is of course of your own concern. So joining us today, we have two very special guests who are going to share their knowledge and interest in mental and physical wellness. Welcome to Nicole Lucas, who is Program Officer with the Montgomery County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, otherwise known as NAMI, welcome Nicole.
Nicole: Hi, thank you.
David: Welcome also to Elizabeth Lang, who has the very eloquent title of MCPL's Assistant Facilities and Accessibility Program Manager, is quite a mouthful, I hope I got that right?
Elizabeth Lang: You did, hello.
David: Anyway, welcome.
Elizabeth: Thank you.
David: So, let's begin by asking you both. Obviously you come from very different approaches to this. What does wellness mean to you both? Let me start with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Okay. Well, being a librarian, I looked it up in the dictionary. So the Merriam-Webster dictionary says that, "the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal." But personally, wellness to me really -- I think of is taking good care of myself physically and mentally.
David: That seems to sum it up. How about you Nicole?
Nicole: Well, I took a different approach just because of my background at NAMI. So the two of mental health and mental illness get interchanged quite frequently, and so we define mental health as how you're taking care of yourself and how you cope with stress and everyday things like work and raising children and getting through the ins and outs of what you're going through and how you handle those the emotions. And then as far as mental illness, that's more of how the illness affects the way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others.
And there are many different mental illnesses and they have different symptoms that impact people in different ways. So I think it's really important to distinguish the two. Because when you think of mental health sometimes people think mental illness when that's not necessarily the case.
David: Thank you.
Lauren: So you can come at it from a really positive perspective as opposed to just looking at what could go wrong.
Nicole: Absolutely yes. And when we do our presentations at NAMI that's one of the questions it's almost like a trick question that we ask is, well, what comes to mind when you think mental health and people automatically started throwing out depression, bipolar, sadness, anxious, worry, all that stuff. But we're just asking like you know what do you do to help deal with? What do you do for fun? And we have to kind of tease that out. But once we get that going, then it's like oh, okay, that's what you mean.
Lauren: Elizabeth, can you tell us a little bit about why the library is a good place to look for health resources?
Elizabeth: Oh sure. The Montgomery County Public Library collections include print and online resources by reputable sources on health and wellness topics, almost anything that you can imagine. Some resources have a broad overview of a topic like managing stress or staying fit. Others cover very specific topics like nutrition for healthy aging or pool workouts. That's an actual book that we have in our print collection. Resources that are available on the shelves in the library include health and wellness books, magazines, documentaries and the MCPL website also has some great resources.
We have a LibGuide about health that collects a dozens of health resources all in one place. The information includes things like getting health insurance through the Maryland Health Connection and health topics that have been in the news recently, such as the opioid epidemic. There's a section devoted to online health resources such as the Gale Health and Wellness Resource Center, which is a huge database of health information covers diseases, conditions, drugs, diagnostics, treatments, therapies, etc.
The health LibGuide also has a section that covers how to find health services locally, a section about kids' health and a listing of trusted health websites. So it's really a one-stop health resource, best of all. All of these resources are free to Montgomery County residents. They just need their library card.
Lauren: Did you mention workout videos? We get a lot of workout videos.
Elizabeth: We have many wonderful workout videos, absolutely.
Lauren: Now I got the belly dance like workout video at some point which is a lot of fun. [Laughter]
Elizabeth: I haven't seen that one -- one that I did have checked out several times as Tai chi -- Tai chi wonderful -- wonderful video, yep.
David: So turning to you Nicole, tell us a bit about NAMI, the Montgomery County Chapter is I think one of many up and down the country. How long has NAMI been in existence, and what are some of the programs that you offer?
Nicole: So the Montgomery County Chapter has been in existence for about 40 years. We actually predate the national office, so it's kind of like a fun fact that we share with the community. So we operate at three different levels: national, state, and then local. So there's over 900 affiliates or local chapters however you want to describe it, and so Montgomery County is the local chapter.
At Montgomery County, I'm the Director of Programs, and we offer about 14 different programs and our goal and our mission is to provide support, education, and advocacy for people living with mental illness and their family members. The great thing about what we do is everything is free and we also offer a helpline to the community where people can contact us for resources.
David: And how are you funded?
Nicole: We are funded through foundations, through the county government and through membership and private donations. So kind of all of the above. All hands on deck when it comes to funding or non-profit, so.
Lauren: Anyway you can.
Nicole: Anyway, we can, yes. And we are a small staff. We have five full time staff and that's the other differentiator with NAMI is that all of the programs that we offer are run by volunteers because that's the requirement in order to facilitate a support group, a class as you have to have lived experience. So that is who basically helps us run NAMI. So we do a lot of services with very small staff, but a very dedicated volunteer base.
Lauren: So you've got a lot of people in there who know what they're talking about from?
Nicole: Lived experience, that's correct.
Lauren: That's amazing.
David: And I think I read that your motto is you are not alone is that correct?
Nicole: Yes. That's right. You're not alone, which is true because one in five people live with mental illness and so I always tell people in my presentations that if you haven't been touched by it, then I don't know if I quite believe that just because everybody has had it, maybe just you know in the moment or situational. But if you yourself haven't, you definitely have a family member or a friend that has been touched by it because it's so prevalent.
David: And presumably also there's people who may have it, but aren't aware of it.
David: That comes into it too.
Nicole: It does.
David: Nicole, can you tell us about a typical program you might do some of the programs you do offer?
Nicole: Sure, absolutely. So like I said, we provide program, we provide classes, support groups and presentations. And the two populations that we serve are for the individuals with living with mental illness and the family members. But to go back to the history of NAMI and how we were founded was by five family members who had children with mental illness and they could not find any resources.
So they got together and they said this shouldn't be this hard to try to find help for my child and so they form NAMI and so that really was the foundation of NAMI and out of that came one of our signature programs or classes which is called family to family. And that is a twelve week class that we offer because for lack of a better word is a very popular class, but I'm thankful that we have it that we can offer family members who are caregivers to their loved one.
And the class is always full. We always have a waiting list. We try our best to offer it if not monthly, every other month and that's where our volunteers come into play because we need volunteers to keep up with the demand specifically for this particular class.
David: Great, thank you. Tell us more about the typical content you one might find in the program?
Nicole: Sure, so when the family to family class, it's a psycho educational class which basically means that the participants learn about different mental illnesses. They learn about how to set boundaries with their loved ones, so they learn some practical advice and suggestions on how to care for their loved one. They also learn about resources in the community because as you mentioned there are some cases where you have mental illness, but you don't acknowledge that you have it and that's the case a lot of the times.
And it's very frustrating for family members because they don't know what to do. So our class teaches them that. And it's a very full class like I said and it's a lot of content and for that reason sometimes we have multiple -- we have participants who take the class multiple times because I've heard feedback that they learn something new every time. So it's kind of generally speaking of what the content covers.
There's also -- I'm sorry one last thing. There is also an empathy exercise that we do in the class which is great because it shows the family member what it's like to live with mental illness if you're experiencing symptoms. And after we do that exercise, it is very powerful because they come out of it and say.” Wow, now I know why I can't communicate with my loved one” because they're symptomatic, they're hearing voices, they're seeing things, they're feeling you know things on their body. So it really gives a lot of insight to those family members.
David: Wonderful, thank you.
Lauren: Elizabeth, can you recommend any books or magazines that kind of speak to some of these same issues that NAMI deals with or anything else regarding physical or mental health?
Elizabeth: I'm more aware of resources relating to the physical aspect of things. One of my favorites is prevention magazine which I brought a sample of. I know that the listeners can't see it.
Lauren: We can see it.
Elizabeth: But you guys can see it. It's here. It's available in print as well as online and it covers a wide range of health and wellness topics. Sometimes it does cover mental and physical health both, but it focuses mainly on physical health.
Lauren: We have that available through Flipster, do you know?
David: I believe we do.
Lauren: Okay. That's how I read the current issue. Because it was not on the shelf when I went to find it in print. I read the current issue online.
Elizabeth: It always includes practical tips which I really appreciate. It's not just you know the fury or the research behind things. But it will tell you try this or try that. This might help or that might help.
David: Elizabeth, can you just tell us what Flipster is?
Elizabeth: Sure. Flipster is an online app that allows you to access the digital version of the magazine.
Lauren: I couldn't find the print copy so I went to the electronic copy, which is always available.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you check it out online basically instead of picking it up and sitting down or at a table in the library.
Lauren: What are some of your other favourite resources for physical and mental wellness?
Elizabeth: Okay, I brought a couple of items with me in addition to prevention magazine that I think are really good resources. Just for general information about health, one of them is a book called Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. It was written by T. Colin Campbell, who is a nutritional biochemist. And the book explores why a plant-based diet is likely the best diet for humans to eat.
It reviews research and talks a lot about the problems that we create for ourselves and we try to examine one nutrient as separate from other nutrients. And how that kind of reduction is, doesn't show us a full picture which is why sometimes there will be studies that are released that say eggs are good for you and then next week there's a study that says that eggs are bad for you. So this book takes sort of a large review and talks about how we can be skeptical of what we're hearing and how to evaluate what health claim might be valid and what might be less valid.
Lauren: That's really important because we're all constantly bombarded with conflicting information and have been for decades and decades and it speaks to that.
Elizabeth: Right, it's hard to know what to pay attention to. So his book just cautions us to be careful basically. So I really -- I recommend that people read that if they have a strong interest in health topics. I also brought a book by a local author, Robynne Chutkan, I believe this how her name is pronounced. She has gastroenterology practice in Chevy Chase I believe. And she talks a lot about gut health and this is a new area of study that science is showing is very important to personal, physical health. She runs a practice and writes some books that talk specifically about the kinds of things that we can do to make sure that our guts are healthy and how that impacts our overall health.
Lauren: Have you read I Contain Multitudes, it is kind of along the same lines, but more of a.
Elizabeth: I have not but, I know what you're referring to.
Lauren: Yeah, that's I mean it's the less you know how to version and more the amazing world of microbiomes.
Elizabeth: Right. It's about all the billions of little bacteria that live inside us that sort of help us run things properly digestively, yes.
Lauren: And what happens when we try to get rid of one and then everything else comes in like they were talking about how like hospitals are now looking at putting germs in the hospital rooms to counteract the bad ones, yeah because what do you do, you just find a way to crowd them out.
David: So a reminder to our listeners is that all of the resources that we mentioned in today's podcast can be found in our program show notes on the podcast webpage. While we are talking about library resources, Elizabeth, are there any documentaries on health and wellness available in the library collection?
Elizabeth: Yes, many. We have documentaries on the shelves in all of our branches and they cover a wide range of topics as we were referring to earlier exercise tai chi, those sorts of things. We have videos that are about eating and on topics that are more related to mental health reducing stress and wellness. My favourite resource though is not actually the DVDs that we have in the shelves.
We have an online on demand film streaming resource called canopy that has over 500 documentaries on health and wellness topics. And they're broken out into categories like sports and fitness, nutrition, mental health, death and dying in addiction. And a lot of these are award winning films. They're really excellent. I have more things on my to-watch list than I will ever have time to get to.
David: That's great. Thank you. Nicole, turning to you in the work that you do, you are so well placed to see and observe developments in the field. What are some of the current trends you're seeing in mental health and wellness?
Nicole: I think the biggest trend that we're seeing is providers are encouraging their patients or their clients to use mindfulness techniques. So they're going back to I mean, there's the traditional therapy, medication, senior doctor, but in terms of concrete treatment that you can do at home, that you could do at work, is mindfulness activities and I feel like that's a little bit of a buzzword, so I wanted to take a minute to describe what that means.
So I kind of see it as two-fold. Mindfulness can be defined as letting go of taking things for granted, meaning mindfulness challenges us to awaken from these mind habits and appreciate the little things. So you know the little things of you know your daughter coming home with a picture that she drew at school that you add to all the other 800 files- [Laughter]
Elizabeth: When you are so tempted you just say I'm just want to cook dinner.
Elizabeth: I don't need to look at that right now.
Nicole: Yes, or listening to your spouse's day or your partner's day and just really staying in the present. And then the second piece to that is that it can be defined as being in the moment. And so being more in the moment of like observing our surroundings like the trees that I'm looking at outside as we're doing this -- having this conversation, looking at Elizabeth's scarf and see how pretty it is and not thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner and, “Oh gosh I hope my daughter did her homework,” that kind of thing.
And that's one of the things that we do, that's one of the things that we also -- that's included in our class for individuals living with mental illness and that class is called peer to peer, and is mindfulness activities and it has really been helpful. And so that's the biggest trend that I'm seeing is the mindfulness. Do you know of any resources that we have that address mindfulness? I feel like it's also been a big trend in a recent publishing?
Lauren: Yeah, we do. We have mindfulness materials and traditional, the section of the library that offers Buddhist materials. Traditionally, mindfulness is associated with Buddhism. But it has sort of grown beyond that. We do also have mindfulness materials in other areas of the library as well. So you know searching for mindfulness in our catalog online will bring all of those materials up. We've got a number of programs too. I know it's over spring we offer like meditation classes in English and Spanish, and I'm sure there are several others throughout the system that-
Nicole: Yes, we have several branches currently offering yoga, meditation, qigong, and tai chi classes, and all of those or many of those will contain a component of mindfulness.
David: So Nicole, I see you both allowing a list of recommended readings which we will include in the show notes. Can you just tell us a bit about-?
Nicole: Sure -- sure. So this has been a work in progress. So we listen to our members and those that take our classes and reach out to us because that's one of the questions that we get, especially when you're in the beginning stages of crisis for lack of a better word as what can I read. So we develop the list and we have it broken out by mental illness, so specific to the diagnosis and they vary from bipolar to depression to OCD.
So it's a combination of all of the above. And then we also included from a family's perspective because that was a feedback that we got also. That we wanted to hear what the family were saying about caring for a loved one with mental illness. It's not a comprehensive list because it's a work in progress, but it's a good starting point because I think also too when we have participants in our class, they described not way, but people who have taken the class, they are described as a deer in headlights.
Because if you think about you have a loved one with mental illness, you just got a diagnosis, you don't know where to turn to, you show up at this class, and you're like I don't know what's going to happen next or where to go next or what to do and what's going to happen. So we developed this reading list as kind of a starting point and it's somewhat of a roadmap to go along with the programs that we offer.
David: It's great. Sounds like a great start. So in talking about mental and physical wellness of course, we're referring to children as much as adults. Elizabeth, what kind of information does the library have for health and wellness for children?
Elizabeth: Well, we have the same kind of range of materials for children and about children that we do as the materials that are for and about adults. As it mentioned, the health LibGuide on our website has a section that is devoted to children. So it offers information about children's health resources and in our branches any children's department will have materials on the shelf that staff can show to our customers that address both how parents can address children's health issues as well as books for the children themselves to learn about their own health issues or health and wellness in general.
David: It's wonderful. And Nicole presumably NAMI caters as much to children in your offerings as anyone else?
Nicole: That's a really good question, because our model is a little bit different. So we offer the classes for family members who have a loved one over the age of 18 and then we have classes for the parents who have a child under the age of 18. So we don't target under the age of 18 specifically. However, we do have a program when we go into high schools and middle schools and do a suicide prevention resiliency program. So in that case, we do touch that population, but primarily in terms of NAMI's core program, it's really for adults.
Nicole: For the exception of the parents, but it's the parents for the kids under the age of 18.
David: Right, okay. Thanks for clarifying that.
Lauren: Nicole, do you have any particular advice for anybody who's struggling with or has family members who are struggling with mental health problems and I guess they're in that deer in the headlights stage, they been blindsided and they don't know where to turn, they don't know what to do?
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. Everybody situation is different and that's why I go back to always going to your primary care provider. If it's the family member who has a loved one that's experiencing these signs and symptoms, we recommend that they keep a journal of the behaviors. So that when their loved one or if and when their loved one does go to the doctor they have some kind of documentation of the behaviors, we're not doctors at NAMI, so we don't diagnose and that's one of the things that we talk about in our presentations is that, don't diagnose your family member because that's going to-
Lauren: As tempting as it may be.
Nicole: As tempting as it may be, that's going to probably put them on the defensive. But always go to the doctor first, and if they don't go which is often the case also is that you make sure that you take care of yourself. And I know I spent a lot of time talking about the classes, but we also have support groups for both the loved one and for the person with the illness. And there is no commitment and that was one thing I didn't mention. For the classes, there is a commitment. You've to sign up and register family to family as twelve weeks, peer to peer for the person with illnesses eight weeks.
But sometimes people aren't ready to commit and that's okay. So they can do the support group and the support group is exactly what it is you just show up if you want to go and if you don't want to go you don't show up.
Lauren: Low commitment.
Lauren: Fit in the door.
Nicole: Yeah. And I see that is more like the gateway into starting the treatment process, and then once they get more comfortable then they may commit to taking a class to learn more about how they can help themselves.
David: So Nicole now that we've talked a lot about NAMI, where can anybody interested find out more information on NAMI, your services, and how to contact you?
Nicole: Okay. So you can go to our website at namimc.org. You can call us at 301-949-5852. Please like us on Facebook at NAMI Montgomery County and you can follow us on Instagram at nami_mc.
Lauren: We've covered a lot of material in a lot of different areas, but I want to make sure that you both have the opportunity to say whatever it is that you were excited about preparing for us. So what else would you like to tell us about?
Elizabeth: This winter the libraries are offering some health-related classes that I think are pretty interesting. We have at our Kensington Park and only libraries a bone-builders class for people over 55. This is offered on an ongoing basis. And it's an evidence-based bone building and fall prevention program sponsored by Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services, the recreation department, and the volunteer center.
Additionally, in partnership with the African-American health program, the Germantown library is hosting classes called kick starting your health, how to prevent and manage chronic diseases. That provide information and resources on how to prevent and manage diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and dementia. Those are just a few of the health related programs. If you visit our website, you can search through all of the events that we offer through our events calendar. You can contact any branch or you can look for a print copy of our calendar of events around various locations in Montgomery County.
David: So, Nicole, turning to you, mental illness, the term mental illness is a very brute. Can you tell us some of the warning signs that one might look out for mental illness?
Nicole: Sure, yeah sure absolutely. So this isn't inclusive list, but these are just signs and symptoms to look for either in yourself or for your loved one. If you're feeling sad, if you're isolating, withdrawn, unmotivated that could be a sign of depression. Also self-harming and that is where someone may be making plans to harm themselves or they're cutting, that's definitely a warning sign.
Risk-taking behaviours, where they're out of control, engaging in risky behaviors and this isn't like an all-or-nothing kind of thing, it can be one or two symptoms that you're seeing. Also, the person can be just feeling fearful all the time, sudden overwhelming fear for no reason. Sometimes they have racing heartbeat or fast breathing. Other signs could be weight change and that could be one way, you know either way weight gain, weight loss, that can be an indication for maybe an eating disorder.
Severe mood swings is another symptom or warning signs to look for. Also, the obvious substance use, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, drastic changes in behavior that's unlike them. So as the family member, you know kind of the baseline of your loved one and that's why I go back to the journal writing. It's a little bit easier as the family member to see the symptoms but when you're the person with the illness and maybe sometimes you don't have that support system. So that means they have to have the insight to recognize these things and sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't.
Lauren: Well, that's part of a lot of illnesses isn't? That you've just -- you cannot recognize that something is wrong.
Nicole: Right, you lack that; absolutely. And then lack of focus, difficulty concentrating and some of these things like lack of focus, I mean that could be just like not sleeping because my baby won't sleep through the night.
Lauren: No coffee.
Nicole: Right, yeah, no coffee. You're just you know working.
David Paine. Another day at work.
Nicole: Yeah, another day at work. So some of these things that's why again documenting, just monitoring the behavior so that way you have more of a timeline to see the progression of these warning signs. Montgomery County has a crisis center that we always refer to also so in addition to following up with your doctor, but if you don't have that, you can also call the Montgomery County Crisis Center which is 24/7 and that number is 240-777-4000. And they're always have someone on staff to help and they also have a mobile crisis team where they can send someone out to assist in a situation.
Lauren: It's good to know. Is there anything else you wanted to share with us Nicole about your work at NAMI?
Nicole: Sure. One of the things that I just wanted to highlight is that when you have mental illness, it's important to remember that it's not anybody's fault. It's not caused by poor parenting or weak character. It's not preventable at this time, but it's more about following your treatments whether it's medication, seeing your therapist, being involved in activities. And then it's not hopeless.
These illnesses present difficult challenges, but help is available through NAMI and other organizations, use our helpline to help get connected with resources of the community that can help you maintain your recovery. But that's one of the things that we just want to remind people that people living with mental illness, remember it's one in five and there is one, two, three, four, five people in the room right now. So, my point being is that we're all touched by it, and recovery is possible in terms of if you get connected with your treatment and you follow your plan. And that's really the message that we like to lead with at NAMI.
Lauren: Thanks a lot Nicole and thanks Elizabeth. We have one more question that we ask all of our Library Matters guests and that is what are you reading right now? Elizabeth, what would you like to share with us?
Elizabeth: Well, I'm reading several books. The most interesting of those is a graphic novel called Upgrades Soul, written by Ezra Claytan Daniels. It's about an older couple who are offered the opportunity to perhaps participate in experiment that may rejuvenate them mentally and physically. But it's an experimental treatment and they're not exactly sure how it's going to go and then lo and behold, all does not go as was expected. It's a lot of science fiction, it's very interesting, it's a big dick graphic novel which I really like. I like the more complicated stories. It was not written as a serial originally, it's just a standalone, it's very interesting I would recommend it for anybody who likes graphic novels or science fiction.
Lauren: And ties in nicely with our wellness discussion.
Elizabeth: Yes, it does.
Lauren: Nicole, what are you reading right now?
Nicole: Well, mine is work related. Just because we -- like I mentioned we have the help lines, so we get lots of calls from people and I try to stay relevant and being able to give recommendations to our callers. So I'm reading If Your Adolescent Has Depression or Bipolar Disorder, and it's by Dwight Evans and Linda Andrews. I like this book because when we get calls from especially families of adolescence; it's really hard to determine is it adolescent behavior or is it mental illness.
Lauren: Because they're not always super distinguishable.
Nicole: No, they aren't. And so this is a really clear concise road map. It's very easy to read. And one of the things that I try to be mindful of is that when you're in crisis, you probably -- you go through these different steps, you start calling all these different resources, you start reading all these books, you sign up for everything and then you're like on overload. So that's why I like this book because it was a little bit more simple, because I think that when you're going through those different stages simple sometimes, it's the whole 'less is more' kind of thing.
And I think that our callers appreciate that, especially when I tell them let's just do one thing at a time, let's focus on you know, whatever the priority is. We also have a parent support group which is something different at NAMI because it used to be just all family members in general. But now we have parent support group, so if you have a child under the age of 21, we have a specific group just for that population. And we find that to be very helpful for the families who you know, have adolescents that are experiencing these different types of symptoms and behaviors.
Lauren: Thank you so much for this conversation, Nicole and Elizabeth. It's been really informative and really helpful. Listeners, don't forget to keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the apple podcast app or Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on apple podcasts and leave us some comments because we would love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and we'll see you next time.
Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m your host, Lauren Martino. And today I’m here with Lisa Navidi who is Head of Adult Services at the Davis Library and has worked for MCPL for 32 years. Welcome Lisa.
Lisa Navidi: Happy to be here.
Lauren Martino: And we’ve also got with us, Patrick Fromm, the new Branch Manager here at Rockville Library. Welcome Patrick.
Patrick Fromm: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Lauren Martino: And today we are talking about the best and the brightest new books from 2018. So Lisa, looking back over 2018, what kind of year has it been in general for literature?
Lisa Navidi: There was an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” And that’s what we’re living in. We have out-of-the-box type of books, fiction and non-fiction, especially about empowering women both fiction and non-fiction, and Trump.
Lauren Martino: Empowering women and Trump.
Lisa Navidi: And both. And sometimes both.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Patrick Fromm: That was such a beautiful answer.
Lauren Martino: Anything else you’ve noticed besides empowering women and Trump, Patrick?
Patrick Fromm: Just that when you look at the bestsellers for the year whether it’s Barnes & Noble or Amazon, you see a lot of that reaction to Trump, a lot of non-fiction talking about the global lead, talking about the Trump administration, and also just talking about the state of human beings in general as we’re all bombarded with news both vile and corrosive.
Lauren Martino: So a lot – I guess we are processing as a culture now and that’s coming out in our books.
Patrick Fromm: Definitely.
Lisa Navidi: We’re all trying to process this new life.
Lauren Martino: In general, is there anything you see that’s different from last year’s best of list I mean, we were dealing with a lot of the same things last year. I don’t know if we’re processing them a little bit more this year or any particular – anything that stands out to you?
Lisa Navidi: There was a lot of last year that started the immigration wave of fiction. I think 2016, 2017 and now there’s still more of that reeling after what happened in the election, specifically “What Happened” by Clinton.
Lauren Martino: There it is in the title.
Lisa Navidi: Yes. Yeah, that pretty much says it all. I read a wonderful book in 2017 which I read in 2018 that –
Lauren Martino: That’s okay. You can talk about it.
Lisa Navidi: Can I talk about it?
Lauren Martino: Yeah, you can talk about it.
Lisa Navidi: There were actually several but I discovered a new author, Joshilyn Jackson, who wrote Almost Sisters. And when you first start reading – I mean, she’s read – she’s written several other books. But when you first start reading it, you think, “Oh, it’s an enjoyable piece of fluffy chicklet.” But actually it becomes about family, about southern family, about racism, about love and ultimately about love of family. It’s a wonderful book and it’s one on my list that I just recommend to people to listen to especially and to read.
Lauren Martino: Anything you’ve noticed, Patrick, that’s different from last year that’s you’ve seen?
Patrick Fromm: I don’t know if I have any quantitative evidence to this but I felt like a lot of the books that I was reading or recommended either by customers or by friends and family were non-fiction specifically memoirs. I read Failure Is An Option by H. Jon Benjamin. I read Dopesick and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, as well as Educated by Tara Westover and Heavy by Kiese Laymon. And a lot of those ended up on best of list now at this part of the year. But at that time, I felt like a lot of people were saying this is what I’m reading, this is what you’ll enjoy, and in particular You’re on an Airplane by Parker Posey who is in all best of –
Lisa Navidi: Yeah. Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah.
Lisa Navidi: I didn’t read it but I read about it. I love her.
Lauren Martino: Tell me about that one. Yeah, I don’t know anything about that one. Sorry, children’s librarian here.
Patrick Fromm: So I listen to most of my books because my communities are churches. And a lot of times I like the ones by actors because they read it themselves and it’s fun to get them whispering to your ear all day.
Lisa Navidi: Right. Right.
Patrick Fromm: And she tells it like she’s telling a story to someone who is stuck next to her on an airplane.
Lisa Navidi: Oh yeah.
Patrick Fromm: So there are sounds of the airplane happening around her. She is frequently interrupting her own story to talk to the flight attendant or to order more tea or whatnot and she’s got her little dog with her as well. But her stories are really rambling and interesting, a lot of insight Hollywood talk because she was kind of nominated or self-proclaimed indie queen.
Lisa Navidi: Right. Right.
Patrick Fromm: But she didn’t really necessarily choose to do that. That just kind of happened. And so it’s really interesting to hear when she tries to strike out for big pictures like a Woody Allen film or she was in Blade as opposed to like the ones she’s really known for like the Christopher Guest movies like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.
Lisa Navidi: Mackumentaries.
Patrick Fromm: Yes, exactly. So I really – it was one of those books where I was excited to get into traffic like when my Google Maps is like, “Oh, it’s an hour and 30 minutes to home,” I was like, well –
Lisa Navidi: Yes.
Patrick Fromm: – I don’t get to see my baby, but I do get to –”
Lisa Navidi: Parker Posey. Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah. I definitely enjoyed pretty much all of those.
Lauren Martino: I think, yeah, a lot of comedians do the audio books and they’ve got the sound effects and, you know, bringing in their, you know, guest stars and that’s just kind of how they roll. Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: I mean, you mentioned that – I guess last year, there was the wave of immigration books. I feel like that’s continuing at least in children’s books in what I’ve seen.
Lisa Navidi: Oh, absolutely.
Lauren Martino: Because there’s a ton of new ones out that – I mean, things that – you know, in the past year like, “Oh gosh, we got to find a book about a Latino kid and I don’t know where to find it.” And now it’s like, “Oh, there’s all these new ones. It’s great.”
Lisa Navidi: Yeah. We do have a lot here.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Lisa Navidi: And there is a list put out by the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature about the best multicultural children’s books of 2018 which includes a lot of these immigration kind of books.
Lauren Martino: And you can find it in our show notes.
Lisa Navidi: Yes.
Patrick Fromm: Lauren, did you get a chance to read Alma and How She Got Her Name?
Lauren Martino: I didn’t. I saw that on a lot of lists, but I haven’t.
Patrick Fromm: I wanted to mention it because it’s one of the few I actually did read, so I can sound really smart.
Lauren Martino: Oh, then you tell us about it, yes.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah. Well, it –
Lauren Martino: There you go, you got the children’s librarian fee. Good job. Go for it.
Patrick Fromm: It was just really interesting because it gets into the naming particularly in families from Central America, South America –
Lauren Martino: Mm-hmm.
Patrick Fromm: And Alma has six names and at first she’s a little perturbed by having that and doesn’t understand why, but then her father takes her through each name and who it represents in her ancestry, in her family. And they’re kind of represented on the page. And to me, I remember distinctly back when I was in Baltimore County, we would have issues with customers with longer names because the form that you filled out only had X number of spaces and –
Lauren Martino: The computer has no tolerance.
Patrick Fromm: Exactly. So we had to figure out how to do that and most people didn’t understand because Baltimore County isn’t nearly as diverse as Montgomery County. So we’re all kind of learning on the fly there and I distinctly remember thinking while reading this, I wish I had this book back when that happened. So I would have had a little more background because it really – it broke it down in a way I’d never quite explained before and the drawing is beautiful. It’s – she illustrates and writes it so it’s excellent.
Lauren Martino: So is there a particular place you go to find what you consider the best of – man, there are so many lists, Washington Post has them, and the New York Times. Is there any particular place you like to go to find out what you should have read this year?
Lisa Navidi: Well, I learned about the NPR’s Book Concierge.
Patrick Fromm: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Oh, what’s that about?
Lisa Navidi: Which is easy to use, has a click on thing. You can say, “I want a biography for my book club and it’s this and it’s that.” You can really focus on what you want and then you click on the title and it has this cute little thing, a summary of the book. And it’s really nice.
Patrick Fromm: And it cuts a lot of that like critiquey jargon.
Lisa Navidi: Yes.
Patrick Fromm: Like I feel like the people are really talking to you.
Lisa Navidi: Yes. This is – it’s done by the NPR staff.
Lauren Martino: Mm-hmm.
Lisa Navidi: So it is real.
Patrick Fromm: So this is what I haven’t read, but The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, she wrote The God of Small Things which is like my favorite book of all time made it on to the list I think, for this year. But the little blurb was like, this isn’t going to fulfill everyone who thinks that The God of Small Things is all that wonderful everything that you want, but it is still worth to try for these like specific reasons. So there was like a short one paragraph blurb but it told me, I’m going to wait on reading because I don’t want to be disappointed. But yeah, you’re right. That is a – it’s a wonderful resource. That’s one I direct customers to because it’s very easy to personalize.
Lisa Navidi: There’s also one of our databases which I just discovered very recently. Books & Authors, ampersand authors, it is easy to go through, to find what you’re looking for and also has the summaries and it has the best of and award winning. So I know there’s another question about that. It does show, you know, what the best of ‘18, best of 2017, 2016, et cetera.
Lauren Martino: Mm-hmm.
Patrick Fromm: That’s really cool. Do they pull it from a specific place or is it done by that database, you know?
Lisa Navidi: I’m sure they pulled it but I don’t know where they pulled it from. Sorry.
Lauren Martino: We’ll see if we can put that in the show notes too. What books this year have you not been able to keep up with the demand for? I know there’s always that book that you’re out the desk and you’re like, “Oh, no.” And it’s like, “It’s this book called like Educated? Have you heard of it?”
Lisa Navidi: Right, yeah.
Lauren Martino: It’s like, yeah, like, the pass five people before you have asked for that book. And I couldn’t find it for them either.
Lisa Navidi: Well, finally, A Gentleman in Moscow, it’s coming down – the holds are coming down but that’s like two years ago. And there were still –
Lauren Martino: Is that the one about the guy hanging out in the airport?
Lisa Navidi: No.
Patrick Fromm: Imprisoned in a hotel.
Lisa Navidi: In the hotel in Moscow, he was –
Lauren Martino: Yeah, okay.
Lisa Navidi: He was imprisoned.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Lisa Navidi: In the hotel in Moscow.
Lauren Martino: As an aside, this is like the perfect time of year to read that book, like you can’t recommend that enough. It’s just delightful.
Lisa Navidi: It is. It is. It’s one of those books you really can give to anybody.
Patrick Fromm: My – when we’re asking about the what we use to get a recommendation besides NPR, I always go to my aunt, Rita. She has got impeccable taste in – she likes that one enough that she bought like, you know, 10 copies and just gave it to people to convince them – and it was perfect because I kept getting asked about it and I was never going to get it on hold. That was like 380 times. So I was able to read it that way, but yeah, that – can’t recommend that one enough.
Lisa Navidi: Mm-hmm.
Patrick Fromm: I guess for this year, I’d probably say Becoming.
Lisa Navidi: Well, someone just asked how many people were on the list. There are like 700.
Lauren Martino: I feel like we should let people know that we’re on – we got this – the huge long list, we do tend to buy more copies so it’s not hopeless and you should get on the list.
Lisa Navidi: Exactly. And you never know there may be an express copy on the shelf.
Lauren Martino: That’s true. We have – oh, can you tell us a little bit about what an express copy is?
Lisa Navidi: It is – they are leased books, L-E-A-S-E-D from Baker & Taylor, we buy the hot books. You can’t renew them, you can’t reserve them. They’re either there or they’re not, and it’s like sort of winning a little lottery when you come in and, “Oh, look, A Gentleman in Moscow is here.”
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Lisa Navidi: So it’s always – it’s a good way to show people what else there is as they’re waiting for their book or maybe find their book there.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah. And if you want a visual encapsulation of what’s hot in Montgomery County or –
Lisa Navidi: Yes.
Patrick Fromm: – the library world, it’s a great place to just browse. It would probably be pretty hard for us to pick a loser among the bunch.
Lauren Martino: All right. We’ve talked about some of them already but what are your absolute favorites from this year that you want to impress some people they need to read. I’ve got a picture of book one but I’ll save it.
Patrick Fromm: Well, I know probably the one that I enjoyed the most would be Circe by Madeline Miller.
Lauren Martino: Mm-hmm.
Patrick Fromm: It’s a retelling of the great story of Circe who is a goddess and she’s kind of like, unlikely goddess. She doesn’t really enjoy gods or titans. And it’s in the adults but it kind of, captures that sort of Percy Jackson mythology vibe.
Lisa Navidi: Mm-hmm.
Lauren Martino: Percy Jackson for adults.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah, exactly.
Lauren Martino: Everyone grew up reading Percy Jackson. That’s awesome.
Patrick Fromm: It’s so good. Like if you even have like a surface knowledge of Greek mythology, you’re going to love it. There’s all the big names appearing in it. But it really is a compelling story, too, and the language is beautiful, and the narrator, whose name I do not know, is British and I love listening to British. So I checked all the boxes.
Lauren Martino: It doesn’t hurt.
Patrick Fromm: And it’s definitely my favorite fiction book of the year.
Lauren Martino: Do you think Neil Gaiman fans would like that, too? People that –
Patrick Fromm: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, it is a spiritual – same spiritual realm as a Neil Gaiman book. Although a little less weird if – like I said, like there’s nothing that made my skin crawl.
Lauren Martino: So Neil Gaiman is too weird and creepy for you.
Patrick Fromm: This is a good middle ground. Definitely.
Lisa Navidi: Yeah. One of our children’s librarians read that and loved it, loved it and I also read about it that you really – I somehow missed Greek mythology in high school. And so, what I read about this is that you don’t have to know Greek mythology to really enjoy it.
Patrick Fromm: Very true.
Lisa Navidi: And she thought it was one of the surprising books, surprising bestsellers.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah. I only picked it up because of its cover and I was very surprised.
Lisa Navidi: Because it was Circe, right?
Patrick Fromm: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Lisa Navidi: A librarian angel.
Lauren Martino: It’s a fun fact. Fun fact. It happens to be the name of our catalogue system. Do you have anything, Lisa?
Lisa Navidi: Yeah, I do. Eleanor Oliphant is alive and completely fine. I started reading it and I wasn’t crazy about it, then I’d listen to it and it’s wonderful. There’s been a great glut recently of captivating book titles featuring quirky characters like A Man Called Ove, which is one of my favorite books of all times, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, Britt-Marie Was Here – and this is a woman who seems almost on the spectrum. She’s not happy at work. Nobody likes her and then she became obsessed with this singer that she’s never – she had just seen perform who – and she thought, “I’m going to marry him.” And so, she does all these quirky things and gets involved with his friend at work and her life – and as you’re reading it, you’re finding more and more about her life and how sad and why she is the way she is. It’s a wonderful book and it’s not light reading. It’s funny. It’s sad, you know. So that was one of my favorites.
Lauren Martino: I like books that can do funny and sad together. It’s like the emotional roller coaster.
Lisa Navidi: Yes. Yes, indeed. Indeed.
Patrick Fromm: Plus that title is impeccable.
Lisa Navidi: Yes, yes. Another one that really was not – it wasn’t published in 2018. I’m sorry. But it’s Nutshell by Ian McEwan, which is basically a fetal Hamlet.
Lauren Martino: What?
Lisa Navidi: It is narrated by the fetus. His mother and his uncle are plotting to kill his father and he is narrating this whole thing from his point of view, but his point of view is so sophisticated and there, the mother and the uncle are drinking wine and he said, “Oh, I really would have preferred a Sancerre,” you know, because it’s coming right to him. It’s a wonderful book and it’s narrated by a British – it’s not narrated by McEwan, but I loved it and it was – that was a big surprise to me. Somebody recommended that to me. And thank you for that.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. It’s one of those – it’s like you give a quick description and it doesn’t sound like anything you would actually want to read, but you’re here to tell us that you need to go for it.
Lisa Navidi: I am here to tell you and I have recommended it to people, so.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: Did either of you check out I’ll Be Gone in the Dark?
Lauren Martino: No, but I feel like –
Lisa Navidi: No. I’ve heard about it.
Lauren Martino: We talked about it in our True Crime episode a few episodes back with it.
Patrick Fromm: Got you.
Lauren Martino: But you want to tell us some more about it?
Patrick Fromm: Just that – it was one that I wasn’t – I heard about it separately through a True Crime podcast that I listened to and I didn’t realize it was Michelle McNamara – Patton – I knew her as Patton Oswalt’s spouse who tragically died two years ago, I guess. Patton Oswalt was a community member.
Lisa Navidi: Oh, I remember that. Yes, yes.
Patrick Fromm: So – and he gave bunch of heartfelt tributes at the time and I was very moved by that. But then, reading this, it is a better character study of her than anything I could imagine because it captures a lot of her life into it, which is almost as interesting as the case she is obsessed with.
Lisa Navidi: Mm-hmm. This was the one in California?
Patrick Fromm: Mm-hmm, the Golden State Killer.
Lisa Navidi: Right, right.
Patrick Fromm: Whew. And it’s a – I think it’s going to be a show. I want to say HBO. I’m not 100% sure, but I feel like demand will rise for it again. But there’s a really nice foreword by Gillian Flynn, the Sharp Objects and Gone Girl author, and an afterword by Patton Oswalt, her husband. So it was a great book and it’s one of those ones where listening to it, I would get totally lost into it and I have to lock all my doors and all the windows, like it’s creepy. So I highly recommend that for non-fiction likers.
Lauren Martino: That’s when they ended up finding the killer through DNA?
Patrick Fromm: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So it came into our genealogy podcast too. So in three podcasts now, this is the book to read.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah, definitely.
Lisa Navidi: I also read – I love amnesia fiction where the character –
Lauren Martino: Amnesia fiction. This is a genre.
Lisa Navidi: It should be a genre and this is – it’s almost –
Lauren Martino: It’s the next podcast. The genre of amnesia fiction. You’re our guest.
Lisa Navidi: I can’t remember what it was about, but – anyway –
Lauren Martino: It took us a second, but yeah.
Lisa Navidi: Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move, she can’t speak, she can’t open her eyes so she can hear everyone around her, but no one knows because she in a coma. She doesn’t remember what happened and she has a sneaking suspicion her husband has something to do with it, so it alternates between this present, her paralyzed present, and the week before her accident, and the series of childhood diaries from 20 years ago, and you really, and the title should tell you everything, Sometimes I Lie.
So you don’t know, you don’t trust the narrator. So it’s an ultimate detective kind of hunt for who is the real bad person, the villain in this, who isn’t, and it will surprise you right up until the end.
Lauren Martino: It makes me think of Memento, I know I’m crossing genres there, materials.
Lisa Navidi: Yeah, exactly. One more, can I tell you one more?
Lauren Martino: Yes, yes, you can. Please do, please do. This is your opportunity to get all this book love off your chest.
Lisa Navidi: American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and it’s about an African-American couple, and he – I think he works in a – he worked in a law firm and she has a business, and they fell in love, and then something happens.
I don’t know whether to divulge it or not, but he gets taken away to prison, and so there’s – they’re looking at their marriage, he’s there, she is here, she’s sort of left, she doesn’t know what to do, and they’re writing letters to each other, so it has that epistolary fiction kind of genre which I love, and doesn’t end up the way you think it does. It’s just fascinating look at their lives and what could happen in an instant to change their lives.
Patrick Fromm: Cool, I wanted to check that one out, I haven’t, yeah.
Lauren Martino: Okay. I have, on our list questions, favorite kid’s books, chapter books, picture books, graphic novels, non-fiction, because of course I wrote their questions and I’m a children’s librarian, but you all are adult librarians.
So I am happy to hear what has grabbed your attention out of there. I am also – I’ve got things that I can share as well.
Patrick Fromm: For picture books, I was excited to see that Square and Triangle illustrated by Jon Klassen and written Mac Bennett, Barnett, Marc, Mac Barnett.
Lauren Martino: Mac Barnett, something like that, yes. We’re going to say Mac Barnett.
Patrick Fromm: I loved I Want My Hat Back. I’m really drawn to anything that Jon Klassen illustrates, I love those eyes. So when I saw what they’re doing on the shapes, I was like, “This is awesome.”
So immediately, I took them home and showed my daughter, and she also loves it. She was right at that time learning the word eye, and so it’s the perk, because she would just go, “Eye, eye,” and point to their eyes, and I was like, “This is exactly what I wanted as a father.”
So those, those are on top of my list, and I think they’re going to do another one, so I’m excited for that too.
Lauren Martino: Do you have anything, Lisa?
Lisa Navidi: Well, this is actually from the my children’s librarian at Davis. It’s a board book, Holi Color, H-O-L-I. I don’t know it’s called Holi or – it’s an Indian festival and it’s a board book that introduces the Hindu Holi Festival. There’s also Islandborn by Junot Diaz.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, I don’t think if I heard that one, but I’ve seen it, yeah.
Lisa Navidi: It’s a picture book about a girl who is doing a project in first grade about where she was born. She was born on an island and she uses first person accounts from neighbors to tell her story.
Patrick Fromm: I didn’t know that he had written a children’s book, that’s interesting.
Lisa Navidi: Yeah, it is interesting.
Lauren Martino: Okay. I have to share, there’s this lovely book called The Rabbit Listened, that’s a picture book, and I think it’s got to be the most concise description of how you help anyone deal with tragedy that has ever been written.
It’s just this beautiful book because basically this little boy built a tower, and it’s a big, big tower, and he’s so excited, and then it falls down. And then it’s got the ostrich that says – comes and says, “You know, you got to just bury your heard in the sand, and just forget about it,” and all these other animals that are kind of giving the appropriate, for them, response. And a bear offers him a hug, and all these other stuff, and, you know, just nothing is helping.
And then the rabbit comes over, and just sits, and he’s there, and he’s still, and everything pours out, and he hugs the rabbit, and he, you know, rages at the rabbit and sticks his head in the sand with the rabbit, and all these things that the animals suggested, he can do it with a rabbit who is just going to sit there, and be present, and I’m just like, “Wow, this is really powerful,” so I just, yeah, I should really buy that book for everybody in my Christmas list this year.
It’s like, “Go, be a better person with this book.”
Lisa Navidi: I found this book. I don’t even know if we have it, I’m sorry.
Lauren Martino: It’s okay.
Lisa Navidi: I found it – I found it on, it was on Facebook. It’s called The Winky Wonky Donkey –
Lauren Martino: The Winky Wonky Donkey.
Lisa Navidi: – and I watched this grandmother reading too, she was like Australian or something. She was reading to her, her little, probably a year-old child who just wanted to wriggle out, but she was having so much fun reading it to him, and each thing they would add another thing.
It was Winky Wonky, Crabby, Tabby, Labby, you know, and it was just so cute, so I had to buy it, so I bought it for my grandson.
Lauren Martino: Oh that’s awesome. I feel like, yeah, include that. See if we can find the video and we can put it on the show notes, because that sounds like the perfect example of this is how you need to read to a wiggly kid, and read to that wiggly kid, that wiggly kid it needs read to. That’s awesome.
See, I also enjoy this – I guess this as a teen book. While we’re talking about memoirs and biographies, Hey, Kiddo by – and I’m going to totally mess this up, Krosoczka who is best known probably for Lunch Lady, and yeah, the Lunch Lady book. So he wrote a memoir – a graphic novel memoir of his childhood that, yeah, you’re just like wow.
Patrick Fromm: What’s it called again?
Lauren Martino: Hey, Kiddo.
Patrick Fromm: Hey, Kiddo.
Lauren Martino: Because he’s raised by his grandparents, who, you know, and then just like all throughout the book they’re saying, “Hey, kiddo. Hey, kiddo.” Because his mother was a heroin addict. And yeah – and just dealing with, you know, I love my mother but my mother can’t be my mother. And yeah, so, you know, he’s raised by the grandparents who – they’re doing the best they can. They’re putting in through a, you know, valuable effort, but, you know, things are just, you know, not quite like they should be. But the ending, I was tear – tear-ridden because – and it was just – and just how you come through this and, you know, with enough power and enough, you know, you made it well enough to then publish your graphic novels.
Patrick Fromm: Well, while we’re on the graphic novel train, I do feel like I got to give a shout out to the 2018 Dog Man books that came out by Dav Pilkey.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah
Patrick Fromm: It’s just continuing.
Lauren Martino: Oh my gosh.
Lisa Navidi: I have –
Patrick Fromm: I could build a library building out of Dog Man books and I would still not have enough Dog Man books.
Lauren Martino: Amen.
Lisa Navidi: I have read that. I’ve read it to my grandson and daughter –
Lauren Martino: Can you – how was the experience for you?
Lisa Navidi: Well, they’re older but they loved it.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s awesome.
Lisa Navidi: Yeah and I loved it. I thought it was very funny and interesting and creative.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah, I had to see what all the fuss was about. And I would have to admit, I was cracking up and I was looking forward to being able to share it with my daughter when she gets a bit older.
Lauren Martino: Well, the titles will do it in and of themselves.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Lord of the Fleas.
Patrick Fromm: Lord of the Fleas, yeah.
Lisa Navidi: Yes.
Lauren Martino: A Tale of Two Kitties.
Lisa Navidi: Right, right. And they’re always asking for them.
Patrick Fromm: And it’s great because now he’s got this back catalogue of Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta. So you can easily like – once they get through Dog Man, it’s like, “Well, I’ve got this whole another world to show you and just keep on reading.”
Lauren Martino: And you wonder how a grown man just keeps churning out these type of books.
Patrick Fromm: Where does he get these ideas?
Lauren Martino: It’s like it just doesn’t stop. I mean, I don’t know, I feel like the – well, the Dog Man titles are easier to say and you don’t have to say them like, the Preposterous Plight of Professor Poopypants or you see adults trying to say this and you just start giggling because, like, I know what you’re talking about.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah, it was always really hard to recommend a book to parent and be like, “Oh, you got a reluctant reader, well, let me tell you, Super Diaper Baby.” And they’re like, “Oh, oh, oh.”
Lisa Navidi: Yeah, the parent is shaking his head and the kid is cracking up. And the kid’s like, “Oh yeah, no, I want that book.”
Lauren Martino: Are there any new authors that published books this year that you’ve been particularly impressed with?
Lisa Navidi: There is a book that I want to read, I haven’t read it yet. And I’m looking for it, right now.
Lauren Martino: Let’s pause for station identification.
Lisa Navidi: Pause. Oh yeah, here it is. Yeah, it’s on my list of Women’s Voices Hear Them Roar which has that. I don’t – Naomi Alderman wrote The Power, which – what do you think would had – answers the question what do you think would happen if women had unstoppable power to combat misogynist – misogynism. And the answer – she answers this with a speculative novel called The Power about women actually getting the power. It starts out with teenage girls getting a strange power in their arms. So like, electric eels.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Lisa Navidi: So they’re able to inflict pain on whomever they choose.
Lauren Martino: So like, biological Tasers?
Lisa Navidi: Yeah. Exactly.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Lisa Navidi: So what could go wrong with that? Teenage girls having unstoppable powers –
Lauren Martino: Oh my goodness. I’m reimagining my high school years.
Lisa Navidi: Exactly. But it’s not funny really. And it becomes all women get these – most women get these powers. And the whole life turns, you know, and women having the power and men not. Anyways, so there’s that one.
There’s another one though that’s called Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, Z-U-M-A-S. And it’s – it’s kind of like a Handmaid’s Tale sort of thing, life, when there are no abortions. And so it’s five women having to deal with these – these scenarios. I haven’t read it but I started it and it sounds really good.
Patrick Fromm: Was this emerging authors? Is that what we’re doing?
Lauren Martino: Yes.
Patrick Fromm: Oh, I think probably for me Gaël Faye who wrote Small Country which is a book about – it takes place in Bujumbura in Burundi in Africa. And it’s taking place right around the cusp of the – the genocide in Rwanda with the Hutus and the Tutsies. And it’s – he – it’s a coming of age story taking place along that climate and dealing with the dual French identity. And the author himself is a French – I think he’s actually a rapper, it was his debut novel.
But it’s short, it’s brief and it’s really, really hard to read because it really sets in your mind how difficult it must be to be a child anywhere near an atrocity of that scale. And the normalization and the destabilization of their government and how things are falling apart but they’re still doing kid type things to that backdrop. But they just become more and more wild and influenced by the adults. So at one point they’re carting around an active grenade trying to defend their neighborhood and hiding out in like a disabled VW like van. It’s really, really good and I’m excited for whatever he does next. I haven’t listened to any of his music yet, but that’s next on my list, so.
Lauren Martino: There you go. Anything that you are excited about for 2019 that you can’t wait to read or not?
Lisa Navidi: Margaret Atwood is doing a sequel to Handmaid’s Tale.
Lauren Martino: I imagine that will be popular.
Lisa Navidi: Yes. And it will be interesting to see what she adds to that, that actually isn’t on the TV show.
Lauren Martino: Oh, my goodness, the diversions of worlds.
Lisa Navidi: Yeah, exactly. Or it may just –
Lauren Martino: And everywhere heads are exploding.
Lisa Navidi: Actually, I did read about it, that if you’re following Offred, the character, it is her diaries after, and they’re reading it after – Golum? What is the name of that – oh, well, anyway.
Patrick Fromm: Gilead.
Lisa Navidi: Gilead. Gilead?
Patrick Fromm: The place there?
Lisa Navidi: Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: I think it’s Gilead.
Lisa Navidi: Yeah, after that sort of falls, then they find their diaries. That’s what it’s about.
Lauren Martino: Oh, okay.
Patrick Fromm: That’s pretty cool. I hope it’s good. It’s one of those things where I wonder if –
Lisa Navidi: Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: – it should have been left standalone.
Lisa Navidi: Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: But I’ll read it.
Lisa Navidi: Right, right. A lot of people will.
Patrick Fromm: For me, Dark Age, which is a second book in a trilogy that was preceded by a first trilogy, the Red Rising Trilogy. They’re science fiction books that kind of take place on Mars, where there’s this sort of caste system depending on your color. It determines your lot in life. So the – I liked the original trilogy. It’s kind of Hunger Games-ian, I guess, and it was a quick read. A little into the slightly older audience, which I dug, and then it was done. And then Iron Gold came out last year – this year? I don’t remember. And I was surprised. I thought, for sure, that it was going to be one of those things where it’s just a cash grab, but I think it’s actually better than the first books in the trilogy. So the sequel to that is coming out and I’m very excited to read it. So I’m hoping that Pierce Brown continues to have success with that.
Lauren Martino: All right. So our final question, as always. Lisa, what are you reading right now? And it doesn’t have to be from 2018.
Lisa Navidi: Okay. Actually, what I’m reading right now is from 2018.
Lauren Martino: So much the better.
Lisa Navidi: I’m reading Washington Black. It’s about a slave who was brought to Barbados when he was very young, and his journey of freedom. The writing is perfect, and it’s just about – he is befriended by his master’s brother and they flee together. And it’s just adventures and what it’s like to be a slave and think about – and the guilt he feels about leaving. It’s just an amazing book.
And I’m also reading Darius the Great Is Not Okay. It’s a –
Lauren Martino: It’s another one of those names, yeah.
Lisa Navidi: Yes. It’s a YA book by Adib Khorram about a high schooler who is partially Persian – his mother is Persian, his father isn’t – who visits Iran with his family. It’s a YA book that, of course, has to include the fact that he’s chronically depressed, and so is his father. But it’s right on the mark about being Persian, growing up Persian in America. So I’m trying to decide whether my partially Persian grandson is old enough to read it. He is 13, so.
Lauren Martino: You need to have him read Not So Awful, Falafel if he is not quite ready for it–
Lisa Navidi: Okay.
Lauren Martino: – because that’s a fun one, yeah. It’s by the author of Funny in Farsi.
Lisa Navidi: Oh, right, right. I did read that.
Lauren Martino: So yeah, it’s a lot of fun. Although kind of intense at times, but it is in the children’s section, so.
Lisa Navidi: Thank you.
Lauren Martino: You’re welcome.
Patrick Fromm: For me, I’m currently listening to Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart, which is awesome. It’s really, really engaging. It’s got two narratives, one is when one’s a man. I recognize the man from something, I haven’t looked it up yet, but it is definitely –
Lisa Navidi: It’s like a road trip or something.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah. And I heard it described as like a bro going on a road trip. It really is. It’s simple finding it. It’s a guy who is a hedge fund operator, who is possibly in some legal trouble, who also has a son that’s on the spectrum who is kind of fleeing from the familial situation. And he really loves his watches, and he takes out down to Baltimore, down to Virginia and across the country to try and figure out what he’s going to do with his life and chase after his old college flame. So it’s really, really good. It’s gut-wrenching a lot of the time, and the people are all kind of unlikeable. It’s one of those, so if you don’t like that, I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you’re down with the sort of mad men, I can deal with really awful people, I highly, highly recommend it.
Lauren Martino: Tolerance, yeah.
Patrick Fromm: And then I’m reading on my Kindle, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
Lauren Martino: Oh, I’m like way down on the list, so tell me how it is.
Patrick Fromm: It’s really good.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: It’s – so –
Lisa Navidi: It’s worth waiting for.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Patrick Fromm: Yeah. Did you read it?
Lisa Navidi: No, I just –
Patrick Fromm: Oh, yeah, it’s got a lot of that sort of same young adult, teen, power story. You know, a person from a disadvantaged birth who is being held down by an oppressive government. And – but she’s got the secret power in her blood and has to go explore that. And it’s really good. I’m excited to see where it goes. But the world that it creates is particularly effective and it’s definitely got sort of like an African influence to it. And I’m just really – I’m enjoying it quite a bit. So I’m hoping that its ending will be satisfying.
And I think it’s going to be a trilogy? Question mark. So I’m hoping those will be good, too.
Lauren Martino: I think we’re slowly getting more like African-influenced like fantasy books.
Patrick Fromm: It’s such a rich thing to pull from.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Patrick Fromm: You got such a great, great catalogue of images and naming structures, so I’m enjoying it.
Lauren Martino: I thank you so much, Lisa and Patrick, for joining us today and sharing a year’s worth of reading. And we look forward to what you read next year.
Please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts. And make some comments, we’d love to know what you think.
Thanks for listening to our conversation today, and we’ll see you next time.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with me David Payne. And today, we're going to be talking about music and listening to music as well. And joining me today, I am very pleased to welcome our old friend and guest, Eric Carzon, manager of the Twinbrook branch library. And Eric is the man behind one of MCPL's newest services, the Library of Things Music. So, welcome Eric.
Eric Carzon: Thank you. Good to be here.
David Payne: Good to have you back. And I see you've got a few props to entertain us with too.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: So, let's start by asking you how did you get into music and what instruments do you play.
Eric Carzon: Not really. Well, I just always loved music. My parents loved music a lot too, so was always playing in the house or they were singing. In fact, my grandfather was a singer as well. He sang - he was in World War II and he sang for the army, in the Washington Area. So growing up my mom would play Gordon Lightfoot, my dad would play Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, The Platters, a lot of doo-wop, some Janis Ian. Kind of a wide spread, a lot of different kinds of music, classical music as well. And then my grandmother, of all people, introduced me to Pink Floyd, so, you know, a little rock and roll too. In college my music buddies turned me on to the Indigo Girls, and of course there's all the great 80's-90's music, Eurythmics, U2, and whatnot. So I used to always be making up little songs and walking around the block singing them.
Then later on, I was in a church choir and the county choir later on. Eventually I was in a band in high school. No Top 100 hits yet though. I play the guitar mostly, and the ukulele. Mostly a rhythm guitar player, a little bit of lead work, and I sing and write songs as well.
David Payne: Great. What age did you start playing the guitar?
Eric Carzon: About - I think I took a class around fifth-sixth grade. Put it down for a while, eighth grade I picked it back up and just a couple of classes. I'm mostly self-taught and I learned from other musicians and books.
David Payne: Okay. So self-taught on the ukulele too?
Eric Carzon: Uh-huh, yeah, I picked that up about four or five years ago.
David Payne: Well, having said that, is there a musical instrument that you don't play but would like to if you had the chance?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah. One of the instruments in the Library of Things Music is the African djembe drum, a very popular West African drum. And I actually have one at home that I've had for decoration basically, but it's a real playing drum. And so I am motivated to learn how to play that for real. We've got some books and that we're about to have in the collection for that. And I went to a drum circle in the region recently where they sit around and they play. And it's a lot of fun, and it's very easy to get started with that instrument, so I do look forward to learning how to play that better.
David Payne: Okay. So, let's talk a bit about the Library of Things Music. For any listeners who haven't come across it before, can you tell us about your new innovation?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, absolutely. So we lend musical instruments, that's the Library of Things Music. It started at the Twinbrook branch, so that's the only branch right now, so you have to come to the Twinbrook branch to get the instrument, and when you return it you have to return it to the Twinbrook branch, which is in Rockville. And you have it for two weeks, 14 days. We do ask that the cardholder who checks the instrument out be 14 years or older. You could check it out for your kid obviously, and we have some that are sized for children specifically for that. But we do need a responsible party to check the instrument out. Of course, your account has to be in good standing, and you should be prepared with your identification so we can verify that your address is correct and that we have the right person.
At this time, we don't renew the checkout, so it is a strict 14 days. We don't do reserves through the computer system, but if you go to the Library of Things website, which is in the MCPL musical website you can get a look at what the instruments are and little bit of a description of what they are. And you can call us. So when you call us we'll tell you what's available or you can say, "Hey, I want a ukulele, do you have any?" And we'll look and we'll see if there's one available. So if there's one available for checkout we'll hold it for you for the balance of that business day. So if you call us 10:00 we'll hold it till 8:00, if you call us at 7:54 we'll hold it till 8:00 that day if it's a 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM day, which is Monday through Thursday for us. So that's what we can do in terms of reserve. But it's been going pretty well so far, and people seem to know how to use it.
David Payne: I was just going to ask, because we're a few weeks into it now, so yeah. So business is good.
Eric Carzon: It is. It's doing great. We have a total of 29 instruments and six amplifiers. And everything has gone out a few times and come back. Everything has come back in one piece, thank you everybody for taking care of the instruments. We've got a variety of guitars, we have a couple specifically children sized, we have the classical guitars, a couple of steel string, a couple of electric guitars, a couple of electric basses, we have several ukuleles, and then we have African drums, the djembes, we have a couple of Native American and Irish drums, a dumbak, which is like a Middle Eastern one, this Indian tabla drum, which is pretty cool, it's actually like a pair, like Master Blaster, so there's like a big one and small one, and one is brass and one is wood. It's pretty cool. We have a Jamaican steel drum, and we have a slot tongue drum, which is kind of like a wooden box with little mallets, and two kalimbas, which are pianos that you play with your thumb, so they're quite nifty.
David Payne: Quite a great collection there.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: So where did you, going back to the very beginning, where did you get the idea to lend musical instruments?
Eric Carzon: Well, we stole the idea. No, it's been around a long time. There have been library systems all over that country that had been lending musical instruments probably since the '60s or better in small numbers. I mean there's still not a whole lot of them, I wouldn't call it thousands of systems, but let's say there's probably at least 50-plus systems throughout the United States, and that's probably a low number, there's probably more. Ukulele, for instance, very easy, so it's very popular in a lot of systems, including several in the state, besides ourselves, lend ukuleles. I will say, we have a pretty wide selection and number, as far as I can tell, from the other systems that I looked at and compared. But it's not a new idea.
We've been wanting to do, what we call, a Library of Things in Montgomery County for a long time. But as we went through the planning processes different staff made different proposals for different kinds of things to lend. Some people had kitchenware, power tools, various kinds of computer or tablet or whatever. So there were a lot of different ideas on the table, and I proposed the music one, and it so happened that mine seemed to be the most feasible to implement so far. So we went for it.
David Payne: Right. And it seems your collection so far represents the diversity of the county.
Eric Carzon: Oh, that's what we were shooting for; get a nice wide diversity of musical instruments, kind of tempered with what we could take care of.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: So there was that sort of element, but we went as wide as we could within the scope of what we felt like we could take care of and what would sort of survive repeated use from customers.
David Payne: Right. So, obviously the response, the customer response so far has been great. Do you have any stories you can share with us about customer experience, any customers who have come in to borrow musical instruments, have you noticed anybody asking about music lessons or tutorials, anything you can share with us?
Eric Carzon: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. So the response has been great, and people have been pretty happy as they've turned in their surveys. I haven't gotten anybody unhappy, and everybody is pretty much top happy, very happy. We do get a lot of questions about lessons. And we ourselves, we can’t really give lessons, it wouldn't be - there's 29 different kind of instruments, so unless there were - unless the only people interested in lessons all were interested in the same instrument it would be kind of hard for us as a library system to give classes. Now that being said, we do have an online product that does have actually several different instruments in several different genres, so we'll talk about that a little later. But that is our version of a class.
The coolest thing that's happened so far is we have a music discussion group on the first Monday of each month, at 6:30 at Twinbrook. And so this Monday's music discussion group or the November 5th one, we had this little boy. He came in and he had just started guitar lessons, so he was like maybe eight lessons in. But actually - he was pretty impressive for a kid who's only had eight lessons, and he was kind of small. I mean his hands were small, so even the small guitar was a little large for him. So at this discussion group he saw the ukulele because I demoed several instruments and ukulele was one of them, and so he gave it a try. And so by the end of that hour he had actually taught himself with the help of one of our books, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And he, for the last 10 minutes, he played it over and over again until he got like fully down.
David Payne: Just right, yeah.
Eric Carzon: So his first time picking up the ukulele, like literally in his whole life and he walked away with that song. So, we'll talk a little later about this, but that's why I like ukulele because it's really easy and it's a great instrument for children.
David Payne: Right. You mentioned the ukulele, and I recall from our pervious podcast with you that that came up as well in the conversation. The instrument itself seems to have become increasingly more popular. Why do you think that is, and how difficult is it to play?
Eric Carzon: To me it's extremely easy to play. I don’t know I might be a little ambitious, but I'd like to say that most people could probably walk away within a couple of hours able to play a simple song on the ukulele. It's kind of that easy. It's gotten kind of a resurgence in the past, I'd say, decade or so because you've got some pretty large stars that also play ukulele. I mean it wasn't their solo - sole instrument, but I think like Taylor Swift has got a couple of ukulele tunes, Coco - I might be getting her name wrong, I think it's Coco, she does, and several other stars. I think Jason Mraz might even have one. So there's been some super huge pop stars that have like really put ukulele back on the map. And then it was always there, I mean there was Tiny Tim in the 60's or whatnot. But, so there's that, I mean it's got some star power. And then it's just - it's fun and it's easy. So there's that.
And like if you're a guitar player ukulele is like super easy to learn because even some of the chord shapes are the same, the principles of the instrument are the same, you just have to learn a few different chord patterns and realize that the scale - like which key you're in sort of differs a little bit, but not by much. I mean it's much like the guitar very efficiently designed, and so you can pick it up real quick. And then the other thing is the instrument itself is pretty affordable. I mean for $40 you can get one that will play and you can learn on. Really, I kind of recommend more like the $60-ish - I wouldn't pay less than $60 to $75 for a ukulele, and for that price though you get one that's like real and will keep its tune and is pretty decent, and anything above $300 you're just paying for show. So that's a pretty decent price range for a musical instrument. And for about $100 you can get a super-duper competent ukulele that holds its tune very well and plays excellently. So that's a plus. That's kind of a small investment for a real musical instrument.
David Payne: Okay.
Eric Carzon: So that's why I like it. And there's all sorts of books and lessons, and it's real easy.
David Payne: Great. I see you've actually bought a ukulele in.
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah.
David Payne: Can you give us a few notes on …
[Playing Ukulele] [00:12:02]
Eric Carzon: Just a little noodling there.
David Payne: Well, thank you. And well as a musician yourself, do you have any advice for any budding musicians?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, I've got lots of advice.
David Payne: We could fit a whole podcast with, I'm sure.
Eric Carzon: Yeah. But I think the first thing I would say that's most important to me is that if you're going to do music do it for yourself always first. It's a way to be in touch with what's spiritual and keeps your inner child fed and happy, I like to say. And I know music has helped me through some difficult times. So it's a personal, it's a spiritual gift. To the extent that you share it with other people, if those people are reasonable and kind then they will generally be supportive. If you're asking for it then they should give you constructive criticism. And if you've got other people that are being mean to you then they're not worth your time. But play it for yourself first and foremost. If I had never performed for anybody in my life I'd still be happy because the music is for me. So don't be obsessed with perfection, because I see that in a lot of people. You see people doing music and they stop because they're like, "Oh, I can't get this right. I can't get this perfect." It's like, well, who are you playing for. Does it have to be perfect, I mean are you having fun?
David Payne: It's all about the enjoyment, right.
Eric Carzon: Exactly.
David Payne: Yeah.
Eric Carzon: So if you're having fun then roll with it. Now that's not to say like if you really want to get good and get good enough that you could play for other people and they enjoy it, then that's great to go for as well. But that it takes time. I would say as well expose yourself to a variety of music, experience live music in variety as well, as music from tape and digital and wherever. It doesn't have to be paid concerts though. I mean there are churches; there are open mics, community events, library programs, city, county programs. There's free music everywhere, so you don't have to pay for the music, but go see it live, go see somebody do it, observe them. Because if you're serious about music and you want to get serious about performing it then you're definitely going to want to encounter other musical people and pick up and learn from them.
From a practical perspective, if you really want to get good, as the Malcolm Gladwell book says, it takes about 10,000 hours to get super good at anything.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: 10,000 hours of meaningful practice, he calls it. And it's fun, but you got to make it - make it fun. Don't make it a drag. I used to put myself to sleep by kind of sitting with my guitar and taking a couple of chords and kind of just very meditatively doing everything I could with that chord.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Eric Carzon: You know, I'd play an A sustained chord for 20 minutes and use my pinkies and other fingers to find every variation of that chord that I possibly could, and I would do that for hours on end and days on end. When you strung it all together you can write a whole song that way. And that's what I did; a lot of my songs come from some of those exercises. The other thing I'd say is don't be afraid to deviate a little or improvise. I get a lot of these musical books and sometimes they get really contorted. You're like reading that Hal Leonard and you're like, "Oh my god, I can't make that chord. My fingers just don't bend into that shape."
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: You know, improvise. Sometimes you could leave a couple of fingers off and that chord will be close enough or you could pick a couple of notes and kind of skip over, especially if it's like a real quick change. Don't feel like that is the total gospel. Sometimes search around for other versions. Sometimes a song, like the original song as done by the artist or actually as cooked up by some staffer at Hal Leonard or Alfred or one of those other music company books might look super complicated to you, but then do a little Google searching or whatever, you might encounter like a super simple, like - here, here's the three-chord version of that same song. Okay, it might not sound like Janis Joplin, or Def Leppard, or Pink Floyd did it originally, but if it's close enough and you can play it and enjoy it, hey, go for it. So don't be afraid. What's the worst that could happen? You're not going to get fined.
I would say two - and I'm a little bit of a music snob on this, don't buy a cruddy instrument if you can avoid it. We have really good music stores in the county and you don't have to buy - I'm not advocating that you buy top dollar, but if you're going to buy an instrument get something that's going to stay in tune and it produces the sound properly. For guitars, that means you want a solid top natural wood guitar, and those are very common, it's not like it's hard to find that. And in some cases you're only talking about a difference of maybe $50 or $100. I talked about the pricing for ukulele earlier. And like for guitar something between $150 and $350 will get you a good solid guitar that stays in tune and plays well. Much more than that and you're paying for something that's made of real special wood and sounds extra uber super-duper good and was made in America or something like that, I mean you're paying for that kind of thing.
But they mass produce guitars in Mexico and China pretty well. And for that price point of $150 to $350 you can get some good guitar. For a guitar, you want spruce or mahogany; you don't want laminate for the soundboard. For the neck, laminate is fine. If you get the stuff that's too cheap, like the stuff you find in Toys "R" Us, or Target, or Costco, yeah, you're essentially paying for a toy. So you're still going to pay $60 to $100 for it, and for another $50 you could've got yourself a real instrument. So I had some good instruments to start with, and those were the instruments I really learned to play on. I tried to get some junkie instruments, like I wanted an electric guitar, but I got a piece of junk. So, like for 10 years, I didn't really learn how to play electric guitar because what I had was …
David Payne: And the sound was probably horrible too.
Eric Carzon: Exactly. And it didn't produce sound and it didn't stay in tune. So if you want to learn how to play an instrument do your best to find one that actually plays, because otherwise you're going to hate it, then you're not going to play it as much or not going to play it at all. And then you wasted your money and you lost out on the opportunity to really learn how to play something well.
David Payne: Right, so shop around.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: Well, learning an instrument as an adult can seem particularly daunting. Do you have any tips for adults who want to try an instrument?
Eric Carzon: Yeah, definitely. Now, everything I just said about the budding musician sort of applies. Do it for yourself first. You don't have to shoot for a Grammy, unless you want a Grammy. And then if you want a Grammy don't be scared, go for it. But it's going to take you 10,000 hours. But don't let that sort of quality; search for perfection dominate your experience because that's not what it's about. I do highly recommend the ukulele because I think almost anybody can learn how to play it. It's a little less painful too. Like one of the things that dissuades people from guitar sometimes is that it does hurt your tips of your fingers a little bit. Not long, I mean, if you spend a month or so getting used to it then you won't feel any pain anymore, and it's really not that much pain. But some people are very - everybody is different, so some people are more sensitive to that pain than others.
The nice thing about ukuleles and guitars is that you don't have to know how to read music. And like with piano or saxophone or a lot of those other instruments, you are going to have to learn how to read music otherwise you're not going to be able to do anything. So with guitar and ukulele they're great amateur beginner instruments because they have all tons of books with the little chords just diagrammed right on there so you can look at the little diagram like, "Oh, that's where my fingers go." And you do it and you can play a whole song and learn it, so it's easy. I've been playing for 30 years, I still don't know how to read music, but I can play a lot of different songs. So I do highly recommend the uku and the guitar for that reason. I did take a class here and there, and that's good to do. If ArtistWorks was around when I was younger I would've been all over that.
So the online courses where you've got sort of a master player and they're showing you everything, and you got little videos, and you can watch them. And they chunk it up in these little five and seven-minute segments, so you can take it at your own pace. Those are awesome, and you should definitely try that out. I've tried it myself and I like it. And I know people who have tried it and they really enjoyed it. The other thing is to find people. One of the programs we'll talk about a little later is by a group called the Songwriters' Association of Washington. And they, if you Google them, saw.org is their website, and they have oodles of events, like pretty much two to four times a week they've got something going on somewhere in the region, all the way up as high as Baltimore, as far west as Manassas, everything on the western shore, pretty much from Washington County down to Charles County, they've got something. And a lot of Montgomery County, Washington, D.C., and Arlington, and Fairfax events especially.
But there's others groups, there's one called, I think it's like the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance or I might be butchering their name a little bit. But if you look around there are some organizations, they are either low-cost or free to join, or you can attend their events and you don't have to be a member, because a lot of them do open mics at bars and stuff. And then there's church groups, community groups, put it on a bulletin board. There's lots of different ways to connect with other people playing music, I guess, is what I'm getting at.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: And if you really want the full experience, that's the full experience. So find some other people and play with them and learn with them, start your own little group if you want. A lot of these events are - songwriters' circle in somebody's basement, so you come to their house with your guitar and some cheese and crackers, and everybody sits around and plays, and you learn from each other that way. So I definitely highly recommend that as part of the experience.
David Payne: That's great. Let's turn now to music resources. And start by asking you, what print resources does MCPL offer about music, musicians, and learning to play instruments or sing?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, so we have a wealth of stuff. It's generally in the non-fiction section, in what I call the 780s, so that the non-fiction range from 780 to 799 contains pretty much all of the music books. And it's a variety of things, so it's going to be books about artists. So there'll be the big thick book about The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or whatever, so there's that, so if you want to learn about musicians. Then there's sheet music, and then there's how to play different instruments or how to care for different instruments, and also books about like the music business. So we have that full spread. And I brought some with me just to give you a quick - so in my little stack here I've got, How to Rap, the Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC; Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop; from the children's section I got Learn to Play Keyboards; Usborne's Guitar for Beginners.
From the adult section, we've got Jazz, Rock, and Funk Guitar; Guitar Aerobics, which is like a daily exercise regimen to strengthen your fingers and improve your skills; Drum Circle: A Guide to World Percussion, that teach you how to play that djembe drum or the bongos or the congas, The Ukulele 3 Song Chord Book, so a lot of songs, pop songs broken down into three very easy chords; Alto Sax, 101 Hit Songs; Disney Hits for Ukulele; and one of my current reads, The Daily Ukulele: 365 Songs, so you can learn one song a day on ukulele; and of course, Hamilton: Music for Piano, Vocals, and Guitar.
David Payne: All right.
Eric Carzon: So that's kind of a sampling of physical books. And there's also DVDs in that, and I wouldn't ignore our DVD collection. In a couple of different dimensions they're important. You've got DVDs in non-fiction, such as You Can Play Electric Blues: A Complete Course for Beginner; and I know there's a good bass course on DVD as well. From the juvenile section there's a thing, I think most every branch has this, called, The Music Factory, and it's like eight or 10 different DVDs with like basic music for kids. And then you've got stuff like - I've got Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock, so pick up a couple of the DVDs of the sort of major live concerts, Absolute Guitar for Beginners, another course. And of course, you've got movies that either are musical or are either fiction about music or like sort of classical, like Broadway - we got a lot of Broadway.
In fact, with me here I've got Rent and The Jazz Singer, the Al Jolson version, I've got Singin' in the Rain; Jersey Boys, and Pitch Perfect. So that's also a great way to experience music, so highly recommend that. And then last but not least, we do have CDs in the branches. I brought with me a copy of The Beatles, The White Album. So physical collection, we've got CDs, we've got DVDs, we've got books, and definitely worth taking advantage of.
David Payne: Some great examples there. And I should mention to our listeners that, again, the resources that we mention in today's podcast can all be found under the show notes on the MCPL podcast website.
You mentioned ArtistWorks previously. Can you tell us about that, and some of the other digital resources for music and musical schools that MCPL has?
Eric Carzon: Great. Yes, absolutely. So, everything starts from the main webpage. So go to our webpage, montgomerycountymd.gov/library. And when you're looking right at it, in the left, the sort of first menu is Books, Movies, and Music. So you go Book, Movies, and Music, and go Find, and then you go find Music. So when you get to that menu article pops up, and that's everything we got about music is kind of in that article, and it's got a couple of tabs. One, the sort of first tab has a lot of our digital assets, and then the second tab talks more about our books and our scores. So, two of the standout digital resources are Freegal and the American music Streaming Music collection.
So, we'll start with Freegal. So Freegal stands for free and legal. So, there are over four million songs in every genre that you can imagine in Freegal. And so you login for the first time, you give it your library card number and your pin number and you can download the songs from Freegal, and they come to you as DRM-free files, MP3 files, which basically means you can do anything you want with that file, you want to email it to yourself, you want to put it in your collection whether - like I'm an iTunes user, so I download it and then I put it into my iTunes library and I can make playlists with all my other iTunes songs that I bought from iTunes or that I burned from CDs that I owned. If you're a Rhapsody user you can do the same thing or a general Windows user you can do the same thing because it's an MP3 file. So whatever you have it'll manipulate. And it's got everything from pop, to classical, to world music.
Some things that are on Freegal, you've got Daft Punk, they've got Adele, Springsteen, they've got classical music, world music, jazz, probably hundreds of thousands of artists literally. They've got the really popular stuff in broad array, and then they've got stuff that you've probably never heard of that you could explore. Now, I will say this about electronic music, nobody, absolutely nobody has everything. So Freegal has the Sony catalogue, and they estimate that it's about a quarter of what you would consider popular music. And then the rest of the world is divided between Apple, Rhapsody, and other music services, so none of them have access to everything digitally. But you can download five songs a week per account. So you can get pretty deep into music with that capability.
And it has lists, so you can do previews and you can put stuff on wish lists so you can remember what you wanted to download and then each time you login you can download another, and I think it turns over every Sunday night. So Sunday, at midnight, turns over, and the next week starts fresh. And it's great. You don't - Freegal is atypical of library services in that you do not have to return these songs. You check out the song, it's yours forever. And so that's not something you'll find in almost any other library product. But that makes it very easy to put them in your collection and manipulate them. And we'll come back to Freegal in a minute, because I have some fun things about Freegal.
But I want to talk about the American Music Streaming Collection. And so this is from a - the company is called Alexander Street, and you can actually just search the whole collection or they have it broken down, like they have certain major categories. So they have like American music, classical music, world sounds, and they have a - it's a mix of music, spoken word, and sounds. So you can hear everything from recordings of the poems of Langston Hughes, or you can have like sounds from nature. I did a search for frogs, I think it's - if you want to near a North American bull toad song they've got an entry about that, or I did animal sounds and they've got one with lions in the zoo. They got a lot of spoken word, so they got like a lot of famous works that are being read either by the original person or by somebody famous who is reading somebody famous. And then of course there's the music.
It's great especially like - really, I like blues and early jazz. So a couple of searches that they have a deep amount of songs in our Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, that was the woman in that HBO recent series. So if you want to know what she's all about you could do a search and they've got tons of songs from her. Billie Holiday, the famous blues player Lead Belly. Then they've got world music, and like an example of that, I did sort of a random search and Chernobyl songs came up, so authentic sort of Russian, Ukrainian ethnic music. And then we talked about frogs. Here's a couple of interesting searches to do. Search for The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and you get lots of the different versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. And then if you didn't know, The Lion Sleeps Tonight actually comes from an African song in the '30s called, Mbube, m-b-u-b-e.
So search of that, and that will - that is actually the name of the genre of music from South Africa, so you'll actually come up with a bunch of South African songs in that genre that are beautiful, they sound wonderful. And then, of course, there are tons of versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, which was also known as Wimoweh because that's what Pete Seeger brought it over to America, and that's what he called it. And so if you search for that then you'll get like all 18 different versions of him, and then the - I think it was The Tokens that made it famous the second time around, in the mid 50's. So it's a very interesting collection. It's got a lot of deep depth that you can get in to.
And then I did this little - I call it Freegal fun, so I do these little poems made up of songs that I got from Freegal. So for instance, here's one; Bruce is not bitter baby. I was born in the USA. Baby, I was born to run. Hard times in my hometown. We have all got a hungry heart for the glory days. And then here's one for blues; I went down to the crossroads to tell my baby that she done lost her good thing now. The thrill is gone, damn right, I got the blues. So there's five blues songs in each of those - in that poem. Blues two I did was; The sky is crying, mustang sally, voodoo child, let the good times roll. And then finally, Adele's Lament, this is all from her 25 album; Don't you remember how we set fire to the rain with our love song, now we've just turning tables. So that's what you can do with Freegal, I highly recommend. It's a lot of fun.
David Payne: You've given us some great examples of some very powerful resources there. Let's talk a bit about music programming that MCPL offers?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah. So there's two monthly series that I know of, and I did sort of a search for programming, so I think I'm correct in asserting that just these two. So there's mine, at Twinbrook I call it Make More Music Discussion Group. And we've had our two groups so far. So it's going to be the first Monday of every month at 6:30. Keep an eye out on the webpage or call us to - just in case there's a holiday or something. But so far, there have not been any holiday blockages for first Mondays, so that's one of the reasons I picked first Mondays, so first Monday, 6:30, Twinbrook. Mine is a very open format. I'll do a little demo, a little clinic if there's anybody who has an issue and they want to see if the group has any advice about it, and then some sharing if people want to share.
Now actually, the first couple of groups, we've had a lot of kids and they've not had anything to share per say, but they wanted to explore the instruments, and so we basically did that for a large portion. But I did have some sharing in the first - we had this wonderful guy, he just played classical guitar throughout the whole conversation, for like 20 minutes, and he was just awesome. And he was like, "Oh, I just learned this as a student. I don't really play well." And he's playing like this guitar god. So you never know what you're going to encounter. I mean he was wonderful. So that's mine.
And then at the Rockville Library, they have a monthly songwriters' workshop, it's the second Saturdays, at 12:30. So it runs from 12:30 to 3:00. And it's a song circle by the Songwriters' Association of Washington. So what they generally do in this program is somebody will probably speak for a little bit at the beginning, maybe play two or three songs. So they'll have sort of somebody more experienced who will start everything off and give some tips to the rest of the audience. And then, basically, they'll go in a circle and they'll take turns. So everybody who wants to participate, they'll get to play one song. And you can bring - in fact they encourage you to bring 10 or 15 copies of your song and you pass it around, and people can give you constructive criticism and advice.
People sometimes - you can come with a partial song, and sometimes people have kibbutz on heh have you tried this lyric, I thought about that lyric, or did you think about changing this word or this chord structure, or do this or do that." So, it's really great if you want to get into songwriting, and you want to get some advice from folks. It's a great experience. Then the other thing is that all the branches are - we're always doing some kind of musical program. So on any given week somebody somewhere in Montgomery County Public Libraries is sponsoring a musical event of some sort. I know the Olney Library, about once a quarter; they have kind of an open mic that's themed. Their last one I think they had was like kids; they did like a 60's one which was a lot of fun. And I think they did the 70's and maybe even the 80's.
So they're doing like decades and other specialties. But the last one they did was with kids. I haven't seen one posted yet, so that one you'll have to keep a watch out for or call, and say, "Hey, when is your next open mic?" But then I know, for instance, at Twinbrook, we're also having a jazz program on December 13th with Christiana Drapkin who is regional, she's done a lot of accent libraries in Montgomery County and other jurisdictions. So we're doing jazz for kids specialty, and then a lot of branches are doing something. So there is something, like I said, every week. And so if you search or ask your branch what's coming up they'll tell you. If you search our events calendar from our web page you would want to look - there's a checkbox on the left, and if you checked performing arts and then selected all branches and gave it a date range, it would show you all the programs coming up that involve a performance.
And like I just did a search before I came here and I got two pages worth of hits going out all the way until June 30th of 2019. So, there's definitely musical acts, and they vary everything from jazz, to folk. I don't have one booked yet, but I'm going to book a drum circle some time before the end of 2019. And I'd say it's probably evenly divided between stuff for adults and stuff for kids. So some of the musical programs are specifically designed for children, and some of them are for all ages.
David Payne: And we should also talk about a couple of significant music programs, Vinyl Record Day, and the Make Music Montgomery Contest.
Eric Carzon: Oh yes, excellent. Thank you. Yeah, so on April 27th, 2019; we are hosting the second annual Day of the Record Vinyl Record Musical Festival at the Silver Spring library. This is going to be from about 12:00 to 4:00. And one of the main events of Vinyl Record Day is going to be what we call, Make Music Montgomery. So in December, we will release instructions on MCPL website for a call for auditions. So we're looking for folks who have about three-minute acts, and they must include a live musical component. So you could play a song. Doesn't have to be original, but you got to play a song. You could have a dance act as long as somebody is doing live music while the other person is dancing, or you can dance and sing at the same time if you want.
So the advice is going to be open. We're looking for as diverse a grouping of acts as we can. But this is a musical festival so we are insisting on a live musical component. But that's going to be a lot of fun. You'll be able to submit your auditions via an electronic file, which should be pretty easy for most folks. And we will have at least one live audition. I'll have one on my February 4th Make Music Discussion Group, will be live auditions for folks who want to come and audition live. But if you don't want to audition live you can still submit the file. And the submissions will be open from approximately mid December through the end of February.
David Payne: And as far as Vinyl Record Day, building on a very successful first year, last year.
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, it was great.
David Payne: Yeah.
Eric Carzon: And so aside from the Make Music Discussion or the Make Music event at Vinyl Record Day, the other things, we'll have a keynote speaker, which we're still negotiating with, should be a lot of fun, and a panel discussion, and then a lot of other fun events. The super fun event we will have again is making crafts with records. So we'll have a whole bunch of beat up records and record covers, and you'll be able to make a craft out of that. And that was super popular at the last event. There'll also be an auction and a sale of vinyl records. So the friends of the library will bring tons of records to buy.
David Payne: Great. So stay tuned for Vinyl Record Day. Now, do you have a favorite book about music or about a particular musician?
Eric Carzon: Yeah. I quite enjoyed the book, Legends, Icons, & Rebels by Robbie Robertson. It's in our collection. I think most often it's in the teen collection. It's got a lot of beautiful pictures, and stories, and two CDs, so it basically talks - it does like short bios of a lot of the major musicians of sort of the golden age of rock and roll, so everybody from Chuck Berry, to Bob Marley, to Carol King, Bruce Springsteen, I think is in there as well, Aretha Franklin, folks like that. Another book that I recommend is The Rap Year Book. Whether you're in to rap or not, because I'm not super into rap, but there's some rap songs I do like, and it's such a major part of our culture that I wanted to learn more about it.
And this book is great because it takes one rap song, from like 1979 up through I think the mid 90's, and talks about the song and how it came about and the artists. And it's fascinating stories about some of these songs, and it's a really great read. And that is also in our collection, and I highly recommend that one.
David Payne: Well, from books to songs. Do you have a favorite song?
Eric Carzon: I - it's a hard question because there's 50 or more songs that I love dearly and play often, not including my own songs that I've written. But if I had to go with one I'm going to go with Smile. And I didn't know this about Smile until you asked me this question, I did a little research. And Smile was originally written by Charlie Chaplin as an instrumental. And he wrote it for his last silent film, Modern Times. And around that time, his mother had passed away. So it's kind of a sad by sweet song. And later on two lyricists, named John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, added the lyrics to it. Shortly thereafter, Nat King Cole, I think was first, and then a couple of years later, Tony Bennett both made the song with the lyrics, and that's what made the song famous. And since then it's been covered by everybody from Barbara Streisand to Michael Jackson and in between.
In fact Michael Jackson loved it so much it was his favorite song and he put it on - well he didn't; the people who made History after he died, HIStory put it on and they put on his version of Smile on to HIStory. At least according to MTV, that's where I got some of this information. Tony Bennett's version is still my favorite version, although I must say my second favorite is the TV show, Glee, did a great version of Smile with ukulele. And I like their version as well.
David Payne: Well, we typically close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are currently reading or recently enjoyed. So what can you share with us?
Eric Carzon: Okay, I'm ready. I've been reading - I've been taking the MCPL 2018 reading challenge, and I am three books away from finishing, so I am getting there.
David Payne: Good man.
Eric Carzon: I am reading The Daily Ukulele, so picked some songs there to sort of expand my repertoire of ukulele music. I am just starting March: One, by Congressman John Lewis, and it's great. I've read March: Three, so I started kind of backwards. But it's great because it gives you a lot of information about the Civil Rights era, and told from a not Martin Luther King perspective. Because we're all taught Martin Luther King, and that's important, but it's great to see other perspectives related, I mean because he worked with Dr. King, so - but it's great to see sort of all the other players, and he really goes in to that. He like talks about a lot of the different people and a lot of the history of some of those super important seminal events in our history. So I'm looking forward to finishing March: One.
The other book I'm reading is Gather Together in My Name, which is the second autobiography by Maya Angelou. And I'd always heard about Maya Angelou and heard little snippets of her poems from the presidential inaugurations and whatnot. But I'd never taken the time to read one until I finally read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was her first autobiography, and it was unbelievable. So I actually listened to it in audiobook from the collection, and then - so I've picked up the second, because now I - the first audiobook, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she sort of ends as an adolescent and she's like a young teenage mom, and then like ends. You're like, "What happened?" So the second book picks up and continues her story. So I'm really looking forward to that.
David Payne: Well, Eric, thank you very much for joining us today and sharing your passion for music, your knowledge in music. And congratulations on a great start with the Library of Things Music.
Eric Carzon: Thank you.
David Payne: Look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength.
Eric Carzon: Thank you. Appreciate it.
David Payne: Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we'd love to know what you think.
Thank you for listening to our conversation today. And see you next time.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, with your host, David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I'm Julie Dina.
David Payne: And today we're going to be talking about energy efficiency. We're recording this in the first week of November, just a few days after we put our clocks back, which means, of course there's lighter mornings but darker evenings. It means winter is coming. And of course as winter energy bills are coming. So, what better time to talk about energy efficiency. And joining us today to share their expertise, a very warm welcome to Angelisa Hawes, who is MCPL's Assistant Director of Facilities, and ADA matters.
Angelisa Hawes: Hi, thank you.
David Payne: And also a very warm welcome to Larissa Johnson, who is with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. And you have the very elaborate title of Residential Energy Program Manager. Did I get that right?
Larissa Johnson: That is correct. And thank you so much for having me.
David Payne: So, let's start off. We talk about energy efficiency, let's start off by asking, well, what does emergency efficiency mean?
Larissa Johnson: Yes, so that is a great question, especially because of this time of the year. And what I would love to start with is the fact that there is a difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency. So, energy conservation pertains to not using energy. So we hear this all the time when people say, "Turn off the lights" or "Take a shorter shower, five minutes." That's the recommendation; things of that nature. Basically the understanding is that the cheapest kilowatt hour is the kilowatt hour that we do not use. So energy conservation is where we start when we do outreach and education in the county. And then we move to energy efficiency. And energy efficiency is when you use new technologies to do the same tasks.
So, for instance, lighting, which is a big one; it's a super easy win for everyone in their homes, in their offices, in their churches. So, switching from incandescent light bulbs to LED, or light-emitting diodes, is one of the most energy-efficient things you can do. And it's a new technology, which means it uses less energy. So, when I'm out in the community and people ask me, "But how much energy is this LED using?" A typical incandescent light bulb uses 60 watts of energy, and an LED that is the same brightness, that is the same color, uses about 9 watts of energy. So that's just a little introduction to the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency.
David Payne: Let me ask you, and this may be a rather obvious question, but why is energy efficiency important?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, so I have to say that energy conservation is the most important thing, because we want to reduce how much energy we're using. Then we want to use energy efficiently, and then we want to switch to renewable energy. So it's a little bit of a drive down the road. You want to take one stop first before you make the other stops.
So, yes, energy efficiency is super important because we want to use less energy overall, and we want to make sure that we're using our energy as efficiently as possible. We use it every single day for everything we do. We use it to heat our food, to refrigerate our food, we use it to heat our showers; everything that you can think of we're using electricity and energy every single day.
David Payne: That just about covers it.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Now, I know you mentioned a lot of information about energy conservation. What exactly does Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection do?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah. So they have me.
Julie Dina: Number one.
Larissa Johnson: They created the position as the Residential Energy Program Manager, it is my job to go out into the community and talk to residents about how to reduce their energy usage, how to be more efficient, and how to switch to renewable energy. That's just what we do for outreach. But then within the Department of Environmental Protection, we also walk the walk. So we make sure that we're as energy efficient as possible as well as an agency. And we really do, we have two different sides of the energy program. I work on residential matters or things that have to do with county residents. And then my colleague, Lindsey Shaw, she works on the commercial side of things. And we have a few - we have some laws that back her work up. And mine is really based on just educating and doing outreach in the community.
David Payne: So, Larissa, what are some of the service that DEP offers residents, and also businesses?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. We have a lot of different programs. Now, I do have to preface this with the fact that DEP in the Montgomery County doesn't provide programs directly or incentives directly. Now, I say that because we promote a lot of programs that exist in the state. So, for instance, in Montgomery County and in Maryland as a whole, there's a program called EmPOWER Maryland, E-M-P-O-W-E-R Maryland. And EmPOWER Maryland has been in existence since 2008. And it is a law that was passed to reduce our energy consumption as a state. So, all of the utilities, we have five utilities in the state, three in Montgomery County, we have Potomac Edison, BGE, and Pepco. And all three utilities have to provide services to residents at no cost or low cost.
For instance, when I go out and do outreach, I'm always signing people up for something called a Quick Home Energy Checkup. And that is when a contractor comes to your home, they switch out your light bulbs to LEDs, they give you high-efficiency showerheads, faucet aerators, they're going to wrap your hot water heater, they've going to give you an advanced power strip. And they do an overall look at your apartment or house to see how energy efficient it is. And this doesn't cost residents anything; it's a no-cost program. It's already incorporate into your utility bills. The EmPOWER program also does things for small businesses; it does things for large businesses. The EmPOWER program is pretty large, so as the Montgomery County Residential Energy Program Manager, it's my job to make sure people know about these programs.
In Montgomery County, what we do have though is a residential property tax credit. And that's available to anyone who does energy efficiency upgrades in their home, and they can get up to a $250 tax credit from the county. So that's a direct program that we provide in Montgomery County. Most of the other programs that are going to have dollars attached to them are going to be through the EmPOWER program as the state level. But it's our role to make sure that residents know about these programs so that they're taking advantage of it and reducing their energy bills.
David Payne: So, do residents find out about EmPOWER through your website, for instance, or directly from the utility providers?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, each utility does direct outreach through pamphlets, brochures, mailers, things of that nature. And then they can also get information from our website, of course, yes.
David Payne: Great.
Julie Dina: That's good to know.
Larissa Johnson: Yes.
Julie Dina: Now, Angelisa, being the Assistant Director of Facilities and ADA for the Montgomery County Public Library could you tell us a little bit more about your role?
Angelisa Hawes: Okay, so I started my role on April 30th, 2018. And as the Director of Facilities and ADA, I'm responsible for facilities management for the 21 branches. I like to say that from the time you step foot in our parking lot to the time you go into our buildings and use our facilities, our bathrooms; those are all the things that I'm responsible for. I also oversee ADA for the library system, new construction, so like the new Wheaton Library, and the Refresh projects, worksite safety, of COOP, our COOP plan, which stands for Continuity of Operations Planning, so planning for things like disasters, whether it be fires, or a flood, or power outages, anything that affects our normal service. I'm also responsible for risk management. I'm also the liaison for security, and for the community use of public facilities. And then I also oversee 10 library branches.
David Payne: So you're busy.
Angelisa Hawes: Yes
David Payne: So, you talked about briefly the refreshes that you are working on and the system has been working on. Can you tell us that in all your refreshes and plus the current existing buildings such as Sliver Spring, what has MCPL done to make their buildings more energy efficient and environmentally friendly?
Angelisa Hawes: With the refreshes we have gone in and we have done energy-efficient LED lighting, some of them are new fixtures, and some are retrofitted. We have placed water-efficient toilets and sinks in our facilities, some have automatic sensors, some are energy-efficient low-flow toilets. We are putting carpet tiles in, that can be removed, rinsed, and replaced when they become dirty or soiled. We use paints, adhesives, and sealants with low VOCs; we've added dual water fountains with bottle filling stations. In all those locations we've also added hand-driers in to cut down the use of paper towels. We also reuse items and furniture that are in good condition. So with the refresh we'll have new items but - new furniture, but we will also have old furniture.
Another example of us reusing something is that the only branch where we reused existing brick and laminated wood beams from the old site. We salvaged them and we put them back into the new building. At Twinbrook, we've added an outside green space that's accessible for programs. We have green roofs at Sliver Spring and Gaithersburg which helps with heating and cooling, but also with natural absorption and irrigation system. We also, in our new buildings, are doing a lot of natural lighting, so buildings like Silver Spring and Olney have a lot of natural light. The county has provided us with green power at Olney and Silver Spring libraries. And we also have solar panels at Rockville Memorial Library and at Gaithersburg.
Julie Dina: So Larissa, we've been at a lot of outreach events together. For our listening audience, could you tell us if you have any DEP outreach events that are coming up actually in any of our branches, as well as let us know if there are any recent campaigns or initiatives that you might be working on?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. As I mentioned, I love working with libraries. It's where people go for information. So for me it's a no-brainer to have outreach events at libraries. And I try to make them as interactive and engaging as possible. So when I first started with the Department of Environmental Protection, we celebrated National Energy Action Month, which is something that happens every October. And we partnered with six libraries to provide energy exploration events, which were interactive experiences for all ages. It was a way for us to bring energy efficiency, which is such a weird concept for some folks or just not a fun concept. So we made arcade games to talk about the different ways that you could be energy efficient in your homes. So we brought that to libraries in October of 2016, was the first time we did it. And then we did it again, in 2017, at six different libraries.
During that time, we also found out that the Summer Reading Program, which happens every summer, had an amazing theme. And I think in 2017 it was, Build a Better World. And so we were able to use that as an opportunity to outreach to kids and to families about renewable energy. So we did Energy Express events at all of the library locations, and we made wind turbines, and solar cars with kids during those events. And then this year, we brought that back again and when libraries rocked this summer, during the Summer Reading Program, we talked about where electricity comes from, and the fact that a lot of our electricity comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy, two of which basically come from rocks originally. So we were able to use that. So I try to find a way to use the summer reading theme as an opportunity to talk about energy, and to talk about what Department of Environmental Protection does.
And then of course, this October, for National Energy Action Month, we did something called Books and Bulbs. So we deviated a little bit from the Energy Exploration events just because we had been to most of the libraries with that event. So we went to six locations this October and did Books and Bulbs, where we had people bring us their old incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs, and they could swap them out for light-emitting diodes, the LED light bulbs I was talking about earlier. And so they were able to do that. They could bring me as many light bulbs as they wanted and then they received three LEDs in exchange. So I think - I don't think, I do know that next summer we will be partnering with the libraries again on Energy Express events, again a way to connect the summer reading with STEM or STEAM opportunities and talk about energy.
And then we are also, just so everyone knows, you can always take out a Kill a Watt meter from your library. So you just go to the catalogue system and you can find out how much energy you're using with certain appliance by using a Kill a Watt meter. And sneak peek, this is brand new, but we will be adding thermal cameras to the library catalogue in the next six months, hopefully.
Julie Dina: Oh, that's nice.
Larissa Johnson: So people will be actually able to borrow an iPhone and Android-capable thermal cameras, they're extensions that you put on your phone, and then you can search your home to see how energy efficient your house is or where you have leaks and where it's super warm and where it's super cold, and it's pretty awesome. We're going to have, hopefully, eight cameras in circulation.
David Payne: You hear it first on Library Matters.
Julie Dina: That's right.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, you really did.
Julie Dina: I know earlier you mentioned people were able to turn in their light bulbs at certain outreach events.
Larissa Johnson: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: Now that the summer is over, does DEP have specific stations or offices where people can still turn in their light bulbs, is this a year-round?
Larissa Johnson: I do outreach in the entire county, and I don't just go to libraries. I also go the senior centers, I go to recreation centers, I go to housing complexes, I go to Manna food distribution sites, I go to a lot of different locations. So in December, I will actually be visiting a lot of senior centers, I'll be visiting Damascus, and Schweinhaut, and Bower Park, and a few other locations. And I'll be doing light bulb exchanges, and also we will be turning incandescent light bulbs into ornaments. So we're going to take your old inefficient light bulbs and turn them into a work of art. So that's a fun event.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah.
Julie Dina: I imagine people can get this information on your website?
Larissa Johnson: Yes. So our website is www.mygreenmontgomery.org, and then if you backslash energy, or if you just go to mygreenmontgomery.org you can find our information there. We have a calendar there, and all of these events are located there. We also have a Facebook page, which is mygreenmontgomery, and you can find information there as well.
Julie Dina: You heard it folks.
Larissa Johnson: Come bring your light.
David Payne: So, Angelisa, what are some of the resources MCPL offers to help customers go green?
Angelisa Hawes: Well, we have free scanning services from our copiers in all of our branches. We offer programs such as composting, Energy Express, Books and Bulbs. We have online resources such as e-books, e-magazines, music and movies; we have books and resources on green living. And with our partnership with DEP, as we've been talking about during this session, we pass out green bags, light bulbs for the Books and Bulbs program, we also have compost bins at Damascus, Maggie Nightingale, Kensington Park, and the FLO Silver Spring bookstore. The other thing that we have done recently is we have discontinued mailing out postcards for holds. So we either call you, text, or email you. So those are just-
David Payne: It's a significant contribution there.
Angelisa Hawes: Yes. I get a lot of those hold emails.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, and they offer the Kill a Watt meters, which are housed here at Rockville Library, but again, people can request them, and then they get sent directly to their library. So that's been a resource for the last five years or so.
Julie Dina: Okay, Larissa, so what would you consider is the most important step we can take right now towards being more environmentally responsible?
Larissa Johnson: Okay, so there is not just one step, there are a few steps. The first step is to make sure that we are using less energy, so conserving our energy, so turning off our lights, shorter showers; things of that nature. The next thing would be to be more energy efficient, so switching to LED light bulbs is the easiest thing you can do in your home. The next thing would be to switching to clean energy or to renewable energy. So for those that have the ability it would be to install solar panels on their homes or on their barns or over their carports, wherever they can. And then if you don't have that ability, there are other options. So there are things like switching to clean power. So in Maryland, we're a choice state, which means you get to choose who your energy supplier is.
So in Montgomery County residents can choose to go to wind energy or cleaner energy, and they would just go to our website, mygreenmontgomery.org and then look for Green Choices, that's what they're going to look for. And it's going to tell them what companies are available to them to switch to clean energy. And then they also have the ability to go solar, either putting solar panels on their roofs or participating in community solar, and that's another project that's happening in Montgomery County. And you can find more information on our website. And again, like Montgomery County Libraries is already a leader in this. They have solar panels on the roofs of their libraries, on Rockville Memorial and on Gaithersburg.
David Payne: So Angelisa, having said that, can you give us an example of how solar power makes a difference?
Angelisa Hawes: So at Gaithersburg, Solar City installed 720 panels on the roof. And we are generating over 270,000 kilowatt hours per year.
Larissa Johnson: That's a lot of hours.
Julie Dina: Now, Larissa, could you tell us if there's any particular project the DEP is actually working on currently?
Larissa Johnson: We are actually working on a project that has been in a making for a little bit of time, but we've been trying to work with partners, and really get this program to be what the county needs. And so as part of the Pepco-Exelon merger that happened a few years ago, the county received funding for energy programs, so one of them was to create the Montgomery County Green Bank. So I don't know if residents know about that or if listeners know about that, but that is something that has been in existence for the last two years, and that's an opportunity for people to do energy projects and to have financing to help them do those energy projects. So that's something that's good for residents and for businesses.
And another part of that Pepco-Exelon merger was to bring Montgomery County an Energy Coach Network. And so we are in the process of putting that together and working with Health and Human Services, with Department of Housing and Community Affairs, with the public libraries, with the senior centers. And so we're going to be launching something soon. I can't tell you what it's called. I can tell you that you will have thermal cameras in libraries soon, and that is a part of this project, in this initiative. So be on the lookout for something super exciting, and engaging, and fun. And it's going to be a county-wide initiative and program, all around energy because energy is amazing and we use it every day.
In addition to the Montgomery County Green Bank, there are opportunities for homeowners to actually receive funding to help them to energy efficiency programs or any energy-efficiency projects in their home. And so one of those is called the BeSMART Home Loan, and it's available to all residents in the entire state of Maryland. And it's up to $30,000 for energy projects, and that can be retrofits, it could be home comfort projects, it could be installing solar panels, though it only pays a percentage of that or only provides you with a loan for a percentage of that. And that's through the Department of Housing and Community Development. And again, it's up to $30,000 worth of funding, and it's at a 4.99 APR. And so that's another opportunity for residents and listeners to take advantage of that. And once they do that program, then they can qualify for the Montgomery County Property Tax Credit, the energy property tax credit, so it's a double whammy, but in a good way.
David Payne: Well, an important part of energy efficiency is LEED certification, L-E-E-D. Angelisa, if I could turn to you and ask you, Sliver Spring, Olney, and Gaithersburg libraries have gold LEED certifications. Can you tell us a little bit about the LEED certification process, what it means, and are there any future libraries that will be trying for LEED certification?
Angelisa Hawes: Okay. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. And it is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. LEED provides point system to score green buildings' design and construction. It's basically five basic areas, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy in atmosphere, materials resources, and indoor environmental quality. So buildings are awarded points based on those sustainable strategies. The more points they're awarded the higher level of certification, which is silver, gold, or platinum. So if you decided that you wanted to have a project that was LEED certified, you would first determine which you want to achieve, do you want to have silver or do you want to have gold. You would register your project, you would submit your certification application, then you would wait, the application review, and then they would make a decision on which level you achieved.
So, as future libraries that we're trying for LEED certification would be the Wheaton Library that's going to be combined with the Rec Center.
David Payne: So Larissa, turning to you, what about getting a home LEED certified, what are some of the pros and cons of doing that?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, so LEED certification is an option for homes. And as Angelisa just pointed out, there are five areas, and energy is one of those areas, and you can get a certain amount of points for that. The other thing is that you have to pay for LEED certification, so that's probably the biggest downfall is that there's a cost associated with it. The upside is that there is funding to help you with that through the BeSMART Home Loan, and through other programs that exist to help you make your home more energy efficient. One of the things that we talk about when we're talking about homes and energy efficiency is the Home Energy Rating System, or the HERS Index. And that's also another tool that homeowners can use especially when they're interested in selling or buying homes, they can find out how energy efficient that home is.
So LEED is more comprehensive, and talks about sustainability, water usage, environmental air quality, and the design and materials that are used, whereas HERS specially talks to the energy efficiency of a home. And also in Montgomery County, we have a disclosure form, so when you do buy a new home the homeowners - the previous homeowners have to give you the last 12 months worth of energy bills so that you can find out how energy efficient that home was. So that's something that has been in existence here in the county as well. So if you're interested in buying a home, looking for a new home, or just want to find out how energy-efficient your home is that's another opportunity. And again, it's specifically connected to energy use, where as LEED is a much more comprehensive holistic approach to sustainability.
Julie Dina: Now, Larissa, with all of that being said, how can county residents actually contact the DEP or find out more about your work.
Larissa Johnson: It's very easy. You can go to mygreenmontgomery.org, which is our website that connects residents to all things green in Montgomery County, hence the name, mygreenmontgomery. So you can find out information about what I'm doing around energy, you can find out what's happening around RainScapes and water, and all different areas that the Department of Environmental Protection focuses on. That's the easiest way. If people want to contact me directly it's firstname.lastname@example.org, that's the easiest way to get in touch with me. And I'm always happy to answer emails, that's the easiest way to get in touch with me because I'm out in the field so much that I'm not usually available via phone, so definitely emails. Our website is a great opportunity as well.
David Payne: And for listeners, who having heard the podcast want to take a look at how to be more energy efficient, what's the easiest step that someone can take right now to being more environmentally responsible?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. So I think that the most important step we can take right now is to take a step. So like I said before, to conserve energy, so stop using energy. Make sure that when you leave a room you are turning off the light, switching to LED light bulbs, we have lots of events where you can bring your old incandescent and CFL light bulbs to me and you can get LEDs at no cost to you. So that's an easy, easy way to do it. I want to really impress upon the fact that each choice that we make is impacting the entire system. So a lot of people think that what does it matter if I turn off my light, it doesn't really impact anything. But if you don't turn off your light, and everyone doesn't turn off their light because they don't think that their choices matter, then we have a big issue when it comes to energy choices.
So I really like to think about the solutions that we can do personally because that's going the impact the larger system. And there is another book that I love, love, love, it's called Energy Choices, and it is a look at the solutions everyday people can make just in regular things, so switching to solar panels, buying an electric vehicle if you have the ability and have the interest in that. Or super easy things, just walking to work or walking or using the metro, or using a bus. Things like that, so.
David Payne: I should of course remind listeners that all the resources that we mention today can be found in our show notes on the podcast section of MCPL's webpage.
Julie Dina: And Larissa, I know you do a lot to conserve energy and let the whole world know about it. Can you tell us about a strangest thing you've ever done in a quest to conserve energy?
Larissa Johnson: Oh gosh. The strangest thing I have ever done, so I actually, one of the things that I do provide residents with when they come to one of my workshops or one of my outreach events is a shower timer, and it's a five-minute shower timer. And I absolutely love it. I use it every single time I take a shower, I start it, and the sand starts coming down, and I know I have five minutes in my shower. So I think that's the silliest, quirkiest thing I do. And I'm happy to say that I can also share that with other residents because I provide them and I do workshops. So it's not over-the-top super crazy, but it's a great way to conserve energy.
Julie Dina: Sounds good.
David Payne: So we typically close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are enjoying or recently enjoyed, of course, under your LED light bulb, so let's start with Angelisa.
Angelisa Hawes: So, I'm reading Radical Candor, but Kim Scott, because I want to be a better boss. I think that starting from being a branch manager to becoming an administrator is a totally large jump. And so I don't want to lose my humanity when I make decisions, and so this book was recommended by another administrator. And so that's why I checked this book out.
Julie Dina: Larissa?
Larissa Johnson: Yes, so my book is one from Libby, and it's an audiobook, it's The Book of Joy, by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. And so for me, I believe that all things are connected. And so my personal energy impacts all of the choices I make, and that is something that I really believe in. And so I really try to make sure that I am connecting to the joy that I have within myself, and the laughter. And so this book has been inspirational, it's two amazing men talking about how joy has impacted their lives, they talk about sorrow, they talk about laughter, they talk about humanity and humility, and they bring it all together. And it's just so nice. And they have two actors that - or two readers that are reading it that sound just like the Dalai Lama and sound like Desmond Tutu, so that's one of the benefits of listening to a book on tape is you get to have different accents. The downfall is you get no pictures.
Julie Dina: You just have to come to the library and check out the book.
Larissa Johnson: Exactly.
Julie Dina: Well, I've got the say a big thank you to both our guests today on the episode.
Let's keep this conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we'd love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Julie: Hi, I'm Julie Dina. In this episode of Library Matters, we're doing something a little different. For the past few months, MCPL has invited children ages 10 through 14 to explore literature by recording a video about a book they've enjoyed.
We've collected some of these book talks to share with our Library Matters listeners. We hope you enjoy the enthusiasm these young readers have expressed for their books and for reading as much as we have.
You can see these and more of MCPL’s literary explorer videos on our YouTube channel mcplmd. MCPL’s literary explorer program was made possible by grants from the NBC Universal Foundation and Washington's NBC 4
Book Reviewer 1: Welcome to Serenity, America's ideal community, ideal, I muttered, ideal for clones until they figure out what's going on. That's when it dawns on me. I haven't seen a single human so far, no parents, no Purples, no sign of life: Masterminds, a criminal destiny by Gordon Korman.
After their escape from the Purples, the four clones reach the outside world. However, their mission is not finished yet. They must bring down Project Desirous for the faith they had created for them and the other six clones. The 11th had probably died during the escape. The mission brings them back to the heart Serenity.
There, they might learn an awful truth about their cloning. Masterminds is filled with creative strategies to get out of nearly impossible problems, mixed with twists and turns, showing kids can do unbelievable things. They can inspire you to make an incredible act for the community, but be careful, you might inhale the book.
Book Reviewer 2: What? And you're taking me where? How could you do this to me? Today, we're going to talk about the book The Truth About Stacey by Raina Telgemeier. Stacey has had a crazy year between babysitting her diabetes and moving, she has had her hands full.
She joins the club with three other people named Christy, Claudia and Marian. She realizes that keeping quiet has changed her life and that she will never do it again. I love this book because it was serious, funny at the same time and it had a lot of cliffhangers that popped up at surprising moments. Find out more, read the book The Truth About Stacey by Raina Telgemeier.
Book Reviewer 3: Being a kid can really stink sometimes especially when you're in middle school. But sometimes the experience of being a kid can really be exciting and funny. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is written by Jeff Kinney.
This book is about a kid named Greg Heffley, whose life is ruined by his family: his big brother Roderick, his dad Frank, his mom Susan and his little spoiled, most loved, trouble-proof brother Manny.
The book is a diary that Greg’s mom got him, but it's not cool to have a diary. So Greg says, this is really just a journal. Greg writes in his journal every day about his life at school and at home. He has light bulbs that go off inside his brain.
Sometimes the books blow out or explode, but it’s not really light bulbs that go off inside his brain, but ideas that sometimes work and sometimes backfire. I love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series by Jeff Kinney because it makes me feel good inside and makes me giggle too and other people should read this book because whenever they're frustrated, it will make them feel better.
Book Reviewer 4: Have you ever found out that your friend is half goat? Battled the Minotaur? Saw your mom disappear in golden light and be claimed by the sea god making you a demigod? Probably not unless you’re Percy Jackson.
In the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson, along with Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood the satyr embarks on a quest to return the master lightning bolt to Zeus, king of the gods. Along the way, Percy and his friends battle Medusa, play with the three-headed dog, travel to the underworld, escape Hades, God of the dead and battle Aries, god of war. Will he and his friends save the world from a war? Find out in the Lightning Thief.
Book Reviewer 5: Hello, my name is Avi G, and today I'll be talking about Wonder written by R.J. Palacio. This story is about a boy named Auggie with a facial difference. Many kids think he looks weird and that he is horrible and ugly.
Only his family is there to protect him including his sister Via and his two parents, then he enters school at Beecher Prep in fifth grade. School is a huge challenge for him. Will he be able to overcome this challenge and make new friends and fit in with his peers or will he have to quit school eventually? This story is wonderful. It just shows how a boy called Auggie can face the world and show that he can actually fit in.
When seventh graders bully him and hurt him, he doesn't cry and stays strong and his friends help him deal with the bully. Read this touching story about Auggie as he makes new friends and proves himself to be ordinary.
Book Reviewer 6: Hi, my name is Elise, and I'm here at the Olney Public Library recommending this book called Awkward. Awkward is one of my favorite books because they include so many details about characters and different stories brought into life.
And then also there's different comic strips on every page and the reason that I love this book is the characters go super well together but then there's also the bad times and it makes you super anxious to go to the next page, so you’ll just want to keep reading on and on and on about it.
A good thing about this book is that there's an adventure on every page. So each time you open up the book, there's always going to be something new to look forward to. I love this book because it's just super fun and creative and it's just really cool.
Book Reviewer 7: Have you ever wondered what it's like to be as fast as a cheetah, strong as an elephant, heal like a starfish, climb like a lizard or have echolocation like a bat. Well, in the book Going Wild by Lisa McMann, Charlie Wilde has all those powers. Thanks to her bracelet she accidentally found.
Charlie first discovered her powers playing her favorite sport, soccer. She sprinted 70 miles per hour across the field, dodging everyone in her way except her enemy Kelly. Kelly collided with Charlie and her foot smashed into Charlie's leg. But Charlie barely felt a thing because of her activated bracelet. Charlie is even more adventurous different than this one. Find out by reading this action packed page turner.
Book Reviewer 8: How does it feel to go from being a rich, wealthy princess like girl to a poor, orphan servant. This is the classic story The Little Princess by Frances Burnett. It is a story of a girl named Sara Crewe whose life goes downward after she learns that her father has died and has left her without any money.
This is a story set in England in a boarding school which Sara attends and she is living the life of a princess. Once her dad dies, she ends up as a servant living in the attic. Even when she's starving and freezing, she uses her imagination and determination to survive.
Though this book was written in 1905, the themes are still very relevant today. A true princess is not just wealth or money, but the richness in your heart, being kind, strong and persevering. This is the classic timeless book that you will enjoy and love reading.
Book Reviewer 9: If you go to middle school, maybe you will agree with this book and if you go to middle school next year, maybe this will help you to survive a rough year. My name is Sean and I would like to introduce a book named Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.
Rafe K is going to sixth grade and what he got the first day was getting a new boy named Miller and having a long speech by the principal and getting a rule book and reading it slowly and then a really good idea came to him.
Something may have changed the whole year. It's that he breaks all the rules trying not to keep the rule three times and he named that Operation RAFE, which stands for rules aren't for everyone. Will he win this game and survive this year with Miller and the teachers? Read the story to find out if he won or lost.
Book Reviewer 10: What happens when seven different students with nothing in common wind up in the same class with Mr. Terupt teacher magic. This book is because Mr. Terupt, a realistic fiction story by Rob Buyea, Peter, Alexia, Luke, Jeffrey, Anna, Danielle and Jessica land in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class.
They're completely different and have never gotten along. That is not until Mr. Terupt brings them all together. But it isn't until he's gone that everyone and everything really begin to change. This is a great book because you can see how the characters learn and grow and how Mr. Terupt in that one amazing school year changes their lives forever.
Julie: We hope you enjoy these engaging book talks. We're so glad these young readers shared their enthusiasm for their books with us. You can find all these books in MCPL’s catalog.
Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We will love to know what you think.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters; video host David Payne.
Lauren Martino: And I'm Lauren Martino.
David: And today we are going to be talking about trees, not the ones with leaves on, but of the family variety. And genealogy is our subject for today’s episode, and we are delighted to welcome two of our avid MCPL staffers who are going to share their genealogical experiences with us. I, first of all, welcome Adrienne Miles-Holderbaum.
Adrienne Miles-Holderbaum: Thank you.
David: Adrienne is Senior Librarian at our Germantown branch. Also I'm very pleased to welcome to today’s episode, Carol Reddan who is Library Associate at Olney. Welcome Carol.
Carol Reddan: Thank you.
David: And you are both very dedicated, passionate, and experienced genealogists and we are very pleased to have you share your experience with us.
Carol: I’ll take it.
David: Well compared to some of us. Anyway let’s start by asking you both basically what is genealogy. Let me start with you, Carol.
Carol: What is genealogy? Well, I had to look that up and a basic good definition is the study of the ancestral lines and that’s what I'm going to go with.
David: We’ll take it.
Carol: Okay. All right.
Adrienne: Yeah. I looked it up and Merriam-Webster says it’s an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms and it’s a study of family ancestral lines. I think everyone comes from somewhere and everyone has roots. We just didn’t appear out of nowhere and that’s why it’s fascinating.
David: Right. That covers everything.
Lauren: So what got you two interested in genealogy to begin with? Let’s start with Carol.
Carol: Just curiosity and I like detective work and it’s the ultimate puzzle, detective puzzle. And everybody is always, “Where am I from? What is my line?” And when you get real philosophical, you realize we all had to start from one point and then break apart and you get in that real chicken or egg kind of a mode and you just want to keep going further. It’s just basic downright human curiosity.
Adrienne: So for me it’s a little personal. My father didn’t know his biological parents. He was a fostered child in New York City and he always wondered who his parents were and he would always talk about it with us. So it’s a natural interest that I’ve already – always had. It’s something I’ve always wanted to know.
So I think that also kind of guided me to become a librarian because I’ve only been doing research for so long on this topic and just wondering like how we get to where we are, in general. So that was very influential. And I'm interested in genealogy. Also I really enjoy Henry Louis Gates. He is an author and he has the show in PBS called Finding Your Roots and I watch every episode. It’s fascinating to me to find about history and about people and I just – it’s just – I find it infinitely interesting.
Also as an African-American, I’ve always wondered about my roots because a lot of our roots are kind of missing due to the Transatlantic slave trade. Even my last name I’ve always known it wasn’t my last name, for other reasons, my dad was a fostered kid, but also because a lot of African-Americans, our last names aren’t like blood-related. So immigrants from other countries also have changed their last name to anglicize them.
So I think it’s not just African-Americans and I have that curiosity, but I’ve always wondered like, ‘where does my name come from, where does this come from,’ so that kind of stemmed my interest in genealogy.
David: So the fun fact, USA today found that genealogy is the second-most popular hobby in the country after gardening, and the second-most visited category of website after pornography. Why do you think that genealogy has become so popular? I’ll start with you, Adrienne.
Adrienne: I guess it goes back to familial origins. Everyone has them, even if you don’t know them like in my father’s case we'd all have it no matter what. Like I said earlier, no one just placed here like out of nowhere, we don’t just come here. So I think it’s fun, it’s interesting.
David: And rewarding.
Adrienne: And rewarding, right, rewarding and it’s time-consuming but rewarding and it’s – I think it’s a skill that anyone can develop if you have the patience and the interest.
Carol: Yeah, I would concur, I think everybody is curious about where they are from, but I just think the influx of DNA, DNA testing and now it’s so easy and it’s advertised and it’s publicized and it’s very easy now. Price keeps coming down to just send in a sample and find out your DNA and start that search. So it’s easy. It’s more accessible now to start it sort of as a hobby. But, yeah, you do have to be careful because it can’t be a hobby or it can really like overturn your life and I have those stories too.
David: Presumably you talked about accessibility. Presumably the availability of electronic resources...
Carol: Well, that end – to just send away for a kit now, I did ancestry like four years ago and it was like $150. Just like when you bought a toaster in 1950, it was a certain price. And what is a toaster? $12.99 on sale. And the cost of these kits keeps going down. They have specials. So it’s making it easier for more people to do and more and more people are doing it, which is why I keep getting updates on the ancestry why my apparently ancestry keeps changing because they have more people to match it against, because more people are doing it.
Adrienne: What’s interesting is my father did it in 2006. He did like ancestry – I don’t remember what DNA website he used, but it was expensive, but also it wasn’t very specific. It was like very general. It was like 50% European, 50% Sub-Saharan African. So he is like, okay, now it’s like super detail. The sample size is larger. So they have more I guess DNA to pull from. So it’s like so different, so…
Carol: But even still be aware because there are commercialists. I always thought I was German. Now I got my results back and I have to buy kilt. Keep the lederhosen because it happened to me. It happened to me because I get updates and if you go and get a tattoo, you might be in trouble with the Viking tattoo.
Lauren: So Adrienne, you’ve been doing genealogy research for a while now. How is it different now than a DNA testing as so readily available from when you began?
Adrienne: Sure. I feel like it’s easier. I’ve been getting – so the website I used, we entered our email addresses and then you can also be contacted. So I’ve been contacted from like distant cousins and I’ve contacted distant cousins and we were like, “Are we really related?” How are we related? What does it mean?” And I don’t know how accurate or what it even means or if it means anything. But I definitely think it’s the world is smaller and we are more accessible, so the information is more accessible and you are more -- yeah.
Lauren: You are making connections with people whereas before you just might just know them as a name in a book.
Adrienne: Right, right, but if you have like names or last names like familial names that you are aware of, it is interesting to kind of contact those people with the last names who are matching and really figure out the common ancestor. I’ve done that with like one person in particular.
Lauren: I love doing that.
Carol: That’s the best way to do. It is to find a match and then to try to go up the trees and it’s like a little puzzle to find the point where you connect and it is changing a lot because I’ll get updates all the time. I’ve done 23andMe and Ancestry and I get updates on both of them all the time and Ancestry particularly it just gets easier and easier. The more people do it, more people upload pictures like just you think you will never see a picture of your great, great, great grandfather, you might. And that’s like when you hit pay dirt. That’s like when you see a picture of these people. That’s the best. So distant cousins are uploading military records, pictures, family – all kinds of content.
Lauren: Wow! It is exciting. So did you find a lot of difference between like the two, you said you use like 23andMe and Ancestry? Did they agree with each other or?
Carol: No, of course not.
Carol: The DNA part of it I don’t really want to focus on so much because you just – for me being 99.4% European, so for a European, Europe was a mess for so many years and I'm the commercial where I always thought I'm just German and Irish, German and Irish, pretty straightforward, but I did ancestry three years ago and it said 29% Scandinavian, 25% Italian-Greece, 24% Irish, Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish and I was like, oh, I'm way more exotic than I ever thought and I was getting into it and loving it.
But then the update comes and you go full circle and it’s like right back where I started from, German and Irish. Yeah, so I take it with a grain of salt and what the DNA is telling you is who your DNA matches people where they are living today. It doesn’t tell you, oh, this is matching people from the past. And the thing about people is they have always moved around a lot. So my DNA tells me what my DNA looks like to people related today.
But my ancestors, if I go up family trees, I have ancestors in Switzerland in the 1500s. I know they were there at that point. I don’t know where they were in the 5th century, the 6th century, the 7th century and all that’s impacting your DNA. So I suspect in a couple of months I could have a new update saying something even yet more different, so that I take with the grain of salt. I put more importance on the family trees and oral history and how those combined. That’s what means more to me. I know it’s kind of fun to say, oh, I'm this, I'm that, but, hmm, you are just a mud.
Adrienne: Yeah, and I feel it the same way. I think one interesting thing is my dad did his DNA and he is like 42% Iberian Peninsula which is Spain and I'm less than 2%, but I know I'm his daughter. So what genes did I get? So it’s just – it’s like if I really was just to go by my DNA, it wouldn’t really tell a story.
Carol: And the other part of that is every time every person is a card deck shuffle of genes. So I always think about Queen Elizabeth and Norman the Conqueror and he is supposed to be like 26th great grandfather, but really if you were to extract DNA from him and her DNA, I wonder if they would match on any segments because a first cousin you should match 12 to 14%. A second cousin 6%, a third great grandparent like 12%, so it’s diluting, diluting, diluting, but yet like I saw that picture, my great, great grandfather and I swear we look like him. It’s spooky and creepy and great.
David: Well, you both talked a little bit about resources. Let me ask you both, ‘what MCPL resources would you recommend for genealogy?’ Actually I should mention for our listeners that any O and O resources that we mention in today’s episode can be found in the show notes for today’s program. So, Adrienne, let me ask you.
Adrienne: Sure, Heritage Quest is a database that has census records, the US Freedman’s bank records from 1865 to 1871, Revolutionary War era pension and Bounty Land Warrant application files and you can search, find information on people and places describe 28,000 family and local histories via Heritage Quest. We also have newspaper databases for arbitrary research and that’s pretty popular.
A lot of customers come in looking for a specific arbitraries of family members. We have links to Legacy.com, the Social Security Death Index and we have vital records all on our database, on our lib guide. So, yeah, that’s our – and then a librarian to show you these resources. So I think those are pretty awesome resources and I know Carol has some books that she recommends.
Carol: Yeah, I do have some books that I really, really liked. First one is, you mentioned Henry Louis Gates Jr who does the PBS series and he wrote a book Finding Your Roots, and this book goes into several celebrities in-depth. Robert Downey Jr, Kevin Bacon, it’s just interesting to see their -- to a certain degree, and it absolutely proves it – How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Denise May Levenick, some helpful points on keeping, archiving and keeping keepsakes.
Also Genealogy for Dummies, Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm always your good basic guide and AARP Genealogy Online, Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm again, was also very helpful. But the other one I do want to mention which is fairly new, Adam Rutherford, a brief history of everyone who ever lived. This is more like a critique. It gives you – he is a geneticist and it gives you the real low-down on what DNA testing is good for, what it’s not good for, we over-promise, we over-expect and it’s pretty realistic and it’s very, very interesting.
Adrienne: I think also we have a link to the Montgomery County Historical Society on our website and that’s good for local history. If you are doing local genealogy research you could use their resources also, so.
Lauren: In addition to MCPL’s resources, do you have any other sources of information that have been helpful to you or you think might be helpful to other people that are beginning genealogy research?
Adrienne: The Ancestry.com which I think is the most popular website that people use for genealogical research. I have only used it like I haven’t really got in-depth. I don’t know, Carol you use it.
Carol: I have been using it. So I did Ancestry and right now I have a subscription. So I will pay extra for a few months while I really delve deeply into family records or whatnot. And so it’s giving me access to just a zillion databases, military records, most importantly the family trees that other members have compiled and you can easily go up those and then the content that they’ve added on their family trees, they’ve done all the research for you basically. Newspaper clippings, wedding photos, graves, pictures of grave sights and things like that, so the thing I found most valuable is the family tree access that Ancestry offers.
Adrienne: I would agree. I have a cousin doing research and he gave me access to his the family tree via his account and I was amazed, but he has found another…
Carol: Right. One thing about 23andMe that I like though is that when it gives you your match list, when you send in your DNA and the company comes back and they tell you your ancestry or whatnot, they will also give you DNA matches which typically can be like a thousand people who've also done that service.
So these are like your distant cousins, it will hierarchy it. Like it will have the people who you are most closely related to on down to, you know, that you share 15% DNA within 10 segments down to 5th or greater cousins and you share like a little half segment percent of DNA. And it's fun to go and click on these distant cousins and 23andMe lets you bring up both charts and they will overlap and show you exactly what chromosome you are related to that cousin on.
And then you can block out like I have Jewish ancestry. So I have cousins who I can put our charts together and I can see that we are related on the 10th chromosome which is where my Jewish ancestry is. So that tell me I'm related to, it’s a Jewish ancestor we have in common. So then I can go on Ancestry that website and look up the family trees and I'm looking, trying to find the Jewish ancestor.
Adrienne: That’s so cool. The Family Tree DNA is the site that I used for my DNA, I guess, my DNA results. But – so it’s similar for that website but there is also a site called GEDmatch.com where you can upload your raw autosomal data and then it combines different – anyone who uses it, so anyone can download their raw autosomal data from any of the other websites like Ancestry.com or Family Tree DNA or whatever and then…
Lauren: So raw what data?
Adrienne: Raw autosomal, I hope I'm pronouncing that right.
Lauren: What does that mean exactly?
Adrienne: Okay. Let me find out.
Carol: And while Adrienne is looking, I’ll just want to bring up a point about people when you get results from Ancestry and 23andME or private companies who just swear they are not going to share your information and I believe them, I believe them, but many people and I’ve done it, you upload your DNA to this public site which now is just billowing out with tons of DNA, but it’s awesome because this is the way they are catching a lot of – catching cold cases and…
Adrienne: And we talked about that…
Carol: This is a huge breakthrough for crime solving. It’s like combining genealogy with forensics. They go and you take the DNA from a crime scene and they’ll upload it to the public database and they’ll get a hit and you might have a person’s fourth or fifth cousin, but they’ll – but then they will give it to a genealogist or better if you can be both the genealogist and the forensic crime expert.
Lauren: So everyone leave librarianship.
Carol: Well, my dream job, but then they work it back and they are starting to solve a lot of cases like that.
Adrienne: So autosomal DNA is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes. An autosome is any of the numbered chromosomes as opposed to the sex chromosomes. So humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes, X chromosome and the Y chromosome.
Lauren: So it’s basically just the DNA data?
Adrienne: Yeah, it’s just your raw data.
Adrienne: I'm not a geneticist, but I know I had to upload that.
Lauren: It sounds good to me.
Adrienne: To GEDmatch.com, which is really helpful if you are doing genealogy research because it broadens the pool. So not just people have used Ancestry.com, other websites they’ve used. If they’ve used GEDmatch and they’ve uploaded their data, you can like access it. It's like open-source DNA.
Lauren: Open-source DNA, public domain.
Adrienne: Public domain. There is also a website called Geni.com like Geni.com, like genealogy, not spelt that way, but Geni.com another librarian told me about it and she has done a lot of family research with that. It’s also an open site. It’s free, so Ancestry does cost money, but Geni.com is free. So that’s another barrier for Ancestry. You have to do monthly or yearly fee for it.
There is also Facebook genealogical groups that people are members of. There is also an old school message boards for different surnames that you can join. So people with your surname or if you are doing research for someone in your family that surname you can join the message board. Also YouTube has videos.
Adrienne: Yeah, so there is like videos and like how to conduct your family, like I just did a research and I found a bunch of stuff and people like it and it has a lot of views. So you can also use YouTube to do your research to know how to do your research rather, if you don’t come to a librarian, you can go to YouTube.
Lauren: You mentioned a while back just like the patience involved. I think that that’s sort of preventing me from starting on any kind of journey like this, because just the scariness of the sheer amount of research all of this requires, do you have any tips for beginners like kind of where to start, what kind of resources probably the first go to?
Carol: I would say the first is the census records and it does take tenacity and will power to stick through it. But when you find something out that’s so gratifying, it makes it so worth it. So census, I’ll give you a little family story and how I solved and how difficult and time-consuming it can be to solve it. So my mother always told me when she was little, she would visit her grandmother, so my great maternal great grandmother, and in her room she had a picture of a really pretty young girl that she would look at and cry.
And it was her niece who she loved very much and she had passed away in the flu pandemic in 1918 and she would get teary-eyed every time she looked at this picture. So I was, “What’s her name?” I just lost the history. She doesn’t even know where the picture is. And so I was like always curious about what her name was, and my great grandmother loved her and everything. So I started with census records. And it is just excruciating.
My great grandmother's name was Laura Hollenbaugh who was born in 1875 and she married a McDorman [Ph] [00:21:47]. So Laura Hollenbaugh was one of like eight kids which was really common. In Pennsylvania you have eight or nine kids and it’s a real problem when these things come through the woman, and to follow census records through the woman because of all the name changes.
So I wanted to find out who this relative who died in the flu pandemic was, and I know that it’s my great grandmother's niece. So I go through my great grandmother all her brothers who carry that last name and I go through all the census records, and then some of them are -- 1900 is a mess because of a fire, and da, da, da, da, da, and you just have to like stick with it. The handwritings faint and light and messy, but it didn’t appear it could have been any of the brothers.
None of them had a daughter that would have been the right age around 1918. So then I had to go to the women, her sisters and you start going through and – but I hit pay dirt, Mable Ployer. She was actually 40 in 1918 and I saw her church death record, the actual death record signed by the doctor. She reported feeling ill on October 1st, 1918, and so she died on October 9th. All the church records for October and November influenza, influenza, influenza and it was Mable Ployer.
She was my great grandmother’s niece, but they were peers. They were like the same age because she was the daughter of my great grandmother’s older sister who was like 18 years older than my great grandmother. So I know her name, but I know I need the picture. I need that picture.
Adrienne: I would say talk to family members to get names from your oldest family members, so your grandparents or great aunt or someone that is, that might have the memory of someone that was older than them. So like my grandmother, her grandmother, like so you can go back as far as you can and get family names. I think that’s a good way to start. And then I would say then I would look in the census once I have the names and like have the rough dates and locations, like places, because when you look up census, you need to know the dates, you need to know roughly the area or the state where they were from. So I think that’s important to get oral histories from older people.
David: So presumable assemble as much information possible…
Adrienne: Exactly, exactly, I think that’s so important to get that first.
Lauren: Yeah. When you do a search in any of these databases and they have their charts to fill out; fill out as much as you possibly can, because then – otherwise you will be getting hits of just tons of non-applicable data.
Adrienne: Right. And you can also -- they spell things differently in the census records. Sometimes it was like a neighbor – it looked like the person wasn’t there. The neighbor is like, oh, that’s so and so and so like the names, the spellings can be off even the years can be off. For me the race could be off because when I look to like some – the one year my family was Mulatto, then they were black, then they were Mulatto.
So it’s really like – it’s kind of tricky even when you have the census data. So I would say start with oral history from your family and get the names, get the dates, get the places, and also vital records after you have the information. The birth records, the marriage, death certificates, census, use the library. And also be prepared for the emotional reaction because you may not have one, but someone in your family may have one about something you discover.
So just be aware of that. Not everyone is excited. So just be aware of that. Not everyone will have the same excitement you have or the same curiosity. They may say you don’t want to know that or I don’t want to know that. So just be prepared for that too because I think that’s something I wasn’t really prepared for when I did the research.
Lauren: Do you have any examples or any stories?
Lauren: That you would be willing to share it or…?
Adrienne: No, my father, so I mentioned my father not knowing his birth family. I actually found his maternal, his mom and her family and he was kind of like curious but then said he didn’t want to know, but then he found out and it was just so much – there are so many different emotions and she actually passed right before we found the family and ironically I was able to find the family based on obituary.
So I had been doing research for a long time and just couldn’t quite connect all the dots and then I found her obituary and she passed away in 2015 and then I found like all the family names and part of her story, most of her story and then I was able to find her living relatives through Facebook. My brother did and so we were contacting people and we got some really interesting responses from some of our family.
They were – there was one person who was barely – didn’t want to talk to us and then there was one person who was so wonderful and he is the one that connected us with everyone else. So we got some different, some pushback, what’s your aim, why are you contacting us, so, yeah, you just have to be careful with that, but it turned out they are really lovely people.
Carol: So my story is my rocking chair I have in my house now, my little rocking chair that I got many years ago when I just needed stuff to fill a place in my – this had been in my parent’s basement just kind of, I mean, not treated mean or anything, but it was just sitting in the basement and I was like, oh, I’ll take that and it was this little rocking chair covered in, a trillion tons of paint.
Any my father was hesitating. He was like, “Well, yeah, okay, but…” And I think I had heard the story before. It belonged to his great, great grandmother, my third great grandmother Sarah Bush and Sarah was – lived in Northeastern Pennsylvania like Schuylkill County, and she would rock in the rocking chair and wait and worry for her husband to come home from the Civil War. It was her worry rocking chair and he never did.
He died at Gettysburg. Benjamin Bush died at Gettysburg. I was like, oh, that’s sad. But I took the chair and we like sanded all the layers of paint off of it and refinished it, and it’s really more decorative. I don’t really want to challenge it by sitting in it. It’s just to look at, put a stuffed animal on. But I would always go to Gettysburg like in the ‘80s and early ‘90s before all of this, and we tried to use the research tools they had at the time because suppose Benjamin Bush was buried at Gettysburg and we just came up and did nothing, nothing, nothing.
So I joined Ancestry. So I start plugging in everything I know about Sarah Bush, her rough dates of birth and the family, and I start plugging it in and you start going up the family trees and I see that Sarah Bush was married to Benjamin Bush. Sarah Bush died in 1914; she was born in 1816. Benjamin Bush died in 1911, but they are buried together in Art Cemetery in Hegins, PA. And I'm like, oh, I thought he was buried at Gettysburg.
Now you go up the family tree. Sarah had a first husband Immanuel Moyer who is actually my great, great, great grandfather and he died in 1864 at the Cold Harbor Battle in New Kent County, Virginia and it makes me so sad because no one remembers him. She was only married to him for like eight years but they had four kids together and then she married Benjamin Bush like in 1867 a couple of years after the Civil War was over and he did die.
So family history kind of had some correct things. She was waiting for her husband. She was rocking in the chair, but it was her first husband Immanuel. He didn’t die at Gettysburg. He died at Cold Harbor and he – we also didn’t know he was listed in American Civil War Jewish veterans, which was something we never knew or anything. So I tell all this. I think this is fascinating. I think this is awesome. I'm like, “Hey, it’s not Benjamin Bush. It’s Immanuel Moyer. And don’t you know this?”
And my dad was like no, whatever. And I'm telling my cousins. They are like, “So?” And I'm like, “Doesn’t this mean I figured this out? I figured this out. This person is who you are related to.” And they are like, “Yeah, whatever.”
Lauren: They don’t want their family legends.
Carol: I’ve done all of this work for them.
David: But it was rewarding for you.
Carol: Yeah, totally gratifying. The picture would just be like, ‘oh my gosh!’ So now you talked about history in a way weaving history with this research. So now I'm like all about the Cold Harbor Battle, the Overland Campaign, we went down to New Kent County. It’s very close to Williamsburg and I went into the Resource Center there and I'm showing the man who worked there, I'm showing him the park range or whatnot, see, he died June 21, 1864.
He was like, “Well, that’s wrong. That’s impossible.” But I'm showing him the actual military record on my phone. He was like, “No, because this battle ended June 10th.” I'm like, “Well, this says June 21.” And also the family story was that it was kind of mean. They said, “Oh, yeah, he was on picket duty and he stuck his head out and got himself shot like it’s his fault.” Like give him a break. Blame the victim.
But he had just been promoted to sergeant a week before and then – so the man at the station started doing some looking into his computer. He was like, “What do you know? You learn something every day.” And he found out there was skirmishing. Some people had to stay behind and there were little outbreaks of rebellion and he like even made it through Cold Harbor Battle proper, but in the skirmishing, he was shot like in little rebellions like a couple of weeks later. It makes me really sad.
Lauren: So are there some groups of people that’s easier to find out information about than others, because if you’ve lived in the same place forever and ever and ever and you’ve got county records that go back forever and ever and ever, that’s one thing. But if your ancestors came from another country, there are some special challenges if your ancestors came over in a slave boat, so there are some special challenges. Do you know any research strategies for people that are kind of running up against it, because they don’t fit the common mold of people doing genealogical research?
Adrienne: Yeah, definitely. As someone who is African-American, so my descendance, in any descendance, even if you are in like the Caribbean or South America descendance of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade have a lot of difficulty due to slavery and we talked about that a little bit earlier that in the US it’s specific to the year 1790 to 1860, which was right before the Civil War. An awesome resource. Actually there is a PowerPoint from the national archives that has a guide to doing research for African-Americans, which is awesome, I’ve used it.
And we can link to it in the show notes because I can send it and make it available to everyone. So it says and I'm going to quote it, it says, "Some aspects of African-Americans in the census differs from that of other groups, particularly before 1870. This is due to the enslaved status of the majority of the black population, and the legal marginalization of those who are free prior to the 1870 census. Even after 1870, the census often undercounted the black population."
So it talks also about after 1870, so after the Civil War, this is – it’s the first time a list of all the African-Americans by name is provided, and it’s the first official record for a lot of families and the surnames in there usually, of former slaves, from their slave owners, and that’s the case for my family. So I was able to do research on my dad’s side back to 1870 and that census is when I first see the last name, the family last name and it’s actually mills not miles.
So it was pretty interesting. And then problems for all groups, so there might be hard for all eight groups if you have the wrong ages, if you use Geni.com or Ancestry.com, someone else might have done research, but it was incorrect and then you are using that research to do your own research, so then it just keeps going and going.
Lauren: So you have to take it with…
Adrienne: Exactly and mistyped names, the wrong ancestor, so you just have to be really careful and really – some of them might not be accurate but you just keep doing your research and try to connect the dots and you would see what makes sense and what – how does the story, how is the story really told and find out.
David: Well, you both regaled us with some great stories. Let me ask you about all the research and all the wonderful things you’ve come up with. What’s the most interesting thing that you found out doing genealogical research? Let me start with you, Carol?
Carol: I uncovered a murder February 1922. Everyone has that – if you look long enough, the things you find, so this was – I found this through Ancestry where in certain family trees, they’ve posted these articles, so apparently in 1922 my paternal grandfather’s cousin Lloyd Smith shot his father John Smith who owned a dairy farm outside of Harrisburg. So that was the story. That’s what he was tried for murdering his father.
His defense was that it wasn’t him, auto bandits did it. So Harrisburg put him on trial and it was a fairly big sensation in Harrisburg. The newspapers talk about like 200 people being – coming to watch the courtroom trials or whatnot, and I found pictures of the grieving widow with her youngest son, and he was acquitted and the courtroom, the newspaper articles referenced the courtroom erupted in cheers; they were very happy he got off because apparently his father John Elias was some known to be like a jerk or whatnot. And even his mother was very, very happy he got off. They hugged and he came back to live on the family farm and he lived until 1966.
David: We typically close each episode by asking, I guess, what they are currently reading. So let me ask Adrienne.
Adrienne: Sure. What am I reading right now? When do I have time to read? So I'm trying to read The Wife by Alafair Burke. I'm also reading lots of organizational books for home. I like design books just because I like looking at interior design, but also as a new mom to two and I work full time, I'm super busy, so I'm obsessed with organization. So there is a couple of – yeah, right, anything to hack my life, so the Modern Organic Home by Natalie Weiss, Mad about the House: How to decorate your home with style by Kate Watson-Smyth and she is a blogger, a British blogger.
Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster and Loving Your Home Every Day by Melissa Maker and she is a professional cleaner and she provides her tip and I'm like I want to know. And then also I'm reading another kind of organizational books for work. So I'm reading about organization like management, so The Nordstrom Way: The Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Company by Robert Spector. It’s an older book, but it has a lot of good tenets about good customer service.
And then another book called Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus. So I'm obsessed with home and work like making both better, so, yeah. That’s what I'm reading.
David: It sounds like you will be organized.
Adrienne: Yes, hopefully.
Carol: I'm reading Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan and I'm reading this. I had read it a couple of years ago. So technically I'm rereading it. We are going to have a nonfiction book club at Olney on October 24. This is the book we will be discussing. So it’s by Debbie Nathan and it sort of dissects the whole Sybil explosion. If you remember in the mid ‘70’s, a book came out Sybil and the woman who had 26 personalities and about her doctor and…
Lauren: It was a movie too, right?
Carol: It was a miniseries with Sally Field that won many awards and it was an explosive book and everyone thought they had multi-personalities and they were starting to be diagnosed with the whole little explosion. Well, Debbie Nathan goes into it and she does the book about Sybil whose real name was Shirley Mason, her doctor, and Flora Schreiber who wrote the book and the psychiatrist was Cornelia Wilbur and how Sybil really probably never had those personalities.
She just wanted to please her psychiatrist who just wanted to be famous and Flora Schreiber just wanted to hit book. So one thing led to another. Basically Sybil just had a few problems, but it just exploded into some movement.
Lauren: It’s kind of true crimey, right.
Carol: Not true crime, but you can make this stuff up.
Lauren: Thank you so much Carol and Adrienne for joining us today and sharing your family stories. Please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the app of podcast app Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts; we'd love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
[End of audio]
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, with your host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I am Julie Dina.
David Payne: And today we're looking at local voting. In case you haven't heard, it's election season again. And on the ballots, there are a number of issues which have a bearing on local, state, national interest, things of interest. And we're delighted to have a very special guest with us today for the podcast, Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, or otherwise known as Dr. Z, outreach coordinator at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. So, welcome, Dr. Z.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
David Payne: For our very first question then let's ask you about the Board of Elections. So a lot of people don't know, what is the actual role of the Board of Elections, what do you actually do. And what actually interests me is, obviously, elections happen twice a year, but I presume your work is year-round. What do you do or what does your year look like for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, so we administer the, not only the local elections, but the state elections as it pertains to a particular contest. So we have them every even year, so a Montgomery County resident will vote, exercise their constitutional right every two years. So, obviously, 2016 was the presidential elections. It's 2018; it's the gubernatorial midterm elections. And then after this election we're looking again towards the presidential in 2020. In between elections, on the odd years, we do a lot of outreach. We look at best practices; we looked towards our neighbors and our counterparts across the U.S. to see what programs, what systems we could implement to improve the process, not only for the voters, but internally.
We do a lot of voter maintenance, equipment maintenance, extensive outreach. We have an aggressive outreach campaign, an incredible team that goes out into the community. So a lot of individuals will say, what do you do every other - like in the odd years. I would love to say sleep. But the fact is that we are always working. And then what's interesting, the election profession is something that you don't really grow up wanting to be. You know, when I grew up I want to be a police officer or a librarian or a physician, you never say an election administrator. But it's a very rewarding profession.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I was one of those 18-year-olds like, "Why do people vote?" But now as an adult and in my past experiences it's very critical that every individual exercise their constitutional right to a secret ballot. Maryland is extremely progressive as it pertains to the franchise. We have a lot of incredible mechanisms in which we will allow voters to vote. And so we are tasked, and that was the first part of your question. We are tasked to be ready for every single registered voter who desires to exercise that right. We always look for 100% turnout. Some elections are dismal. But we always prepare for a full turnout.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we want to ensure that if an individual has a desire to exercise their constitutional right that we are prepared, and we are transparent, and we are ready.
David Payne: How many regular staff do you have year-round?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we're about 24 full-time county employees. And then we will bulk up to over a hundred temporary seasonal staff and do an incredible extension of our team. It's similar to other departments like recreation; they hire a lot of lifeguards. So when it's election season we have a lot of individuals we hire, from election judge recruitment, polling place support, operations, nursing home program, outreach. You know, we really - there's a huge need to be there and ready to serve the public. And we do a lot of outreach as it pertains to newly naturalized citizens to introduce them to their franchise.
For us, we have our bias because we know how the system works. You know you have to register to vote. But Montgomery County is extremely diverse. I believe five of the 10 top the most diverse cities in the nation are in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we recognize the abundance, the beauty of the various languages and cultures. And so we want to meet them halfway so they understand their constitutional rights. We want to make sure they're ready and they're prepared, and we want to meet them halfway to ensure a seamless, painless experience.
David Payne: Great. Sounds like you're doing a good job.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I hope so.
Julie Dina: Well, since I'm also in outreach for the libraries, I know you mentioned earlier the nursing home program. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So we identify and we work with nursing home facilities, assisted living facilities in Montgomery County, and we do extensive outreach. We will reach out to their social coordinator or therapist or a social worker and we set a date and time, and we train our staff to be competent in how to help these individuals exercise their rights to vote. Whether health reasons or they can't access their polling place on Election Day or during early voting, we ensure that they could vote and leverage an absentee request to vote by mail. And then also we would assist them and they could vote with our team members. We send a team of opposite parties, democrat or republican, or a democrat and unaffiliated, and then we're there to serve. And we will meet them at their facility. So we coordinate that ahead of time.
In between the election seasons if there's new facilities that arise or maybe some will close or they expand, so we do a lot of maintenance to maintain those relationships with the different facilities in Montgomery County.
Julie Dina: Wonderful. So it sounds like you ensure no one is left out.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's our goal. You know, that's our goal. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to their franchise. We're always trying to find that equation, that precise science how to encourage people to vote, but that's at the personal level. But we want to make sure that you have a multitude of options. And Maryland, and specifically Montgomery County, I call it The Cheesecake Factory of elections, because if you ever go to a Cheesecake Factory there's a million things in that menu and you always pick the same one, as I am always guilty of getting the orange chicken. But at the same time you have vote-by-mail numerous weeks before actual Election Day, you have eight days of early voting. And then you have Election Day.
And on top of that, we have same-day registration, and we have an aggressive outreach component, nursing home program. It's a large, large - we have a lot of tentacles in the community, but that little piece of crust, the turnout, we're always trying to fine-tune that to encourage individuals to exercise that right to vote every single election.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: Well, talking about relationships and building relationship, can you tell us the difference between the county's Board of Election and the County Government, what are the major differences, if there is any?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we follow policy procedures established by the Maryland State Board of Elections. So we're kind of a quasi agency. We're county employees, but we follow those rules established by the State of Maryland. We do collaborate closely with the county executive, the assistant CAOs, obviously the County Council because they have to appropriate our budget. And so there is a close relationship between county government, the council, the second floor, the county executive, the assistant CAOs, but also with the delegation in Annapolis and with the State of Maryland Board of Election. So it's a large family, so there's a very close relationship with all the parties. And then the most important individual is the actual voter. So it's both from the bottom-up and from the top-down. So yes, there's that close relationship between all parties.
David Payne: Do you work closely with other Maryland County Board of Elections [CROSSTALK] [00:08:51]?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes, we have our neighbors. I mean, there's over 24 counties in Baltimore City, so we work closely, and we also meet for best practices.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Sometimes you have smaller counties, like Wicomico, they do some really great things. And also, they want to implement what we do in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And later on we'll talk about some of the successes that we implement here in actually one of the programs, it's the only program, it's called the Future Vote Initiative. It's the only program in the entire United States that brings in students as young as middle school to work as Election Day aids, and the goal of the program is for them to serve as a full-fledged election judge before they graduate from high school. And just in 2016, we had over 1,100 17-year-olds serve as an election judge.
Julie Dina: And do they all have to go to Montgomery County public schools?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No. As long as you are a Maryland resident and registered to vote you could serve as an election judge. Obviously, if I you live in Howard County or Prince George's we don't want to take their voters from them. But at the same time, a lot of them will work for Montgomery County, they live close, maybe near Sliver Spring, and so it's just a matter of the voters' interest. And we let them know you could vote for the - you could participate in Prince George's County and, but a lot of times they’ll serve for us. At the end of the day, whatever works for the voter works for us. But for those individuals that do live outside of Montgomery County but within Maryland we do coordinate with them, so they could vote either by mail or during early voting, but we still want them to cast their vote even if they're working for us on Election Day.
David Payne: So, Dr. Z, let me put you in the spotlight. How long have you worked with the County Board of Elections? What do you most like about it? And what you find most challenging?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, I joined the Montgomery County Board of Elections on September of 2003. And actually a little tidbit, I was the outreach coordinator for the public library system from 2000 to 2003, when I joined - prior to joining the Board of Elections. What I enjoy is meeting individuals, informing them, giving them the tools to be successful to have an outstanding experience while voting. There's a lot of sacrifice that come before me to have the opportunity to engage and empower the community to vote. I personally, my family is from El Salvador. So even during the Civil War I had an uncle who actually disappeared trying to bring democracy to El Salvador.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So I have a personal vested interest in the right to exercise your voting privilege. What's challenging with my position is the hours. And I've been blessed with a great family; I have two sons. Sebastian is 12 and Julian, he's nine, and a beautiful wife, Karen. And polling 15 hours a day, but it's a short period. You know, it's a short-term commitment with long-term impact because 90 days leading to an election it's busy. There's a lot of moving parts. You want to make sure that the machinery is well-oiled, and so you pool a lot of hours.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Election night is a long day. The last day of early voting it's a long day. But it's very rewarding. And there's always - of course, we all take our vacations and our breaks, but my family, they, when I became a father my children were young. And so they know that it's an even year, "Good night, Dad. See you tomorrow." And so that's the most challenging, is the time commitment needed. But the reward is way - they're much, much, much, that the rewards are like ten-folds. And so it's a commitment, it's a sacrifice. And it's my little part I could help to defend the constitution.
David Payne: And, I presume, the ultimate reward is seeing high voter turnouts.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. In the beginning when I worked, that was my goal. And then I would get frustrated because then the turnout wasn't as high as I expected. But my reward is daily. Today, this is a reward for me, the fact that I could inform, and educate, and empower a voter; someone may learn something today. That will satisfy my cup for the day. But yes, we always, not just me, but the entire agency, from the director down to myself, we always desire a 100% turnout. And we if we in the low 16%, like we did in 2014 or a little under 25% this past primary, we will always tweak the machine and hopefully aim for a higher turnout. But at the end of the day, we're all adults.
And for your reason why you desired not to vote, it can't be for the options, because once again, we have The Cheesecake Factory options of voting; there's a lot of options for you, so your time, your vote, your voice. So it's imperative that you decide how you're going to exercise that constitutional right through a secret ballot.
David Payne: Absolutely.
Julie Dina: And while we're still on that note, for our listeners, can you tell our listeners why it is very important to vote for the local elections.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Well, all politics are local. And it's important that there is an empty seat at the table. And I think by exercising your right to vote you are being known. You show up, you're prepared, you get your sample ballot, you do your due diligence and your research, and you mark your ballot, you scan it, and you go home, and you get that famous I Voted sticker. And so I assure you, you will feel so much better when you get the sticker on your lapel or on your chest; it's a badge of pride. And like I said earlier before, a lot has transpired to keep that right to vote. There's so many countries around the world that desire to have what we have. And when you have an average or a low voter turnout it does hurt. But at the end of the day, I'm here to serve. I'm a public servant, and I will do anything to help you reach that goal of helping you vote.
I can't tell you how to vote, do not carry your left or right, center, up and down, north, east, west, south; it doesn't matter. But my desire at the end of the day is that you cast your vote.
Julie Dina: And have you mastered ways that might be helpful to get great turnout?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know we've done a lot of outreach. On average, we average about a thousand outreach events in election season.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Where it's - we, for the presidential, between the 2014 gubernatorial general and the 2016 presidential primary - general primary, I apologize. General presidential elections, we did over 1,100 events. And I personally do not care if it's a room with five people, like today, we're four. And - or a big event, like Oktoberfest in Kentlands with 5,000; it doesn't matter. That opportunity to connect with an individual, and so we have done farmers' market, PTAs, food drives; we've done it all. We've gone to clinics and shelters. So at the end of the day, we want to meet individuals halfway. So we've done it all, both electronically. We're kind of meeting millennials with this whole QR codes and geo-fencing, and a lot of neat things are going on right now. But at the end of the day, whether you got a sample ballot or you get a geo-fence tag, whether you got a QR code in the mail, whether you saw us at an event or a farmers' market or at the library, that individual must take ownership and a desire to vote.
David Payne: So we talk about voting. Dr. Z, can you remind us when Election Day is this fall?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Our polls are open from 7:00 AM till 8:00 PM. We have approximately 235 precincts. Voters should definitely look out for their sample ballot, which is mailed several weeks before Election Day. And then, also, we have early voting. So if Tuesday, November 6, and you're busy, then you could vote during early voting, which is October 25th, that's a Thursday through Thursday November 1st, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, that includes the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. And we have 11 early voting centers across Montgomery County. What's interesting, you're not tied to a specific early voting center. So let's say, I'm going to use myself as an example. I live in Clarksburg; I am doing events Downtown Silver Spring, at the Silver Spring Library. I could flex my right to vote at the Silver Spring Civic Center.
But for Election Day you are tied to your Election Day precinct. However, we are blessed with traffic in this area. If for some reason you can’t make it to your precinct you could go to a neighboring precinct, you would vote a provisional ballot, and then we would do some research to ensure that whether that ballot is accepted in full or not. But we do encourage you to do due diligence, to go to your neighborhood precinct on Election Day, but the early voting centers are there to facilitate access to the franchise. So you have early voting, you have Election Day, and then you have vote-by-mail. Right now we have the absentee vote-by-mail application online. You can make a request via email or the old style, download an application and mail it to us. And then we will do our due diligence to send the appropriate ballot style to that address that is presented on the application.
Julie Dina: So, for those who haven't already registered, how can they do so, and how can people find out if they have registered in the past or not? And also, how would they find out where their local polling station is?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, great questions. So the first thing, I encourage individuals to go to our website, which is 777vote.org. You go to our website, and if you scroll to the bottom there's a tab that says Voter Lookup. And you would click on that or tab if you look on your cell phone and you - it depends. You have to be correct, unless you have a touchscreen monitor at home. And what you would do is you would put your last name, first name, date of birth, and zip code, and we will cross-reference that information, it'll tell you've registered or not. If you don't get anything back from the database then we would encourage you, on the same website, especially if you have a Maryland driver's license, a Maryland permit, or a Maryland ID, you could register to vote online on our website, and it's easy. You could see, it says Voter Registration, and there's a tab that says Register Online. But you must have one of the Maryland-issued IDs in order to do so.
If you do not have an ID, driver's license, or permit, there's also a tab, Register to Vote, and you could download the paper format, fill that out, and mail it to us to the address that appears on the application. Even if you live in Prince George's or, let's say, Washington County, it's the state form. And on the back of that form is the corresponding address for that corresponding local board of election of Baltimore City, so you can mail it to them. If you are already registered but you want to do maybe a name change, address change, party affiliation change, you could actually fax your application to the local board of election if you don't have a Maryland ID or driver's license or permit. But if you do have those forms of ID you could update your registration online.
You could go to the libraries. The libraries will have copies of the voter registration application. You could go to the local DMV or the Motor Vehicle Administration to register as well. There's a lot of options, there's a lot of - you know, this is Maryland, and you live in Montgomery County there's no excuses. And I, trust me, I've spoken to thousands of voters over my career, and I've heard all the excuses, and I come back with …
David Payne: There isn't one.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: There isn't one. This one's on you, my friend.
Julie Dina: It's all on you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So there's a lot of options. And they could also call our office, 240-777-8532. And I will - definitely glad to help, and we're there to serve.
David Payne: Great/
Julie Dina: Sounds good.
David Payne: So, a couple of other voting questions. When is the last day to register to vote? And also, if anyone perhaps new to Montgomery County, are there any particular residency requirements to vote?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, as it pertains to the deadline, it's Tuesday, October 16th. As it pertains to residency requirements, if you've registered to vote, we have something called same-day registration. So, let's say you missed the voter registration deadline and you're new to the county, you could register to vote during early voting. You would present ID, Maryland-issued ID or driver's license or permit. And if you don't have that because you just moved in, then proof of residency, bank statement, the lease of your home, utility bill with your name and the address, and then we could register. And then we will grant you the opportunity to vote during early voting. Now, if you missed the voter registration deadline, which is once again, Tuesday, October 16th, and you don't leverage same-day registration during the eight days of early voting, from the 25th of October through the 1st of November, then we would provide you a provisional ballot on Election Day.
We would do our due diligence to research, because it could be that you lived in Prince George's County, could be that you registered and maybe you got married or divorced and there's an error on your record. We always provide - we always give the voter the benefit of the doubt. We will do extensive research. And if it happens to be that you are registered to vote and you casted a provisional ballot, then we will make recommendations to our board of directors to either accept or accept in part your provisional ballot. If you're truly not registered and you showed up on Election Day, November 6th, and you are given a provisional ballot, you will be ready for 2020. The provisional ballot application doubles as a voter registration application. Another quick tip is look out for your sample ballot.
If you don't get your sample ballot within, like, two to three weeks, either contact the Board of Elections or go to our website just to make sure that you're registered to vote. So, if you're listening to this podcast I would highly recommend not to wait until November 7th, which is a day too late, because Election Day is the day before.
David Payne: Right. So as you say, no excuses.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, no excuses. Yeah, there's no excuses.
David Payne: Yeah.
Julie Dina: How exactly do they determine the polling stations? And how many polling places are there in the county?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So there are, give or take, about 235. They change, sometimes we consolidated precincts, sometimes we add precincts. We keep tabs on the population growth of the county. We look at our, we call it MD Voters, which is our voter registration database. Everything is based off of that, the allocation of election judges, the allocations or creation or consolidation of precincts. Obviously, if you look at Silver Spring, 50% of our voters live in the Silver Spring area. So if you would look at a precinct map you'll see over close to 75 to 80 precincts in the Sliver Spring area. If you go to Poolesville, there's two precincts. So it's based on population, and based on our voter registration database. So we have about 660,000 registered voters, it's always growing daily. And so after an election we will tweak, if needed.
If a precinct grows too big, for example, let's say they have 3,500 voters, then we may consider identifying another facility within the neighborhood, and even splitting that. But there's like an extensive research, vetting, we have opportunities for the community to give us recommendations and to share their concerns. We don't anything on the fly.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's not how we roll.
Julie Dina: So you just don't say [CROSSTALK] [00:26:57].
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, you vote here now [CROSSTALK] [00:27:01] we don't operate like that.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: We don't want to disenfranchise voters. We want to facilitate their right to vote. And sometimes schools close, they open, they do a refresh, like some libraries do refreshes.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Or they'll build a new facility. And so we always add. And we may temporary relocate voters to a different location. And we understand that sometimes the voters do get upset with us, but ultimately our goal is not to upset you. Our goal is to protect you, and your right to vote. So I tell voters to be patient with us, you know thank - and there's one thing I always want to tell individuals, you need to thank our volunteers, our election judges. After an election all the campaigns are like, "Woo". Either they're sobbing in a corner or elated and popping champagne. But don't forget our volunteers; don't forget our team members, the staff. Because - and I'm going to take the liberty of saying that without our volunteers and without the staff this party wouldn't take place.
David Payne: Right.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So when you go and vote, say thank you to our election judge. If you see a young lad or a young lady volunteering at the pools handing out I Voted stickers, say thank you, tell them how proud you are. That little extra smile, you know. We don't want to see frowns; we want to see your teeth, okay. And thank us, because at the end of the day we're there to serve.
David Payne: What's the typical voter turnout that you may expect for a midterm election? And presumably you're anticipating a large turnout or hoping for a large turnout. Is there sort of a benchmark figure that would be acceptable for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: 100% is acceptable, nothing less; nothing less. We always aim for 100, it could be 60%. It all depends on the climate, it depends what's going on in the nation, depends what's going on local politics.
David Payne: The weather even, I suppose.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Even the weather. Yes, even the weather. And it's interesting because even when I compare what we have, and we're blessed what we have now. And I compare it, for example, to El Salvador, they don't have provisional balloting, but their voter turnout is higher.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's interesting. And so we always aim for 100, let's say we get 60%-70%. Obviously, if we get 70% we're still missing 30% of the electorate. But we try to target those 30%. We have those famous super voters, and they will come regardless if there's a hurricane coming, they will show up. And that's great.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, for those individuals that historically vote every year, we love you. Can you help us identify someone who doesn't vote every other year and bring them with you, because then you're an extension of us, and that would be help us tremendously, because at the end of the day we have a finite budget, we all pay taxes, and we want to leverage that accordingly. So please help us.
David Payne: Can you give us suggestions as to where someone can find out about candidates for smaller offices, let's say, a school board or city council?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we collaborate with a lot of organizations. The League of Women Voters, whether it's Maryland or Montgomery County or your particular county, does incredible work. Also, they have the voter's guide that goes out. That's a good publication that you could get at your neighborhood libraries. I believe they deliver them to all their branches.
David Payne: They do, uh-huh. Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know, in the advent of internet, Google it. [CROSSTALK] [00:30:45] tell people, "Google it." And if you don't know how to Google it, find someone who does. Everything is online nowadays. I know sometimes the candidates, I know they will mail out the mailings, the research seen, so read that information they send. We will not - all we will provide in our sample ballot is the candidate's name and the contest for which he or she is running for. Other than that, the League, a lot of nonprofit organizations, there's a multitude of forums - forums that will take place for the different contests, keep your eye out on those. I say go to those forums and ask your questions, and the local newspapers and print. Print or online, or TV, but do your due diligence, get your sample ballot, do your research, markup your sample ballot; vote.
David Payne: Be informed.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Please, yes. Yes, please. Because it makes early voting and Election Day go much smoother when you know how you're going to vote your ballot, as opposed to taking 69,000 leaflets, and the voter's guide, and the posts. And then the voter is like, "Why do I have all that paper laid out on them and on that ballot booth?" Do your homework beforehand; I'm telling you ahead of time. So you got about two months, so get cracking.
Julie Dina: It's funny we talked about googling it earlier, but I was going to ask you, how has technology helped to improve voting procedures and efficiency, and just voting in general?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, right now, we're working with the Department of Technology Services to create geo-fencing or geo-tagging. And hopefully, I'm crossing my fingers, but what would happen is as you go near an early voting center you get a little tag, a notification that you're close to the Potomac Community Rec Center. It'll have information, it'll have directions; it's pretty neat. And the reason I wanted that geo-tag capability is also when we do outreach into the community. We're going to visit all the high schools or when we come to the libraries, we could geo-fence the Rockville Library, and everyone who's walking around the Rockville Library could say, "Oh, people are - I could register at the Rockville - there's someone from the Board of Elections."
Those are kind of the things. And it's something that I was dying, I wanted to do since, actually 2014, but the technology wasn't there yet. And it was expensive back then. Now it's cheaper. That's one of the kind of things we want to implement with the advent of technology. We're starting to QR code everything because that's the language of millennials. A bookmark, you know, and it works for the libraries. But for us when you go to a student and you give him a bookmark with information they look at it like, "Okay, thank you. Oh, that's to my grandmother." And it's funny because, "Okay, I guess this is not going to work." But they love QR codes because they'll just scan the QR code and they could register the vote, they could sign up to be an election judge, they could get information; so QR coding is great. It's simple, it's inexpensive.
And texting, you know, texting. And we're starting to use more social media. That's another - you know, it's been around for a while, but I think more agencies are using social media. But it looks easy, but it does take time. And so - but I think those are the three tips, I would say. Geo-fencing and QR coding are two good quick ways to leverage technology in favor of promoting or selling your services.
David Payne: Sticking with technology, the hacking of elections is a very topical subject. Can you tell us what hacking elections actually means, and also what procedures the Board of Elections has to ensure the protection of our voting process?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, there's a lot of internal mechanisms in which we implement as guided by the State Board of Elections, especially when you do the VPN network for early voting we don't share Wi-Fi, we don't upload results on election night over the internet. I mean, we literally drive everything. I think individuals, because of the age of the internet, everyone's an expert. And so I tell individuals, at least in Maryland and Montgomery County, it's secure, okay. I think what we need to focus is encouraging your neighbors to vote, marking up your sample ballot, ensuring that your voter registration is current. Even if you are moving within the same building, so let's say you live in apartment 101, you marry; you have two kids, now you move into apartment 201 in the same facility, that's a new address for us.
So make sure everything is current. And make sure you make a cognizant decision, am I voting by mail during eight days of early voting or on Election Day. The hacking, security; we got that covered. Trust me, we got that covered.
Julie Dina: Cool.
David Payne: Sounds good.
Julie Dina: So do you have any tips for those who bring their kids to the polls, and also for, and I can tell there's got to be crazy things or crazy situations or stories that you can actually share with us.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yeah. So with children, if your child is 12 and older and you bring him to the polls, we will request that they fill out a voter assistance form, because the thought process is that individual could entire the voter to change their decision who to vote for, okay, because they're 12, and kids are very intelligent, very sophisticated thinkers. Having said that, for those families with children grade six to 12 in Montgomery County, we welcome them to work as future vote ambassadors on Election Day. All the information is on our website, 777vote.org, and the upper-right-hand corner, it says future vote, or midway on a page on the left-hand side it says Future Vote, has all the FAQs on how to register your child, there's a training that's mandatory, so one-hour training session in middle October. They'll work in their precinct; they earn SSL credits that they need.
And then once they hit 16, we would love for them to serve as election judge. And they could earn up to $210. But this is also for our voters. So if you're an adult and you have some extra time and you want to serve as an election judge, go to our website, signup, serve, and we will call you every other year to see if you're available. Now, interesting story, I have a lot of stories. Let me see, we'll try to find a PG story - rated G story. So this was the funniest. And so we had one of our future vote ambassadors, sixth grader, big-eyed 11-year-old, and we happened to forget to pack the power chord for one of our voting system, this was several years ago. So the chief judge was ecstatic, "Oh my god, what are we going to do? We need a power chord, we're missing one. We have to call the office." So they called the hotline, you know, our helpdesk. We said we'll deliver the power chord tomorrow morning, it's okay, there's a battery pack, you're fine.
So there was this 11-year-old and he said, "Oh, let me look at the equipment." And they're not supposed to touch the equipment. He's like, "No, I'm not touching; I just want to look at it." And he told the chief judge, "Can I call my dad." He's like, "Okay." He's like, "Dad, go to my PlayStation and go to my DVD, and take the power chord off and bring it to me now." So then the dad's like running up the street, goes to the precinct, and it fit. It worked. And so now the chief judge could sleep at night, because the meeting was on Monday night. And then he woke up early, showed up at the polls at 6:00 AM to open the doors at 7:00. And the power cord, it worked. And then the funny thing is after the student did their four-hour shift in the morning he came back in the evening, knocked at the window of the school. And the judge is like, "Are you okay, what's wrong? Did you forget something?" "Yes, I forgot my power chord." And he took his power chord back from his PlayStation. So that's a funny story.
Julie Dina: Wow, that's really cute.
David Payne: We're ending on a happy note. Dr. Z, we always close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are reading or recently enjoyed. So, something other than League of Women Voters election guide, perhaps.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Uh, COMAR and the Maryland election law book, unfortunately that's what I read, unfortunately for now. You know, finding time to read, and with my sons, that's - every year I say I'm going to read this book. I have a book called, Path to Power.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's the autobiography of Lyndon B. Johnson. I owe the library a lot of money.
Julie Dina: Take note.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I've had that book since 2004. And I always have to restart it because I forget what I read three years before. But yes, but that's one of my list of things to do. So I won't lie. I don't read much lately. But right now what's on my desk are the COMAR and Maryland election law.
David Payne: Well, thank you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You're welcome.
Julie Dina: I've got to say, Dr. Z, it's been very enlightening. Thank you so much for joining us on this particular program.
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