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Library Matters

Library Matters is a podcast by Montgomery County Public Libraries exploring the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning.
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Library Matters is a podcast of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) in Montgomery County, MD. Each episode we explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning. Library Matters is hosted by Julie Dina, Outreach Associate, Lauren Martino, Children's Librarian at our Silver Spring branch, and David Payne, Branch Manager of our Davis branch and Acting Branch Manager of our Potomac branch.  

Aug 15, 2018

Listen to the audio

Julie Dina:  Welcome to Library Matters.  I am your host Julie Dina.  Our topic on today’s episode is English Conversation Clubs.  Have you ever wondered about our widely acclaimed English Conversation Clubs, well today we have two special guests who will tell us all about it.  First, I would like to welcome Nancy Sillcox who is the librarian too from Quince Orchard.

Nancy Sillcox:  Hi.

Julie Dina:  Welcome Nancy.  I would also like to welcome Annie Etches who is our English Conversation Club facilitator for Quince Orchard’s Library.

Annie Etches:  Hi Julie, nice to be here this morning.

Julie:  Welcome.  So let’s just go ahead and dive in.  Can you guys tell me a little bit about yourself so our listeners can know all about you?

Nancy:  Hi I am Nancy Sillcox, I am the Adult Services librarian at Quince Orchard Library since 2008.  And I have also worked as a information specialist at the International Tsunami Information Center in Honolulu Hawaii and also at Childrens Library in San Francisco before I moved to Maryland.  And of course I enjoy hiking, drawing, and of course reading the latest best seller.

Julie:  Sounds interesting, Annie?

Annie:  Hi I am Annie Etches I am from London in England.  I have been here now from 40 years.  My husband and I came with say four children, but three really; one had to go back to England.  We have lived in this Montgomery County area for almost 40 years and he was always interested in library work of all sorts.  We both did volunteer work all our adult lives anyway and there seems to be so much interest in the libraries in this county that we both got, you know, involved.  And so he died a couple of years ago, he used to do the Tuesday morning class and then I was asked if I would like to step in and do it.  And I was very nervous at first because we both, all our lives had our own interests and I somehow felt I didn’t want to sort of step on to his shoes, but I did and I just love it.  It’s, my Tuesdays morning are absolutely fantastic, so I am so happy about that.

Julie:  We thank you for all that wonderful work and thanks to your husband too who led the way.

Annie:  Yeah he was great.

Julie:  So why don’t we just go in and tell out listeners exactly what English Conversation Clubs are and are they in fact classes?

Nancy:  Well for many English speakers or English learners I think the hardest part is speaking, I think that’s the most difficult part of learning a new language.  And so at our Conversation Clubs you know, our facilitators make them very comfortable, make them relaxed and they ask the right questions, so get them you know, talking and speaking, also it helps them with listening to the language as well.  And we depend on our facilitators to help our English learner to develop the speaking skills and I think they do a great job.

Annie:  Yes I think you’re absolutely right; they have told me quite often actually that they like listening to us talking to them as much as they like talking to us which is very good and it’s very interesting, because for me they are hearing English, English.  And they often bring that up and laugh about it that you know, because they are the facilitator that sits on my table and of course she is an American English and therefore it can sometimes be different.  But we get past that usually with laughing and joking about something and they tease me quite a lot about my English, and but that that’s fine.  Certainly, I think for them learning to speak is more important than learning to read and write and learning the grammar.  Not that grammar doesn’t come into it of course as you, you know, because we do a lot of reading, reading and it does, but it is not the focus.  And sometimes we get people who that’s what they want the focus to be is on the grammar and sometimes that’s because of the job they are doing here and they need that more in their job.  So then we can always direct them to Montgomery College and they often go there for English grammar classes as well, so that’s quite good.  But yeah I think they love it, I know they love our class and I do appreciate that every class during the week has a different approach to how they run the things and so maybe mine is a little you know, I don’t know --.

Nancy:  Yes, yeah being the coordinator I do see the difference, your Tuesday morning you guys have a lesson plan?

Annie:  Yes.

Nancy:  They have three tables and each table has a volunteer that helps about five to eight people and they have a lesson plan where everyone talks about the same topic.  And then Thursday Conversation Club each of the volunteer have their own topic that they want to talk about.  So they decide what topic that they want to talk about.  In the Saturday Conversation Club, it’s just whatever the participants want to talk about, if they want to talk about politics, you know, something is happening, they would talk about that or food or anything that was happening in current events. It’s like, it’s the mix and there is no organization to their talk.  And I think they like it that way participants in a Saturday one, they just like this very loose format and then the Tuesday evening I think there is only one volunteer, oh actually I am sorry there is two volunteers and I think they just bring up a topic and then they discuss it.

Julie:  Now would you say the same participants go to the Tuesday, the Thursday, and the Saturday classes?

Annie:  Occasionally, but also I know one or two of my – say students, they also go to Germantown Library, they sometimes go to Gaithersburg Library.  I think that because some of them walk a long way, some of them come on two buses Tuesday morning, they don’t want to drive a car and come like that.  And sometimes they go to another library because I don’t know maybe something was advertised or may be their kids have gone there for some reason or something.  So but I do know I think next week when they are closed Tuesday morning a couple of them did say to me, “Can I go to one of the other classes,” and I said, “Of course you can anytime you want,” so yeah.

Julie:  So I guess depending on what they are looking for and what is convenient at that time?

Annie:  Yes at that time, yes, yes, yes.  And in fact let’s just say, we start, of the three tables okay in our group.  My table and I have tried to encourage the other two they don’t do it quite so much, but we begin with making sure everybody knows who everybody is at the table because we have had some new people in the last couple of weeks and that has been quite fun. So everybody says who they are.  And then I ask them, “Well how was your week, what did you do, anything special?”  So we start with just talking about anything and everything.  And sometimes we don’t even get to the paper work because that goes off at so many tangents as to, you know, sometimes they have a problem they want to talk about.  And because I am also an immigrant, I can align with a lot of what they are going through in their first years here and some are only here for a few years anyway.

And so we start with the talking and then we go to the paperwork and as we get, nobody has to read if they don’t want to; I always say that if you don’t feel confident with your reading that’s fine just listen you know, but everybody likes to read.  And I try to correct their pronunciation as much as my English allows, but I try not to over do that because I don’t want them to be thinking every second word they say I am going tell them how to say it better.  So we ease up on that as we go along.  Everybody else underlines words or phrases that they don’t understand so at the end of every paragraph we will say, “We go back,” and then people will say, “I didn’t understand that, what did that mean.”  So then we go over that.  Sometimes that takes us off onto a completely different tangent of what we are discussing, but that is okay too.  And usually we sort of finish up with everybody saying, “Oh, oh is it over, we got to go now.” And I say, “Yes sorry I do have to.”  So it is a big mix of the paperwork and just general talking and things like that.  I mean somebody got caught going through a red light and --.

Julie:  That’s something to talk about.

Annie:  Yeah, the police car was sitting right there, picked him up and he had a really hard time, you know, and that often happens I know that.  So things like that so I was able to tell him what he needed to do and yes he did need to go the court and all the rest of it.  So there are things like that we can help with.

Julie:  Now how do people get started with a Conversation Club also do they have to register for these classes and where can they find a Conversation Club and how often do they meet?

Nancy:  Well the Conversation Clubs are open to all adult, it’s a drop-in meet up, you don’t have to register and you can attend as many classes as you want here at Quince Orchard, we have four and they are welcome to attend all four if they have time.

Julie:  And there are also others at other branches?

Nancy:  Yes and all the other branches also have Conversation Clubs as well that they can attend.

Julie:  Now this question is for you Annie, why did you decide to become a volunteer coordinator for Quince Orchard?

Annie:  It was my nearest library.

Julie:  That’s convenient.

Annie:  But no, I mean that’s, we live close by and that’s where my husband got involved with things, I, well both of us got involved with the Saturday monthly book sale, so we were busy with that.  I was on the library board for a short while, I don’t know there just seemed to be lots of things there and we would always encourage our kids and grand kids in that to be involved in the library if possible.  I think it’s a great place especially for the teenagers to be able to go to from the high school over there in the afternoons and you know, be over there, I think it’s a good place.

I love the idea that every Tuesday morning I have people from all around the world who are sitting there enjoying each others’ company even if they don’t always understand quite what’s being said you know.  And one day we had a I think there were about 12 people at my table, this is going back to when we were at the church hall during the time we were closed. And a guy from Iran, we had all been laughing and joking about I don’t know what now may be food or something and just before we finished he just said, “Everybody I think it’s so wonderful that we can sit here; we are all different, different countries, different religions, different ideas and yet we all get along and we love meeting together.” And that to me summed up what I want life to be about and it was just great.

Julie:  Wow so you know, you get the privilege to travel around the world in one room.

Annie:  Yes, yes, absolutely, yes absolutely

Julie:  Now I know earlier Nancy mentioned that the classes are for adults and you also mentioned it is a good form for teens to come to, what about kids, can kids attend these classes as well?

Annie:  Yes in the last few years we have had two babies born, not there, I mean you know.  And the mothers don’t come every week it depends on what’s going on, you know.  And we have a young woman from Russia it’s her first baby and she is very conscious that the baby might make a noise or anything so she comes occasionally when she is pretty sure that he is going to sleep the next hour anyway, you know, but no we just love that.  In the last few months, I have had two teenagers who have been visiting this country to be with their father or their mother or whatever. And so they have come with them and their English has been you know, good anyway, but no I think that that is fine and the two little babies we have had have been absolutely fine, no problem at all.

Julie:  No conversation from them?

Annie:  No conversation, no, no.

Nancy:  Yeah as long as children are with their parents, I think we are fine with it but we don’t encourage children coming in by themselves because the conversation would be you know, adult you know, subject matter so yeah --.

Julie:  Now who would you recommend to participate in these Conversation Clubs?

Annie:  Well I would say anybody who is going to live here for more than five or six weeks may be.  There have been occasions and the last time this couple came from Italy they came, because they came to see Richard but it was too late of course and they haven’t been back since.  But I know they used to come once a year they came to visit their daughter who lived locally and they spent two months with her and they came as did a another older couple some while ago because they want to improve their English so that they communicate with their grandchildren because they were finding that you know, their grandchildren just spoke English and they just would not, with it the whole time, they just couldn’t and they wanted the communication to be better so as they came every and so they came.

Julie:  Was that helpful?

Annie:  They said it was very helpful; they loved it so you know.

Nancy:  Yeah there was one woman who was going to have a job interview and she told me that she attended the Conversation Club so she could improve her English for the job interview.  And she said the Conversation Club helped her to be more relaxed and feel more confident in her speaking skills and it helped her with her job interview.  So she mentioned that and I thought that’s good yeah.

Julie:  Those are great feedback.

Nancy:  Yes.

Annie:  Yes.

Julie:  Is there a lot of turnover among participants or do the same people come over a long period of time?

Annie:  Both I have got at the moment on a Tuesday; I would say there are at least half the people have been coming for a long time.  In fact I have two at my table who have been coming for years whereas I have another two people at the table it was his second week this week, he is going to be one more year in this country, so he is going to keep coming he says all that year.  The other person I think she will be only here may be for another few months.  So it is you know, and some people you see like particularly the Chinese people because of their culture, they go back to their own country usually to take care of parents for three, four, five, six months of the year and then they come back again.  So I have several of those that are there for a few months and then gone and then they come back again.  It’s a mix; it’s a good mix I think.

Julie:  So for those who have been coming for a long time and not the ones who go for three months and come back, is it that they are enjoying the conversations or is there a particular upper level and at some point do you say well this has really helped me?

Nancy:  I think for some of them it’s a great social outlet for them you know, I think a lot of them feel a little isolated because of the language barrier. And so when they go to the Conversation Club they get this support.  And our facilitators you know, they would help them kind of maneuver around the neighborhood and tell them where all the resources are.  I think it is a good place for them to connect with the community.

Annie:  And with people from their country too.  There is always a brightness about them when they know someone else at the table is from their country.  And sometimes I have to, when they talk to each other and I have to say English, English only and we all laugh about that later.

Julie:  Oh okay, that is very funny.

Annie:  Yes, no it definitely is a social place for them and you will hear them say something that they saw each other in Giant or the nursery or something you know.  And they were able to meet somebody that they could talk to in their own language probably, but nevertheless it was somebody that they recognized it was a neighbor and I think that is good for them too so.

Nancy:  I think that’s great.

Julie:  So while we are on the topic of them like participants knowing each other, do either of you know your participants well?

Annie:  Several I do know, yes definitely, because when we are having, its amazing how much some of them will open up about what has just happened at home a sadness or may be a very happy thing and want to share it.  I now have a lady who is just a little bit older than me and she is into gardening and she has a big green house so do I so you know.  So we have a lot in common and she brought in the most amazing tomatoes and cucumbers last week and everybody thought this was amazing.  And now she has done this many years running, so I wasn’t surprised, but of course other people were just like, “Wow.”  So on Tuesday this other lady she brings in this big bag of chocolate and spreads it over the table for everybody to have you know, and everybody is just like, “Oh it is so nice.”

Nancy:  Wow.

Julie:  That’s great like a community, yeah.

Annie:  Yes, I feel I do.

Nancy:  I am green with envy.

Annie:  You have to come visit us.

Nancy:  Now I do.

Julie:  So what would you say are the benefits of the Conversation Clubs?

Annie:  I know how I came when I first came to this country and it took me three years before I really felt that this was home. It takes a long while, it doesn’t happen quickly or easily and I think for these people it gives them some sort of backup or some feeling that there are other people out there that I could talk to.  You know, Americans are incredibly friendly, generous people, I mean they just are which is wonderful.  And these people they recognize that very, very quickly.  As we often talk about this and how it’s different in their culture in this way and that way.  So they are very aware of that and they just think that is wonderful that they are accepted.

And I think one of the things is for them is to be accepted although they don’t speak good English and they may be misunderstood.  And it’s just the simple daily things of life when you go to a store.  A lot of them are very, very nervous about traveling on a bus, going into a restaurant and that’s something Richard used to do.  He always had money to show everybody what you know, the money or the coins were and the things and that and he would take in menus and things so that people could see what food was in a certain menu and things.  And sometimes we used to take people out to eat or something so that they could order something and feel confident that they could do that, because they feel very nervous in those situations.  So I think it’s just the daily life things that we can encourage them and I think they feel more comfortable with living.

Nancy:  And the libraries you know, it’s a perfect place to have these conversations clubs, because we have you know, we know have the, we know where the resources are.  We can direct them to where they are and they feel relaxed coming up to us and asking us you know, information about personal things like you know, job hunting or like you know, the bus route you know, which bus to catch.  And we are patient enough to you know, walk them through you know, where to catch the bus, child care services you know, some of them may not know about that, the best place you know, like banking.

Annie:  Banking is a big thing, insurance is another big that they don’t understand and they want to know about and where they can go and find out things yes.

Nancy:  And services like you know, who is a good roofer or lawn service, you know, so being in the library, we have all those information for them, yeah.

Annie:  And also they, I don’t know whether they would actually say this but this is the feeling I get from them, they feel they are in a safe place.

Julie:  At the library?

Annie:  At the library.

Julie:  And no one is going to swindle them.

Annie:  No, no, absolutely.  And they, you know, it is a government building okay, I am considering where some of these people come from that would be a scary thing in their countries to be trustworthy in a government building and yet you just sense it when they come in, that there is a relaxation, they feel safe and that’s very good.

Julie:  Now as a coordinator Nancy, can you tell us what participants have told you about Conversation Clubs that have actually enhanced their lives?

Nancy:  Well earlier yeah I only have one story; it is about the lady who was going to go for her job interview.  And she was very appreciative that the Conversation Club helped her to relax and develop some speaking skills and feel confident in speaking English you know, during the job interview.

Annie:  At the moment I have one person who is going for their citizenship and so I have been there and done that, so I can be you know, I can listen, I know what their worries are and what their concerns are, help them with questions and things.  Green cards, yes same thing, a couple of people going for their green cards and so they you know, so I can help in that way, because they don’t know who else to turn to for those things.

Nancy:  Exactly, right.

Annie:  And one of the things I have found which amazed me at first time, I am used it now, but most of these people have got children in school.  All the children speak perfect English or as perfect just as it is these days and yet will they speak English at home with their mother or their father, no.  And everybody tells me the same thing that oh they can’t be bothered, we are too slow, they don’t want to do it.  And I say look you know, for one hour every evening at the dinner table wherever say I need your help to your kids.  I have been telling you what to do all these years now I need you to help me, tell me how to say these words, just for an hour at dinner or something, you know, speak English it will help you so much, but they always come back and say no they say I am not you know.  There was one lady I remember she was with Richard before me but thirteen years, she had been in this country, her kids had gone through school okay her English was almost non-existent because she said no English is ever spoken with her apart from when she came to the class.

Julie:  Wow that’s amazing.

Annie:  And I was astounded at that.

Julie:  So did she come to that class for thirteen years?

Annie:  I don’t know that, no I don’t know that, but she had come for many years certainly.  But and it was almost as if she wasn’t improving in her English and I think that was partly because I mean I don’t know her home situation but may be speaking English was not allowed perhaps who knows I don’t know, but I was surprised that the children will not be more involved with helping their parents speak English.

Julie:  So having these Conversation Clubs actually are vital?

Annie:  I think so, I think so, yes.

Julie:  Nancy this question is for you, what would you say are Montgomery County Public Library systems top English has a second language resources and services that we provide to our customers?

Nancy:  Oh Montgomery County has a lot of resources, we have this whole collection of literacy resources that anyone that wants to learn English can borrow and some of these include audio books and DVDs.  And a lot of the audio books have instructions in their mother tongue like English for Spanish speakers, English for Farsi speakers or Chinese speakers, so they can understand the English by listening to the instruction in their own language.  And we also have lots of books that talk about you know, English grammar, word usage; we have lots of dictionaries, books on American idioms.  And of course we also have lots of resources in the community like Montgomery College has a lot of English courses that they can take and most of them are free if it is for beginners, they also offer classes for advance learners, but there is a little fee for advance courses.  And of course the Literacy Council has a lot of classes as well as tutors that can meet with English learners one-on-one and MCAEL which stands for the Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy also puts out a directory of providers that provide English instruction throughout the community throughout Montgomery County.  And you can get this brochure at the library or you can just go to their website.  And Charles Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center also have lots of classes, they are located at Gaithersburg Library, in Germantown, also in Silver Spring and they have the courses listed on their website.  And if they come to library we can print out the flyers for them.  And Montgomery County College also has the Workforce Development & Continuing Education and they also can take English classes as well as there.

Julie:  So they have a wider ray of resources.

Nancy:  Yes there is a lot.

Julie:  Now do we have Conversation Clubs for other languages and if we do what are there?

Nancy:  Yes we also have Spanish Conversation Club at Quince Orchard, they meet Monday nights every Monday at 6 o’clock.  And the same facilitator also runs a Thursday night at Rockville.  And there is also a French Conversation Club in Germantown that meets at 6:30 every Tuesday night.  And Gaithersburg Library has an advanced level English class on idioms it’s called Easy Does It American Idioms.

Julie:  Now what have you learned from your experiences with the Conversation Clubs and this is to both of you?

Annie:  I think so many things but I think just overall what that man said that day about us all sitting around that table and you know, just being one laughing together.  I think about that when today that seems to be so much downside to our life, sadness to our world and I think about that that comes back to me all the time and it gives me more hope that we are going to get through bad times and we can really do this, we can really do this together, because we are all human beings and we all need each other and we can all give something to each other, it doesn’t matter what it is, but we can all share something and make this world a better place and I just feel that that we do that on Tuesdays.

Julie:  Yeah it seems as though we are more similar than we are different.

Annie:  Absolutely, absolutely without question.

Nancy:  We share a lot of common values.

Annie:  Yes, absolutely.

Nancy:  Friendship, caring for family, education I think and no mater where you are from, we share these values.

Annie:  Yes we do.

Julie:  Well we are talking about wonderful stuff.  Do you have any fun or interesting stories to share from a Conversation Club meeting?

Annie:  Well we do laugh a lot that is for sure about all sorts of things. This last Tuesday a guy, he doesn’t sit at my table he said, “Bobby,” he called me over to that table.  And he said, “Come, come see this” and he had his phone out and he is just well – we were teasing him because he has only just told us, but he has a first grand child and he was so excited about it. But the baby is already five months old and he hasn’t told us before.  So we were really going, “What you think you are doing you know, we need to know this,” you know.  And so again everybody is laughing and the photograph get handed around and everybody was so thrilled for him and things so, you know, it’s just nice, it is good sharing, it is so good.

Julie:  Right more than just conversation.

Annie:  Yes, oh definitely, definitely, but at the same time, I guess what I have done in the past in the court and that, I am very aware that there is a line that I do not cross in giving advice or you know, some things I wouldn’t say to somebody even if I thought I knew the answer or knew where I should guide them.  But there is a line that I shouldn’t get totally involved with issues.

Julie:  Right, but you could stir them in the right direction.

Annie:  Absolutely yes.

Julie:  Now to the really fun stuff, it is customary on this program that we ask our guests what they are currently reading, who would like to go first?

Annie:  My brother is an author and I just received last week, the last thing he had written which won him a prize in England.  And it’s a short story it is the most amazing piece of writing that I think I have ever read in my life.  I just couldn’t believe and it was just so absolutely beautiful and my brother had written it with just outstanding so, yes so.

Nancy:  That’s great.

Annie:  The name of the story is Unforgettable and his name is David Wiseman but I don’t know the prize.

Julie:  We will be sure to mention the name of the prize in the show notes.  Over to you Nancy.

Nancy:  Okay, personally I am reading a mystery by Martha Grimes title Vertigo 42.  So it is a story about a friend of a friend who is convinced his wife was murdered 17 years ago and not by an accidental fall off the tower called Vertigo 42.  So it was gripping, I have enjoyed it a lot.

Julie:  Thank you so much for letting us in into the world of English Conversation Clubs, I want to thank Nancy and Annie for being with us today.  Let’s 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 Podcast.  Also please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we will love to know what you think.  Thank you once again for listening to our conversations today, see you next time.

[Audio ends]

Aug 1, 2018

Listen to the audio

David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.

 

Julie Dina:  And I'm Julie Dina.

 

David:  And today we're going to be talking about historical fiction.  We're going back in time and visiting distant lands and times, and joining us today, I'm very pleased to welcome two very special guests, Anita Vassallo, our Acting Director of MCPL.  Welcome Anita.

 

Anita Vassallo:  Thank you David, I'm very pleased to be here.

 

David:  Or shall I say welcome back.  Our listeners may remember Anita from a very lively recording we made on the Game of Thrones.

 

Anita:  Oh yes, Game of Thrones.

 

David:  And joining us as well, we welcome Sarah Mecklenburg, a Library Associate from our Outreach Department.  So welcome Sarah.

 

Sarah Mecklenburg:  Thank you.

 

David:  And both Anita and Sarah are very avid historical fiction readers.

 

Anita:  Yes indeed.

 

David:  And we're looking forward to hearing all about your favorite books and authors.

 

Anita:  All right.

 

David:  So let's start with a bit about yourselves.  If you would just tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do, where do you work and what brought you here.  So let's start with Sarah.

 

Sarah:  Okay.  So, I’m Sarah Mecklenburg.  I've been in MCPL for three and a half years.  I started in December of 2014, and before that, I actually worked in museums and actually even interned at the American History Museum.  I was a history major, so I am very passionate about history.  So that has kind of led to a lot of people coming at me going, “Sarah, you should come to the podcast.  You read a lot about it and you should come in and talk about the fun you have reading historical fiction.”

 

David:  Glad you joined us.

 

Anita:  So I'm, as David said, the Acting Director of Montgomery County Public Libraries, to – a great honor for me.  And I’ve worked for the library system for more years than I would like to admit.  So I was always an avid reader as a child, I spent a lot of time in the library, loved just about anything.  And Historical Fiction is one of the genres that I do search out and enjoy in a lot of ways and I think that maybe if I had turned into a librarian, I would have liked to been a historian.  So, it sounds really fun that Sarah worked at the Museum of American history which I didn't know.

 

David:  So Anita, I have to ask you, you've been Acting Director since what, September or so?

 

Anita:  It's almost been a year now.

 

David:  Oh, almost a year.  That’s right.

 

Anita:  Yeah.  It will be a year at the beginning of August.

 

David:  Have you found – you've been able to find sometime in your busy schedule to read or has that affected you?

 

Anita:  Fortunately, I have a long commute.  So, as you know, I commute here usually about an hour and a half, sometimes longer.  So I definitely rely on audio books to keep me going with my reading.

 

David:  Right.  There are some benefits to being stuck on 270.

 

Anita:  Yes.

 

Julie:  So, what exactly is historical fiction and can either of you tell us examples of well-known historical fiction?

 

Anita:  Well, I looked up what is historical fiction.  Googled it, of course. And there is a British prize the Walter Scott prize for the best historical fiction, and their definition is, a novel that is set at least 60 years prior to its publication, which really seems like a random number.  Sarah, how would you define historical fiction?

 

Sarah:  I would say fiction that’s set within a historical time period or sometimes I would – I personally have a passion for alternate history or historical fiction that is blended with science fiction.  So, time travel, things like that.

 

Anita:  Connie Willis.

 

Sarah:  Yeah.  So, kind of – or historical mysteries as well.  So stories that are set within a past time period.  Often they cover major historical events.  Although there are some that are nice and cover a quiet historical event, or not even an event at all, but just a period or follow a family through various groups of time periods.

 

Anita:  Yeah, I agree with that.  I think some of the most interesting ones are the ones that are not centered around a major historical event but something a time period that maybe followed a historical event, because there are couple I want to mention like that, that I really liked.  I think there's some really well known historical fiction books from the past that I would mention are Michael Shaara’s book Killer Angels, which is kind of the quintessential book about the civil war.

 

Another much older book that was very popular and, of course, was made into a really popular PBS series was I, Claudius by Robert Graves which delves way down into those Romans and all their goings on.  So, those are two ones that I would consider well known.

 

Sarah:  I'm having trouble coming up with some of the more well-known ones off of the top of my head. But a librarian actually, Quince Orchard Library, growing up, gave me a local author’s Civil War books and they were historical fiction with time travel element.  That started me off in this path.  But actually, I did think of one series that – well, a series of series, that is often associated with historical fiction for younger readers and that's the American Girl series.  Also the Dear America series is another series that's really known.  That's what got me into a lot of these as well.

 

I read through all of those and then basically went to the librarian and said, “I need more historical fiction.”  And she was like, “Sure.”

 

Anita:  She got hooked in the series.  And those – the ‘Dear America’ books are usually centered around a historical event, but it's portrayed in the books which aren’t really very long through the eyes of a young person.  Usually, it’s like a tween, I think who would have been involved in sort of the periphery of the event.  So those are really interesting and I agree with you a great way to get kids hooked on historical fiction.

 

David:  But what actually makes a book historical fiction versus history? Is it a very clear distinction?

 

Anita:  I think it’s in a way – it's a little bit blurred because certainly, I have read books that are catalogued as nonfiction or biography that are written in a style that's very accessible and almost fictionalized.  But I think historical fiction can take liberties with the thoughts and motivations of the characters, which in a straight work of historical biography or nonfiction, the author does not inhabit the central character or other characters in the same way.  They are drawing from perhaps diaries, or letters, or research and they're laying that information out there.  They're not generally putting words in the mouths of the character unless they're part of documented fact.

 

Historical fiction often will have as its main character, someone who's kind of on the periphery of the action.  And so while you have the dates and the historical figures, you are really looking at it through the eyes of someone who was not directly involved in what was going on.  I think some authors who do a great job with that and one of my favorites would be Philippa Gregory, who's written that wide ranging series focusing on the tutor and the women around Henry VIII and Elizabeth and earlier on.

 

But there're characters that we don't really know that much about him, Henry Tudor’s mother.  Not a main character, but she has plenty to say in these books on the stage.  I mean, I could read historical fiction about the Tudor’s.

 

David Payne: Write about that yeah.

 

Anita:  It never stops and there's always more and different ways of approaching.

 

David:  You’ve got a whole Soap Opera there.

 

Anita:  You’re not kidding.  And Philippa Gregory does not like Henry VIII and she makes no bones about it.

 

David:  No, she doesn’t hide that fact.

 

Julie:  So, those are really, really interesting also sort of the minor character approaches, Ken Follett with his trilogy that began with the ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and he's focusing on stone masons and nuns and nurses and various people.  But it creates this whole picture of the society during that time period and the major events that impacted these kind of minor players on the stage.

 

David:  So, when you finish the book, do you find yourselves delving into researching what actually happens that peak your curiosity.

 

Sarah:  That's why I majored in history.

 

Julie:  So, historical fiction got you to major in history?

 

Sarah:  Oh yeah.

 

Julie:  Oh that's so cool.

 

Sarah:  Yeah.  I sat in my classes and I started – actually I was taking a number of classes on colonial America and that's my favorite time period that has been since I was a little kid when I was reading picture books that were done by the Plimoth Plantation and it actually were photographs, but it was following a actually historical child.  It's kind of where the history and historical fiction line blurs.  Because it's a fictional story about a real person and that’s how Plimoth Plantation presents everything in the museum – is everyone is the historical character, but it's a little bit blurry about is that the real presentation.

 

So I got really into that as a kid and I ended up taking a bunch of classes in that time period and other topics in history, I was an Art History major too.  Surprise.  And I just really had always loved reading about these different time periods especially historical fiction and I was like, I want to know more, I want to know everything.  I have always been someone who just wants to know more about everything.

 

Julie:  Yeah.  I think something I usually wind up doing during reading the book or immediately after is getting the family tree and figuring out who –

 

David:  Who was who.

 

Julie:  –Belongs to who and how they’re related, that's always interesting.  Also, just going back and fact checking everything.  I love the series by Patrick O'Brian, the Aubrey/Maturin books and I've read all of them more than once.  And that's really informed all the knowledge that I have about the Napoleonic wars at sea, and then if you read Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe series, that's the Napoleonic wars on land.

 

So together, they really form a great picture of what went on during that time period.  I'm trying to branch out more and kind of get away from the Brits, no offense, but there has got to be a whole body of work say about French, the French history.  I've read much more nonfiction about French history than I have fiction.  So kind of I'm looking for some good writers who would probably translate it in the English from the French.  That would have that for us.

 

One of the other questions that we had here was do you have favorite time periods or countries for your historical fiction?  And I like I really love stuff about The Tudors but I love ancient Rome, Steven Saylor.  And that's when Sarah when you get into those historical mysteries, you probably have read those ones by Ruth Downie, the Medicus books.

 

Sarah:  I don’t think so.  No.

 

Anita:  Those are great  There's about four or five and they’re centered on a character who is- well a doctor, a Medicus. But he's found himself kind of shipped off to ancient Britain where there we are again back to the Brits.  And he’s slogging through this kind of total backwater and he gets involved with some of the local tribal people who were living there.  But they're funny and they do have a good mystery aspect to them and they also have that whole history.  So, she's got a new one in – that's about ready to come out.  I can't wait for that.

 

Medieval Europe also even going back to the Brother Cadfael mysteries and on all of those.  So wonderful and there’re quite a few that have nuns, I guess, or other religious central characters.  I think because they were able to move around more, they worked with people from both the upper echelons of society and then down to the lower, so you get that whole flow of people.  It's the people that really make the historical mysteries interesting, but I love those.

 

And then, you've probably read these books by Margaret Lawrence.  These are mysteries also.  I believe the first one, I’m not 100% sure, was called Blood in Ashes or Blood in the Snow, anyway, they're set immediately after the end of the Revolutionary War.

 

Sarah:  Oh, and now I have to find them.

 

Julie:  And they're really good because it was a horrible time.

 

Sarah:  Yeah, it really was.

 

Julie:  When people were trying to recover from what had happened and you still had people who had supported Britain and were Tories and they’re trying to make a life with these people who had won the Revolutionary War.  And so, that whole thing is just fascinating.  Not so much the war itself but what happened afterwards and I hope that – the author is definitely Martin Lawrence, L-A-W-R-E-N-C-E, but I can't quite remember the titles.  What are some of your favorite time periods?

 

Sarah:  I’ve done – obviously done a lot of Colonial American Revolution, but I recently have gotten into World War I, World War II, but also the 1920.  I started watching the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries yes, but those are actually based on a fiction series.  And I've read all of the books and they're really great series of books, very different from the television series which in itself is a historical mystery, but they're set in the 1920s.

 

The author doesn't actually want to go beyond 1929 with the stories, so she doesn't really want to go into the Great Depression.  And so, she basically follows this young socialite, the character is younger in the books as she solves some really interesting mysteries.

 

Anita:  Who’s the author on this?

 

Sarah:  Kerry Greenwood.

 

Anita:  Kerry Greenwood.  Okay.

 

Sarah:  And she also does write contemporary stories as well.  And so she's writing in Australia.  I've also really enjoyed Laurie R. King also set in the same time period. Her Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes of books are really interesting.  It's a different portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.  I haven't read the whole series yet, but I'm working my way through them.  The audio books are amazing.  That was actually – I started them years ago because of the audio book, it was a summer reading for school and we turned on the audio book all the way to Minnesota.  And then I also have been enjoying Jacqueline Winspear’s books on the series-

 

Anita:  It’s Maisie Dobbs.

 

Sarah:  Maisie Dobbs, yes.  And it’s a Maisie Dobbs series and so she is a really interesting character, she's a detective.  It starts off in the aftermath of World War I and now the series is actually progressed to the middle of World War II.  And so it's kind of following how war has impacted people, how war continues to impact people.  It goes into a in-depth discussion of PTSD and how that effects people, not just the soldiers, but those who are caring for the soldiers, the nurses on the battlefield, that's also something that Kerry Greenwood goes into.

 

I also personally really enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is historical fiction set on Guernsey Island, which is a really unique part of the British Isles because it – it’s own government and was actually- I did not realize was actually invaded during-

 

David:  It was occupied during-

 

Sarah:  Yeah.  It was occupied during World War II and the book is about that basically about the aftermath of that.  And Netflix is coming out with it, a movie of it – it was released in England recently and then they're going to be releasing it here.  So I'm excited about that.

 

Anita:  That sounds cool.  So you were – when you were speaking there you mentioned the Laurie R. King books which are about Mary King and Sherlock Holmes or Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, so that's kind of what you would call I guess historical fantasy because, I mean, Sherlock Holmes, not real.  So, but I think they do mesh the historical events that would be happening during his life time well in those mysteries.

 

I think another kind of historical genre, there are historical romances, there's that whole Diana Gabaldon series, Outlander which was historical fantasy, romance [crosstalk] [00:17:46].  But boy, those are- they’re definitely page turners if you like those sagas.  I don't think that the giant sagas are quite as popular as they were when books like the R L Delderfield series about the – I can’t remember the name of the family, but those were so incredibly popular at one time period.

 

David:  They were classics, they were classics.

 

Anita:  There was another really long series about a family, it was set in Canada prior to World War I and they were by the author Mazo de la Roche, it's called the Jalna Series.  And those probably spanned 30 or 40 years in the life of this one family.  I don’t even think they’re in print anymore.  You can really just pick up a whole lot.  It’s like painless learning when you're reading or listening to even better historical fiction.

 

Another genre that I think is popular right now and I don't know where you would put it because it's not really- it's more like fantasy, but the novels that are based on mythology, Greek mythology or on the writings of Homer.  I just, just finished yesterday listening to a book called Circe by a really good author Madeline Miller and a wonderful reader her name was Perdita Weeks.  This book just drew in the stories of the gods, the story of Odysseus and Daedalus. It was a great, I guess, historical fantasy, whatever you want to call it.

 

David Payne:  So it was like an adult version of Rick Riordan.

 

Anita:  Yeah, it kind of was like that and that's a real trend.  People are loving these.  This woman also wrote another novel called The Song of Achilles, which is about Patroclus and Achilles in the Trojan War.  So not really real but history, kind of.

 

Sarah:  Elizabeth Peters, she’s a really interesting author, not only because she wrote the Amelia Peabody series which is set in an archaeological dig, but she sets it at this particular time in that history I – that was another period of time I studied in college, where archeology was just becoming what it was.  And so it's also kind of this – it's another one that's not based around historical event, but it's kind of set in that world of historical movement which is also kind of a slightly different thing.

 

Anita:  Yeah, as that series progresses, you definitely bring in more of the political impact of the British imperialism in Egypt and the movement of the Egyptian and Arabic peoples to recover their own independence.  And the characters in the book interact with both sides of the conflict in that and particularly as the character’s – you know, her son Ramsey's ages and he’s more involved in that. So that is a whole another wonderful series of books.

 

Julie:  So now that we've heard a lot about your favorite time period, your favorite books, can you tell us about your favorite authors and why you like them.

 

Anita:  Well, I had mentioned a few of them earlier.  I think Philippa Gregory, I also very much like Geraldine Brooks who doesn't write about one time period in particular, but chooses different topics.  She wrote a book about the plague called ‘Year of Wonders’ that had some wonderful characters in it.  It was about a town that basically sealed itself off from a village, from the rest of the country in order to try and contain the plague.  She's written one called ‘The Song–’ something, it has chord in the title.  Anyway, it's about David from the Bible.

 

She just does a really good job with her characterization.  So I think you can pretty much pick up any book by her.  She wrote one if we're going to talk about that kind of historical fantasy again, March, which is centered about Mr. March, the father of the family and little women and what happened to him when he went off to war and left his wife and his girls at home. So that was really interesting so I do like Geraldine Brooks.

 

Julie:  How about you Sarah?

 

Sarah:  Right now, the author that's really speaking to me when I'm reading historical fiction is definitely Jacqueline Winspear.  There's something about her books that just draws me in and doesn't let me go.  And so she’s just one of the authors that’s really stuck with me, Kerry Greenwood.  Kevin Crossley-Holland wrote a really wonderful historical fantasy that I read a long time ago, but it has stuck with me and I'm actually- I just put a hold on it so I could reread it.  And it's about a young boy who is living in the footsteps of King Arthur in a way and is mentored by a man named Marlin and basically watches the story of Arthur through a magical stone.

 

The first book is called The Seeing Stone and Kevin Crossley-Holland is the author.  MCPL has the series as well as a follow-up that he did about one of the female characters.  I personally also have been really, really into S.E. Groves.  It's a middle grade book series that transcends being middle grade and it's a- I'm not sure if I would call it historical fantasy, but it's historical fiction with a time element where she really kind of challenges what we think of time by basically having the world rewritten as of 1791.

 

I've written actually a review for the MCPL Librarians Choice about the series and this first book is called ‘The Glass Sentence’ called the Mapmakers Trilogy but basically in 1791 the whole world is interrupted and the United States is no longer the United States. You have to pay in order to have your voice heard in Congress and you’re paying for the amount of time, it actually becomes a parliament and then other regions of the world and even what the United States was has been broken up.

 

She covers all sorts of really pertinent topics.  The whole book starts off with the Prime Minister closing the borders and ordering all of the immigrants to leave the country.  And so it is a very prescient series and doesn't have fantastic elements to it, but the author is a historian who specializes in Central American and Spanish history, focusing on middle ages and colonial periods as well.

 

And so it's a whole book on kind of talking about xenophobia and colonization and the impact of colonization.  It's a really amazing series I just I can't get enough of talking about it and I recommend it to everyone.  I read it as an audio book series.  Each book is about 11-13 hours.  So it's an [crosstalk] [00:25:40].

 

Julie:  What was the author again? Who?

 

Sarah:  S.E. Grove.

 

Julie:  S.E. Grove.  G-R-O-V-E, Grove?

 

Sarah:  Yeah, Grove.  And it is in MCPL.  We have digital copies and paper copies of the whole series.

 

David:  So let's go from books you've read to historical fiction you’d perhaps like to read about.  Is there any time period, place or event that you really want to read historical fiction about, but haven't found any?

 

Anita:  I haven't really found in any good historical fiction about pre-Columbian, Central America or the United States.  So that's my family background, from Mexico, so I would like to be able to read more about the prehistory prior to the Europeans coming over and doing what they did.  But I don't really know of an author who focuses on that time.

 

Julie:  How about you?

 

Sarah:  I just visited the Canadian Maritimes recently for my honeymoon, so I would love to read more about that region.  I would really like to read more Southern Asia I think would be a good thing to do because I haven't read enough Southern Asia.  I just – to spread my experiences.  I did read some- when I was younger but I'd like to have some more experiences of that and also just basically places that I haven't been which is most of the world.  My Canada trip was my first time out of the US, so I want to be able to expand my experiences a lot more.  And historical fiction sometimes does that because once you've got that- you start that learning about that place, you want to read more about it and then you’re like, “Maybe I want to go there.”

 

And that kind of expands kind of your interests in that.  So I would just read, yeah.  I’d also really like to read more fiction set in this area historically because-

 

Julie:  Like the Washington DC area?

 

Sarah:  Washington DC area.  I would love to find more history and not particularly focusing on Washington DC, but the areas surrounding it or – and I know we did a few set in the civil war, but I would love to read a book written about the Smithsonian, the historical fiction.  Early Smithsonian has amazing stories and there's a club that they would go out and serenade the director's daughters because they lived in the Smithsonian Castle and I’d love to read stories about those sorts of things.  Maybe that's just the truth is stranger than fiction.

 

Julie:  Maybe you just need to be writing that story.  There you go.  Now, how accurate do you want your historical fiction to be?

 

Anita:  Well, I like it to be pretty accurate, but I wouldn't really notice unless something was so far off the rails that- something that didn't belong in the time period popped up and sometimes I do think – did they really have that then.  And I might go back and check that if like a character picks up a telephone to make a call and it's 1842, that kind of thing you would probably notice.  But again because I like the ones that focus on the minor characters, I don't think it pops up that much.

 

What does kind of jar sometimes is when a character in a historical fiction novel will speak in a way that is contemporary.  And that it is kind of jarring and you do think to yourself a woman, or a child, or a servant or whomever, would probably not have spoken in that way during that time period and Sarah is nodding her head like crazy.  So that must bother her.

 

Sarah:  I have a story about that.  I once read a book that was set in American revolution in the South and I'd read a few others that were set in that time period, had read about it and what we qualify as the South nowadays is actually you really would go a bit farther north than even this book qualified it as.  The book itself, the characters started speaking in like thick Southern American drawls and then they were using language that felt so civil war that I felt very confused.  They referenced some things like clothing, the way it really wasn't accurate and I finally looked at the back of the book and I realized the author had no background in the American Revolution and spent most of his time writing about the Civil War.

 

And then I realized that that was probably why.  I really like my books to be accurate.  I once was very upset.  I was skimming a book, trying to make sure I knew if I could reference it for someone, help someone find a book that they're interested on.  And I was really upset because the author started talking about historical family, the Greene family, Nathanael’s Greene family in a way that was disconcerting and I was like I think something seems off.  What I've read and what I know of his family, this doesn't seem right.

 

And then I found in her author's note and I really appreciate author’s notes, is that she actually used a rumor and played it up in order to create more drama that wasn't necessary.  So I was quite upset about that.

 

Julie:  You won’t be recommending that one.

 

Sarah:  No, I won’t.

 

David:  Well, the whole genre of historical fiction goes back quite some way.  Can you give us some sense of how it's changed over time and has it changed let's say within the past 20 or 30 years, any recognizable changes that you've seen?

 

Sarah:  One of the things that I've noticed is there has been a larger push for greater diversity in authors and their books.  We're having a more diverse authors writing more historical fiction as well, which I think is really, really important and I think will be really good for us in the future too.  And they're writing on stories that we are not – I know we've been talking so much about books that have really been Anglo centric, they have been mostly focusing on England and the US and I was looking at the books that I read, Oh Laurie R. King, set in England, Jacqueline Winspear, set in England, Kerry Greenwood, set in Australia, oh yeah, that was an English colony and is now- you know, American Revolution.  US separating from England.

 

So, trying to kind of get away from that centralization I think is really good and will actually be really good for us for history in the future.  And I think has a lot to say hopefully for direction we could be going.

 

Anita:  Yeah, and I think you're right.  Diversity in both the characters and in the authors as well as the time periods is really important for us right now.  And I'm pretty sure that there are authors that may be available to us in translation that what we have not picked up with Montgomery County being as diverse as it is and people would enjoy reading about their cultures and where their history and ancestors came from.  That's on us to find those things that are well written and good and bring them into our collection.

 

Julie:  So, is there historical fiction for kids and teens are can you recommend any?

 

Anita:  Of course, there are So many tons of historical fiction books for kids and teens.  I do think that in some cases now, we want to think about the way that things are portrayed in some of the historical fiction that was very popular.  Of course, when I was a child, I know there's a discussion right now about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books and the portrayal of native Americans or first peoples in those.  So I think that as we move forward and we see as Sarah said, more diversity and more thought given to the role that everybody played in history moving all of humanity forward to this point, we’ll see some different things.

 

But certainly, I think historical fiction has always grabbed children as they try to imagine themselves in another time or place and what it might have been like for them to be there.  There are some great books out there that kids love.

 

Sarah:  That's something I'm passionate about historical fiction for kids because that was what got me into my love of history.  My mom grew up in near Plymouth, Massachusetts and so I grew up reading “The first Thanksgiving.”  And then, studying it in college, wrote a independent study on it and the Samuel Eaton's day and Sarah Morton's day are two that Plymouth actually did, and then I’ve continued on with that series and I have actually improved upon them, made the stories even more accurate.

 

There's a story that's even told from the perspective of a young Native American Wampanoag boy.  Done in the same process and thanks to that staff member a QO years and years ago, and she really nurtured that interest in me.  So I was able to find some really wonderful books.  And the S.E. Grove books are a different perspective on historical fiction, there's the Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood.  He's also written Alternate History as well which he did the year of the Hang Man, and so I think that giving kids and teens a new perspective on history is good.

 

I love to mention the plethora of graphic novels and webcomics that we have that are out there that you might not see as common.  There are a number of them that are webcomics only on the Internet like The Dreamer by Laura Innes in which the main character ends up kind of traveling back in time and experiencing the American Revolution.  Lackadaisy Cats was set in probation era St Louis Missouri.  So we have graphic novels too that are out there that are a different way to engage with history and can really encourage young people and older people to really engage with it in a different way.

 

Julie:  That one the The March the John Lewis book.

 

Sarah:  Yes. I want to read that so badly.

 

Julie:  So, I'm really glad you brought up the graphic novels.  I hadn't thought about those.

 

David:  Well Sarah and Anita, we usually close each recording by putting you on the spot and asking what are you reading right now? So I'll start with Anita.

 

Anita:  Well, as I said, [crosstalk] [00:36:51].  I am making my way painfully slowly through Column of Fire, even though it's a good book and I don't want to say that it's slow going.  It's totally me.  And then the Circe that I just finished by Madeline Miller was really good.  I would recommend that to anyone with an interest in that.  And I think I just finished the- is Jessica Mitford?  No, it’s Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate.  I love all those books by the Mitford sisters so go back to those from time to time.

 

David:  Great.

 

Sarah:  I've been bouncing around a little bit.  I've been reading the third book of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and I can't actually place what the title is at the moment, but based on the main character fighting ghosts.  So kind of I enjoy fantasy and science fiction a lot, so that's what I've been doing.  I also just checked out A Wrinkle in Time for another reread.  I've already read it twice and I just, I think that having books to reread is really important.  There are a number of books that I reread regularly.

 

Julie:  I want to mention one more author because we kind of passed her at the beginning is Connie Willis who writes a wonderful series of books that are sort of set in the future and in the past at the same time about a group of researchers at Oxford. It is Oxford not Cambridge I think, who are able to travel back in time to do their own in person, first person research in the Doomsday Book where the woman is sent back to the plague year and they get it a little bit wrong is just wonderful.  And then the ones To Say Nothing of the Dog and Blackout.  So Connie Willis is a great author to pick up if you like historical fantasy.

 

David:  Yes.

 

Julie:  Well, we will like to say thank you so much to Anita and Sarah for taking us down historical lane today.  Let's 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 our Apple podcast.  We’ll love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

 

[Audio ends]

Jul 18, 2018

Listen to the audio

Julie Dina:  Hi, I’m Julie Dina.  In this episode of Library Matters, we are 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 NBC4.

Book Reviewer 1:  Who knew forgotten letters stuck inside a book could change someone’s life.  Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, it’s heartwarming story about a girl named Truly Lovejoy who gets tangled in a mystery of a letter inside a copy of Charlotte’s Web.  After Truly’s father gets injured by an IED overseas the Lovejoy’s move from Texas to a tiny town in New Hampshire called Pumpkin Falls.  

When Truly finds a letter in an autographed edition of Charlotte’s Web, she follows the clues and is soon roped in a treasure hunt taking her all around Pumpkin Falls.  I liked this book because it’s fun and its sweet mystery about friendship and family.  I really enjoyed this book and I hope you do too.

Book Reviewer 2:  With the Wrinkle in Time movie coming out hundreds of people were introduced to the characters of Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace but did you know that Madeleine L’Engle already wrote a sequel to it?  Wind in the door also takes a sci-fi oriented trip but instead of going to the far reaches of space they go deep into Charles Wallace’s mitochondria, which is the body’s main energy producer.

With her companions, old and new, Meg was either prevail over darkness or loss her brother.  Wind in the door gives you seven questions through the plot, such as – wait I shall not tell.  It is a fast-paced book with several scientific facts that are mind bending.  For instance, the microscopic scale from the mitochondria to you is about the same as the scale from you to out the galaxy, neat?

She also had a coming of age story about the creatures that were living in the mitochondria.  With vivid characters, strange new creatures and an imagination that trumps all, Madeleine L’Engle has created a wonderful sequel that will thrill readers, young and old, with Wind in the door.

Book Reviewer 3:  Some look like giant walking turtles, others are black with wings and look almost like armored ravens, “Shadow Titans!” Emily shouted.  I’m Manisha and the book I will be reviewing is Pegasus The End of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn.  The book I chose to discuss is about a girl named Emily and her best friend, the winged stallion Pegasus.  Emily now has less powers and a different body so she feels as if she’s being judged.  But she still has one more promise to fulfill, to rescue Agent B from the evil central research unit.

But while at the facility she finds a monster older than Olympus itself.  I would recommend this book to someone else because it is action packed, filled with adventure and busting with excitement.  Will Emily defeat the monsters?  Will Olympus make peace with the Titans?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Book Reviewer 4:  Right, let’s have fun.  “Hallo Silver I didn’t see you there.” “I, a lowly Red am about to vanquish you, and if you survive, you should read this.”  This is Red Queen.  Red Queen is about the teenage girl named Mare Barrow in a world where the people are divided by their blood; Red or Silver.  Mare is Red, [Indiscernible] [00:04:10] while Silvers are the nobles.  Their Silver blood gives them superpowers.

One day Mare is called by the king to serve him but when she crushes the party, she realizes she has powers but she is a red.  Mare latter joins the rebellion in order to give the reds their rights but the stakes are high, and when blood goes against blood, who will survive in the deadly of power.  Red Queen is an amazing book about betrayal, loyalty, love.  If you like bloodshed and epic battle scenes then you read the Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Book Reviewer 5:  One second everything is normal, the next is not.  In a blink of an eye everyone 15 years and older vanishes into thin air along with phone signals, internet, any way to get help.  Gone by Michael Grant is a young adult dystopian series of seven books.  In dystopia books somebody threatens the survival of the human race, creating a living nightmare.  After an asteroid hits a nuclear power plant in California a radioactive monster is born.

It created an energy barrier that made everyone 15 and older vanish, living the kids to fend for themselves.  Some of the kids even develop supernatural abilities, throughout the series the kids fight hunger, lies, plague, fear, and even each other.  This series is full of unexpected twists and turns with mutations and monsters that will live your jaw hanging open.

I guarantee that you will be hooked into their world.  Full of action, suspense, humor, mystery and fear, this is a series that teens will never forget.

Book Reviewer 6:  Hi there, I was just reading this really cool book called Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone by J. K. Rowling.  In the beginning of the book, we find out how Harry lives a miserable life with his aunt and uncle, and spoil cousin.  But all this is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail addressed to Harry.

He gets accepted into Hogwart’s school of witchcraft and wizardry.  Along the way Harry finds out 11 years ago his parents were killed by the dark lord Voldemort and now he’s planning on coming to kill Harry.  Will Harry survive his deadly encounter with Lord Voldemort?  Will Harry and his friends be able to protect themselves? Find out in Harry Potter and the Sorcery’s Stone. 

I recommend this book for all ages that’s it’s a wonderful introduction to Harry Potter’s life and the wizarding world.

Book Reviewer 7:  How ever imagined walking eight hours twice, everyday just to get to the closest water source that’s not even 100% clean? Linda Sue Park describes Nya’s struggles to find water in a Long Walk to Water.  Nya has to retrieve water for her family, walking for 16 hours total every day. 

One day, Nya’s sister was extremely sick.  Her parents went to their tribe’s chief and asked for help.  He tells them that the nearest medical clinic is 90 miles away.  In Sudan the cars are a rare sight.  Nya’s sister walked with her dad for three whole days until they found a small medical clinic.  A nurse cared for Nya’s sister and said that the cause of her sickness is because of dirty water.  Will the family get clean water?  Will Nya’s sister survive?  Read a Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park to find out.

Book Reviewer 8:  “Olivia?”  A voice called out, “Olivia Grace Harrison?” It was the most amazing sight Olivia had ever seen in her life.  It was her Royal Highness Princess Amelia Mignonette of Genovia.  Until that moment, Olivia was a typical sixth grader who lived with her aunt and step uncle after her mom passed away.

But when the royal sister she never knew suddenly emerges onto the scene to pick her up from school, Olivia’s life changes dramatically.  In an instance, she is transformed from an ordinary school girl to a real-life princess.  Olivia is whisked away in a royal Genovian limousine and finally meets her dad and family.  A dream that until now was unfulfilled.

When her step uncle finds out that she was with her true family, he becomes furious and takes her back to the place where she grew up.  Olivia ponders her future.  Will she remain with the only family she knew, and live the ordinary life she was used to?  Or will she be drawn to her royal roots in Genovia to be with her dad’s family?  Will Olivia be able to live in Genovia happily ever after?

There’s only one way to find out.  Pick up and read Meg Cabot’s imaginative novel, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.

Book Reviewer 9:  Do you like mystery? Then you should read one of the Hardy Boys books.  This book by Franklin W. Dixon is called the Secret of the Caves.  The Hardy boys are trying to find a missing person called Morgan Todd, but along the way people try to hurt the Hardy boys.  One time in Honeycomb caves, very strange things happened.  People who seem to be good are just criminals.

I like this book because at first the mystery can get really confusing, but finally the mystery is really interesting.

Book Reviewer 10:  For English class, I’m writing a poem and I decided it’s going to be about sounds.  Sounds of the wrinkled, squirm creatures that live in tide pools.  The problem is my teacher thought it was terrible, she gave me an F.  Then I showed it to my dad, a professor of literature, he changed my F into a Fabulous.  My dad said not everyone can understand poetry.  This is a passage from the book Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry.

This is about a ten-year-old girl who is confident, insightful, funny and stays on top of her world.  She is a fourth grader dealing with all fourth-grade drama.  Being ten years old is in deed confusing.  Anastasia doesn’t know if she wants to be a ballerina or an ice skater.  She hasn’t decided yet.  She has an old grandmother who sometimes doesn’t remember her and makes her sad.

Anastasia has a lot to do with boys, baby brother on the way, friends, her gold fish, and school.  Anastasia loves to make a list of what she likes, and what she hates.  She is just writing to solve many problems but she will always hate eating liver.

I love this book because it motivated me to start a journal in which I can write in every day.  Writing helps me work out difficult situations.  I also try to solve my problems by looking at the pros and cons.  This way I too, come up happier and wiser.  This book will help you stay positive and help you deal with life’s drama, like it helps me.

Julie Dina:  We hope you enjoyed these engaging book talks.  We are so glad these young shared their enthusiasm for their books with us.  You can find all these books in MCPL’s catalogue.  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, Sticher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also please review and rate us on Apple podcast, we’d love to know what you think.

Jul 4, 2018

Listen to the audio

Julie Dina:  Welcome to Library Matters.  I’m your host Julie Dina.  Today’s topic is Reading Challenge 2018.  And on this particular topic, I have two experts in that subject.  First, I would like to introduce Lennea Bower, Digital Strategies Manager of Montgomery County Public Library.

 

Lennea Bower:  Hi Julie.  Thanks for having me.

 

Julie Dina:  Thanks for coming.  And also I have Candice Hixon who is also the Library Assistant Supervisor for Kensington Park Library.

 

Candice Hixon:  Hi, Julie.  It is great being here today.

 

Julie Dina:  Welcome Candice.  So let’s dive straight into the subject, but before we do that, I will like to mention the reason why you guys are the ones chosen to be on this episode.  First, Lennea is, and including her team, they’re actually the ones who run the Reading Challenge for MCPL's 2018 Reading Challenge.

 

Lennea Bower:  That is right.

 

Julie Dina:  So, would you tell us a little bit of yourself and also how this got prompted and who actually started all of this.

 

Lennea Bower:  So I’m the digital strategies manager for Montgomery County Public Libraries.  I’ve been in this role since December of 2016.  Before that, I was a member of our team, which was at that time called virtual services.  And we started the Reading Challenge actually at the very end of 2015.  Our first Reading Challenge was 2016 and it is an annual event.

 

And we started doing – the idea of Reading Challenges were getting really popular and we were hearing about them from the branches and some of us were participating in them, so the people who are on our social media team at that time, which was the members of the virtual services unit at that time, Mary Ellen Icaza, now our Assistant Director for Programming and Outreach, Susan Moritz, who is now our head of Children Services at Kensington Park, Mark Santoro from our podcast producers team, and Adrienne Miles Holderbaum also from our podcast producing team, and myself and we got together and started t the challenge then coming up with the first one for 2016.

 

Julie Dina:  What a challenge that-

 

Lennea Bower:  Yeah.

 

Julie Dina:  And Candice, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the Reading Challenge as well?

 

Candice Hixon:  Well, I have worked for Montgomery County Public Libraries for about 10 years now.  I’ve enjoyed reading since I was very young, probably about kindergarten age.  And my mom would bring home books for me when I was five, six years old.  She also works for the library.  She’d bring me home like 50 or 100 picture books and I would just devour them.

 

So this is actually the first Reading Challenge I participated in, where I was able to choose a book from different specific categories.  I used to participate in the summer reading program when I was a kid though, and I just loved doing that.  So I decided I would give this challenge a shot.

 

Julie Dina:  And how has that been?

 

Candice Hixon:  It has been going really well.  I’m about half way through the challenge, and I’m hoping to finish it by November so I can read the bonus book as well.  And I plan on doing it next year as well, so I really enjoy it.

 

Julie Dina:  So for those of us who don’t know, can you tell us what exactly MCPL's Reading Challenges and what a reading challenge is in general.

 

Candice Hixon:  So a reading challenge is meant to have yourself read books from other genres, different authors, books that you normally wouldn’t read, and to get yourself to read a book every month.  I know sometimes we don’t have the time to do that with our busy lives, but this kind of gets you to go outside the box.

 

The goal is to read a book from each of 12 different categories throughout the year.  If you finish a book from each category, there is a bonus challenge at the end.  You can join the challenge for free online, through our website, or stop by, or call one of the braches for more information.  You can either print out a copy of the challenge or create an account through Beanstalk to keep track of your progress.

 

Lennea Bower:  So one of the things that I want to say about our challenge is that we decided to go with this format because we thought 12 books was going to be a challenge for a lot of people, but still very reasonable number.  And we put in the bonus challenge both for us can decide if you want to do an extra one.  But also if for some reason just one of the categories does not appeal to you or you don’t feel comfortable with it or, you know, this year most of them are kind of vague and you can go a lot of places with them, but sometimes you’ve had like doing audio book or do a graphic novel and there might be some people for whom that system of reading just doesn’t work, so we wanted to have the bonuses, the built-in option for them, so especially for those who are completing it online.

 

And we do have prizes every year and you do have to complete the online challenge to be eligible for the prizes.  For people who do want to complete it for their prizes, they can complete any 12.  You know, they could skip challenge one and complete, you know, two, three through 12 plus the bonus challenge and that would still count as completion for us when we’re looking at who has completed the challenge that are numbers for that.  So that is something that we have done.

 

I’ve also seen other formats for reading challenges or seen some that are like 24 categories so, you know, that is a lot of books for some people.

 

Julie Dina:  Yeah.

 

Candice Hixon:  That is a lot.  It is ambitious.

 

Julie Dina:  Right.

 

Lennea Bower:  I’ve also seen some that are like bingo card format or like different fun things, so it is like, you know, complete a row of books, complete a column of books you know.  So there are different formats to do it.  Ours is, as Candice said, you know, kind of 12 plus the bonus challenge are one of the things we’ve used to talk about as 12 months, 12 books.  Again, that idea that you’re reading at least one book every month, but I’ve seen the other formats as well that people I know do their own as well through – especially people who use like Goodreads and stuff like that.  A lot of them will set their own annual challenge goal, which might just be a number and not speak to the types of books.

 

So I think a Reading Challenge is set up by someone else, that's what Candice was saying and it really challenges you to maybe step outside your genre or author preferences, not just read, you know, 15 Robert’s Books although you could do that for several years in a row.  But, you know, it really kind of vary what you’re reading and gets some other things in there.  And that is what I like, and that's where I started with.

 

Julie Dina:  And she liked that, we expect you might be incorporating some of these other formats that you’ve noticed?

 

Lennea Bower:  You know, I don’t know if we will.  I think we’re still – so this is our third year, 2016, ‘17, ‘18, and I think the other formats are fun.  I mean, I do think a lot of those are incorporated in like our Summer Read and Learn, which this year is Libraries Rock.  And those kind of more creative formats is going to be incorporated in that because those are like do a certain number of activities or pick from different activities and win prizes at different levels, so we don’t have a version of that.

 

At this point, that is for adults.  That program is for kids and teens.  And the Reading Challenge is for all ages.  So I don’t really know if we’ll look at those other formats, but I do think they’re fun and I think they’re kind of creative and at some point we could look at that, but that is not something we have on the horizon right now or kind of we like this format and we feel like it is working for us and it is growing as a format.

 

Julie Dina:  And for those who are driven by rewards and prizes, can you give us a sneak peek as to some of the prizes that are out there.

 

Lennea Bower:  Well, we don’t have the list of what they’ll be for this year yet.  But a lot of times we do incorporate maybe some signed copies of authorized books from different programs, from different authors usually that have visited MCPL.  We might also incorporate other prizes that have been available, you know, water bottles and bags or things that we often have – that have often have been included in the prizes.  I don’t have any exact list of what it will be for 2018 yet, but those are some things that we’ve used in the past.

 

Julie Dina:  Designer bags?

 

Lennea Bower:  No.  Sorry Julie.

 

Julie Dina:  So Candice, can you tell us specifically about your own individual experience with MCPL's Reading Challenge?

 

Candice Hixon:  So far I’ve had a great experience.  I have found so many new authors and genres that I enjoy now that I’ve never even thought to read.  So I’ve really brought in my horizons.  I usually try to pick up crime or mystery novels, but now I’m kind of thinking I’m going to go outside the box even, you know, once this challenge is over, I’m still going to go forward with that and try other challenges.  I’m a competitive person, so I knew if I signed up for this, I would finish it and hopefully learn something new about people in the world in general from it.  And so far I’ve been doing that, so it has been a lot of fun.

 

Julie Dina:  That is great.  And Lennea?

 

Lennea Bower:  Well, I think Reading Challenges background 2015 or so, I set some goals for myself to step outside of some of the genres that I have been reading a lot.  I also like crime and mystery novels.

 

Candice Hixon:  Oh, yeah.

 

Lennea Bower:  I also – I read a lot of romance novels.  I read a lot of fantasy.  And I was really trying to kind of branch out a little bit and not just in other genres, but also maybe authors that I might not have been as familiar with, and reading more authors of color and different – think different other aspects of, you know, perspectives and cultures and stuff that I might not have been aware of.  And so I kind of first came across the idea of Reading Challenges through that concept.

 

And then around the same time, I sort of came across that Adrienne Miles Holderbaum who is at Gaithersburg at that time mentioned that she have been helping a mother and daughter with the Reading Challenge from another, you know, just from an online one that they had found and they had come in, they were reading it together.  I don’t know if the daughter was a teen or a tween.  I’m not really sure, but they were reading it together and they were looking for books that they could enjoy together kind of as a family activity, and we just thought that that was so cool.  So that was sort of where we came.  And I found that that experience sort of carries forward.

 

I think if you’re reading a lot of different things already, sometimes you feel like, “Oh, it is kind of easy to slot things into these categories.”  But even so there is always still some categories that are kind of a stretch.

 

Julie Dina:  Yeah.  So it sort of pushes you outside of your comfort zone.

 

Lennea Bower:  Yes, definitely has for me.

 

Julie Dina:  So Lennea, being that this is our third year, would you say that more people participate has each year progresses?  And also would you say that more people prefer each year than the other?

 

Lennea Bower:  I would definitely say more people have participated.  I actually just run a number this morning, kind of looking at it.  So the first year, we didn’t have the Beanstalk online component.  So what we did was around October we open up like an online form for people to submit.

 

And we’ve been talking about the challenge all year and so we know there are people who participated all year.  But we had a relatively low number that actually completed the form to say that they had completed it.  So we don’t really have anyway to track who kind of sign up and maybe started but didn’t go anywhere with it.

 

So in 2017, we started to move it to Beanstalk, which is where we do to our Summer Read and Learn program and also where we do our 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program.  I should say in 2016 we had a little piece of Beanstalk, but we only run it during the summer months, and so it was more limited and it was only adults.  It wasn’t really set up to be a family program.

 

So last year we had almost 150 people who completed the program.  And this year, I might sort of say that there were over 125 people who have already completed the program and we’re recording this in June.

 

Julie Dina:  Wow.

 

Lennea Bower:  Yeah.  So – and that is the online program.  And, of course, you know, some people aren’t doing it for the prize.  They don’t really care.  They’re just doing the printed version at home and that is perfectly fine too.  And we also find – we get some people, like engaging when we talk about it online and making suggestions for the different categories for other readers like on our social media and so on.

 

In terms of other people who like the categories more, since we do only do 12 categories plus the bonus, we try to vary them up.  And I would say the exception is I think we’ve done a book published this year – every year, because that is kind of different by default.

 

Julie Dina:  Right.

 

Lennea Bower:  But we try to vary the other categories.  And so some people love them, some people are like, you know, “Bring back my favorite category from two years ago.  You know, I want to do that again.”  And I’m like, “Well, the point is kind of stretch yourself.”  So, you know, I think we might at some point recycle some of the categories from the older ones, but we just don’t want it to be like every year you pick it up and it is the same because you could get into like a Reading Challenge reroute, which kind of depicts the purpose.

 

Candice Hixon:  Right.

 

Julie Dina:  Candice, could you tell us what resource within our library system would you say our customers use for book recommendations the most?

 

Candice Hixon:  First and foremost from a customer service standpoint, I know there is a lot of customers enjoyed going up to the desk to ask information staff member what books they recommend.  I also get a lot of positive feedback about the what do I check out next service.  Library staff can give author and title recommendations based off of other books that you have really enjoyed.  All you have to do is go on our website and fill out a simple form online and they get back to you with tons of great recommendations.  I use it myself.  I love it.

 

Julie Dina:  Who best to tell you then are user of the product.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah.

 

Julie Dina:  All right.  And Lennea, can you tell us what goes into creating the Reading Challenge and how do you decide what categories?

 

Lennea Bower:  So we’ve used a couple of different models.  I think the one we use this year for the 2018 was really successful.  And we try to incorporate a lot of staff feedback, so there is only a few of us that are on the social media team or in the digital strategies unit and we don’t always have, you know, all the best ideas.

 

So this year, we did a model where we asked our digital strategies team, our social media team, and/or what do I check out next team to suggest a reader’s advisers to suggest categories and then we open up.  I went through – I kind of eliminated some that were duplicates or were, you know, ones as I said that we try not to duplicate the past couple of years so they duplicated those or things that were really, really similar.

 

And then we open it up, actually, for all staff to vote on a category.  So it was sort of an all staff option for people to vote.  And then we went through that picked kind of the top vote getters from what all of our MCPL's staff who participated wanted the challenge topics to be.  So that is our model we use this year and I think it worked pretty well.

 

And then we also kind of kept – I tend to keep the ones that lost in the previous years.  It sort of like see topics for the next year so that I’m not offering people blanks, right?  I can say, “Well, we’ve these topics suggested, but what else do you think?”

 

Candice Hixon:  Right.

 

Lennea Bower:  And kind of use that to start the discussion for the future years.

 

Julie Dina:  Sounds wonderful.  Now, how far along have either of you reach in the Reading Challenge?  Have you just started?  Are you half way there or are you still thinking about it?

 

Candice Hixon:  I have read six books so far through the Reading Challenge.  I have not been reading the books in number order or category order.  I’m hoping to finish my list, again, by November so I can read the bonus challenge category and authors debut book.

 

I’ve heard a lot of positive reviews about Jane Harper’s “The Dry”.  It is the first of a mystery series about a federal agent, Aaron Falk, whose best friend Luke passed away due to uncertain circumstances.  The interesting part of this story is that Luke served as an alibi to agent Falk when he was accused of murder himself 20 years prior.  So from what I hear, there a lot of plot twists, so I’m really looking forward to getting through November so I can read this book.

 

Julie Dina:  I hope he has a good lawyer.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah, right.

 

Female Speaker 1:  And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.

 

Female Speaker 2:  Looking for a book to fit a tricky Reading Challenge category or just need something new to read?  Talk to one of our enthusiastic well read information professionals at the information desk of any MCPL branch.  They’re eager to help you find what you’re looking for.  Check this episode show notes for a list of MCPL branch locations and phone numbers.  Happy reading.

 

Female Speaker 1:  Now, back to our program.

 

Julie Dina:  Now, and just either of you can answer this.  What is the biggest stretch you’ve made to make a book fit into a particular category?

 

Lennea Bower:  I think the biggest stretch that I've made this year is probably for Not Your Princess, which is a collection of short stories and poetry and essays which is edited by Mary Beth Leatherdale and it is about Native American.  It is a collection of essays, all these arts and essays and stuff are by Native Americans or First Nations people from Canada, mostly women or people who identify as women writing about their experiences.

 

And I use that for question six, which is a book fiction or non-fiction about our country or culture you’re not very familiar with.  I wouldn’t say it's so much stretch in that – I mean I would love to know a lot more about native and First Nation culture than I do know, so it wasn’t stretch in that way.  But it was a little bit of a stretch in that because it was such a kind of short book and such short collection of essays.  I felt like, okay, I got like just a littlest window into what does culture are, but you know, it didn’t really open the door to kind of understand them more fully.

 

Candice Hixon:  For me, I haven’t had to stretch too far yet in any particular category, but I guess I would say reading a young adult novel as my book from a different age level would probably be the further stretch because I read young adult novels anyway.  So, I mean – but, you know, it still fit the category.

 

And I ended up reading “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green.  It is his latest novel about a teenage girl, Aza, who suffers from an anxiety disorder.  And so along with her best friend, she tries to become a detective and search for her like crush’s fugitive father who also happens to be a billionaire.

 

So if they’re able to locate him, they win like a hefty sum of money.  I found that it was really funny and intelligent, and it gives a really to good viewpoint on teens living with mental illnesses.  I have read all of John Green’s book so far and none of them disappoint me.  So if you haven’t read any of his books, please read them.  It doesn’t matter what age you are, they’re really good.

 

Lennea Bower:  I kind of cheated in the same way for the different age level category, actually about a middle grade books, and I don’t read a lot of middle grade, but I read “Tempests and Slaughter” by Tamora Pierce.  And I read her books when I was a middle grade reader and a young adult reader.  So then “Tempests and Slaughter” is her newest books and it is like a new series about Numair Salmalin who is a character from her “Immortals” series and its his life as a child.  So there is a little bit of stretch because I felt like as I was reading them I was like going back into like middle school stuff like I would have read this.

 

[CROSSTALK]

 

Lennea Bower:  If this book had been around, I would have read it when I was, you know 12 or whatever, but it wasn’t around.

 

Candice Hixon:  That is cool.

 

Julie Dina:  Well, while we’re talking about our favorite books, which book would you say has been the most recommended in any categories so far this year?

 

Candice Hixon:  From what I’ve read so far, I believe that “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly has been the most asked for and recommended book that I’ve read.  This was actually my pick for the Librarian’s Choice display at the Kensington Park Library.  I not only found this book on display, but it was recommended to me by several staff members and by customers.  It is a historical fiction book about the lives of three different women from different European countries during World War II.  They each play their own role during the war.  One young woman is a German doctor who takes on a medical position with the government of Nazi Germany.  Another is a young Polish woman who was a courier for the underground resistance movement.  Finally there is a single New York socialite who does volunteer work for the French consulate aiding orphans.  She ends up aiding women in the rehabilitation whose lives were impacted by Ravensbruck, which was a horrific concentration camp during the war.

 

Anyways, all of their very different lives end up intersecting and I learned a lot about human resilience during a very dark time in history.  I highly recommend it.  If you can’t find time to read it, the audio book version is also really, really good.  I listen to that because I drive a lot.  So I really recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

 

Julie Dina:  You heard that folks.

 

Lennea Bower:  I don’t know if I – well, I’m not in the branches as much so I don’t have the opportunity to have as much on a daily bases interactions with customers as Candice does about what books are recommended.

 

One of the books that I read, which was my non-fiction book about history or biography over historical figure was “Prairie Fires” by Caroline Fraser, which is a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  And it is actually kind of a biography of her and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a writer.  I would say journalist, but she definitely don’t have any kind of sense of journalistic ethics if we would think about them now.  She was kind of like in the yellow journalism era.

 

And it was about both of them and their relationship in sort of where is the – where is the line between reality and fiction and the Little House books that Laura Ingalls Wilder published.  And so that was really fascinating and it did win a Pulitzer Prize.  So I don’t know if it is the most recommended, you know, like day to day in the library sense, but it is highly recommended in a critical sense.

 

Candice Hixon:  I have to read that one.

 

Julie Dina:  Yeah.  That is good to know.

 

Candice Hixon:  Sounds good.

 

Julie Dina:  So what kinds of response are we receiving from – concerning the Reading Challenge, what kind of response are we getting from our customers, Candice?

 

Candice Hixon:  I find that a lot of costumers don’t know about the Reading Challenge yet.  I tell them about my experience with it and how I’ve found new authors and genres that I really enjoy from it.  I show them how to register and they say that they’ll give it a go, so I’m hoping it will become even more popular as we continue to have it.

 

As Lennea said, it is a growing challenge and I think as customers know that it is there, they’re going to continue to try to complete it and have fun doing it.

 

Lennea Bower:  We hope so.  Well, I mean, we – most of the customers I interact with about it are on social media or they’re customers that sign for it because it is in Beanstalk and some of our customers sign up for Beanstalk to participate one of other programs, like a 1000 Books, or Summer Read and Learn.  Some of them discover it that way.

 

I do find sometimes the customers aren’t even 100% aware of the differences between the different programs, although I guess they enjoy them, it doesn’t really matter whether or not they know which program is it.

 

But most of them, you know, the feedback that we get is really exciting and when we talk about it on our social media and stuff, I would say overwhelmingly we get a positive response from people and people are excited about it and they’re, you know offering suggestions for the different categories and they’re also, you know, telling other people about it.

 

So I think that overall we get a really positive response for it.  As Candice said, I mean, it is still relatively new program.  Well, it has been around for a few years.  It is not something that we put sort of the resources and effort behind or something like a Summer Read and Learn program, it doesn’t have as many components, it is not in your face in the branches and big signs and stuff all the time.

 

Candice Hixon:  Right, right.

 

Lennea Bower:  So it is more of like for people who are looking for that extra challenge and, you know, what do I check out next team knows about it so they might suggest it to someone if they know that that person really seems to be going through a lot of books and looking for things to stretch their comfort level, you know, they might make some suggestions about it.

 

So I think that is kind of how – at least to day it has been growing.  But now we’re talking about in the podcast, so I’m really looking forward seeing those members spike.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah.

 

Julie Dina:  Let’s spike it up.  Can you tell us, and both of you can answer this.  Can you tell us something that is really fun or any particular on use your Reading Challenge category either of you have encountered?

 

Candice Hixon:  The most fun reading challenge I’ve encountered will obviously be the laugh reader funny book category.  I am reading “Naked” by David Sedaris.  It is a memoir by him publisher [Phonetic] [0:25:14], hilarious and dysfunctional stories about his life, travels and family.  I have heard of some of his book before, so I decided to give this one a try.

 

I’m really enjoying it and I expect to be done with it soon.  I have been laughing hysterically through it.  I even look my husband up accidentally while reading it because I couldn’t stop laughing.  So, oh, I highly recommend it and now I’m going to read all of his other books too.  So that is another new author that I came across that I never read any of his work before.

 

Julie Dina: Thank God for Reading Challenge.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yes.

 

Lennea Bower:  Yes it is.  I think it is all fun.  I think it is fun to be creative and read different things that you haven’t read before and – I mean as Candice said earlier, I mean I am competitive and so sometimes having a little extra incentive to be competitive and kind of have something that you’re aiming for can help sort of – if you’re struggling a little bit about a certain book.

 

So – I mean, I think it is all fun and – I mean, I think the categories we do anything that makes this kind of creative is there is a lot that you can do to kind of fit things into this category.  You’re not going to be forced to read something you really have no interest in because the categories are so restrictive or something.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah.

 

Lennea Bower:  You should be able to find something that you’re interested in that fits the category.  So hopefully you’re reading will still be fine.  And if you want to use it to make yourself get through that, you know, 700 page biography that has been sitting on your shelf as, you know, challenge 11, you can do that, but we’re not saying you have to do that.

 

Candice Hixon:  I’m not doing that.

 

Julie Dina:  It is just a suggestion.

 

Lennea Bower:  It is an option for you if you want to make it and have fun, you know, or less fun or if you want to make it fun, you know, and pick a shorter book or as soon as there is little more fast-paced, read one of – read “Assassination Vacation” or some other book by Sarah Vowell, “Lafayette in the Almost United States” and she is a history writer, historical writer, who writes really, really funny books and she – she is in “The Incredibles,” that is one of the stretchy people, right?.

 

Anyways, she is the mom I think in that movie and she has been in some other things and she gets a few of her, you know, her friends who read with her, you know, people you might have heard of like Jon Stewart and a lot of other people.  So those are fun historical books.  If you want to go more on the fun side with that, that is definitely a route you can go.  You don’t have to work your way through “Grant” by Ron Chernow, although I read both of those books this year, but you know, you can pick your direction.

 

Julie Dina:  Now, have reading challenges changed your reading habits?

 

Lennea Bower:  I think a little bit.  I think my reading how it has kind of changed and I got involved in reading challenges sort of simultaneously, and I think those sort of things complemented each other.  Trying to read a little more widely, especially when it came to MCPL was in a public library environment was being asked a lot more to talk about a wider range of books.

 

So I think that sort of changed my reading habits and then I found reading challenges as a way to make sure that I didn’t just form new slightly wider habits but kept you know, redirecting and expanding them.

 

Candice Hixon:  I would say it has changed my reading habits.  I’ve read so many different books now that I’ve never would even picked up had enough been for the Reading Challenge like George Saunders book, again, David Sedaris.  I just find that if you don’t challenge yourself to try something new, you won’t do it, like you’ll just continue reading – I’ll continue reading my crime or mystery novels and, you know, James Patterson over and over again because he has a book every week that comes out, so with this challenge, I think I’m going to actually start participating in other reading challenges that aren’t part of Montgomery County Public Library's just to keep going with it, because some of the books that I've read during this challenge have become some of my favorite books that I’ve ever read, so there is that.  Yeah.

 

Julie Dina:  Now, I know Candice said she plans on getting into other Reading Challenges other than MCPL's, what about yourself, Lennea?

 

Lennea Bower:  So I do – I have participated in some other Reading Challenges or sometimes I kind of like printout other Reading Challenges and sort to see what I read that fits into the categories or look for categories even if I don’t want to complete that challenge, just kind of look for categories that I haven’t really read anything that fits and say, “Oh, well, maybe I really need to expand my reading in that direction.”  So I have the Book Riot’s 2018 challenge printed out to kind of look at.  That is a website about books and reading.

 

The Ripped Bodice which is a romance store – a romance bookstore in LA is doing a summer romance bingo card.  Actually I don’t think you have to read romances, but they are a romance bookstore primarily.  And so I have that that I was going to printout and see.  And that one is kind of fine because it is romance novel readers like to talk about the different tropes, and people who don’t read romance novels talk about them disparagingly.  But people who like to read romance novels talk about Romance Novel Tropes, kind of like what their favorite ones are and what they like, and that is a lot of what the bingo cards are.

 

Candice Hixon:  Oh, okay.

 

Lennea Bower:  It is like, you know, fake relationship, secret baby, you know, stuff like that.  So, you know, billionaire, you know.

 

Candice Hixon:  Right.

 

Lennea Bower:  It is just sort of like some fun things.

 

Candice Hixon:  Some fun.

 

Lennea Bower:  So that John Green could fit in there –.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah.

 

Lennea Bower:  – even though it is a romance novel but –.

 

[CROSSTALK]

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah, yeah.  There is a little bit, you know, not a little bit of romance, but we’ll get too far into that.

 

Julie Dina:  Ooh la la.

 

Lennea Bower:  So those are some difference once that I look at.  I don’t know if I actually complete them but just to, again, kind of like take a look out.  And a lot of times what they – will come along with these recommendations of, you know, “If you’re looking to fill this category, what about these books?”  And then I’ll prove those books and see if there is anything that hasn’t come to my awareness.  I might not start to read it, but just kind of keep expanding.

 

Julie Dina:  Thank you so much.  Now, for our customers who would like to participate in the 2018 Reading Challenge, could you tell them exactly where they would find this on our website?

 

Lennea Bower:  Yeah.  So it is part of our Readers Cafe.  And the fastest easiest way to get to our Readers Cafe is to go to the books, movies and music.  Drop down on our menu and then look for suggested reading and then you’ll see Readers Cafe, and Reading Challenge is one of the options there.  So that – because they’re also – they have children in their life that are participating in either 1000 Books or Summer Read and Learn.  When they go to sign them up, they can sign themselves and their kids if they want up for the Reading Challenge at the same time because it is in the same Beanstalk program.

 

Julie Dina:  Thank you so much, Lennea.  And also before the show comes to an end, it is a tradition on Library Matters for us to find out what our guests are reading.  Candice, can you tell us what is you’re reading right now?

 

Candice Hixon:  I’m currently reading “Go Ask Alice” written by anonymous.  I think I read this book when I was like 12 or something or at least I started it and I don’t think I finished it, so I decide to pick it up again.  I don’t remember much of it.  Anyhow, I know that this book was banned for a while for many libraries.  It is very dark book about the nightmares of drug addiction from a teenager’s diary.

 

Some claim it is a real diary and others claim that it is a work of fiction written in the ‘70s as propaganda to scare kids into not using drugs.  Either way, it is very interesting and gives a perspective from someone suffering from drugs addiction.  I believe it was banned due to its language and content and not because it was about drug abuse.  But it is a short book.  It is a classic.  I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t read it as a young adult.

 

Lennea Bower:  So the books that I’m reading right now – right now I’m reading “The Obelisk Gate” by N. K. Jemisin, which is a second book in her Broken Earth trilogy which one – I think all three of the books won a Hugo Award or definitely the first couple.  And she was the first African-American woman to win that award or – I can’t remember.  I think Octavia Butler won some kind of award but it was not that one.

 

And I’m also just finished “Not That Bad,” which is edited by Roxane Gay.  And it is a collection of essays about sexual assaults and some various survivor stories.  So it is very, very dark and hard to read.  It is like one of those books – I did the audio book and all the essays are read by their authors, so they’re extra emotional.  They’re not a great readers, but I mean, it is just this very emotional because they're all very personal essays.  It is the kind of book that you want to keep reading, but then you’re like, “No, I have to stop,” right, and like I can only read one or two.

 

Julie Dina:  You got to take a break.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah.

 

Lennea Bower:  Yeah, yeah.  It is a kind of book that will sort of suck you in to read it but you don’t do that.  I don’t think that is probably very good for your state of mental health.  Some of the stories are very, you know, just traumatic, the things that people went through.  But also, you know, I thought it was really informative.  And I read Gay’s other memoirs as well.

 

And then I also just finished “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” by Gilbert King, which is his follow up to “Devil in the Grove.”  And so that is about – both of those books are about racism and other types of prejudice in Florida in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  So “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” is his new book that just came out a few months ago.

 

And I’m really excited which isn’t out yet, but will be when this podcast comes out, “A Reaper at the Gates” by Sabaa Tahir and then “Smoke in the Sun” by Renee Ahdieh, just came out but I haven’t got my hands on yet because – but hopefully by the time this podcast comes out, that would be what I’m reading.

 

Julie Dina:  There is a lot coming out.

 

Candice Hixon:  Yeah.

 

Lennea Bower:  Yeah.

 

Candice Hixon:  Oh, yeah.

 

Julie Dina:  Well, I’ve got to say you guys were very informative and this was very fun, no challenge at all.  Thank you so much Lennea and thank you Candice for joining us on this episode.

 

Let’s 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 podcast.  Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast.  We would love to know what you think.  Thank you again for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

 

[Audio Ends] [0:35:43]

Jun 20, 2018

Listen to the audio.

Lauren Martino:  Welcome to Library Matters, I am Lauren Martino and I am here with my co-host David Payne.

David Payne:  Hello.

Lauren Martino:  And today we have a special episode on travel.  I am here today with Assistant Director for Facilities and ADA Rita Gale.

Rita Gale:  Hello.

Lauren Martino:  And director of marketing for Visit Montgomery Cory Van Horn.

Cory Van Horn:  Hi there, thank you for having me.

Lauren:  So Rita is an avid traveler and has been to many places particularly national parks and soon she will be retiring and have lots and lots of time for new adventures.  And Cory Van Horn is an authority on travel and particularly in our area and knows a lot about the tourism spots in Montgomery County that you really should know about, is that about accurate?

Cory:  That’s pretty accurate, it is a choose your own adventure experience here at Montgomery County.

Lauren:  Alright.  So Rita, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and some of your traveling adventures?

Rita:  Sure, I am a resident obviously of Maryland, Montgomery County, I live in Rockville.  And I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.  I got interested in actually traveling specifically to the national parks because I went to on a cruise to Alaska and visited Denali National Park which is one of the largest national parks in the country and that got me hooked on traveling in national parks.  So I have visited many of the national parks.  I will be taking a trip in September to the Utah parks which means that I will be visiting Bryce which is my favorite park in all the world.  The Zion which I have only spent a day in and then Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef and will end in Monument Valley where we will see the Mittens and if we are there at the right time, we might see one reflected on the other.

David:  Is that an organized tour or do you go individually and roam around?

Rita:  No I go with my sister, she and I travel together and usually I plan the trips and we drive.  So we don’t generally take tours.

Lauren:  Is planning trips generally easier or harder than what you do from day to day, it sounds like you probably have a lot of skills that would transfer?

Rita:  Well I would say that that is very true.  Yes, actually planning is for me when I was working and am working, it is actually the hardest part is finding the time to do it, but I really enjoy planning and we obviously have great resources which we will be talking about shortly.  And obviously the website, the national parks, service, etc., they are just great tools to use to actually plan trips to particularly national parks.

Lauren:  What is it about National Parks that attracts you?

Rita:  Well for me because I work long hours; going to a national park is partly just the serenity of being out in nature.  And one of the great things for me for a national park, I don’t know that this is true for everybody is that once you go into a national park your cell phone doesn’t work, so literally you are sort of out there by yourself, you don’t hear what’s happening in the news, so literally you are disconnected and it is just great because nobody is walking around with their cell phones looking at things they are actually looking at nature, so.

Lauren:  That’s amazing I didn’t know.

Rita:  I find that very relaxing and I love seeing the variety of scenery that this country has in terms of the different kinds of national parks as well.  So it’s a great experience to have with somebody else.  I think it is great to travel with somebody when you are traveling to the national parks as well.

David:  So it’s almost like a natural digital detox.

Rita:  Yes, you are correct yes.

Lauren:  Have you been to them all yet or are you trying to see them all?

Rita:  No and there are more than gosh a 100 national parks.  And I know that there are many people who actually make that their lives work to actually visit them all, I am just trying to get around to enough of them while I am still able to be mobile and everything to enjoy them.  So I have visited mostly national parks on the west coast.

David:  Well Cory from national parks to Visit Montgomery, you are making history today as our very first non-MCPL guest.

Cory:  Wow, I feel so honored.

David:  Representing Visit Montgomery, so tell us a bit about Visit Montgomery certainly the website is very well designed and informative.  Do you have a tourism office, how are you set up, how do you work and basically what is --?

Cory:  What is Visit Montgomery?  Visit Montgomery is the official tourism office, tourism, it’ in the industry it’s known as a Destination Marketing Organization.  So we are a non profit organization that our primary goal and mission is to bring visitors to Montgomery County and to celebrate all the amazing attractions and happenings that are going on around Montgomery County.  We do have a tourism office we are actually co-sharing office suite with Economic Development and also Worksource Montgomery.  So it is a lot of fun to have three different organizations, we all have some missions and our passion for Montgomery County, but have different you know audience per se.  And it is just a lot of fun you know to kind of be creative with all them.

Lauren:  So Cory there is a lot of small business owners in this area who kind of thrive off of individual restaurants and things, what would you be able to say to anybody with a business that would be of interest to tourists, some resources you have to promote what they do?

Cory:  So small businesses have various opportunities, they can buy into a partnership program with us.  And essentially what it does is it provides them with marketing expertise and promotional opportunities, networking events throughout the year.  Hotels buy into the program as well because they want to connect with various groups and marketing efforts and it is a way to get listed in our website, be promoted through our social media channels and things like that.  We find that particularly with small businesses, smaller attractions, restaurants of those types, they really find value in what we offer because not only are we providing support and services to a unique set of audience members, visitors, people who are not residents per se, but also because they have small to no marketing teams themselves and so they kind of view us as an extension of their marketing efforts.

David:  So Rita as you head west to celebrate your retirement are there any particular resources that you are using to plan to journey and in addition to print travel guides are there any library resources that you might recommend for travel planning?

Rita:  Well one of the things that I do for the national parks is I always visit the national park site.  We also have travel guides in our collection and I usually check to see if the national park that I am interested has Informers guide, a Fodor’s guide, we also have Moon Handbooks as one of our guides or Lonely Planet.  And there are standards for all of the national parks that I will look at for example Fodor’s is the complete guide to the national park of the west and there is also the geographic guide to national parks which has information about all of the parks in it.

In terms of electronics in addition to the website we have obviously electronic sources available through the Gale Virtual Reference Library.  I found one this weekend when I was looking, when I was preparing for this that’s called DK Eyewitness Guides and Rough Guides which actually has information about various places to travel.  And there are also e-Magazine is available on travel through RBdigital including Conde Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet Travel, and National Geographic Traveler; so we have tons of resources on travel.

David:  There you have it, so lots of good resources on travel with MCPL.

Lauren:  Do you have a favorite go to, for planning?

Rita:  Well because we have a variety of different kinds of travel guides, I would probably mostly use the website, the national park website, but I do try to find at least one travel guide that focuses on a specific national park and Fodors, Informers, and Moon tend to do that more than the others.  So I wouldn’t say I have one specific one because not all of those resources do all of the national parks.

Lauren:  Okay.

David:  And a sort of follow-up question for actually, possibly for you both, there are so many different publishers of travel guides and they all have their own style, what are the elements that would make up a perfect travel guide for you both?

Rita:  Well for me usually I am going to a location that I haven’t been to before, so for me a travel guide that is all inclusive, that talks about okay what is the nearest airport that I fly into to get there, you know how do you get to the park, so is there rail travel or is it car travel.  And then in national park what are the things to be seen there, is there lodging, some of the national parks have lodging within the park, some of them don’t.  And quite a few the Frommers, Fodors do that do, but some of the guides that are out there are more about the experience of being in the park that they are about individuals who have been to a park and who talk about their experience.  And I like to do that myself to actually have the experience so I am more about literally okay give me the facts so that I can plan the trip.

Lauren:  You don’t want Bill Bryson’s take on it, before you go.

Cory:  Which is interesting because I actually take an opposite stance on that where I look towards for planning and logistics more of the digital resources, because things change so quickly you know by the time a book gets printed, a restaurant could close or an attraction could be opened and things like that.  I really look towards memoir as a way of being inspired by a location and it helps in terms of kind of seeing through their eyes and then being inspired to have similar, if not new experiences myself.

David:  Great, thank you.

Lauren:  So Cory I don’t know if there are a lot of memoirs about places in Montgomery County, but what are some of the most popular destinations right here that you would like to highlight?

Cory:  In terms of attractions here at Montgomery County there are so many, I have mentioned this earlier in chatting that we really are a truly a choose your own adventure experience where you can have an downtown urban experience and then have a completely different up county, very country experience within 10 minutes, it’s really amazing.  Our biggest attraction that locals don’t fully you know, know I think, but then also they know about it, but they don’t know is we have 93,000 acre Ag reserve.  And not many people in the country can say that that we have that kind of resource and reserve.  So people can go and go to Butler’s Orchard and pick your own fruits and they have various festivals throughout the year or go to Rocklands Farm and enjoy a wonderful glass of wine in the country or Waredaca and have a beautiful experience on a horse farm and drink some beer you know freshly brewed beer which is awesome, but then go down to Bethesda or the new Pike & Rose and have a very downtown urban experience all within the same day, so it’s amazing.

And then also it’s a very historic area our proximity to DC there is a lot of history involved with that.  The C&O Canal, the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center which is currently under renovation right now, the center itself isn’t, but the canal is.  And so I actually visited recently and it was all tore up, so we will have to revisit that one when it is finished, but I am sure it is going to be amazing.  And then interesting enough in terms of the canal, you can actually stay, I don’t know if you know this you can actually stay in a lockhouse which is really cool.  So there are several lockhouses I believe, there is eight or nine along the canal that are renovated within the period when the lockhouse was built, so to speak.  So some of them are fairly primitive where there isn’t running water so some of them there are running water in facilities.  And so it’s just a great way to experience history in a different way.

Lauren:  Do they still have those boats that are like drawn by the donkeys?

Cory:  They do actually and the main one here in the county is actually at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, they are not running it this year because of the refurbishment of the canal, but it is a very popular experience.  I spoke with a park ranger and they said that last year we had more visitors for the canal than the Grand Canyon, so it’s super popular.

David:  So Cory, this is a two part question from your marketing work, what are the trends that you are seeing in terms of travel, holidaying, leisure time and so on that help direct your marketing efforts.  And secondly, can you give us a brief snap shot of the visitors that come to Montgomery County whether they come from what sort of profile would you give to them?

Cory:  Absolutely, I have worked in travel marketing my whole career and the first thing that you do is you want to look at what the destination offers.  And in this particular case again our proximity to DC and the fact that we have a Metro system that runs right through the county and connects you right into DC that’s a big factor and people are choosing Montgomery County to come visit, but what we are finding is that people tend to plan a trip to Washington DC, look around, they are a little nervous about the high energy that DC has, the big city experience so to speak.

Lauren:  That’s one way of putting it.

David:  Absolutely.

Cory:  And they are looking for a place that’s comfortable.  And all the research that we do in terms of understanding our visitors that’s what they look for is, they look for a comfortable experience.  So we find that visitors come here, they feel comfortable, you know they see the value and what Montgomery County offers and then they do the day trips into DC, they do all the fun stuffs and then once the Smithsonian close at 5 or 5:30, they come back here and have a good time, so it’s great.

In terms of trends, it’s culinary experiences anything where an experience relates to the localness of the community, food is the ultimate local experience, because it ties to memory you know it’s very relatable, it’s almost the universal language if you will.  And that’s the beauty of Montgomery County is we are so diverse, we have over 1000 different restaurants and it is a great way to get that experience along the way.  Weekend getaways is very popular, particularly people who are located within a three to four hour driving radius of Montgomery County so that takes you as far out as Pittsburgh up to New York City down to Richmond and then there is the direct flights from the three major airports we are perfectly positioned between PWI, Dallas and Reagan and those direct flights are coming out from Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, so it is a great easy weekend getaway experience.

David:  Great, thank you.

Lauren:  Rita do you look for these foods, for these memory when you are out, choosing your destination or is there something else that allows you to choose one national park over another, one destination over another?

Rita:  Well I will say that in terms of food in the national parks, it is a little limited, because usually the national parks have a lodge and it has a restaurant in it.  So I will say that Bryce which we are going to visit in September is one of the lodge there and the restaurant that they have there had some of the best food that I ever ate in a national park.

Lauren:  Where is Bryce?

Rita:  So Bryce is probably about 3 hours from Las Vegas in Utah.  And it’s a park that you go down into that has what they call hoodoos which are spires made out of red sandstones so they are spectacular in the sunlight.  And obviously it is a walking park or hiking park, but some of the parks are more either looking up in the case of Bryce you are looking down.  But in terms of other food experiences because I do the national parks mostly, I have to say I don’t remember too much about other food experiences with them so.

David:  That might say a lot.

Lauren:  But is there is a reason you would choose one park over another or what do you look for when you are choosing a destination?

Rita:  Well because I am primarily, I have to say that most of my vacations have been to the national parks, because I really love the concept of the national parks and I have already talked about you know the solitude, the fact that you can enjoy nature that you can actually have an experience, you can enjoy with somebody else.  In terms of the national parks, we have gone mostly to the ones on the West Coast because of the scenery, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore we have been to.  And so I don’t necessarily have a specific criteria for the national parks other than I am usually looking for, I happen to like mountain, valleys, wild flowers, that sort of thing, so nothing against the everglades, but that is not a park that I actually decided to go to, but I have been to certainly to Charleston and Fort Sumter, so for me it’s just the variation also that the national parks bring.  So I will probably see many of them, but not necessarily all of them.

Lauren:  Cory you also specialize in culinary tourism, is that correct?

Cory:  It’s true, believe it or not I actually have a master’s degree in that yeah, so for me eating is a research.

Lauren:  Is that really a fun degree to get?

Cory:  It was absolutely, most of my friends are in software or in accounting and we are all getting our graduate degrees kind of around the same time and you know I just remember having conversations with them about, “Oh I have to do all these projects and you know what project are you doing?” I am like, “Well I have to eat at four different barbeque restaurants and write a paper on it,” it was a lot of fun so.  My master’s degree is from Chatham University based in Pittsburgh and its part of their Falk School of Sustainability.  And so it is a Masters in Food Studies and my research focus was culinary Tourism and Sustainable Community Development is what I focused on.  So I actually have the credentials to eat.  A big part of that was tourism development really looking and understanding what a community has to offer and developed either tours around it or various tourist attractions, so it was a lot of fun along the way.

Lauren:  And what, do you have any special culinary experiences in Montgomery County you would like to share or think our audience should know about?

Cory:  Well I think the brewery and winery scene here is really starting to flourish and it’s a very unique way to experience, it’s more than just you know drinking a beer, it’s the whole experience like Waredaca Brewing Company being on a horse farm and gathering together.  And what is really interesting to me is, it is not just for adults like these are family type areas where you can bring your kids and you can have a picnic and just have a good time and just hang out.  Those are very memorable, my favorite restaurant so far is I am fan of you know after work having a beverage and having appetizers, so I tend to go like Clyde’s at Tower Oaks Lodge.

Lauren:  I love Clyde’s.

Cory:  Yeah it’s a lot of fun.  I have a regular go to server that I always happen to sit in their section, I don’t know if his real name is Phil, but I call him Phil, so it’s a lot of fun.

Lauren:  Shout out to Phil.

Cory:  Philip you are going to make my martinis, oh it’s a lot of fun.  And all the various festivals that happen in downtown Silver Spring, the various food festivals, the Taste of Wheaton is a great memorable experience, so it is a lot of fun.

Lauren:  And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.

Lisa Navidi:  Looking for a way to use that new Kindle or to check out a book without having to leave the house, look no further than MCPL’s e-books.  All you need is a library card and you can read on your e-Reader, tablet, smart phone or a computer; the latest bestsellers, old classics, kids books, how-to manuals, travel guides and much more are available at the touch of your finger tips.  And after three weeks they return themselves without you having to lift a finger.  If you need help getting started ask one of our helpful librarians.  We guarantee you will be enormously elated, you can find a link to MCPL’s e-book collections in this episode’s show notes.

Lauren:  And now back to our program.

David:  So Rita back to MCPL, can you tell us about some of the resources MCPL has for the traveler who might want to learn a language?

Rita:  Certainly, so I am going to tell you what I know from our website and what I have learned having worked here.  So we have books in nine world languages that include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, Amharic, Russian, French and Bengali.  We have three online resources Mango Languages, Muzzy Online and Rosetta Stone.  And we have Conversation Clubs that we offer in a variety of different libraries in English, French, and Spanish and we have language learning videos from annenbergfoundationlearner.org.  So those are our resources that the library system offers.

Lauren:  So you mentioned some of the food festivals around in the area, do you have any other events that take place in Montgomery County that you really feel everyone should know about?

Cory:  So in terms of events, both residents and visitors actually end going to our website, visitmontgomery.com, it’s the events pages are by far our most popular pages on our website.  So it has really become one of our top resources for those types of events.  Some of the popular events that are going one throughout the county, throughout the summer, there is a farm tour and harvest sale that happens throughout the county.

Lauren:  Farm tour; what does that entail? What do you get on a farm tour?

Cory:  So it is a self-guided tour where there are various farms that participate throughout the Ag reserve and you can actually go to our website and check it out.  We have a blog post about it where you can visit various farms and you know learn about the tour, you know learn about the farm itself and purchase our products and all that fun stuff, but really the ultimate goal is to learn a little bit more about the Ag reserve and what the offerings are there.  As I mentioned, the Taste of Wheaton is another event that is happening in July and also in June the Tiger Woods Foundation is having the Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament here at the end of June.  So that is actually a very popular event that is happening here in the county, it is a great opportunity for people that like golf.  I am not a golfer myself, but I would certainly have a blast, just hanging out and watching other people golf.

Lauren:  Can you explain to us a little bit, you have mentioned this Ag reserve a few times, I am not quite sure what an Ag reserve is, can you tell us a little more about that?

Cory:  Absolutely, people, you can actually visit the Office of Agriculture their website, they do a great description and explanation of what the Ag reserve is.  Essentially what it’s, is 93,000 acres that’s reserved solely for agricultural use.  So there are parameters around the reserve that limit the amount of development that occurs, one parameter is that you can only have one house or structure per 25 acres.  And so the whole goal of it was that back in the day development was happening so quickly that we were very concerned about having all of our land used up for development.  And so the county decided to reserve pretty much most of up county for agricultural use, so that way we still have that open space.

Lauren:  So that’s why we still have all that farm land there, that makes a lot of sense.  So this is a question for both of you, do you have any more favorite vacation destinations, you haven’t already planned Rita, because I know you have got a lot planned, that are still on your Bucket List that you are dying to experience?

Cory:  I am actually, I am an avid traveler, I mean I feel that I am the type of person that basically turns my passion for food and travel into a job and so that’s actually been a lot of fun.  So I spent a lot of time in the country exploring, I haven’t been to as many national parks as I want to so I am actually going to visit those resources that you just recommended.  So I actually am kind of putting my focus more towards the international ground in terms of visiting.  So I have been to Africa and explored Africa, but I want to check out South America, Brazil, I want to go to Iceland, Ireland, those are the places that I want to visit, right now they are top of my list.  And at some point I will probably end up visiting Australia, but that is a long haul, that’s quite the commitment.

Lauren:  Yes.

Cory:  But on a local level I recently moved to Montgomery County, so I moved from Pittsburgh to Montgomery County back in September.  And so it’s actually been fun to visit the county as a tourist, even though I market it, it has been fun.

Lauren:  Do you have any staycation ideas besides the ones you have mentioned for those of us who aren’t going anywhere?

Cory:  So if you consider yourself a shopaholic you can spend the day up in Clarksburg Premium Outlets.

Lauren:  Rita is not in.

Cory:  Oh Clarksburg Premium Outlets.

David:  Yes yes.

Lauren:  I am thinking, I keep driving past it, but I never actually stopped, it’s always where we go like on the way to Sugarloaf or whatever it is out there.

David:  You can’t miss it.

Cory:  Yeah you can’t miss it.  I am a fan of bike riding so riding along the Capital Crescent Trail is actually a lot of fun and it’s just believe it or not I know this is probably going to surprise you, but I actually enjoy riding the Metro.

Lauren:  I do too.

Cory:  And you can actually do a pretty cool staycation just by riding the Metro and that’s what is so interesting and even here where we are located, you know where we recording this in Rockville, there is a Metro station just a 10 minute walk away, you can hop down and just randomly get off at a stop and --.

David:  And it is a great way of seeing the very diverse parts of the area I am thinking.

Cory:  Absolutely it really is.  And then I also love hoping on the Metro and going in to DC for the day it’s a lot of fun and then I come back out here.

Lauren:  We visited when I was five and the Metro was like the standout part of the trip besides the heat and the fact that we didn’t get to see the White House, the train was definitely what sticks with me from when I was five.

Cory:  Yeah.

Lauren:  How about you Rita is there any place that’s not a national park that you were dying to go to?

Rita:  Well I have had the good fortune to go to Hawaii and I would like to go back again.  We went to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park at that point and of course that is currently closed and Kīlauea is erupting, so we will have to wait to go back for that to settle.  I have never done a Fall Color Tour and I have always wanted to do that, I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to time it so that you are actually seeing the colors.  And years and years ago I went to Disney World and I would like to go back I mean --.

Lauren:  Disney World.

Rita:  I am just, I guess a kid at heart so, but Epcot Center that kind of peace of Disney World.  One thing that I do want to mention in terms of travel when you mentioned the Metro, I think that one of the things that people here forget in terms of staycations is that the museums down in Washington DC are all free and when you go anyplace else in the country, usually if you go to a museum you have to pay to go to it.  And I think that is one of the important things to remember about this area that you actually can stay in this area and you can do it fairly inexpensively because most of the museums around here don’t charge large amounts of money to get into them.

Lauren:  Not even the zoo charges, that just -- my mind.

Rita:  Yes, yes.

David:  And even actually a lot of the museum in Montgomery County they are either free or very, very low cost.  You know the only one that I am really familiar with the charges is the National Capital Trolley Museum and it’s what like $4 or something --, and it’s a cute museum.

Lauren:  Well worth your $4.

David:  It’s well worth your time.

Cory:  It has some great value there.

Lauren:  Okay so Rita as you head off into the sunset into the great west and national parks, what are you going to miss most about working at MCPL?

Rita:  Well I would say there are several things that I have loved working with a variety of people that I have had a chance to work with in terms of our staff and the branches, our managers.  I have had the good fortune to have done many different things in my life here in Montgomery County to have a wide variety of experiences.  I would say that the last 10 years working facilities has been my greatest joy, I have really loved doing the work for on our full scale renovations which were Gaithersburg and Olney, on the new construction that we did was Silver Spring and now with Wheaton.  And you know my personal passion it is the Refresh Projects that we have introduced where we have actually been able to refurbish, refresh branches much faster than had we put them into the normal renovation cycles.  So that has given me an opportunity to not only learn about design and construction, but you know to do the fun things like picking out carpet colors and paint colors.  And you know the satisfaction of also delivering buildings to the community where the community really appreciates our facilities.  Montgomery County has got individuals of our communities really loves libraries and our refresh projects were meant to be six month closers and even for six months our customers are really, from the day we close to the day we open, they are wanting to know when are we going to open again.  And I think that is terrific and we certainly appreciate it a lot and it has been a great joy to work with the community that loves libraries that much.

Lauren:  So Rita you have been involved in a lot of refreshes, a lot of new libraries, is there something you want to tell Cory about something you have done that makes Montgomery Library a destination that he should be telling his customers about?

Rita:  Well I would say that our libraries are destinations simply because each one of them is very individualistic and very different.  Probably one of my favorite renovation facilities is the Olney Library which really calls to people from the road.  When we built that facility the community said that nobody could find that library because it was set back from the road.  And so when we did that renovation the architect actually pulled that building to the road.  And so it has a glass front.  So the question was okay what is going to activate that, what’s going to make people see that building and I said, “Put the children’s room there because there is always something happening in the children’s room” and I can say that about most of our libraries, you know I have often thought that we should have a standard design for our facilities just like grocery stores do, but that has never happened with any of our buildings each of them are individualistic and in that respect they are unique experiences.  And you have a variety of resources that you can see and we have branches that have painting displays, you know other kinds of displays.  So there is a great variety of things that you can see in any of our facilities.

Cory:  Well it is actually true, I couldn’t agree more in terms of libraries.  I mean when I travel 9 times out of 10 I end up going to even just a bookstore, right, just to check it out.  And I feel libraries are so much more than just the book right, it’s a community space, it’s a third place, if you will where you have a chance.  Especially people travelers who are looking for a local experience or they want to meet with the locals, the place to be is in the library you really get to experience what a local life is like.

David:  So we usually close each episode by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are currently reading, perhaps something other than the travel guide, so I will start with you Rita.

Rita:  Well as I have said I am retiring so I can’t read because literally I don’t have the time, but what I will tell you is I have a couple of books that I am anxious to read, one is Madeleine L'Engle' Wrinkle in Time because of the movie that just has come out which is a fabulous movie and as a result of that I want to go back to actually re-read that book, which I read when I was in high school.  So I want to see whether or not it is still resonates with me.  I just saw Camelot at the Shakespeare Theatre over the weekend and so T.H. White’s Once and Future King is a huge book, but I thought and I think I would like to go back and read that as well.  And then years ago I saw Wicked at the National Theatre and Gregory Maguire has a series of books on that theme and so that’s one of the other ones that I want to read.

Lauren:  Happy reading Rita, you have earned it.

David:  How about you Cory?

Cory:  For me my go to a book as I said before I tend to lean on the memoir particular food memoir is Blood Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, it is by far my favorite go to book, she is such a beautiful writer based in New York.  And so that right now actually what I am reading is David Sedaris’s new book Calypso, it is really good, a little different than what he has written in the past, but that’s the top of my list.  And believe it or not you will actually probably see me more in the periodical section than you would in the book section actually.  I read a lot of magazines, Afar Magazine is high on my list, I read Bethesda Magazine actually quite a bit, because it’s a great way to just know what is happening in the area.  You know the Condé Nast Traveller all those type, you know Saveur, got to get my recipes.  So that’s probably where you will see me the most.

David:  Well Rita and Cory thank you very much for sharing your travel interest with us, it has been great having you.  And we have certainly learnt a lot today and wish you happy travels.

Rita:  Thank you very much.

Cory:  Thank you so much.

David:  Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast.  Also please review and rate us on our Apple podcast, we love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today.  See you next time.

Jun 6, 2018

Listen to the audio

Lauren Martino:  Hello.  Welcome to Library Matters.  My name is Lauren Martino and I’m here with a wonderful group of library staff who are crazy about audiobooks.  With me today is Vincent Mui – hi, Vincent.

Vincent Mui:  Hello.

Lauren Martino:  And Barbara Shansby.  Welcome to the show, Barbara.

Barbara Shansby:  Thank you 

Lauren Martino:  And Maranda Schoppert.

Maranda Schoppert:  Hi, guys.

Lauren Martino:  Thank you so much for coming.  So I’m going to start with Barbara.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.  When did you start listening to audiobooks and like how frequent an audiobook listener are you.

Barbara Shansby:  Well, I figured I’ve probably been listening to audiobooks for close to 30 years.  I started when they were books on tape, literal cassette tapes that you put in the machine and push the play button, and rewind, and the whole thing.  I got kind of hooked because a friend had suggested to me when I needed dental work to listen to music and I thought, “Well, I’m not so much a music person, but I love reading, so maybe if I listen to a book on tape that would distract me enough from the dental torture that I would be okay, and it was great.  And I was completely hooked.  And now, I always have a book in my car to listen to.  I probably listen to about four or five, six a year or something like that.  It takes me a long time because I don’t drive that much, and that’s the primary time I listened to but –

Lauren Martino:  Or go to the dentist that much.

Barbara Shansby:  Right.  I’m thinking this.  I’m finished with that for now.  But I really do enjoy them.  I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to read more and to do it in a kind of a different way.

Lauren Martino:  Thanks, Barbara.  How about you, Vincent, what gets you into audiobooks?

Vincent Mui:  So, at one of my previous jobs, I had a long commute, it was maybe an hour and a half in the afternoons, 45 minutes in the morning, and I was going a bit crazy listening to the radio because you can only handle so much of the same personality day in and day out.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Vincent Mui:  So, I started listening and then I go through phases between podcast, audiobooks, music, but more recently when I started at the library in June this year, I admittedly did not have a library card until I started because I didn’t see a reason to at the time, but now I see all the resources available to me.  And my wife being a librarian gave me a really hard time about not having a library card to the –

[Crosstalk]

Lauren Martino:  As she should, yes.

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah.

Vincent Mui:  So I regret my decision, but I’ve been listening to many, many books over the past year and I’ve – it’s been incorporated into my routine actually.  Besides my driving, I listen to it while I’m cooking or doing yard work or at the gym as well.

Lauren Martino:  Just to clarify a little bit, Vincent’s a graphic designer so that’s why he can be excused for not having a library card; although, being married to a librarian, Vincent, really?

Vincent Mui:  I found it very ironic.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah, yeah, but we’re glad you have one now.

Vincent Mui:  Yes.

Lauren Martino:  You’ve discovered the lovely audiobooks available to you now.  How about you, Maranda?

Maranda Schoppert:  Well, I’m a little bit like Barbara.  I don’t listen to music.  I only listen to my audiobooks in the car, like you said, cooking, Vincent.  I probably go for go through about 1 a week, depending on how long they are.  I’m in the middle of a 32-hour one right now and that’s not going to be done in a week.

Vincent Mui:  Goodness.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.

Maranda Schoppert:  But just like you guys, I sort of started with listening to audiobooks when I started commuting and that was it, I’m involved.  Audiobooks and me, we’re involved now.

Lauren Martino:  Where you’re a thing.

Maranda Schoppert:  Yup.

Lauren Martino:  So, Maranda, what are qualities that you look for in an audiobook?  What makes it something you’re going to choose even if, oh, it’s 32 hours?  Wow.  Apparently, length is not a – not a matter to turn –

Maranda Schoppert:  Nope.  Life doesn’t deter me.  I listen to the whole Outlander series on audio.  And, goodness, that is a long one.  For me, the performer is definitely the most important.  They need to be able to bring the book to life without trying too hard.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Maranda Schoppert:  You know, there’s been a couple of audiobooks where you just, you know, that voice isn’t working.  It isn’t working for you.  But one of the important things also for me is sound quality.  I have a really hard time when the volume in the audiobooks go up and down.  The one I’m current currently listening to right now, I have to – depending on the narrator – I have to turn the volume up or turn the volume down.  All of a sudden, someone’s screaming at me so –

Lauren Martino:  Oh, that’s no good.

Maranda Schoppert:  No.

Lauren Martino:  So, Vincent, what do you look for when choosing an audiobook?

Vincent Mui:  When looking for an audiobook, the story is really important to me.  In the beginning of the year – I’m sorry, the beginning of when I first started here, I was more focused on self-improvement, self-help books, but then I decided to change towards more sequential books where – oh, well, I’m sorry, like young adult novels.  For example, I guess, the Percy Jackson series, I was listening to that because the storyline is more of very, I guess, kind of viscerally primal, like I have to save the world.  It’s a lot of action base so it makes me feel good when the heroes finally saved the day at the end.  And then the narrator will be kind of second there.

Lauren Martino:  So the plot really drives before you.

Vincent Mui:  Yes, the plot is the – that’s that – I guess, that’s how I describe it.

Lauren Martino:  Would you say like go on kicks like, you know, okay, it’s time to read all the Percy Jackson books and then.

Vincent Mui:  Preferably, I would like to listen to all the books in order.  However, if a particular series is a bit heavy, I will have to switch back and forth.  I like more lighthearted tone stuff.  I was listening to also Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.  I’m on the fourth book now but I can’t listen to them in order because I’m pretty sure in every book so far, he’s gotten really close to death or beaten up horribly and –

Lauren Martino:  And Percy Jackson doesn’t?

Vincent Mui:  Well, not the way it’s – since it’s a young adult, it’s not as bad Jim Butcher –

Lauren Martino:  Yeah, it’s lighter.

Vincent Mui:  Yeah, it’s more adult-oriented, so there’s a lot more.  He describes getting beat up very well and there’s a lot of it involved.

Lauren Martino:  Realistically?

Vincent Mui:  Yes.  He’s constantly bruised, bleeding.  But Percy Jackson, it’s more he got cut, he’s not doing really well.  So there’s less, I guess, detail there but it’s just –

Lauren Martino:  He’s making stupid comments about it.

Vincent Mui:  Yeah.  Yeah, I need to switch between a bit more lighthearted or I guess maybe because young adult stuff is – it doesn’t really go into describing rather just pacing and narrating the action going on and more action – yeah, there’s – they are doing more rather than describing what they are thinking what they are doing.

Lauren Martino:  How about you, Barbara?  What’s the deciding factor for you in choosing an audiobook?

Barbara Shansby:  Well, I do try to – when I was thinking about the question I was like, “Oh, it’s a good writing.  That’s what I’m really looking for,” but, you know, that’s – is that true?  Probably not.  And I didn’t realize until I heard you talking, Vincent, that I do the same thing.  I switch around.  So I really don’t like to read two mysteries in a row or two biographies in a row.  So I guess that drives me a lot.  And the other thing, which is I’m not entirely sure why I’m so obsessed about this, but I really only want new books to listen to.

Lauren Martino:  New books?

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah, new.  I don’t know.

Lauren Martino:  Like what you haven’t listened to before or like new –

Barbara Shansby:  No.  I mean, new after 2016 or something.

Lauren Martino:  Really?

Barbara Shansby:  When I pick it up, it says 2013, no, I can’t read it.  I don’t know.  I just – I feel like I have to know the hot new things even though, like, it doesn’t really matter but I do –

Lauren Martino:  Like librarian pressure?

Barbara Shansby:  Library – yes.  You know, that’s it.

Lauren Martino:  After ending up on the latest stuff?

Barbara Shansby:  Exactly, exactly.  If I don’t know the new things, I am just – it’s just this serious problem, so.

Lauren Martino:  You know, I won’t tell anybody if you happen to find something from 2009 that you – really strikes your fancy.

Barbara Shansby:  I worry.

Lauren Martino:  Do any of you find yourself choosing audiobooks that you wouldn’t read in print or vice versa?

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah, absolutely.  I read – I listened to a lot of nonfiction.  I hardly ever read it.  I also listen to a lot more mysteries than I read.  Again, I agree with Vincent that it’s easier to listen to something that’s a little bit lighter.  It’s – I love a good thick book where that’s a bit heavy, although, I don’t read them all the time but I’ll sit down and read it.  But to sit and listen, I’m not as willing to do that.  And I have to say, I admire you, Maranda, because I also am not willing to take on those big fat ones.  It just intimidates me.  I’m just like, “No, I can’t do it.”

Maranda Schoppert:  I generally don’t realize there that long until after I’ve already started and then it’s too late.

Lauren Martino:  You’re already into it?

Maranda Schoppert:  I’m a little bit different though.  I normally – well, I’m a big fiction girl.  For me, listening to the audiobooks, it’s mostly a matter of availability.  If the book I want to read is not on the shelf but I can get it in audio or vice versa, that’s what I’ll do.  If I’ve started a series in audio, I must finish it in audio.  But the one genre that I don’t read that I will occasionally listen to is biographies.

Lauren Martino:  Well, what is it about listening biography that makes it okay?

Maranda Schoppert:  I actually will only listen to the biographies that are narrated by the person.

Lauren Martino:  Oh.

Maranda Schoppert:  So, Anna Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody”.  She narrated that one.  Felicia Day, she narrated “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)”.  Those were really entertaining and I don’t think they would have been done as well by an outside narrator.

Vincent Mui:  I’ve only listened to one biography so far narrated by the author which is “Crazy is My Superpower” by A.J. Lee.  I’m a wrestling –

Maranda Schoppert:  What a great title.

Vincent Mui:  Yeah.  I’m a wrestling fan and her life is – she used to be a wrestler but she had to retire.  However, just hearing it from them is much more personable and you can understand – you can understand the intricacies of it but you pick up on more intricacies on how they’re telling you.  And there’s one part where I think she got very emotional and it kind of – you will not get that necessary from a narrator because it did not go through her life.  So that’s why if I were to listen to more biographies, it would probably – I would prefer books narrated by the author.

Lauren Martino:  So aside from biographies, do you guys prefer books narrated by the author or does it make a difference to you or –

Vincent Mui:  I think you have to have a good voice because if it – there is another book I listened to called “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin.  It’s a great book but her voice I’m not fond of and I feel bad now that I’m saying it out loud.  But it’s a great book so I was able to listen through it.

Maranda Schoppert:  I don’t want an author to narrate my fiction.

Lauren Martino:  No?

Maranda Schoppert:  I’m not going to lie.  I want the professionals to do it.  I hate to say that but –

Barbara Shansby:  Right.  Yeah.  I kind of agree.  I think they’re usually better if an actor does them but I – just a month or two ago, I listened to Elizabeth Berg, The Story of Arthur Truluv and she narrated it herself, and I don’t know that she has any acting experience, and it was really lovely.  She wasn’t the best narrator that I’ve ever listened to but it absolutely worked and it was really wonderful book.

Lauren Martino:  I tend to exclude Neil Gaiman from any kind of – like Neil Gaiman can narrate anything, I’m sorry.

Barbara Shansby:  Right, right.  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  He’s got the duo tap [Phonetic] [0:12:33].

Maranda Schoppert:  All right, she’s the exception.

Lauren Martino:  He is the exception.  He can –

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah.  What was that The Graveyard Book?  Oh, my God, that was wonderful.  Oh, that was so wonderful.

Lauren Martino:  And Coraline, did you listen to Coraline?

Barbara Shansby:  No.  Coraline, I read and I really, really did not like it.

Lauren Martino:  Really?

Barbara Shansby:  So I bet if I had listened to it, it would have been a lot better.

Lauren Martino:  The rat’s singing, it’s the scariest thing ever.

Barbara Shansby:  I thought it was a pretty disturbing book.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  Also Jason Reynolds, I think, did really well.  Like he did – one of his – I think he did Ghost, which was – sorry – children’s librarian.  But, yeah, that was a good one.  Do you tend to prefer famous actors or do you think, you know, your standard, you know, “I’m a voice actor and that’s what I do” is better or adequate?

Maranda Schoppert:  You know what?  I will say it’s not 100% true because I love Edward Herrmann who – the grandfather on Gilmore Girls for –

[Crosstalk]

Lauren Martino:  Right, right, he – yeah.  He’s very good.

Maranda Schoppert:  He’s an actor and, yet, he did pass away late 2014 but he narrated The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken and he’s done a bunch of other non-fiction that’s really great.

Barbara Shansby:  Yes, I’ve heard him too.

Maranda Schoppert:  So I think it depends on the actor.  There are some voice actors out there.  My personal –

Barbara Shansby:  Brendan Fraser.

Maranda Schoppert:  Yeah.

Barbara Shansby:  Sorry

Maranda Schoppert:  – that can’t do – you can’t, you know, just you need that body, you need that interaction between, you know, someone else.  And then there are some actors that can do both.

Barbara Shansby:  Well, I have to make a comment, which is that when I thought about this question, I realized how many times I love a narrator and then I look on the back of the CD case to see who it was and I’ve never heard of this person.  And I read their credits and I would say about 90% of the time that person was in Law & Order.  Why is that?

Maranda Schoppert:  Everyone Law in Order.

Barbara Shansby:  I just –

Lauren Martino:  Wow.

Barbara Shansby:  I don’t know why.  It’s like is that a requirement for reading a book or I don’t know.

[Crosstalk]

Maranda Schoppert:  Writing a passage.

Vincent Mui:  I –

Lauren Martino:  That’s wild.

Barbara Shansby:  Isn’t that funny?

Vincent Mui:  Listening to the Dresden Files, I didn’t know James Marsters was on Buffy until I looked him up.

Lauren Martino:  Wow.

Vincent Mui:  He’s played Spike.  And then I looked up his age and then it made me realize how old I am because Buffy still feels new to me but it was over 10 years ago at this point.

Lauren Martino:  I hate to tell you.

Vincent Mui:  But his voice is perfect for the main character and people actually complained when he switched one of the books he did not narrate and people were very – kind of angry about him not being, because you need that consistent voice and did a great job.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Vincent Mui:  I was also pleasantly surprised when I was reading – listening to Ready Player One and Will Wheaton is the narrator, and that made perfect sense.

Lauren Martino:  Oh yeah.

Vincent Mui:  On top of that, there’s a joke in there about Will Wheaton and I’m just chuckling to myself.  I’m thinking, “What?”  I wonder what he’s feeling right now reading that part.

Barbara Shansby:  Now, I have to listen to that one.  I read it but now I have to listen to it.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  He did Redshirts too.  Are you familiar with Redshirts?

Vincent Mui:  No, I’m not.

Lauren Martino:  It’s basically – it’s this book long, like, making fun of Star Trek.

Maranda Schoppert:  Oh, wow.

Vincent Mui:  That’s great.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  And it – but it’s like Will Wheaton was the perfect, perfect choice.  I mean, he’s got this kind of second career.  It’s like he’s not really an actor anymore, he’s kind of a personality and – but I think audiobook narration works well.

Vincent Mui:  Yeah.  He’s really had a second resurgence in terms of fame with his board gaming stuff and also his podcasting as well.

Lauren Martino:  Have you ever had to give up a book entirely after listening to some of it because the narrator was so grating.

Barbara Shansby:  Oh, yeah.

Vincent Mui:  I definitely have.

Barbara Shansby:  I am very picky.  I mean, I think I’m really picky about reading in general.  I pick up a book or read a chapter, I’m like, “No, I don’t – it doesn’t – it’s not doing it for me.”  But audiobooks I think it’s even harder because you have to like the voice, you have to like – you have to find it captivating.  I will sometimes listen to like three minutes of something and just pop it out and take it back, start over.

Maranda Schoppert:  Not me.  No.

Lauren Martino:  No?

Maranda Schoppert:  If I start a book, if I start an audiobook, as torturous as it is, I will finish it.

Barbara Shansby:  Really?

Maranda Schoppert:  The only book I have ever not finished after I started was Moby Dick.

Barbara Shansby:  Wow.

Maranda Schoppert:  And, yes, it gets painful.

Lauren Martino:  You’re stuck with it that long, huh.

Maranda Schoppert:  You are, especially if you’re not into – if it’s a boring audiobook and you have a boring narrator, I mean –

Barbara Shansby:  There’s no saving to that.

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah.  I kind of just find myself spacing out in the car a little bit while I’m listening.

Vincent Mui:  I had one book.  The only time I had to stop was because the narrator was narrating an evil character.  His voice got so creepy.  I personally got very uncomfortable and I had to stop and I’m not going to name the book just because I was so crept out by his voice.

Maranda Schoppert:  Will you tell me later?

Vincent Mui:  Yes, I can tell you that later.

Lauren Martino:  Can we put it on the show notes?

Vincent Mui:  I don’t remember – I don’t know if the library actually has it.

Lauren Martino:  Okay, I mean –

Vincent Mui:  Yeah, that’s why I didn’t want to bring it up.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, okay.  But, yeah, that one is too good.

Maranda Schoppert:  I love creepy.

Lauren Martino:  She had you on for a horror episode.  So, Barbara, can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s resources for audiobooks.  What do we have available for just ways of delivering audiobooks to people?

Barbara Shansby:  You can get CD books.  We have a lot available from many years past.  We have them in – we have adult books, fiction and nonfiction, as we said.  We have children’s books.  We have books for young adults.  We also have a series that I wanted to mention, The Teaching Company does courses that are on CD that you can check out and those are really interesting to listen to.  We also have a lot of ebook – e-audiobooks available through a few of our – excuse me, digital subscriptions.  You can get them through OverDrive, The Maryland Library Consortium.  You can get them from a new subscription that we have called RBdigital.  They can be downloaded or listen to remotely.  All right, and also they do have, again, fiction, nonfiction, adult, children, teen books, all kinds of resources.

Maranda Schoppert:  Other resources that the library has for audio or different resources like Project Gutenberg.  You can listen to free audiobooks on there.  They have a collection.  There’s also a couple of different ones on there.  Tumble Books for kids.  You can listen to different languages.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Barbara Shansby:  Oh, I forgot about that.  That’s a great resource.

Lauren Martino:  So you mentioned Tumble Books.  Can you tell us a little bit more about that resource?

Maranda Schoppert:  Tumble Books is geared toward the kids.  Basically, they’re – it’s animated ebooks that you can check out on the computers that kids can, you know, follow along with the story as well as listen to it.  Plus, you might see a little bunny jumping on the screen depending on the book.  So it’s really a way to get at the kids in all different directions.  You can – they’re reading, they’re watching, they’re doing the screen time, they’re also listening.  So you’re sort of helping them get with their literacy, you know, get that early literacy in there in a way that this generation of children can really relate to, I think.

Barbara Shansby:  It’s kind of like Reading Rainbow for today’s kids.

Maranda Schoppert:  Yeah, definitely.  That’s a good – that’s a good one.

Lauren Martino:  And my daughter suddenly got into Reading Rainbow, it makes me so happy.  I got the old episodes on Amazon.  She’s like, “Can we read it again?”  I’m like, “Yes.  Yes, we can, darling.”

Narrator:  And now a brief message about MCPL Services and Resources.

Female Narrator:  Hey, if you’re not doing anything Saturday night, June 9th, come and listen to an award-winning author talk about his inspiring work.  Ethiopian American author, Dinaw Mengestu will speak about his novel “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears”, about an Ethiopian immigrant who runs a failing convenience store in Washington D.C.  This book is the pick for the 2018 Big Read Montgomery sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts.  The event will be held Saturday June 9th at 7:30 at the Silver Spring Library.  You must register online.  You can find more information about this event in this episode’s show notes.

Narrator:  Now back to our program.

Lauren Martino:  So we all agree audiobooks are amazing.  Are there any downsides to listening to something on audiobook or any reason you’d avoid audiobook versus like the print version of something?

Vincent Mui:  So, my main disadvantage with audiobooks is that I would get into them too much.  I was listening to – I don’t remember what portion it was but it was something funny and I was at the gym and there was a heavyweight over me and it almost – I could have hurt myself seriously because I started laughing in the gym and I had to really put the weight down.  And when you’re lifting higher weights, it’s a little bit dangerous.  And I – actually, I had two incidents where the weight fell on me.  I rolled it off when I was bench pressing.

Barbara Shansby:  Oh, no.

Vincent Mui:  I was fine.  It just I had to be more aware.  Maybe I should not listen to something funny while I’m lifting something heavy over my head.

Lauren Martino:  Do you think there’s – I’m sorry.  That’s not funny.  You’re –

Vincent Mui:  No, no it is funny.  I love telling the story.  Audiobooks can seriously injure you.

Barbara Shansby:  Right.  Beware.

Lauren Martino:  Is there anything you wanted to talk about the evils and dangers of audiobooks, Barbara?

Barbara Shansby:  Well, it can’t match –

Lauren Martino:  Corrupted youth.

Barbara Shansby:  Absolutely, it can’t match Vincent’s story, but I was just going to say that I realized that when you’re listening to a book, you’re listening to every word; whereas, when you read a book, you can just skip over certain things.  So, sometimes they’ll have a list of whatever.  And in an audiobook, they have to read every single thing on the list.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, gosh.

Barbara Shansby:  Right?  If you were sitting there in your chair at home with the actual book, you would just turn the pages.  About two weeks ago, I was listening to a book called Seven Days of Us, which was really fun and it was written as a series of letters and emails and notes and – so, every email that was in the book she read – the narrator read out the entire address.  Mary underscore Wilson at, you know, Maryland dot Library dot U.S. dot – like, I’m like what?

Lauren Martino:  Just glance at it and not even paying that much attention, yeah.

Barbara Shansby:  So that was kind of annoying but it was a good enough book that I kept listening.

Maranda Schoppert:  You do sometimes miss out on certain things unless you look at the accompanying material.  A lot of audiobooks will have, check out this PDF afterwards.  So like Dan Brown’s Origin, same thing, you’re missing all these kind of like symbol images and whatnot, part of the symbolism of the story that you either have to go back and look in the book or see if they have that, you know, PDF copy in – with it.

Lauren Martino:  That’s kind of like the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” audios, I’ve never actually listened to one but I’m like, “Why?  Why?”  Or, yeah, I think I listen to a Stephen Hawking book once like the Brief History of Time and it’s like, “I need a diagram for this.  I do not understand what’s going on.”

Barbara Shansby:  Well, I don’t know.  I listen to Curious Incident of a Dog which apparently had a lot of illustrations and I thought it was fantastic, amazing on audio, and I loved it.  And I didn’t miss those illustrations or whatever or diagrams that they included in the book but I didn’t care, you know.  I had a different experience.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah, sometimes a narrator is good enough to make up for it.  All right, so here’s your chance, gush about any favorite audiobooks, any favorite narrators, anything that sticks out in your mind as memorable.

Maranda Schoppert:  Well, I’m going to gush about a book for a second.  But first, I will say that one of my favorite narrators is Fiona Hardingham.  She does a lot of Y.A.  Sometimes I don’t even know it’s her until the end and I’m like, “That’s why I love this book.  It’s Fiona Hardingham.”

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.

Maranda Schoppert:  She narrates some Maggie Stiefvater, Sabaa Tahir “An Ember in the Ashes”, Sophie Kingsley, Kiersten White.  And she just had such a diverse voice.  I mean, you go to – you go and look at her bio, she’s got pages and pages of audiobooks that she does.  Primarily Y.A., so she does a really good job with that.  But I’m going to gush over Uprooted by Naomi Novik.  It’s one of my favorite books and I think it’s more for the plot rather than the narrator.  The narrator has a very thick accent that was really hard to get over in the beginning, but then I’m like – I probably listened to this audiobook like three times already, so – and I’ve read the book twice.  So, there are definitely are some that you can just, “It’s different every time you listen to it.”

Lauren Martino:  Sometimes the plot just takes over and you don’t care what the – right – what the narrator sounds like.

Maranda Schoppert:  Yup.  Absolutely.

Lauren Martino:  How about you, Vincent?

Vincent Mui:  I just want to give a shout out to the narrator of the Percy Jackson series only because there’s a Pegasus in the book and he tries to talk like a horse.

Lauren Martino:  That’s awesome.

Vincent Mui:  I think that’s what caused me to almost hurt myself at the gym now that I think about it, because he talked like Mister Ed and I had to give him props, like the effort.  He actually went to create a new character voice for him.  I was very – that was a great moment for me.

Lauren Martino:  So you’re not discriminating against the horse characters?

Vincent Mui:  Nope.

Lauren Martino:  I love it.

Barbara Shansby:  Okay.  So I have to say when I started listening to audiobooks, there were probably about 20 actors who read – who consistently read books, and so everybody have their favorites, and now it’s wonderful because I don’t even know who I like.  I just listen to the book.  There are so many different readers but I do have a weakness for British accents, so any –

Vincent Mui:  I think everybody does.

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah.  Any book that’s takes place in England or whatever, that’s a good book.  And I guess three that I really, really enjoyed were among my most memorable.  I listen to the sequel to Peter Pan called Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean and it was so much fun on audio.  I really loved it.  And then I went back and listened to the original Peter Pan just to –

Lauren Martino:  Jim Dale?

Barbara Shansby:  And that’s Jim Dale.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Barbara Shansby:  Which, I mean, he was amazing on Harry Potter but I think I got a little tired of him somehow but it was totally different.  Peter Pan was terrific.  And then the other audiobook that I really want to mention because it was just so much fun was Martin Short did an autobiography called I Must Say and he sang on it and he tells his stories that are so funny.  Actually, I started listening to it and then I decided it was too funny I have to save it for a trip so my husband can listen to it too.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, for when you’re weightlifting.

Barbara Shansby:  And then for my weightlifting, so I get it.  I just loved it.  And that’s – also Steve Martin did an autobiography.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, boy.

Barbara Shansby:  Right.  Which again so funny, with another one that I listen to with my husband on a long trip.

Lauren Martino:  Was he playing the banjo.

Barbara Shansby:  I don’t think he did.

Lauren Martino:  No?

Barbara Shansby:  Maybe at the beginning, maybe the entrance.  So, and now I’m listening to a book, although that’s going to be your last question what book are you listening to, right?  I’m listening to a book about a lady’s choir, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and they have some choir singing for a few of the hymns that they talk about, so that’s pretty neat.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, that’s cool.

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah.  I remember listening to a book about Marian Anderson and I’m just like, “You got to put –” like, it’s probably in the public domain, Marian Anderson.  You could probably have stuck her in there.

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  So I know some people feel very, very strongly about a single narrator versus full cast.  Where do you guys stand on that?

Maranda Schoppert:  I prefer a single narrator.  It’s not the end of the world if there are multiple narrators but I just think a good narrator can achieve the same thing by doing it by themselves rather than having a cast of narrators.  I don’t know.  That’s just me.  I’m also not a big fan of having sound effects in my audiobooks.

Vincent Mui:  Oh.

Maranda Schoppert:  For children’s books, yes, because I think that helps.

Barbara Shansby:  Sure, why not.

Maranda Schoppert:  But I want the narrator to be entirely on the narrator, but that’s just – that’s just me.

Lauren Martino:  It can be distracting.

Maranda Schoppert:  Yeah.  It can be a little distracting and I almost find – sometimes find it a little cheesy.  Like, you know, the drums are beating and then you hear drums in the background and you’re like, “Really?  Like, okay.”

Lauren Martino:  I could have inferred that.

Maranda Schoppert:  Yeah.

Vincent Mui:  I don’t think I’ve listened to any audiobooks with more than one narrator.  However, I do like narrators that have a lot of range, particularly if it’s – if they’re narrating the main character and then women, if there’s – some of them can do a good female voice, some of them can’t.

Barbara Shansby:  Not so much.

Vincent Mui:  And I do actually appreciate some music in the background but very subtle.  I think I was listening to the Thrawn novel and he would have ambient space noise, which really suited the – oh, actually, now that I think about it, there were laser blasts but it’s a Star Wars novel, so I was okay with it.  But his range was really good in terms of engrossing me into the book.

Barbara Shansby:  Yes.  So, I was thinking that that’s another thing that maybe has changed somewhat over time.  Seems to me when I started listening to audiobooks, it was more likely to be a full cast kind of thing with different narrators.  And I think it just depends on the book for me, sometimes that’s – that enriches the experience.  I listened to, what’s it called, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and they had different readers for the different characters and it was really good.  And then I was just thinking that I have listened to a book like that in a long time and this one that I’m – this Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a cast and it has different characters narrated by different actors and it’s great.  So, but I think the trend is much, much more to a single narrator.  And I kind of agree with Maranda on the whole, if you asked me which I prefer, usually that’s kind of makes it more like the reading experience, it’s a little bit more seamless.

Lauren Martino:  So we’ve heard what Barbara’s reading.  Vincent What are you reading right now or listening to that you’d like to talk to us about.

Vincent Mui:  I am actually listening to the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and it’s very different because it’s – the target demographic for the Divergent series is young women.  So the writing style is different and there’s a lot more description about physical closeness.

Maranda Schoppert:  Huh.

Vincent Mui:  And –

Lauren Martino:  That’s a teen book for you.

Vincent Mui:  Yes.  It’s a teen book but gears toward young women.  So I’m having a bit of trouble because I feel awkward listening to her describe a kiss or her physical closeness to the male character that she is attracted to and I get a little uncomfortable a bit.  I was with my wife in the car on our way back from New York City.  I drive back and forth occasionally and I like to listen to audiobooks.  I started – she – I don’t think she tolerated me very well because of my reactions to listening to the scenes of, yeah, I don’t – yeah, that’s –

Barbara Shansby:  Were you giggling?

Vincent Mui:  No, I was – I was more like, “Are you serious?”  How many times do I have to listen to her describe, like, feeling electric or shivering or her heart beating, pounding through her ears, and it’s just – I got uncomfortable because the protagonist is 16.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, God.

Barbara Shansby:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Like, hon, you’re too young.

Vincent Mui:  I am twice her age and a guy and married and it’s just – I can’t relate.  I just wanted more of the action but –

Lauren Martino:  You should probably not listen to Twilight.

Vincent Mui:  Oh, no, no, not even going to – hmm.

Maranda Schoppert:  Well, Vincent, you might like listening to what the series I’m currently listening to.  I’m listening to the fourth and I will say hopefully final book in the Red Rising series, Iron Gold, by Pierce Brown.  The first three books are fantastic and the third book actually I was completely like the ending ended perfectly, there should not be a fourth book but there is a fourth book and so far it’s okay.  It’s one of those 23 plus hour ones though.

Vincent Mui:  Oh, goodness.

Barbara Shansby:  Wow.

Maranda Schoppert:  But it’s definitely got a lot of action.  There are some, you know, basically like lightsabers type of fighting with these – yeah.

Vincent Mui:  Oh, okay, I’m down for this.

Maranda Schoppert:  And it takes place through space and everything like that, so that one’s got a lot of action and it’s actually an example of one with multiple narrators that, like, I’m kind of like, “Hmm,” because the first three books only had one narrator.

Vincent Mui:  Oh.

Maranda Schoppert:  And now this fourth one has three.

Vincent Mui:  Yeah, that’s a bit jarring when the narrator changes in the middle of a series because they say things slightly different.

Barbara Shansby:  Oh, yeah.

Vincent Mui:  So, the Percy Jackson series had one narrator then the Heroes of Olympus, which came afterwards, was a different narrator and he was saying their names differently.

Maranda Schoppert:  Oh, gosh, drives me crazy.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.

Vincent Mui:  And I was – and I was screaming in my mind saying, “You’re not seeing it right.  The other guy didn’t say it this way.  Why are you saying it that way?”  I got over it eventually.

Maranda Schoppert:  Or like sometimes when you read a book and then it’s so good you decide you listen to it but the way you said the characters names in your head is not the way the narrator says it and you’re like, “Oh, man.  Either you’re like I’m wrong or you’re mad because it should be a different way.”

Barbara Shansby:  Right, right.  That happened to me with that Alexander McCall Smith, his #1 Ladies which I read as a book and then I listened to one of them, the mysteries and I wasn’t even close to getting the names of any of these African people.  But I really was glad to hear how they’re supposed to sound.

Lauren Martino:  Well, thank you so much for joining us, Barbara, Vincent, and Maranda.  And thank you for listening to our podcast and taking time out of your busy audiobook’ listening schedule to listen to our podcast.  Make sure to put whatever you like on hold because people will be asking for it all summer long as they are getting ready for vacation, so we wish you a very happy listening on any drive or – you may be taking or while mowing the lawn.  And please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also, please rate us on Apple Podcasts.  We’d love to know what you think.  Thanks for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

[Audio Ends]

May 23, 2018

Listen to the audio

David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.

Julie Dina:  And I’m Julie Dina.

David Payne:  And in today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about Summer Read and Learn 2018.  The summer period is, for those of us who work in public libraries, without a doubt, the busiest time of the year.  And while summer reading has changed in the way it’s organized, the way it’s done over the years, the overall aim is still very much the same of stimulating and encouraging reading.  And talking about MCPL’s upcoming Summer Read and Learn Program, we have two guests today, first of all, Christine Freeman.  Welcome, Christine.

Christine Freeman:  Hi, thank you.

David Payne:  Christine is the Manager of the Noyes branch as well as the Early Literacy and Children Services Manager as well.  So thank you for taking time in your undoubtedly busy schedule to be with us.

Christine Freeman:  I’m glad to be here.

David Payne:  And joining us today as well, we have a voice you may well recognize if you’re a regular listener, that of Lauren Martino, our head of Children’s Services at the Silver Spring Branch.

Lauren Martino:  Hi, David.  Thanks for having me.

David Payne:  And if you’re confused, don’t be.  Lauren is, as you may well know, usually found in the hosts chair.  She’s now in the guest chair.  I will know if you’re really confused if you start asking me questions about something.  Anyway, welcome, Lauren.

Lauren Martino:  Thanks David.

David Payne:  So let’s start with our first question and let me start with Christine.  Tell us about yourself, your role as MCPL’s Early Literacy and Children’s Services Manager.

Christine Freeman:  So my name is Christine Freeman.  I was previously the – I’m head of Services and Children Services at Noyes Library and I’m the Branch Manager of Noyes Library.  As the Early Literacy and Children’s Services Program Manager, my responsibilities include all of our reading programs, which include Summer Read and Learn and 1000 Books before Kindergarten.  And don’t forget you can sign up for both of them at the same time if your children are under fives.  Summer Read and Learn is going to be a lot of fun this year.  The theme is Libraries Rock because we do.

And we have lots of fun programs that feature actual rocks and rock music.  So there’s something for everyone.  We have game boards for the kids.  You can log things online.  It’s just fantastic.  We also have game boards for even little kids for zero to five.  We have early literacy and game, so we won’t need the little ones out this year.  And children’s, we have six to 12, and then of course our teens, we don’t want to forget them, they are 13 to 17.

David Payne:  And Lauren, and your role as Head of Children’s at Silver Spring, tell us a bit about your department how you’re preparing for summer reading.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, gosh.  We’re doing what we can.  Right now we are contacting all of the schools and, well, I’ve contacted them and now I’m following them, getting back to the ones that haven’t gotten back into me just to make sure we visit all the schools and get the word out.  We are coordinating volunteers to help us out because this is a big undertaking.  I know a lot of people, I guess you come to the library and you see all of these faces but so many – we’ve got so many volunteers that help out every year, teens that come out of the woodwork ready to help.  We are just getting our materials organized.

I feel like I’ve got like battle plans drawn up in my office, kind of my organizational software out there, it’s color coded.  Yeah.  So this is – and just getting everybody on board, just making sure all the staff members know like this is what you do.  And we have so many like subs that come through Silver Springs.  So it’s like not only the people that are here all the time, the people that, you know, may not be here all the time.

David Payne:  Do you find with each year that you do it, you have more of it nailed down?

Lauren Martino:  I do.  I do.  This has been – let’s see, this is year number – this is the fourth year I’ve been doing this as the person in charge of a branch or a – not a branch but a department, so, yeah, slowly, I’m getting, you know, the first year I was like, “You want me to do what?  What?  We never did this.  What are you doing?”  But, yeah, we’re getting better and just as, you know, we have a place to put everything now.  That first year, we were open at Silver Spring.  It was like we’re carrying all our summer reading materials around in bags, like, it was just, you know, anytime you open a new branch, it’s like you can figure out what you’re doing.  But, yeah, we got that all down this year.  I think it’s going to be a good year.

David Payne:  Great.

Julie Dina:  Yay.

Christine Freeman:  I do think too that since the last past couple of years, we’re trying to make it easier for customers and more simple of a program for staff so that is more fun and easier too.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  And I think it has gotten a lot better.  Yeah, I think we’re getting in the groove of it.

Julie Dina:  So with all of this excitement, you know, and I – not only staff is excited but I bet the kids who are going to be participating are also excited, when exactly does the summer reading program begin and end?

Christine Freeman:  It begins on June 9th and we will go all through the summer up until September 9th, so there’s plenty of time to get it finished.  So everybody should complete their summer reading challenge this year.

Lauren Martino:  Yes, don’t just start, complete everybody.  You can do it.

Julie Dina:  Is there anyone who doesn’t?

Christine Freeman:  Just a few.  We’re working on that this year.  We’re working on that this year.

Julie Dina:  Now, another question that I wanted to ask is why exactly is it important for kids to read over the summer.

Lauren Martino:  Well, there’s been a lot of talk about this phenomenon called the Summer Slide where some research suggests that kids that don’t read over the summer especially lower-income kids, kids that are kind of disadvantaged in general can actually start the next school year a month behind where they stopped.  So imagine going to school in September and you’re, you know, a seventh grader who’s, you know, gotten through school in April instead of May and some people suggest that this is actually cumulative so, you know, you lose one month one year and then you lose another month the next year and, you know, you can see how you’d go through and be almost a year behind at the end of your schooling.

This has come under some scrutiny there are people that suggest that, you know, studies say different things.  I’ve seen a lot of people that suggest too.  It’s like, “Well, if you’re forgetting it or if you’ve really learned it –” like library programs in general and just reading for fun in general really focuses kids on doing stuff that’s fun, it’s learning but it’s fun and that fun is going to make whatever they learn stick in their brains that much better.  So anything that they would have learned that, you know, is just going to slide off of them because they’ve learned it for the test because, gosh, I know that was like for college career, you know, but you’ve read it.  It’s like, you know, what you get from reading the entire Captain Underpants series?  You know, seriously, you know, it’s, you know, and the parents will come in and it’s like, “I don’t want my kids reading that trash.”  And, you know, there’s, you know, something going to be said for expanding horizons and –

David Payne:  They’re reading, that’s the main point, yeah, yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah, but, you know, it’s like the quantity really makes a difference.  When you’re reading a lot of stuff, and kids read a lot of stuff and they’re reading stuff that’s fun, so we’re really just out to get kids to look at that and to try some of this stuff out.  And we’ve got other activities that we’re going – that we’re encouraging kids to do through this program, things like make a pet rock or, let’s see, read a book that takes place in another country.  They’re going to, you know, ask them to expand those horizons a little bit.  But we will count any book in place of any of these activities.  So if you want to read all the Captain Underpants, you know, you can – that’s your program, you know.  We will count that.  Do you have anything to add, Christine?

Christine Freeman:  I just said a lot of the activities that we have on our boards are not only to keep the kids engaged but also to have families and kids engaged together.  So like one of them is listen to a grown-up favorite song.  So you have to ask your grown-up what is your favorite song and then you can listen to it together, then you can talk about it, maybe do a little dance.  So just –

Lauren Martino:  Karaoke.

Christine Freeman:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.

Christine Freeman:  Just mashed potatoes twist, I’m not sure.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Christine Freeman:  So it’s just getting parents and kids to do things together instead of just sitting on the couch watching TV but actually doing activities together, I think.

Julie Dina:  I like the sound of that.

David Payne:  Sounds good.

Julie Dina:  Yeah.

David Payne:  Yeah.  So each summer reading program every year has a different theme.  And perhaps, you can tell us, Christine, a bit about this year’s Summer Read and Learn theme and what kinds of events that we have lined up that tie-in with that theme.

Christine Freeman:  So this year’s theme is Libraries Rock and that’s for all of our age groups.  And I think the most exciting program we’re going to have is going to be our dance parties and we’re going to have them all across the county and libraries throughout the system.  And those dance parties, we have a bubble machine, we have some colored lights to fastened on the ceiling.

Lauren Martino:  I’m so excited when I read about that.  It’s going to be awesome.

Christine Freeman:  We have some day-glow bracelets for the kids.  We’re going to have a photo op so the kids will could then become just as the favorite rock star or music musician or they can just come with some crazy hair, and we’re going to have photo opportunities for them to take pictures and hopefully tag us on Instagram or Facebook.  I think it’s going to be a lot of fun this year.  I’m excited for our theme.

David Payne:  That’s great.  And, Lauren, how are you preparing for Libraries Rock?

Lauren Martino:  Libraries Rock.  Oh, I got this one program that we’re really excited about called Video Games at the Symphony.  We actually have this group called The Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra coming and presenting this event where they’re going to, you know, talk about video game music a little bit, which is, you know, a thing.  This is a thing.  People create this gorgeous music for video games.  And then, you know, they’re going to perform and then the kids get to play with the instruments, which I’ve kind of been wanting to do something like that forever and then, you know, this kind of fell into our laps like, yeah, yeah, we’ll do this.

Somebody that actually listened to the CD that came with my Wii that’s like nothing but Zelda Music.  And, yeah, my daughter like just starts dancing to it.  I’m like, “Yeah, this is good music.”  So we’re really excited about that.  Let’s see, we’ve got a clown coming for our kickoff June 9th.  Everybody, I think just about all the libraries are doing some sort of kickoff event or some sort of open house event, so we’re really hoping people will come out for that.

David Payne:  Sounds exciting.

Julie Dina:  Yeah.

Christine Freeman:  Yeah.  That should be good.  We also have that program at Rockville as well.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, the gamer program, yes.

David Payne:  So, Christine, did you come up with a theme?  How do you arrive at with this theme?

Christine Freeman:  So the theme was selected by the CSLP, which is a Collaborative Summer Library Program, that’s a nationwide program that libraries use for themes.  And they have graphics that we can use.  They have activities we can use, booklist, that type of thing.  But this year I think it’s going to be really fun to incorporate music and rocks into our program.

Lauren Martino:  I love the summer reading theme where it’s like, you know, dig into reading or it’s like, archeology or construction or you get someone to play with it.

Christine Freeman:  Yeah, archeology.

David Payne:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.

David Payne:  Great, thank you.  And so do they come up with the theme sort of year by year or do they have a sort of five-year plan of –

Christine Freeman:  They do you think ahead and next year will be type of a space theme.  It’s being blogged at the moment.

Lauren Martino:  I’m excited with that.

David Payne:  Interesting.  Okay.

Christine Freeman:  I think that’ll be a lot of fun.

David Payne:  Correct.

Christine Freeman:  But they do think ahead of time.  They actually will get this I think from the moment it stops, they start up again.  Basically, the same as we do here at Montgomery County.

David Payne:  Great.

Christine Freeman:  We take like a two-week break and then start up again for next year.

David Payne:  Right, it never ends, yeah, yeah.

Christine Freeman:  It’s ongoing.

Julie Dina:  I know you mentioned the dance parties earlier, will that be at all of MCPL branches or only specific ones?

Christine Freeman:  It won’t be at all of them but it will be at the majority of them.  So you can check our ongoing calendar on our website and that will tell you all the dance parties will be located or you can check your branch specifically and look for the dance parties or ask your librarian and they’ll be happy to tell you.

Julie Dina:  And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.

Lisa Navidi:  Summer may mean vacations, beaches, travel, and sunscreen.  But at MCPL, it also means summer reading.  Whether you and your family are on the beach, on your porch or in a plane, we have a reading list tailored to your child’s age and grade, and a special list just for adults.  You can find a link to our reading lists in this episodes show notes.

Julie Dina:  Now back to our program.

David Payne:  So one of the important parts important, important elements of summer readings are always the programming that goes along with it.  And I think animal programs are probably some of the most popular ones that we find.  As in past years, can we expect animal programs throughout the MCPL system?  And how can we find out when and where?

Christine Freeman:  Yes.  We will actually have Glen Echo Park Aquarium.  They do Touch the Sea Programs throughout and we have different themes.  Like one of them will be sharks, so they’ll probably have a baby shark, love it.  They bring live animals out in an aquarium and they had this really cool microscope that they can project that up to the wall so everybody gets to see even if they’re a little bit in the back.  And then at the end, usually less people walk by and they can get a close-up look of the animals.  But he breaks it down and makes it very interactive with the children and the adults and it’s learning as well as having fun.

Lauren Martino:  See, we’ve got a number of other programs going on around the system as a – see, we’ve got Nature on Wheels presenting “Raptors!” on June 7th at Rockville.  We’ve got a program called Reptile Rangers going on in the Maggie Nightingale Library on Saturday June 23rd.  And the Maryland Zoo is presenting a number of programs as well.  They’re going to Kensington on July 28th and they’ll also be at Germantown on August 22nd, presenting amazing adaptations.

Julie Dina:  So it’s to no surprise that the Montgomery County Public Library runs a great summer reading program.  However, I will like for you, either of you, to tell us some of the challenges that you actually come across in running a great program.

Lauren Martino:  Wrapping your head around everything that is to happen?  Yeah, it’s a lot.  I found having really good volunteers on-hand helps a lot.  Let’s see, just making sure everybody knows what’s going on.  I work at a very, very big branch.  I don’t know, this is probably a different challenge than maybe what Noyes, for example, faces with, you know, three people.  But just making sure everybody knows what’s going on and what to do and where everything is located and things like that.  Just also that in the libraries, which is super busy during the summer anyway.

Julie Dina:  I imagine.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah, yeah.  So, yeah, I just – I always forget just how exhausting summer is but it’s all worth it, it’s all worth it.  You see kids that you don’t see as much during the year and they’ve got big smiles on their faces and they’re just so excited.  And when they come in and they’ve gotten their prize, you know, it’s like, yeah, that makes it all worth it.

Christine Freeman:  I think for me in planning the program, the challenge I find is finding prizes that everybody will like.  So this year, this year –

Lauren Martino:  This year.

Christine Freeman:  – we have a big treasure chest and it’s going to have all kinds of prizes in it.  So I’m sure that you can find something you like.  And some of those things will be recorders.  There’ll be mustache whistles.  They’ll be, for the little ones, Play-Doh.  There’ll go charts for the little ones.  I’m trying to think of all the cool stuff that’s in there.  But lots of music type things, blow-up guitars, everybody wants a blow-up guitar.

Lauren Martino:  I really want to see those book parts at our dance parties.  I’ve seen them.

Christine Freeman:  Yeah.  We have bandanas -- bandanas that are decorated for our theme, Libraries Rock.  So I think the good thing is the kids can choose a prize that they like, and hopefully that will encourage them to keep it over the summer because the more they read, the more prizes they get.

Lauren Martino:  I’m also digging these like Rockstar themed rubber duckies.  Yeah.

David Payne:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Oh gosh.  And these are ribbons to dance with.

Christine Freeman:  The dance ribbons are fun.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Christine Freeman:  And we have the sticks.

Lauren Martino:  The didgeridoo type of sticks?

Christine Freeman:  The groan sticks.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, so the groan.

Christine Freeman:  So you turn them upside down and they go, "Rrrawn!" and then you put all handful of them together.

Lauren Martino:  Hey, kids, take this down to the fourth floor where the grownups are all studying.

Christine Freeman:  You can use the kazoos to wake up your parents in the morning.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah.

Christine Freeman:  Lots of fun stuff in the treasure chest.

David Payne:  Yeah.  Yeah.

Christine Freeman:  And for the teens, we have cool stuff too and they live in a teen prize bag, not a treasure chest, a teen prize bag.

Lauren Martino:  Oh.

David Payne:  Oh.

Christine Freeman:  And in there, we have like fidgets, we have some coloring pencils and color books.  We have PopSockets for phones, we have ear buds that type of things.

Julie Dina:  Teens always love that.

Christine Freeman:  Yeah.  They get to pick something cool also.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  We felt really old around them just like, “What does this PopSockets thing we’re giving out?”  No, it’s cute.  And I noticed them on every teen’s phone, like, cool, you guys are way ahead of us.

David Payne:  Some great prizes there.  So, now, I’m going to put you on the spot a bit and ask both of you, if you had a choice, who would be your dream Summer Read and Learn performer?

Lauren Martino:  We can choose anybody?

David Payne:  Yes, absolutely anyone.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, gosh.  I love Laurie Berkner or Jim Gill.  We just went to a workshop with him.

Julie Dina:  Jim Gill.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, my gosh, I want Jim Gill.  Jim Gill, if you’re listening, I love your workshop the other day.

Christine Freeman:  Do you want to see librarians fan girl?

Lauren Martino:  Oh, my God.  Oh, yeah, yeah, no, we saw it.  We saw it.  Some girl brought her ukulele to be signed at this workshop and I’m like, “Oh, I should have brought mine”  Oh, my goodness.  I should have brought my banjo.

Julie Dina:  Should have brought everything.

Lauren Martino:  I should have brought – oh, gosh, I could have him signed everything.

Christine Freeman:  He is amazing.

Lauren Martino:  He is amazing.  Just somebody who really – it started off like in special – he was doing like family playtime like in college, just working with kids with special needs and then he got a Master’s in Education.  You know, he is a fun musician.  But he just gets kids and he gets what’s he needs to do.  He gets it, so, okay.

Julie Dina:  Wow.

Christine Freeman:  And everything he does so looks so well with every child ready to read because he is all about play and he is all about seeing, he is all about reading, he is all about writing.  So it’s just – it works so well.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  Although you know –

Christine Freeman:  We'll stop fan girling, really.

Lauren Martino:  And fan girl.   Oh, I don’t know.  So Damascus is having milkshake, I think that would be pretty awesome too you know.  And Jacks Are Wild, you know, you know, some of these dream programs that I would like to have at my branch or happening at other branches this year.  So, go out and take advantage, guys.  It’s like, yeah, I feel like – I had a co-worker the other day who was like, “Jacks Are Wild.  Let’s get them, let’s get them.”  And we can get them for our branch.  But Gaithersburg has them June 16th, so.

David Payne:  Maybe next year.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  Oh, gosh.

Julie Dina:  It’ll be your turn.

Lauren Martino:  Christine, if you’re scheduling.  That’s what we want.

Christine Freeman:  And we have some other great performers.  We have Eric Energy.  We have Groovy Nate.  We’re going to have just many, many performers, too many to name, all over the system.  And if you miss them at One Library, check out calendar because more than likely, they will be in another library during the summer.  You can always ask our librarians, they can help you.  Look at all calendar and see if they’re available at the library.

Julie Dina:  So while we’re on that same topic, is there a specific picture book or chapter book you wish every kid could read over the summer?

Lauren Martino:  I was thinking about this last night.  Picture book, I have to go with Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall.  I’m sorry if I’m slaughtering her name.  But, yeah, it’s about this little boy and it’s just he goes up, climbs that – he gets to that diving board and he’s in front of the line and then he’s next in line and then he’s, you know, a couple of people back in line because he’s perfecting his technique.  He is, you know, thinking really hard about the way he wants to jump down this diving board and, you know, basically, you know, he’s conquering his fear of going up on the diving board.

and his dad and his sister there and they’re cheering him on and they’re, you know, walking him through this whole process of fear and, you know, it’s like, “Okay, you don’t need to be afraid, that’s all right, you know, this is how you deal with it,” and it just was really moving to me especially since as a kid during the summer I had an experience like that.  Like, I got to the top of the diving board and like stopped and, you know, waited like for five minutes, I couldn’t jump while the rest of the people are like – so this happens.  And, I mean, gosh, this is about like a seven-year old.  I think I was like 13 at the time, you know, so it happens.  And it was just – it’s just – it’s surreal and just something that we all face and just beautifully drawn and just, you know, sun-washed.  It’s like this is what a pool, you know, this is the color, this is the pool midsummer.

Julie Dina:  Christine?

Christine Freeman:  For textbooks, I’m going to go old school and go with Watson’s Go To Birmingham.  It’s one of my favorites, it’s just classic.  I love it because it’s about a real family.  And even here’s tragedy in the book, there’s like laughter and there’s just a family being a family.  And I think everybody can relate to some parts of this book.  And it’s historical fiction, which I think kids don’t normally go to unless to do an assignment.  But once they start reading this book, they’ll forget that it’s historical fiction book because they’ll just relate so much to the family, I believe.

Lauren Martino:  Well, you just have to start that first chapter where he’s got his tongue stuck to the mirror of the car.  I think that’s enough to sell it.

Christine Freeman:  So in his books, his – Christopher Paul Curtis’s books are so great for listening to on audio.  I know I listen to Bud, Not Buddy on audio.  And the people in the car had listened to it because I was listening to it and I could hear my kids laughing in the back, like they were getting into it even though I thought they were sleeping, so it’s –

Lauren Martino:  Isn’t it nice?

Christine Freeman:  Yeah.  It was – it was great to listen to it aloud.

Lauren Martino:  I got to have those audio books for car trips.

Christine Freeman:  Yes, for sure.

Lauren Martino:  Also put down Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Garcia Williams.  And I had to think about this.  I feel like, “Oh, yeah, it’s the third book in the series.  That’s my favorite.”

Christine Freeman:  Oh, yeah, it’s the third book.  I only have the first book.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah, yeah.  I mean, I feel like they get better because I enjoyed the first one and then I enjoyed the second one even more.  And by the third one, I’m like, “This is the best one.”  But, yeah, so, like, three girls and I – it gets – it’s sort of, you know, like Watsons Go to Birmingham.  They’re in the Deep South for the summer.  They’re from up north, they’re Black, it’s, you know, but they’re with their family.  And, you know, kind of gradually realize their family, you know, goes back a ways to the fact that, you know, you got the family, the Black family over here.  And, you know, they’ve got family that was like plantation owners.  You got this guy over here, he’s a member the Ku Klux Klan and he’s still a part of their family.

you know, it’s like it’s really complicated, like look into family relationships and, you know, what does it mean to be family.  But, yeah, and – but the three sisters are just so real, like, they love each other, they’re going to be there for each other but they are going to annoy the heck out of each other on the way.  And something happens in the middle of the book, I don’t want to spoil it or anything but, like, just blindsides you, like to the point where it’s like, I don’t know how this book’s going to end, you know, nothing – I can’t take, you know, I’m not taking anything for granted at this point.  So, yeah, I think it’s the best, you know, read the whole series, please.  But if you don’t read any of the other ones, read Gone Crazy in Alabama.

Christine Freeman:  You’ve convinced me.  I’m going to go get it.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  Yeah.  You know –

Christine Freeman:  I’ll try – I got the first one.  I know there’s a second and third, so I’m going to go check them out today.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah, PSPL love it and it’s good.  Yes.  And the audiobooks are quite good.

Julie Dina:  How many books are there in this series?

Lauren Martino:  There are three.

Julie Dina:  Okay.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  And the first one is like, “We spend the summer with mom who’s in California and she’s a Black Panther.”

Christine Freeman:  Which is in Oakland, close to my hometown.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, yeah, okay.

Christine Freeman:  So, that’s why I was interested in the first one but –

Lauren Martino:  But, yeah, it’s, you know, all the historical stuff and also, you know, I’m going to annoy the heck out of my sisters because they’re annoying me back.  Oh, yeah.

David Payne:  Well, reading this is always very helpful in terms of connecting readers to books.  Will MCPL be providing reading lists for all ages?  And how can parents find new books for their kids to read?

Lauren Martino:  Well, when you’re signing up for summer reading, you’re also signing up for something called Beanstack.  And, so, automatically, you’ve got something built in right there.  You can – there’s a box that you check or leave unchecked that will send recommendations right to your email for kids that are your kids’ age.  So that’s a good way.  We’ve also got lists on our website.  And I think most of the branches have lists available of just lists that our librarians have put together for each grade because I know parents come in and they’re like, “Oh, where are the first grade books?” or “Where the fifth grade books?”

it’s hard if you don’t know, you know, how to choose a book for, you know, how old your child is, and we get that.  And for, you know, fairness reasons, we don’t categorize stuff by age.  You know, I’ve seen libraries that did this and I actually was – had a pile of books with these ages written on them and had a group full of kids and they’re like, “I can’t read this book.  It’s a fifth grade book, I’m a 6th grader,” you know, and that’s what, you know, you’re trying to avoid because, you know, there’s plenty of books that work for fifth graders and sixth graders and fourth graders.  You know, the lists are kind of good that way because there’s a range.

So for each grade, there are some that are easier and some that are harder.  So there’s something on it that’s going to work for your kid.  And, also, you know, ask your librarian.  People don’t think about it.  But, you know, and they always act like they’re bothering us, you’re not bothering us.  Just ask us, we are happy, we are – I’m shelving books there or, you know, putting stuff on display just waiting for you to ask me a question.  So, please, ask me and I’m happy to find a book that’s going to be great for your child.

Christine Freeman:  Yeah.  And we do have to restate that parents can print them from home, they’re available in our website.  If you’re interested, you can print them at home also.  We can go to our library and ask the librarians to print them out for you.

David Payne:  So, listen, just ask a librarian.

Julie Dina:  And I’ll be asking you this question.  What would be your favorite summer reading memory from childhood or with your own kids?

Lauren Martino:  I have to say I don’t think we’ve participated much with summer reading as a kid.  I do remember being a volunteer in signing people up and I just felt so important and, like, this weigh of this responsibility they were trusting me with all the stuff.  And, you know, they just, you know, they put me in my place and they just kind of went off and did their thing and, you know, here I am, signing kids up for summer reading.  You know, I didn’t realize that then that I’d be, you know, doing this my whole life.

But, yeah, I’ve got a four-year old at home and, you know, we’ve been working on some of them but – and I want to encourage people to consider this, you know, like, your summer is busy, you may not always have time to do all these stuff, but if you have parents that get to take your kids for any length of time, grandparents love to do this stuff with the kids.  So, you know, we want you to spend time with your kids and we want you to have these experiences, these enriching experience.  But, you know, you can share them with grandma, you can share them with uncles and aunts and cousins.  Yeah, you can share the wealth, and it’s a really great experience for everybody.

Christine Freeman:  And I think for me, I remember my son, I was a library page, so I’m responsible for putting books on the shelf, and I would take my son  to work with me and I would make him put the picture books away because they were the easiest and that way I didn’t have to do it.  And then afterwards, he would –

Lauren Martino:  Nice.  Smart.

Christine Freeman:  Afterwards, he would go and he would do the summer reading game, and he loved it because they had, like, a little spinner.  So if you completed so many, you got to do the spinner and get a price.  So he really enjoyed doing that when he go to the library with me.

Lauren Martino:  Great memories.

David Payne:  So we always close our episodes by asking the guests what they’re reading now.  So let me ask, let’s start with you, Christine, what’s in your bookshelf right now?

Christine Freeman:  Right now, I’m reading travel guides to England because I’ve been traveling there and I’m trying to make a plan.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.  So lots of travel guides live on my shelf right now.  I’m also reading Matt de la Pena’s We Were Here.  I’m a bit halfway through it.  I picked it up because the setup was done in Stockton and I relocated from Stockton so that’s why I went and had picked that up.  So that’s what I’m reading right now.  Nonfiction and fiction, which is unusual for me because I usually don’t read nonfiction.

Lauren Martino:  I am slugging my way through this book in French.  I actually read it in English and I saw the movie and I really liked it in English and then the – and the movie.  It’s called the Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  It is, I believe, the only book I know of that’s been dictated entirely with eye blinks because –

David Payne:  Right.  It was very, very unusual.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  The author, he was like chief editor, I believe, of Elle in France for a while and he had, like, a stroke or something and ended up, like, with locked-in syndrome.  So he basically can’t move –

David Payne:  Couldn’t communicate.

Lauren Martino:  Couldn’t move, he can winked one eye because his other eyes is closed.  He can wink one eye, he can’t talk, he can’t sign, he can’t do anything but he can blink one eye.  So, they developed this system of, like, they’d read the alphabet out and in an order in which, you know, just by the frequency they occur in French and he would blink an eye when he got to the right letter.  So it’s spell out word by word what he wanted to say.  And, yeah, and he wrote a book this way.

Christine Freeman:  That amazing.

Lauren Martino:  I know.  It’s incredible.

David Payne:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  And he’s also super well-educated and as you know, you know, French is not my first language, you know.  I’m just like, “Vocabulary, vocabulary.”  Yeah.  I had the same problem with the Elegance of the Hedgehog and, like, so, you know, it’s taking me awhile.  But the book in the English was very good.  And the movie – there’s a movie too that’s incredible that they made on the same subject, so.

David Payne:  I can see you’ll be busy with that for a while.

Lauren Martino:  Yes.  I’m almost to the end, you know.  So, you know, I keep thinking like, you know, it’s taking me awhile to read, you know, how long did it take him to write?  I can’t complain.

Christine Freeman:  Right.

Julie Dina:  So many blinks until you finish?

Lauren Martino:  Okay.  Luckily, I don’t have to blink.  Yeah.  But it’s just about, you know, he’s talking a little bit about the hospital, you know, and you just, you know, the intricacies of, you know, people coming to visit him and how they feel and how he feels and just –

David Payne:  Incredible story.  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah, it’s an incredible story.  And he told them little snippets and, like, he composed this, he memorized everything like he, you know, spend hours, you know, alone in his room, in his bed like memorizing what he wanted to say until he could get somebody that would dictate for him and then he would just let it all out.  So it’s in like little chapters, like little bits at a time, but just fascinating.

Julie Dina:  You’ve guys have wowed us.

David Payne:  You sold us on summer reading.

Julie Dina:  Yes.  You really have been.  I want to thank you, Christine and Lauren, for all the wonderful information you’ve given us this afternoon.  Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple Podcast app.  Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast.  Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast.  We love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening for our conversation today and see you next time.

[Audio Ends]

May 9, 2018

Listen to the audio

Lauren Martino:  Hello, welcome to Library Matters.  I'm Lauren Martino and I'm here with my co-host Julie Dina.  Hi Julie.

Julie Dina:  Hello.

Lauren:  And we are also here with Adrienne Miles Holderbaum who is expecting.  She is a Senior Librarian at Germantown.  Hi Adrienne.

Adrienne Miles:  Hello.  Hi, excited to be here.

Lauren:  And we're also here with Maranda Schoppert who has a very small child; who made a lovely appearance at MoComCon by the way.  Hi Maranda.

Maranda Schoppert:  Hi guys.

Lauren:  So tell us a little bit about yourself Maranda.  How old is your baby now?

Maranda:  Well, my – I have a baby girl, her name is Lyla.  She is almost five months old, doing sort of really good now.  We're starting to move our toes and our legs.  We have found our feet.

Lauren:  Yes, cute.

Maranda:  And this is my first baby, so everything is new for me.  So we're just enjoying it, me and my husband.  We just are so in love with her and it's just fun and tiring.

Lauren:  How about you Adrienne?

Adrienne:  Sure.  I have a daughter who is 3 years old.  I'm expecting another baby in May and it’s another girl.  The 3-year-old is awesome.  She is a lot of -- she has a lot of -- it takes a lot of energy.  So being pregnant this time around is very different.  I'm more tired for obvious reasons, and it's hard to focus on actually being pregnant this time which is kind of good and kind of bad.  Yeah.  Like age 3 is like the peak of all your energy you will have in your entire life.  It's so much fun.  It's like my favourite age for kids.  Everything is new and they're able to express themselves, it is awesome.  Congratulations and good luck.

Julie:  Well congratulations again Adrienne.  You're getting a lot of those today.  So since both you and Maranda are actually sort of experts in this field, [Laughing] for this episode, could you tell us or give us tips for those who it will really be helpful for as to having a smooth pregnancy especially in the first trimester because I know I had a horrible one for both my pregnancies.

Adrienne:  Okay.  The first trimester I think resting and taking the time out to rest and not pushing it is really important.  I was fortunate enough to not have nausea or like any other symptoms, I just -- I'm very tired at the beginning.  So for my second pregnancy it was harder to find time for myself, so asking my husband to take my daughter out of the house or relying on family members too, and then also I like screen time I – it’s been awesome.  So put a movie on and like take a little 20-minute catnap, it’s just been awesome.  So self-care first trimester just really -- because it's important, it's one of the most important.  Each trimester is important but the first is really you need to not be stressed and just rest.

Maranda:  While I was nauseous quite a bit.  So my biggest help for that was many meals often, string cheese, those little individual prune wrappers, yogurt drinks, peanut butter crackers, anything that you can have a lot at multiple times a day.  I totally just skipped any main meal you know.  My other advice - practice your smile and nod.

Lauren: That’s awesome.

Maranda:  So much advice kept coming my way and after a while I just was like uh-huh, I'm going to smile, I'm going to nod my head.  I'm taking your advice and I'm just -- I'm just I'm thinking about it.  And that was the sort of saving grace by the time I got to the end of the first trimester, I knew to do that going forward.

Lauren:  That sounds like something fun to roleplay at home.

Maranda:  Yeah.

Lauren:  Like hit me with your best shot, your most outrageous comment and I'm going to nod and smile.

Maranda:  Yeah, I'm going to practice keeping that on my face.

Lauren:  So there are a million and one pregnancy books out there and they all conflict.  So do you Adrienne have any advice for sorting through them and figuring out which ones you're going to pay attention to and which ones you're just going to dismiss.

Adrienne:  So for me I feel like these -- for me I'm more into books that are more holistic and less medically focused.  And I think it's important to have the medical knowledge of what goes on with your body and on labor and delivery.  But I'm more interested in how our bodies deal with pregnancy and how our bodies are amazing and can do this in a positive and about female empowerment.  I think that's really important for me but not for everyone, so for me that's what I kind of use to guide what I'm reading during pregnancy.  I like reputable authors of course, so doctors, midwives, yeah people that have done it and around it and had a lot of experience with it.

Lauren:  How about you Maranda? Do you have an approach?

Maranda:  I kind of went a little bit of a different route.  I wanted to find books that were written by medical professionals who are also parents not just moms, dads too that was fine with me.  I sort of wanted the play-by-play.  I wanted to know week-by-week what to expect.  And I also wanted the latest addition.  So if there was anything new information out there wise I wanted to know, so that was important to me.

Lauren:  Because they keep changing.

Maranda:  Yes.  You never know.

Adrienne:  Yeah, it is so interesting because my favourite book is about like the history like how women have been doing it for like ever and midwife because I'm really into midwifery, so it was about like what they did before was medicalised and what they did at home.  So it's so interesting that like your--

Maranda:  Well, my hospital sent in a midwife at some point and I was like "Oh, I didn't ask for you, but hi." I mean it was great getting a different perspective but I didn't totally didn’t expect it you know.

Lauren:  What's the name of that book Adrienne by the way?

Maranda:  Which one? The one that-

Lauren:  The history.

Adrienne:  Oh, that was Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  She mentions the history of midwifery but it's not the focus of the book but she does talk about it.  And that book also focuses a lot on birth stories -- positive birth stories, because when you're pregnant everyone tells you about the horror -- horrible experiences they have.  So that book I didn't read it as much in my first pregnancy; this pregnancy I definitely have been reading it, because I'm like I need to hear the positive birth stories, and you know, the amazing things that our bodies can do to birth the child.

I started watching 'Call the Midwife' when I was pregnant.  One episode, I'm like okay and [crosstalk].  I made it to episode 5 and then I couldn't do it anymore.  And it was when I was pregnant too.  I was like, I just can't, you're strong, I couldn't do it.

Julie:  So do either of you have any favourite books for trying to conceive?

Maranda:  So for us we went more on the app and article route for trying to conceive.  Apps like Glow where you could sort of track and sort of know when your highest times to conceive were.  I also used Parents magazine.  I read a lot of those articles.  And we actually -- I even subscribed for their emails which I still get and are still handy, that kind of follow the ages too which is neat.  But I know we have our Parents magazine on RBdigital, so that's something that you guys can get from the library.  I also took some advice from people in sort of my same boat from the bump, but definitely the apps were the way that we went.

Adrienne:  So I did not read any books for trying to conceive but I did try to make sure I was in a great place physically and emotionally before I had a child.  So I made sure that you know, I'm confident and I felt I was very spiritual, so I was like I feel good and you know, I feel like it's a good time to do that.  So that was -- and then I just -- we just kind of saw what happened.

Reading this question I was like, “Oh, okay, let me see what books we have in our collection.” And there is a book that is called 'The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant by Jean Twenge, and it was very useful.  I wish I did read it because one of the useful things is so simple about like charting your cycles.  And I just kind of was more like, "Oh whatever, we'll see what happens." But I think the importance of knowing your conception date in relation to your due dates.

So when I -- I had to be induced because I was post-dates but I wasn't charting my cycle, so I didn't -- this is really TMI [Laughter].  I didn't know like I knew when my last period was, but maybe I was wrong when I actually ovulated, because when you go post-dates then they want to induce you.  So I think if I would have known like more accurately how far along I was to give that information to the doctor then it might have been a little bit different.

Maranda:  Well, see that's sort of the good things about the apps for us.  They kept telling us that we were further along and that the baby was too big and you know, you're definitely you know 10 days further along.  And I'm like, "No, we couldn't be.  There is no way."  So that really helped with my doctor like not changing our due date, so that way we didn't go too far over or too far too soon.

Adrienne:  I think that's very useful and I think being aware of that, so using an app or just knowing it would be very helpful during pregnancy.

Maranda:  And beyond they are asking you, like those questions all the time when you are at the doctor’s –.

Adrienne:  They ask all the time.

[Crosstalk] [0:10:17]

Adrienne:  I don't remember.

Maranda:  Oh god a Tuesday.  Yeah, yeah.

Adrienne:  So it was less – it wasn't – it was not stressful to like get pregnant for me.  But I think that in retrospect I wish I would have paid more attention to that.  And I didn't pay attention the second time either cause I didn't read this book.

Julie:  Well now that you know about the book maybe you use it for the third one.

Adrienne:  Exactly, yeah. Um. Third one? 

Lauren: I like what you did there Julie  I looked at that one too, yeah, so it's really good about like sorting through like so-and-so says this and so and so say this, this is what we know.  This is what we're fairly certain about, follow this advice, you know, sorts through all –.

Adrienne:  Yeah it was awesome.  Oh it is awesome.

Lauren:  So Maranda, do you have anything specific you'd like to recommend for pregnancy.  Anything that jumps out at you from everything that you were looking at.

Maranda:  Well one of the books that I will say I read cover-to-cover, because the other ones you might have just browsed flipped through a little bit.  But the one I read cover-to-cover was the Mayo Clinic Guide to Healthy Pregnancy.  This was written by a bunch of the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, all of who had kids of their own.  So that was great.  And one of the things I really liked about it was like I said it gave you a month-by-month, what happens in month one, what to expect, how your baby is growing.  They give you little diagrams and then it also had – it was really great.  The layout was just awesome, because if you had any questions about, “Oh I'm having back pain,” just flip to that chapter.

So I didn't have to be overwhelmed by reading the whole book right away.  I actually read it like I would read month two during month one.  You know, so see what was coming.  So I didn't – I could take it little pieces at a time and I didn't have to be like, “Oh my god in eight months I'm going to feel this.”

Lauren:  And here's all the horrible awful things that might be happening to you.

Maranda:  Yeah I could just live in the moment.

Lauren:  How about you Adrienne, do you have anything specific you'd like to recommend?

Adrienne:  Sure, there's a couple of books.  One is called Bumpology: The Myth-Busting Pregnancy Book for Curious Parents-To-to-Be by Linda Geddes.  It was a favorite of mine, its statistics and fact based.  It's fun and it answers pregnancy myths we've all heard.  And I as a librarian, I really enjoyed it because it was a lot of random information and I like random information.  So some of the questions that it answers is, “Can the shape of my bump or anything else predict the gender of my child?” “Why don't pregnant women topple over?”  What's more painful.

[Crosstalk].

Adrienne:  It talks about your center of gravity and nature is amazing.  “What's more painful childbirth or having your leg chopped off?’ “Does having a membrane sweep work as an epidural make a c-section more likely?” “Can prevent sagging breasts, if you wean your child solely from breastfeeding.”  So these are questions that you may have or maybe you don't –

Lauren:  But everyone is telling you –

Adrienne:  Yeah everyone's telling you like the gender prediction of the shape of your–.  I hear it all the time.

Maranda:  The needle of the belly or you know– oh my gosh.

Adrienne:  Right.  And I'm like my you know my sonographer is wrong.  And so yeah you're right.  I can have a boy like I hear that talking all the time.  Because, you know, you're carrying like you're having a boy.  So I hear that all day long, we’re like–.  And I heard it the last time and I had a girl child.

Maranda:  Everyone tells you, “Oh you're high,” and then the next person that walks by, “Oh you're carrying so low,” and you’re like no, that’s different views.

Adrienne:  Yeah different views.  So I think knowing that it really won't – it doesn't matter it’s good.  And then another book that really changed my idea of having a child is Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin.  So I skimmed it during the first pregnancy.  I did not read it cover-to-cover because I took classes, I had a doula and I like – I was like I don't – you know I'll figure it out.  And I just educated myself in different ways.  But this book I just kept hearing people say ‘It's amazing, it's amazing if you're about holistic birth then you know doing in a different way.’ And I read it and it changed my life about my body.  And to read all these positive birth stories from these midwives that have been doing it since the 60s.  They have a farm in Tennessee called The Farm.  And people would come from all over to deliver their babies there and they live on.  It's like a commune sort of, it was started by hippies.  But women can go there and it's like they get free care and they have a farm literally where you raise food and then you have your child there.

Some people live there and work there, but I'm very – it’s very hippie, it’s very crunchy.  I'm not super hippy or crunchy but I loved it.  And there's a movie called the, ‘The Business of Being Born’ that was on Netflix, I don't know if it's still streaming, but it's – they –.  So it's production, Ricki Lake produced it – the old television host.  But so she has The Farm, Ina May Gaskin the author she's in that documentary.  So that's how I was first exposed to this author, because she's a midwife.  So they talk about you know the medicalization of pregnancy.  And you know it's more about what our bodies can do.

And I had a really difficult first childbirth, because I didn't know what to expect and you don't know what to expect.  And I had midwives the first time, and I had a new baby and it just didn't go how I wanted it to go, because I didn't understand really what was going on.  I didn't really you know what our bodies could do and what, you know, intuition and the mind body connection and how important it is.  And I have examples of, you know, if some of the woman's stressed out how their body reacts with their cervix like opening – it's just so crazy.

But I really found it very empowering and one of the most important messages that she gives is like your body is not a women.  So when you have a baby sometimes we're always like troubleshooting the pregnancy like what went wrong or how to avoid what's wrong, but not trusting that our bodies can do this.  And sometimes they can't, and sometimes you do need medical intervention and it's totally okay to do that.

But that book kind of made me think differently about how I approach childbirth and labor.  I would recommend it to anyone, sounds like –.  Even if you are into medical birth I would still read it just so you could get some inspiration.

Julie:  I'm inspired.

David Payne:  And now a brief message about MCPL’s Services and Resources.

Lisa: How exciting.  You're going to be a new mom and we're here for you.  MCPL not only has many books and DVDs on this most important topic, but our health databases can help you find the specific information you are seeking.  You can find a link to our health resources in this episode’s show notes.

David Payne:  Now back to our program.

Julie:  So there are a lot of books suggested for moms, you know, and a lot of advice from moms, can both of you suggest or recommend books that are great for expectant dads.

Maranda:  Well the book I got for my husband was called “The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-To-Be” by Brott, my husband very slowly got into this.  I think maybe around like the seventh trimester he was like, “Okay I'm going to read these – I am going to start reading.”

But he did become more and more interested as he went along.  It has a month-to-month guide the trend here for dads sort of – like just like the Mayo Clinic has for them moms.  But it also has a lot of topics that men worry about that maybe women don't have at the forefront of their mind like the finances.  A lot of men that's like, “We're having a baby, oh my God I need to start saving so much money.” It talks about that, it talks about balancing work and family.  You know what – what to expect that your spouse is going through.  But those other things that like come sort of first to their minds.  It was a great book for them – for him to look at.

Adrienne:  I brought that book to, as I am preparing for this question because my husband didn't read any book.  He refused to, but I was like “Oh let me just see.”

Lauren:  So he relied on you.

Adrienne:  He relied on me, yeah.  So I – the expectant father was awesome.  I saw that and like even the titles, “What's going on with your partner physically and emotionally, what's going on with the baby, what's going with you as father.”  Like I just thought that was awesome.

Maranda:  It was one they could definitely flip through.  They didn't have to read it cover-to-cover if they didn't want to.  But yeah it was a good one.

Julie:  So it was made just for dads.

Maranda:  Yes.

Adrienne:  There's another book called “The Birth Partner:  The Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and Other Labor Companions.” So it's not just for dads it's for any, you know, anyone who's of company or men that's having a baby.  I did not read it, but thought that it looked interesting.  So I also found one that I don't recommend, but it’s “What to Expect When Your Wife Is Expanding.” Like time is hell.  So I came across that.

Maranda:  Just for the title –

Lauren:  Expanding what.

Adrienne:  And one of the sections is, “What is Your Wife Complaining About This Month.”  So maybe it works, maybe it works for some men.  I don't know, but –

Maranda: Read that one under the covers after –.

Adrienne:  Yeah– don’t let your wife – exactly don’t let your wife see you reading it.

Lauren:  Maybe there's the random man that's not going to read the other one. 

Adrienne: This one honey.

Julie:  Yeah there's something for everyone.

Lauren:  Right.  So in addition to ‘What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding’ is there any other books or advice that you found particularly not helpful.

Adrienne:  [0:20:04] So I think in general any book that tries to scare women into thinking about everything that could go wrong with their pregnancy or their body.  And that one that makes pregnancies seem like an illness.  Some of them are very like, like, like based on problems, but people would find that useful.  I'm not saying that it's not helpful and if you're in that situation it helps.  But personally I didn't.

Maranda:  [0:20:30] For me I miss a little bit of the opposite of Adrienne.  I'm not sent into really the holistic approach or anything I wanted it to be all about me.  So any of those stories about -- oh, well, when I was pregnant dah, dah, dah, dah, like okay cool that's fine but I'm pregnant.

And I want my own experience.  So that was sort of, I didn't mind hearing a little bit of advice here and there but I kind -- I wanted to know what to expect and more of a grander scheme of things.  I didn't want to hear that in the second -- in the first trimester you're going to be super, super sick all the time.  But what if I'm not?  Like I don't want to be told I was going you know.

So I kind of wanted to sort of see all the sights, I didn't want to just hear one person's story.  So anything that was more like seemed more biographical I shied away from.

Julie:  So we do know after delivery people bring their kids to story times at the library, which brings me to this question.  Do either of you have any favorite books you would recommend to read to newborns?

Maranda:  Well, I'm going to tell you my husband's favorite.  My husband loved reading to Lyla right off the bat even just like a week or two.  I mean she can't even see that, right.  He loved reading Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. 

Lauren:  [0:21:52] Oh, yeah I remember that.

Maranda:  [0:21:39] He loved doing that one.  And then once Lyla started you know tracking you a little bit anything with color or numbers, she loves counting anytime you can even if the book doesn't have counting in it.  Not about counting at all.  You count those leaves on the page like that seemed more interesting than anything else.  But yeah, to get those -- get those guys to read Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed you can't go wrong.

Adrienne:  I liked that one.  That was a good one.  So I -- we read Goodnight Moon pretty early to her and loved it and it was the last book we read at night.  And we'd say goodnight to everything in the room and the book.  And then we'd say goodnight to the room and her actual room and then we put her down and it worked every time.  So I have really good memories of that.  Pat The Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, we don't own it because it's a touch-and-feel book so I imagine it may be --

Lauren:  It gets destroyed. 

Adrienne:  Yeah.  We maybe owned it before, but it gets destroyed but she really liked that book too and she was a little teeny baby.  So those were the books that I enjoy reading to her.

Lauren:  So do you have an idea of when you're going to bring your baby to get her very first library card. 

Adrienne:  Sure.  So I brought my daughter when she was I think like two months or a month to get her first card.  This one I'll do the same maybe even sooner.  And you know you can bring your child from zero, you take them out of the house.  The first place you can bring them is the library to get their own library card.  Go to story time.  It's never too early.  We have the wonderful program 1000 books before kindergarten, so you can start right then getting your kid on her on his or her way to a thousand books for kindergarten.

Maranda:  And coming to story time.

Adrienne:  And coming to story time.

Maranda:  So you get how many seashells just going to story time.

Lauren:  [0:23:44] You do.  You get so many....

Adrienne:  Rack at the seashells.

Lauren:  Right.

Adrienne:  We started bringing our child when she was six weeks to story time.  So it was just.  And she was just a little thing and didn't really pay attention but it was so nice to bring her there and she kind of looked at other babies and I would going to do the same with this baby.  So yeah we are going to get her a card.

Maranda:  We're sharing my card right now.

Adrienne:  Which is fine.

Maranda:  I just don't want too many to look hang on to at the moment.  So when she -- yeah.  For right now we're going to share mommy's.

Lauren:  [0:24:17] Kind of where we're at in our house too. 

Julie: So are there any other programs or resources that you would like to mention that are actually specifically geared toward expectant moms as well as new moms.

Adrienne:  [0:24:32] Sure.  So we talked about story times three little ones and 1000 books before kindergarten, which is our system wide program to encourage early literacy from zero to five year olds.  Also I would say there's yoga classes and meditation classes, which are good if your yoga is good.  If you're expecting be careful don't do any of the crazy poses.  Prenatal DVDs which I find I really helpful.  So exercise or prenatal yoga there's like a prenatal like weightlifting like one that I use.  It's awesome. 

Maranda:  Download your play list off for Eagle for the delivery room.

Adrienne:  And when they're -- like all the newborn nursery rhymes too, you have playlists for that.  Those are very helpful..

Maranda:  We offer for free.  And we have our discovery rooms several of the branches have playrooms for the kids that have early literacy toys.  So if you're someone like Adrienne and you have a 3 year old and you can have a newborn it's a contained space for them to play and you know maybe run around a little bed and get out some of the energy and you can't lose them.

Adrienne:  And also our health databases.  So if you have questions about pregnancy you can use.  I don't remember the titles exactly right now of those databases but we'll put them in the show notes for you to look at.

Julie:  And what's so great about all of this is that we offer all these resources you know and there is something for everyone.  And the bottom line is it's free.  So on Library Matters we like to ask all of our guests what are you reading right now that you want to tell us about Adrienne?.

Adrienne:  [0:25:58]  Sure.  So reading is something I enjoy and that I don't get to do very often.  Having a 3 year old.  So aside from lots of picture books my daughter loves Madeline and books with horses and mermaids, and she likes anything with the frozen characters.  So aside from that what I'm what am I reading, so I just finished the looming tower by Lawrence Wright.  It's so good.  There's a TV show, there's a TV show on.  Actually it's on Hulu.  And this is a book that the show is based on, it's nonfiction.  It's about the rise of al-Qaeda.  I find it very interesting it talks about the book half of the book talks about the history of the Muslim Brotherhood and history of the Middle East and how you know Saudi Arabia and Egypt and it just it's so interesting to me because I don't know a lot about that region of the world.  So I finished that and it was so good that I'm obsessed.  Also I just finished a fiction book called The Woman in the Window by A.J.  Finn.  It is supposedly the Gone Girl of 2018.  I finished it.  So that's good.

That means it was engaging. I couldn't put it down and I kept reading it.  And then so I finished those two but I'm currently reading black flags by Joby Warrick and that's about ISIS.  I'm also -- there's a parenting book called There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather.  A Scandinavian Mom Secrets her raising healthy resilient and confident kids from -- it's a Swedish name.  So this is the title, a Scandanavian Mom's Secret for Raising Healthy, Resilient and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) and those are Swedish words [Crosstalk] by Linda Åkeson McGurk.  And it's about embracing nature and making your kids go out and explore and

Lauren: How about you Maranda, anything you're dying to tell us about?

Maranda:  Well it's a go with the baby theme first before my pleasure reading.  We're just starting solids for Lyla so I'm we're clueless.  We have no idea what to do.  So I just checked out the other day Super Baby Food by Yaron.  So I'm going to look through that and hopefully get know what to give her next.

We started with avocado thought that was pretty safe and she loves it.  But in terms of pleasure reading I sort of like my escapism in my books.  Give me a good fantasy any day.  So I'm actually reading the book two of The Ancestor.  It's called Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence.  It's an adult fantasy novel that takes place in this world covered by ice.  There is like a 50 mile corridor along the Earth's equator where everyone lives.

And the story follows this pretty violent girl who is training to become a nun.

But these are like Kick-butt Nuns like --

Lauren:  [0:29:11] I love stories about Kick-butt Nuns.

Maranda:  Think like Harry Potter school meets Mortal Kombat.  So it's pretty entertaining and that's a book too so.  It's a new release and I'm really enjoying it.

Julie:  [0:29:28] All sounds wonderful.  So once again I would like to thank both Maranda and Adrianne for joining us today.  We really appreciate all the information you've given us.  Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.  Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also please review and read us on Apple podcast, we'll love to know what you think.  Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

[End of transcript]

Apr 25, 2018

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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 take you outside in a matter of speaking to the garden. I think it's safe to say that spring is finally here. I hope it is and in spring it's always a time when many of us start thinking about our gardens. So what better than to invite one of our green thumb librarians, Beth Chandler, avid gardener to join us today and talk about her garden and her passion for gardening. So Beth, welcome.

Beth Chandler: Thank you, David. I’m glad to be here. And I've already gotten started on my garden with some cool season items such as spinach.

David Payne: Very good, very good I'm actually glad to see you back. Listeners may remember Beth from her previous appearance talking about sci-fi and I know you enjoyed it so much you’ve come back.

Beth Chandler: I have many interests and as one of the selectors I buy our garden books for the library and landscaping books.

David Payne: All right, that sounds like fun.

Beth Chandler: It is. I enjoy that.

Julie Dina: So Beth, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and actually what got you interested in gardening?

Beth Chandler: Well, I grew up on the outskirts of a small town and my dad had grown up on a farm so we had gardens growing up. I like to play in the dirt, including practical things like digging up the dirt and planting cucumber seeds, which were one of my favorites. And my grandmother had a truck farm so I got to see something more extensive operation when I visited her. And that's what got me interested and then as an adult I started getting interested in eating organic foods and I missed the fresh foods that I could get growing up.

David Payne: So Beth you obviously have a very great passion for gardening. What do you particularly enjoy about it?

Beth Chandler: There are many things. I find it – it makes me feel very serene. I love working in the Earth and with the Earth making things grow as satisfying. It's something that I can enjoy and that I and also my husband and anyone else I might share things with gets the bounty of everything from strawberries to lettuces and baby carrots. Also I like it because it gets me out of the house in relaxing and it more or less coincides with Formula One season which my husband will be watching on TV so he doesn't feel like a gardening widower and I don't feel like a Formula One widow.

David Payne: So you leave him in the house and you go out and do.

Beth Chandler: Yes, I do.

David Payne: Sounds like a good comprise.

Beth Chandler: Then I come in and say look fresh baby carrots for dinner.

David Payne: So Beth there are many different kinds of gardening activities we can do with flowers, with vegetables, with herbs, what do you most enjoy do you do a bit of everything or do you prefer specializing in one or the other?

Beth Chandler: I prefer everything. I grow fruit for flowers, vegetables, herbs we also had some wonderful plantings already in our yard when we moved into our home. So I do some pruning too.

David Payne: And are there any particular kind of herbs that you particularly enjoy?

Beth Chandler: I like some of the easier to grow herbs such as parsley and oregano. So my absolute favorite is lilacs and year after we moved in I was determined I was going to buy and plant a lilac tree and I did. Seem to have a bit of a problem with powdery mildew last year but I'm hopeful for this year and every year I get more of those wonderful fragrant blossoms.

David Payne: You almost smell the fragrance.

Beth Chandler: Oh, yes.

Julie Dina: Smelling it now.

Beth Chandler: Yes, they’re in leaf.

Julie Dina: One thing for sure is for the plants and the herbs for them to grow they need water. Thus, the popular phrase April showers brings May flowers. So can you share with us tips on how to get the best garden in the block.

Beth Chandler: Well, water as you said is very important and watering when we have dry seasons which we often do in the summer here in Maryland. Having good soil is important. You can buy pretty cheap pH test to see what the acid or base level of your garden soil is. If you have really bad soil which I did you might prefer to do container pots and fill them with materials you buy from a garden store, at least at the beginning. I've also done some composting and put compost in. You can also amend the soil which is another word for putting in fertilizer or digging in mulch or manure whatever your particular plant needs. But pay attention to what it says your plant needs on the little piece that’s stuck into the pot or if you buy seeds on the back of the seed packet it’s really helpful.

Julie Dina: I never knew that that’s the first thing I tossed out.

David Payne: Not anymore.

Julie Dina: No wonder they don’t live.

Beth Chandler: You need to be careful is it full sun, part sun, part shade or full shade.

Julie Dina: And you hear that folks.

David Payne: So do you have any particularly favorite flowers or plants?

Beth Chandler: Well I mentioned the lilacs.

David Payne: Yeah.

Beth Chandler: And I was also happy when we moved in to find out that we had beautiful pink climbing roses which are scented. They only bloom for a few weeks but I think they're worth it. And then of course I plant other things around them such as morning glories, which bloom later in the year. So that part of the garden is colorful for a good portion of the growing season.

David Payne: Let me just ask a follow-up to that. Do you obviously some people for perennial, some people for annuals, their advantages, disadvantages to both how do you feel about the perennial, annual question?

Beth Chandler: I love to have both. And since I grow vegetables and herbs many of them are annuals. Although there are some perennials, I'm convinced you just can't kill chives. And oregano is just as sturdy so I like to have some perennials but then I also can't resist annuals. I recently bought a geranium which I'm coddling indoors until it’s warm enough to put it out. And I love pansies here in Maryland we can keep them growing at least till November and if you're lucky they’ll come back in the spring.

Julie Dina: Now if you could grow anything in your garden that doesn't already grow on a plant such as money, candy what exactly would you pick to plant?

Beth Chandler: Well, money is always good because you can buy just about anything with which. But you know, already fully formed chocolates since I can’t really grow my own the cacao trees around here would be good. And of course there is books.

Julie Dina: Have you ever thought about doing any of those?

Beth Chandler: It is tempting. I just found a wonderful I love for Pinterest for Garden Ideas and I just found one which showed a little bookcase with books in it and I thought maybe my favorite garden needs some books in it.

Julie Dina: That will make it unique.

David Payne: So almost the business question since you’re a selector in our collection management department, what's new in gardening books that you’re really excited about?

Beth Chandler: Well, there has been contain in gardening things for a while and I've noticed recently there is real surge in the last couple of years in butterfly and be friendly plants to help keep our pollinators fed and healthy. Also I recently bought a new book on permaculture it just came into the branches, The Minimalist Gardener which is from England, but still has a lot of ideas that are relevant to our Mid-Atlantic climate here in Maryland.

Julie Dina: David, you should know about that particular book since you’re from England.

David Payne: I have to check it out, yeah.

Beth Chandler: And I should explain permaculture is something that will go on long-term. Usually it's also a very diverse sort of garden and the minimalist ideas that you plant things that are either native to the area or that can do with very little assistance in which since so many of us are very busy and stressed these days it is nice to plant a garden that you only have to do a little bit of work and doesn't require hours every weekend.

David Payne: Well, keeping with the books theme, are there any particular books that you have read that have really helped you or formed you as a gardener?

Beth Chandler: I've read more all across from things on the internet, you can't trust everything on the internet but you really can just about trust just about anything you get from a cooperative extension website, Maryland Cooperative Extension has some good things and does Maryland Master Gardeners. And also there is a book I referred to regularly it's called What's Wrong with My Plant by Deardorff and Wadsworth.

We do have several copies in the library. It's wonderful because it shows pictures of the various kinds of spots in the way bits and other things you might find on your plant leaves or stems or in the fruit. So it's very helpful for finding out what you need to do and it leans towards organic resources and it tells you that the safest and then going to conventional things when you need to kill off a really nasty pest.

David Payne: Sounds very useful.

Beth Chandler: Yeah.

Julie Dina: So Beth we do know there are lots of books that are actually in our library system for adults who enjoy gardening. Would you say we have plenty of books for children who are actually interested in gardening and would like to check any of these books out?

Beth Chandler: We do have a new series for children. The titles are Super Simple Butterfly Gardens and then other thing Super Simple I think there is Indoor Gardens and so on. So if you just type in super simple you should come up with a list and see what kind of a garden you and your child or children want to grow.

Julie Dina: And so what you're saying these books are really simple.

Beth Chandler: They're really easy, yes. And so they also might be good for adults who want to start from the very beginning or who decide it might be better if they have a child help them. Yeah, they can really help with the digging I'm sure a lot of children.

Julie Dina: That's the one I'll be checking out. Now to be successful in gardening do you really need the gift of the green thumb?

Beth Chandler: Not really. My mother, for example, has a rather black thumb. And she would be the first to admit herself and if you get plants that are fairly unkillable and just manage to water them and if you’re fortunate enough to either have good soil or to be able to buy some you can do fine. There are some very easy to grow plants marigolds are pretty easy and you can buy them just about anywhere, including off in the grocery store and just pop them in your yard. Cucumbers actually grow in really bad soil so they're pretty easy. And the aforementioned pansies are easy. It's just about impossible as I said to kill parsley or oregano or chives. So those are some I’d recommend for people who really feel they have a black thumb. And as long as you water them when it gets a bit dry outside you should do okay.

Julie Dina: I’m going to go out and purchase those.

David Payne: There you go. We’ll check back and see how you’re doing.

Julie Dina: Yeah, a successful gardener.

David Payne: So having said that what recommendations do you have for anybody who is just starting out in gardening and may be a bit overwhelmed or find it intimidating or has no experience. How would you get them started? What advice would you give or any particular books you might suggest for them?

Beth Chandler: I would say start with some of the herbs I mentioned that are easy to grow or maybe marigolds, pansies, zinnias are fairly easy to grow also. Our flower, state flower, the Blackeyed Susan is also very easy to grow and does well in our hot dry summers. One of the recent books we got would be pretty good. It's called The New Small Garden and since we do live in an area on the very edge of a major city a lot of people don't have much room. So that one again caught The New Small Garden would be helpful to most people. We also have a wonderful book Mid-Atlantic Getting Started Garden Guide. It's a few years old but it's specifically targeted at our area. So if you're doubtful about your ability to pick plants or to do the things that fit this climate that's where to go.

Julie Dina: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.

Lisa Navidi: Love to garden but have a brown thumb or a problem with a specific plant or a flower MCPL can help. Our dedicated Master Gardeners visit several Montgomery County branches from April through September and are there to answer your questions and calm your fears. You can find more information about our Master Gardener Program and are many other gardening resources in this episode show notes.

Julie Dina: Now back to our program. What would be your recommendation for those who say you know, I don't really have much time, I'm busy but I'll like to plant my own herbs or my own plants?

Beth Chandler: I would say you start with a window garden or just a couple of pots on your front or back porch. And herbs the seeds or seedlings are pretty cheap and you can get a lot of return for your money and you won’t have to run out to buy parsley if you want some for the dinner that you have planned.

Julie Dina: Any other ones?

Beth Chandler: We have all kinds of books. If you want to just try a little terrarium and you can build them so they are mostly self-sustaining and will go on with maybe a drop of water. There is also growing perfect vegetables, which I don't know how perfect one can actually get them but does give a lot of assistance. And there is one or two books on particularly growing things in the shade such as Glorious Shade.

So if you have a little shady backyard that might be a good book to pick up to find out what will grow well. And I can tell you again one of my favorites parsley does grow well in the shade, and so do salad greens if you want to stop buying those packaged salad greens all the time and spending all that money for the cost of one you could get maybe two packets of mixed greens to plant in your yard.

Julie Dina: And where will I get the seeds for those because I'm always buying packets of salads that would be me.

Beth Chandler: Home & Garden shop, some larger grocery stores, health food stores, garden and nursery shops, lot of different places.

David Payne: Now talking about vegetables I mean, I've always found it fairly easy to grow tomatoes well varying success. But amongst the different kinds of tomato are there ones that you suggest the easier perhaps to grow, perhaps with the new gardener you might just want to plunk them in there and keep watering or they both all about the same as far as the work involved in the maintenance.

Beth Chandler: Oh, I have a confession. I have no luck in growing tomatoes on my own. I don't know why. I would say that for cucumbers, which as I mentioned are easy and grow in soil that’s not very high quality. Straight Eight's brand comes up pretty well. They don't have those scary curves that make them hard to peel. And Spacemaster which is probably a brand name but any bush type cucumbers you could even grow in a large-size planter pot if you just have an apartment and no access to an actual plot of land.

Julie Dina: You've given us a lot of recommendations and I know there are people who would say you know I don't really have enough space. I only have a balcony or a windowsill that I will like to maximize its use. Do you have any recommendations for such people?

Beth Chandler: Again, definitely a little windowsill garden with herbs and it doesn't have to be windowsill, your sill might not be large enough. If you have a table reasonably near the sun you can put a few small pots or maybe even one or two. I have a friend who does that she always keeps catnip for her cats in one of the windowsill gardens.

Julie Dina: Any particular ones that grow easily?

Beth Chandler: The catnip and most mints aren't too bad and it’s the usual for. Also if you remember the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Thyme can be a little tricky, but the other three aren’t too bad.

Julie Dina: Okay, I'll give it some thyme.

Beth Chandler: Actually excuse me it’s rosemary that's a bit tricky.

Julie Dina: And rosemary too.

David Payne: I was waiting for a follow-up with that.

Julie Dina: Well, you got it.

Beth Chandler: But the parts parsley, the sage if anyone needs oregano you can come to my place. I always have more than I need that's how well it grows. I attempted to use it as a groundcover.

David Payne: Well, MCPL has a lot of resources for the gardener. Any particular resources that you can particularly recommend such as the Master Gardening Program?

Beth Chandler: Well, I notice that currently the Master Gardeners in the Davis area are holding plant workshops. You can bring your plant and find out how to take care of it or perhaps cure it. There are Master Gardeners all over and I fondly remember the ones at Aspen Hill who kept up the beautiful flowers at the entryway to Aspen Hill and actually identified one of the flowers that was doing particularly well in the middle of a hot summer so I’ll pass that on. Coreopsis is a perennial, you can buy it plant it once. And as long as you don't let it get totally waterless when we have a drought, it will pretty much keep on blooming for a couple of months at least.

But definitely the Master Gardeners since they pop up various places and the Master Gardeners, there is as I had mentioned there is a Maryland organization and they’re smaller chapters. There is usually at least one in every town, sometimes multiple ones. And if you go on your local email discussion list or patch and then of course for your library website you can get help from the Master Gardeners who are people who know a lot about plants and gardening and get together and learn even more about it.

Julie Dina: So since we’re still talking about the Master Gardeners I remember when I worked at the Wheaton branch we had a lot of customers who would come in Saturday morning because the Master Gardeners would have workshops at the Wheaton Library. Now do they offer these workshops at all of our branches or only specific ones?

Beth Chandler: Specific ones at different times. You can check our events section to find out who is offering it. Just put in the word gardening and you will find what they're doing.

Julie Dina: And does it cost anything?

Beth Chandler: No programs at the library are free so that would not cost anything. So if you want to learn to become a Master Gardener you don't need to already be good. You can just find out when they’re meeting and go to a meeting and often they use library meeting rooms.

Julie Dina: Do you know how often they offer that?

Beth Chandler: I think meetings are usually monthly but it depends on the group.

David Payne: Now being an expert with a green thumb do you plan on attending the Montgomery County GreenFest on May 5?

Beth Chandler: Well, I have to take a look because I think that might be the same weekend as something related to another one of my hobbies the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival since I’m a crocheter. So I could have a conflict of hobbies. [Multiple Speakers]

Julie Dina: Watch out the next episode.

David Payne: So Beth now that you’ve made gardeners out of all of us as you know from your previous appearance we usually end our podcast by asking you what you’re reading now. So anything that you have read recently or reading now that you care to tell us about.

Beth Chandler: As I mentioned before, I just started The Minimalist Gardener to find out how I can have a wonderful garden for less and hopefully take up more of the backyard, which means less mowing the lawn. And in other areas speaking of my crocheting and that I have other hobbies I am reading Crafting for Cat Ladies.

Julie Dina: Sounds good.

Beth Chandler: Yes.

Julie Dina: I guess you’re a cat lady then.

Beth Chandler: Oh, I’m a totally crazy cat lady. I have one cat and that's all it took. So I might even be making something in his colors, silver gray and jade green.

Julie Dina: Well, that's been very enlightening. Thank you so much Beth for joining us today. Let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.

Apr 11, 2018

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Lauren Martino: Hello and welcome to Library Matters. I'm Lauren Martino and I'm here with my co-host David Payne.

 

David Payne: Hello.

 

Lauren Martino: And today we are here with our Outreach and Programs Assistant Director, Mary Ellen Icaza. Welcome to the show Mary Ellen.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Thank you for having me.

 

Lauren Martino: And here with us as well, we’re welcoming Laura Sarantis, Library Associate at Gaithersburg.

 

Laura Sarantis: It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me too.

 

Lauren Martino: So could you Mary Ellen tell us a little bit about yourself. What got you interested in library programming, how did you get to where you are today?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Sure, well, I've worked for Montgomery County Libraries for a total of 14 years, but I had a break when I left the libraries and I went to work for Montgomery County Public Schools and a government consulting company. But my true love of libraries lured me back to Montgomery County Public Libraries. And my current position is the Assistant Director for Programs and Outreach as you mentioned. And I’ve always had an interest I think in library programming even when I was a new librarian at the Greenbelt Public Library in Prince George’s County. I was a librarian in a generalist branch. I did story times, I did book discussions for adults and children and I also taught basic computer classes, how to search the Internet.

 

And then even when I was working in the unit called Virtual Services, it's now called Digital Strategies, we were tasked with promoting library events and programs. So library programs and events have always been at the forefront of the work I've been doing at libraries. And we would cover the events on social media, on Twitter and on Facebook and always looking for ways that we could get the word out about library programs. So in my current position I'm working on programs in a different way, but I think I've always been passionate about library programs.

 

Lauren Martino: And Laura, tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get into library programming like what makes you excited to be here talking about it today?

 

Laura Sarantis: Well, actually I was hired as a teen librarian 10 years ago. So it's actually part of my job description to do programming. I had no idea what I was doing when I started here a decade ago. This is actually a second career for me. My previous incarnation was as an online editor. I was a Database Editor for Congressional Quarterly in the 90s at a time when things were changing rapidly, and they were bringing their dial-up service to the World Wide Web. And then I was a web editor for the Humane Society in the United States and that I was sort of burnt out on. When you deal with animal protection, there is always something bad happening to an animal so we have a – something we call compassion fatigue where I kind of gotten sad and couldn't watch Animal Planet anymore.

 

Lauren Martino: That’s a problem.

 

Laura Sarantis: It is a problem. I was a page when I was in high school and in college. So I thought well, I’m going to just look at library jobs. So this was supposed to just be a sabbatical from online editing and I just loved it so much. The programming part of it, it took me a while to get on top of that. Early on, I just had no idea what I was doing, no idea how to get kids into the library. Now it's going really well and so it’s – we’re doing better with that now.

 

David Payne: So programming is one of the many hats that we as librarians work with – work in. Perhaps, Mary Ellen I could ask you to actually define what programming, what library programming is for the benefit of our listeners.

 

Lauren Martino: Because it doesn’t have anything to do with Java or Scratch or –.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Well, actually Lauren, it could if we're offering a library program on computer programming, right. So library programming are events that our library system or any library system around the country provides to our customers that support lifelong learning and connecting them to ideas and to resources for things that they can use in their daily lives. And an important thing to know is that all of the programs we offer at the library are free, which is incredible. Programs can be led by library staff, such as our story times that are led by professional librarians or library associates or we can work with partners to come in to do presentations and performances or authors that we might contract to do programs as well.

 

David Payne: So if someone was interested in presenting a program how should they approach the library to find out more information?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Well, there is a couple of different things they can do. If they are interested in working with a particular library branch for example, Laura, she works at the Gaithersburg library. They can connect with staff at that particular branch or if they're interested in doing a program that might involve several different branches they can work with my programming team and we have a form available on our website. If people want to submit a program proposal and we ask a lot of questions to make sure that it is in line with other programming that we’re doing. And if it's in line with our strategic plan and our mission and our vision and we can help coordinate amongst different branches that way.

 

David Payne: Great, thank you.

 

Lauren Martino: I find it interesting that both of you have these really strong technology backgrounds, right. Like I don’t see a storyteller, I don't see you know basket making, I see web editor and digital strategies, digital services. What do think that says about how library programming is changing – is evolving, but it looks like today versus what it look like in the past?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I think it says a lot about our changing society. I think the jobs that Laura and I both had I didn't know Laura was an online editor actually, so that's interesting I learned something new. But 30 years ago those jobs didn't exist and we at the library probably at that time were offering very traditional programs like story times and book discussions. And I think as society has changed and technology has grown and STEM, science, technology, engineering and math have become even more visible as career pathways for kids the library has responded to that with the programming that we’re offering.

 

So I don't think you know 20, 30 years ago you would've seen classes on computer programming or girls just want to code that kind of thing. And I think it says a lot about the library that we want to offer programs that appeal to our community so that we are offering things that are relevant to their lives. For instance, I don't think that there were yoga and meditation classes years ago, but now that's something that a lot of our library branches are offering. So I think as a whole libraries evolved with the times to meet the needs of our communities.

 

David Payne: The library is really more, really very much a community center.

 

Laura Sarantis: Yeah, I like to say people will be like, oh, it must be nice to work in the library. You can sit there and it's quiet and you can read. And I’m like the library is now a social service agency and that is that's a really important role for us to have in the community. It's more than just books you know we have to prepare young people to compete in an economy that's based – it's an information age economy. So sometimes we have seniors who come in and say, “Well, why do you have computers here instead of just books?” Well, you know, do you want your grandchild to be able to get a job when they get out of school? You know, they’re going to have to be very literate in computers.

 

Lauren Martino: It’s getting to be as important as like reading literacy, isn’t it?

 

Laura Sarantis: Right, but and there are also there are other I think educators have known for a long time that there is a lot of different ways that you can learn things besides just reading it in a book. And doing something – doing an activity is much more useful than reading about it. Like for example, we said seniors – we just had a senior tech series on Sundays where a volunteer came in and just sat down with a group of seniors to teach them how to use computers. And they could've read all the books in the library on using computers, but nothing is going to replace pushing a key and seeing what the machine does when you –. It's a two-way interaction that you have with technology that you can't really learn it just from a book. So in that respect, I think you know our services are, we've expanded our services so that we can meet that need in the community.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: And I think it also takes into account that people learn in many different ways.

 

Laura Sarantis: Yes.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: And that not all education has to happen in the traditional sense in a classroom. And many of our programs have become much more hands-on like Laura was saying you know kids are doing experiments in the STEM programs and the seniors are learning to use their devices and it acknowledges that learning can happen in a myriad of ways. And that learning can happen you know, in the library can happen at home, it can happen in the classroom. And not everybody learns the same way, so like I think that is one of the things that have been an area where libraries have really evolved so that we’re not just books like Laura says, and reading and all of that is still really, really core to what we do. But our role has definitely expanded into the types of areas where we’re offering programs.

 

David Payne: Well, Laura, Mary Ellen a bit earlier mentioned the very successful girls just want to compute program which you involve with. Tell us about the program, how it came about?

 

Laura Sarantis: Well, it came about – it was started by a Poolesville High School student a few years ago. She noticed that in school a lot of the computer clubs and engineering groups were sort of dominated by young men instead of girls. And she started meeting with a bunch of girls at the Germantown Library. It started out kind of as a coding club. She turned it into a curriculum and started inviting younger students in to teach them Python coding. So she graduated. She is now I believe a sophomore at Yale University, but the program went on. She had trained some younger high school students to continue teaching it – that's how we met Cindy who is one of the volunteers who has done other programming for us in Gaithersburg and it's very, very popular.

 

The girls just – the girls really enjoy it. The parents love it and it's a different feel when it's just girls, when it's just girls teaching girls. They definitely have a more cooperative learning style. When they’re problem solving it, they're not competing, they’re doing it together. So it offers something special just for girls who might feel that there, you know, they don't have the opportunity to do that at their school where they’re kind of being drowned out maybe by the boys sometimes.

 

Lauren Martino: That's such a great education and leadership I'm so impressed that your volunteer not only put together this amazing program, but was able to train people to do the same thing after her that's huge.

 

Laura Sarantis: Yes.

 

Lauren Martino: So you’re not only just offering the program for the people that are doing the program, I imagine the benefits are huge for the teen volunteers as well.

 

Laura Sarantis: Sometimes people wonder if we have any secrets or what's the secret to good programming or people have asked what do you know that you wish other librarians knew. And my secret weapon is that teenagers themselves, high school students can themselves initiate and run very compelling, wonderful, exciting library programs. And we've been very fortunate that we've had a few teens who have been doing this sort of thing at Gaithersburg.

 

But sometimes I wish another teen would come to me and say, well, you know, I just know something about astronomy and I have a good telescope and I just want to show some kids some constellations. It doesn't have to be, it doesn’t have to be really technical. It doesn't have to be advanced or sophisticated. It's kids leading other kids and that's a very viable form of programming. Sometimes we have a girls robotics class at Gaithersburg that's taught by Cindy who is one of the girls just want to compute teachers. And it's her and her sister and other high school students teaching girls who are between the ages of nine and 13. And sometimes I walk in the room and I can feel that the mood shift like oh, a grown up just walked in the room, yuk.

 

And they’re all on task, they're all focused, they’re all writing programs, they’re not goofing off where I’m coming into sort of break it up. It's just sort of a different vibe. The teenagers can connect with the younger girls in a way that adult librarians just can't. So that's something that I think is – that’s kind of our hidden weapon I guess at Gaithersburg for programming. But I really I’m going to look forward to trying to find other teens who can come into the library and who have certain skills and can share those with younger kids because nine times out of 10, they’re going to do a fantastic job with it.

 

David Payne: You’re absolutely right. We’ve really had some very dynamic program with teenagers.

 

Lauren Martino: Mary Ellen, can you tell us about the most memorable library program that you've been a part of?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I would have to say most recently the most memorable program to me was a speaker series that we implemented last year. It was our first speaker series and the title of it is contemporary conversations. And it's a program series where we invite authors and journalists and other well-known figures to come to the library to do a presentation and a Q&A session with the public. And we had some really terrific speakers last year and they were the first large-scale programs of this nature that we did. Our first speaker was Kojo Nnamdi from NPR.

 

Lauren Martino: I remember that, yeah.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: And we had over 200 people.

 

Lauren Martino: That was amazing.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: And we held it at the Gaithersburg library and that was totally cool that people came from all over the county to attend that program on a – it was a Saturday night. And it was just really great to see people coming from as far as Burtonsville, they came from Damascus, they came from all over the county. And then we went on to have conversations at a couple of other locations. Silver Spring was another one. We had Charles Lane from the Washington Post come. And he did a conversation with the County Executive Leggett and they had a dialog about a book that Charles Lane had written. And it was just so neat to see people interested in a particular topic and want to come together as a large group to discuss it. We are going to have this series continue on this spring and we are so fortunate that we are part of a grant that we've been awarded called The Big Read and we’re partnering with several different organizations.

 

The Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, Montgomery Community Media, Gaithersburg Book Festival and Montgomery History. And our theme is the immigrant experience. And the book that we've chosen for The Big Read is Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. And we’re doing programs all spring long on it, but The Big Read program will end in June on June 9th. We’re going to have a contemporary conversation with Dinaw Mengestu, the author who is going to come to speak to the community. So we’re so thrilled about that that we’re able to bring an author of his caliber to the community to talk with our community and do a Q&A and have a large event like that at Silver Spring.

 

David Payne: And Mary Ellen, where can listeners find out more information about The Big Read?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: The Big Read, we have a section on our website and if people want to go to our homepage they'll see a big icon that says The Big Read.

 

Lauren Martino: Hard to miss.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Right, and not only are we having the author come in June but we’re having a slew of book discussions on his book. There will be an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. There will be panels on immigrating to Montgomery County. And there also will be events at various branches and locations throughout the spring.

 

Lauren Martino: Because this book actually part of it focuses on Montgomery County doesn't it?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: It's, he was a local writer. Yes.

 

Lauren Martino: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.

 

Febe Huezo: Mom, I’m heading out for yoga.

 

Julie Dina: I thought you were going to the library.

 

Febe Huezo: I am.

 

Julie Dian: Uh?

 

Febe Huezo: Oh, mom, the library isn’t just a room full of books. It’s a place where people meet and learn. Did you know that the library offers tai chi classes, career workshops and even computer help?

 

Julie Dina: You should try it.

 

Febe Huezo: Mom.

 

Julie Dina: I am upstairs getting ready sweetheart.

 

Lauren Martino: For more information on Montgomery County Public Library’s Diverse programs and classes click on the link in this episode show notes.

 

Now back to our program.

 

David Payne: Can you give us some examples of some more unusual or perhaps nontraditional library programming that you’ve both been involved with to start with Mary Ellen?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Sure, I had to think about this one for a bit. But the one example that I came up with is the Read to a Dog program. I think it is pretty common in libraries, but whenever I tell somebody who doesn't work in a library they always are a little surprised that we do this program. But it's such a terrific program and as a mom of somebody who is a reluctant reader I think it's fantastic. We partner up with people who have trained therapy dogs and they bring in their pets and kids, reluctant readers often or kids who are little intimidated about practicing their reading can read one-on-one with the dog and it's a wildly successful program. We have them at many of our different branches and it’s not always the same dog, it's different dogs at different branches. But it's such a boost to the kids confidence to practice their reading and you know they also get to spend time with the cuddly dog too.

 

Lauren Martino: And we've had customers come in and it's not only an opportunity to practice reading it's my kids afraid of dogs.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Oh, okay. Another purpose.

 

Lauren Martino: Yes, this is your chance to get used to this nice tiny little dog that's perfectly well behaved in its owners lap and will not hurt you in a controlled environment.

 

Laura Sarantis: Very gentle, very sweet animals and that is I know a couple of people who have brought their kids and who they’ve been intimidated by big dogs and to make them a little bit less so.

 

Lauren Martino: Laura, do you have an unusual program you'd like to tell us about?

 

Laura Sarantis: Well, sometimes you find some wild stuff at the library. And it’s a step that you would never think to find but then it comes to you and you're like, well, why not. So we had a group last year called Harp Happy it’s a group of women who play harps together but they play music that you don't traditionally associate with harps. And they at the end of their program they do this thing called name that show, name that song where they’ll play like jingles from old television shows like The Jeffersons or MASH. And the audience has to guess what the song is or what the show is and it can be pretty hilarious, it was –.

 

Lauren Martino: I’m just trying to picture The Jeffersons played on the harp. [Multiple Speakers]

 

Laura Sarantis: I can't remember if that’s one that they played. For some reason that popped into my head and I know that they did the MASH theme song. And I'm pretty sure they did the theme from the Lone Ranger. We really haven't lived until you, until heard the William Tell overture played on the harp so.

 

David Payne: And another benefit of having a program like that because we had the Harp Happy group at the Davis Library. And I remember at the end of it that people actually come up and see the harp close up, touch it, cluck the strings, not the kind of opportunities that you always get so that was a great benefit.

 

Lauren Martino: You know, I’ll let the kids do that with my ukulele at the end of story times, sometimes but a harp man, that would be exciting.

 

David Payne: Exactly, yeah.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: The ukulele is actually something that I would like to see us do more with.

 

Lauren Martino: Really.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I’ve heard of other library systems that in addition to incorporating into story times they’re also offering ukulele classes and ukulele lessons for their customers. And it just sounds so cool to me you know, to be able to learn how to play the ukulele at the library.

 

David Payne: It’s actually very interesting. You mentioned the ukulele because in the other podcast episode which we recorded – just recorded on retro technology the ukulele was brought up as a returning instrument, that’s making a comeback.

 

Lauren Martino: That's a good point and yeah, I never thought of, I mean, we've got like the ArtistWorks where you can do online classes on the ukulele. Thank goodness the ukulele is there, but yeah, group class that would be amazing.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Are you up for it?

 

Lauren Martino: I would go to Susan Modak first or Sissy Williams. Sissy Williams is amazing sorry, it’s okay shot out to Sissy. Go to her Story Time at Noyes but yeah, just that people have come through and customers that have come through Noyes and just leave like knowing a few chords and come back and say I’m still playing. I just was amazed. I mean, gosh, Sissy got me playing the ukulele. She got –.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I’ve seen groups of children's librarians at meetings you know they all bring out their ukuleles and start playing. So it’s really cool here that you’ve learned how to play from one of your colleagues.

 

Lauren Maritno: Yes.

 

Laura Sarantis: Oh, is there a definite ukulele subculture. I’m going to show new librarians in Montgomery County system.

 

Laruen Martino: Little known fact, yes. So besides ‘More Ukulele’ all right, gosh, that just like sounds like more cowbell, ‘More Ukulele.’ Besides ‘More Ukulele’ is there any other programs from other places you've seen that you just really love to bring the Montgomery County that hasn't then quite made it here yet?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Well, there is one that we do have in the works. I had read an article in Library Journal or something like that about the Harry Potter ball that they had. I think it was Salt Lake City and we did a very successful celebration last June of the publishing anniversary of Harry Potter.

 

Lauren Martino: Although his birthday was nearby if I was correct.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Exactly, yeah. So we did our celebration in June and I think his birthday is in July. So all of the branches each had a program, you know, celebrating Harry in some way. They did wand making, they might've had a trivia contest. And I love the idea because our comic our MoComCon has been so successful in the winter if we could do something in the summer. And I actually got the idea when I saw one of our partners at the MoComCon dressed as Hermione. I didn’t even recognize her.

 

Lauren Martino: Wow.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: And I thought “Wow, people are really still into Harry.” You know, based on the success of the wand making I remember they ran out of wands last year at Davis and then seeing her dressed as Hermione. So what I'm hoping we can actually do this summer is to have an event to celebrate Harry Potter's birthday enjoy.

 

Lauren Martino: That would be exciting.

 

David Payne: That sounds great.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: For adults and children.

 

Lauren Martino: Because yeah, why should it be limited to children.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Exactly.

 

David Payne: Yeah, now having watched the event that you mentioned the wand making at Davis where we saw parents and children engage them on making really a program for all the family.

 

Lauren Martino: We have a circulation member who has this like full out like Hogwarts, Hufflepuff uniform it is amazing.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Well, hopefully that person will participate in the event this summer.

 

David Payne: Well, you’ve both obviously been involved in a good many programs over the years. Are there any programs that you've tried that just haven't worked out for you if so, why?

 

Laura Sarantis: When I first started working for the county as a library associate in Kensington I did a couple of programs that were I thought were useful. One was on Internet safety. One was on using the library's website to do academic research and nobody showed up.

 

Lauren Martino: That's always disappointing.

 

Laura Sarantis: And I worked a lot, I worked hard on those programs. And so it took me a while to kind of figure out why that was. I think it's much harder to get older teens to come into the library, because they're getting their driver's licenses. They're getting a taste of independence and they're in school all day. And you know I think they just are resistant to having adults structure all their time for them. So it's a lot of the programming we’re doing is geared now towards younger high school kids and middle school kids. If we can get the older ones that's great, but I'm just I haven't figured out the key yet to that.

 

David Payne: Can’t get pizza?

 

Laura Sarantis: That works, actually that does work. And SSL hours like if you can get them to come in and participate in something where they’re actually achieving something, doing something and you can give them SSL credits for it.

 

Lauren Martino: Mary Ellen, do you have anything that?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: You know to what Laura is saying that you can plan the program and put everything together and be ready to go and then have low attendance. So I have that experience once a few summers ago, we planned a kickoff event for the summer read and learn program. We thought it will be great to have this one event for the whole entire county. But we didn't take into account is that June is a really, really busy month for families before school lets out. So we did not have as high an attendance as we had hoped for, for the event.

 

And I think it was because of just the timing of things you know it was in the beginning of June, its graduation season, a lot of sports teams are finishing out their seasons. So as you know in this county families are really booked. And I think you know that really affected the success of that program. It was still a fantastic performance, but I just wish that we had been able to reach a larger audience. So something like that will make me rethink offering a kickoff like that again around that time of year.

 

David Payne: Programs are very interesting. I always remember one of the most successful programs I've ever done in my whole career with another library system was on all things beekeeping.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: Beekeeping.

 

David Payne: Yes.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: That’s fascinating.

 

David Payne: Yes, it’s true. Dozens and dozens of people on a Tuesday evening, and I can’t remember the month, time of the year, but of all topics. And I did it really just as a one-off thing because I thought well, I’m going to try it. But it was one of the most successful programs I’ve ever done.

 

Lauren Martino: Wow, I remember listening to a podcast and forgive me I don't remember which one, but yeah, some other librarian saying it, yeah, it’s canning and cheese making really doing in my life. It’s amazing what you can turn into a program.

 

David Payne: Absolutely, yes.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I think you can turn almost anything into a program though I really do. I mean, I have been trying to encourage some of my staff who are really into coupons to do a couponing program, because who doesn't want to save money at the grocery store. And I think that's how we develop some of our best ideas for programs is just you have a personal interest and you think other people would have an interest in it too and you never know where it's going to go. For instance, like the bullet journaling that is very popular now. I am not a bullet journaler, but I think it will be wildly popular with people because a lot of people want to learn how to do it.

 

And I think we could form a little community of bullet journalers and new programs that way. And I know at Rockefeller Library they used to host happy crafting, which is a program I always wanted to go to but it never lined up with my schedule. But they would do different craft projects every week and that generated out of someone’s, you know, personal hobby she is really into craft making with paper products.

 

Lauren Martino: Other there little known secret about librarians, we are an incredibly diverse bunch of interests and backgrounds like there is nothing that we have not – ultimately all of us have looked at it some point or another.

 

David Payne: Absolutely and a glance at calendar of events will show you the diverse array of programming that does go on across the whole system.

 

Lauren Martino: Absolutely.

 

Laura Sarantis: And I think it's a mistake to think that you have to have a curriculum or a well-developed presentation to do a good program because we know we have a bullet journaler among the librarians. And she could just show up and just show you her bullet journal and show some websites that show how to do it. And you really don't need that much preparation – I mean, it helps to have some preparation, but you don't necessarily have to have you know a huge amount of expertise in some area to give a good library program. Some of them are just, you know, very spontaneous kind of things where you know like knitters will get together or embroiders or – so there is quite a few of those.

 

Lauren Martino: And it’s all about community I think.

 

Laura Sarantis: Yes.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I think people are looking to have that third space where they can meet and share with other people and you know that the knitting and crocheting that’s something else I wish I could get to. But I know, you know, it’s nice to be able to take your hobby and do it with other people.

 

David Payne: Well, libraries have come a long way, particularly in recent years. Where do you see library programming over the next 20 years or so?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I think libraries will still be a force we’re not going to go away. And I think our programs will persist and you know, as I mentioned before, the library programs being free, that is huge. I think it's hard to project though what will be the hot thing in 20 years, you know. So it's kind of hard for me to project what we’ll be doing in programming, because who would've ever thought we would have 3D printers in the library or we would be doing maker spaces in our libraries. I think we’ll still be doing our traditional programs like story times that help kids get ready to read and offering book discussions and things to support materials or collection. But I think we can be anything we want to be you know in relation to what our community is interested in.

 

Laura Sarantis: Yeah, I agree. And we're an evolving institution. Montgomery County Libraries calls itself a learning organization and that is – you know, on so many different levels not only are we learning how to be better librarians, how to better serve the community as we go on but we’re also about learning. We’re about learning in myriad different ways like Mary Ellen said earlier. I think we are going to continue to be really essential in terms of bridging the digital divide in terms of giving folks access to technology that they might not otherwise have access to.

 

We still get a lot of library visits from folks who don't have Internet at home, who don't have computers at home, who need a librarians help to apply for a job, to learn some marketable skills for jobs, to learn English in Gaithersburg. Gaithersburg and Silver Spring are two of the most diverse communities in the entire country. Those are our constituents and so language learning is huge in Gaithersburg, so conversation clubs and that sort of thing. I think we’re going to just continue evolving to serve those needs in the community, because that's what we do.

 

Lauren Martino: We love to ask our guests on Library Matters Mary Ellen, is there something you're reading now that you would like to share with us?

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: I was looking forward to this question.

 

Lauren Martino: Of course you were.

 

Mary Ellen Icaza: And I've actually gotten some good reading recommendations from your other guests on the podcast. And I'm reading Pachinko right now by Min Jin Lee. And it’s I'm still about halfway through it, but it's the most beautiful book. The writing is just so lovely. It was nominated as a National Book Award finalist and its adult fiction and it’s about an immigrant family, a Korean family living in Japan. And it's a saga that spans several generations, but it's really, really good storytelling. And I like when you can have a good thick book just to get lost in and that definitely fits the criteria for this one.

 

Lauren Martino: Laura, do you have something you’d like to share with us.

 

Laura Sarantis: I just started a huge ton David McCullough’s The Path between the Seas.

 

David Payne: That will keep you busy for a while.

 

Laura Sarantis: That will keep me busy for a while but it's so right up my alley because I’m a former history major who is now getting interested in STEM and engineering and that sort of thing. So I love books that talk about technology in a way that I can understand it. And so this was like probably the biggest engineering project ever in the universe up until maybe Hoover Dam later on. I don't know whether anything is bigger than this. I think it was – this was 30 years in the making so. And I’m just really interested in visiting Central America at some point so I'm starting to read that. Another one that I when I learned that I loved popular nonfiction that could explain science to me was when I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. And I was tentative about going into that because I said I almost flunked high school biology. But that explained the science behind it to me in a way that I could understand. So hopefully that'll happen with McCullough and the engineering of the – yeah the canal.

 

David Payne: Well, Mary Ellen and Laura, thank you very much for joining us today and sharing with us your program insights and some of the very exciting programming we can look forward to in the future months at MCPL. 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 at Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. 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. See you next time.

 

 

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