Adrienne Miles Holderbaum: Welcome to Library Matters, Montgomery County Public Libraries' podcast.
David Watts: Hello, and welcome to Library Matters. Are you ready for summer reading? This episode is all about MCPL Summer Read and Learn program. To teach us more about Summer Read and Learn, we have librarians, Christine Freeman and Susan Moritz, as our special guests today. Welcome to Library Matters.
Susan Moritz: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We're really excited to be here.
David Watts: Could you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Susan Moritz: Sure, certainly. My name is Susan Moritz, and I have been with MCPL for about 11 years now. Currently, I am a program manager with Virtual Services. We work on all sorts of different things, but just a few quick things are the website, social media, digital technologies, but previous to that, I've also been a children's librarian and a reference librarian. And I'm really excited to be on the Summer Read and Learn Committee this year with Christine.
Christine Freeman: Delighted to be here. My name is Christine Freeman. I am the early literacy program manager here at Central. Previous to that, I worked at Noyes Library for young children and owned a library, and I've been with MCPL two years next month.
Alessandro Russo: So, what is Summer Read and Learn program? What's the learn part about? What are some goals of the program?
Christine Freeman: Well, the real purpose of Summer Read and Learn is to keep our youth engaged during the summer and to prevent summer slide. We know that children learn in different ways. The learning tracks will encourage children to learn by seeing, doing, and participating. The tracks also encourage family engagement. So, there are many activities they can go and they can do together.
The great thing about the program is it's flexible, and it fulfills the needs of all of our children with its flexibility. Children who like to read can read more books. And we have our reluctant readers. They can focus on activities without reading as much. And of course with summer reading, we want to remember our real purpose, which is instilling a lifelong love for books in libraries.
David Watts: When does the program begin and end?
Susan Moritz: So, the program begins June 10th, and it's running this year through September 10th. And two of the things we're sort of excited about, actually I should say we're really excited about is that the - that kids can sign-up. There's no cutoff for the sign-up, a sign-up this year. So kids can sign-up and complete the program all the way through September 10th. And we're also excited, because they are a little bit of later ending to schools I believe from Montgomery County are starting after Labor Day this year. So that gives everybody who's coming back from their summer reading camps or their travels or vacation, it gives them an extra week to come complete the program and pick up their prices at the branches.
Alessandro Russo: What ages is the program for and who can participate?
Christine Freeman: We really have something for everyone. For our littlest ones, we have early literacy game board. And that's for ages zero to five; even newborns can participate because we want parents to read to the babies right when they're young. We have a elementary school game board for ages 6 to 12. And we do have teen book of views for teenagers to participate. For adults, we have the reading challenge, and that will let them explore our collection and expand their reading.
David Watts: So, tell me how does the program work and how would one sign-up for it?
Christine Freeman: It's really easy to participate. You can either go online and sign-up from home, or if you just happen to be close to your nearest branch, you can pop in there. We have our staff who is ready to sign you up. They'll give you all the details and tell you how to participate. We have delightful game boards that the children keep track of their activities and their reading. It's going to be a lot of fun. The teens can do book reviews like I said earlier, and the adults can do the reading challenge.
Susan Moritz: I think they will be very excited about it this year.
Christine Freeman: And it really is something for everyone. Everybody is going to have a lot of fun this year.
Alessandro Russo: And the program years is Beanstack. Can you tell us about Beanstack?
Susan Moritz: Sure, sure. I like to think of Beanstack as being sort of an online portal for fun. But what we do, it's a great way to read and learn. What we do inside of Beanstack is we create our own MCPL reading challenges. We've got a reading challenge going on right now, which is for all ages, it has like 12 different reading challenges like we had a book that the cover is green or read a book that's been on your mental to read list for over a year or read a book that's like over 100 years older than you are. So we've got that going on right now.
And of course the other great read and learn program that we're going to be having, starting June 10 is Summer Read and Learn. So starting June 10, people can sign-up for that program. And besides that, going on all year throughout Beanstack, it's a great service to be able to like log your reading if you want to keep track of like, "Oh, I've read all these books." I mean, it's a great way to keep track of it online. You can get personalized reading recommendations for all ages, just tell them, inside Beanstack, tell them what you like to read and I'll give you reading recommendations. You can write book reviews. So, there is a lot of great things inside Beanstack.
And one of the other wonderful things is as a parent, you can just sign-up for your account and then you can just add your kids underneath there as reader. So you only have to remember one login, one password, and then once you're inside and you've logged up and you've created your account in Beanstack, you can then sign-up for as many of our reading programs as you like in there.
Alessandro Russo: Beanstack is accessible through the library website?
Susan Moritz: Yes, exactly, through the library website. And of course, you know, once June 10th hits, we're going to see Summer Read and Learn all over the place. So you'll be able to quickly find it.
Christine Freeman: What I really like about Beanstack is they send you emails that will give you readers advisory for your children. I sent it for my son, and said every once in a while, get readers' advisory for him. It's really nice to be able to know what books to go to library and check out that way.
Susan Moritz: Yeah, definitely.
Alessandro Russo: It's a good helpful tool to have for parents to just scratch their head and say, "What do I get my child to read next?"
Christine Freeman: Uh-huh, yeah.
Susan Moritz: Definitely, definitely. And what I also love about that is like if you're a parent who likes those emails to come directly to you, hey, you've got them right there. There's reading recommendations, but if you're like, "Ah, you've got too much email, it's too much," you can still even with your account just log-in and see what's being recommended to you. So either way for whatever works, if you prefer email, the email can come to you with the reading recommendations, if not, you can just log into Beanstack and see what they're recommending.
David Watts: Could you explain the different tracks to us? How many there are and whether or not participants have to complete all of them?
Susan Moritz: Sure, sure. Well, I like to think of tracks as being sort of a list of exciting and engaging activities that gets the kids excited, it gets them learning, it gets them reading. And I think also with - so we've got five tracks for each of the age groups this year. So we've got babies through preschool. And there are five tracks of read, sing, play, write, and talk, so, working on our early literacy skills.
And we also have, for the older kids, for elementary school ages from 6 to 12, we have - our theme this year is Build a Better World. And so, each of our tracks are with that theme, so we've got build it our earth, recycle our world and community and there - so like I said, there is five tracks, but you only have to complete two activities, and your choice of whichever one you want to complete, you only have to complete two activities in each track to complete the track. And if you complete all five tracks, you complete the program.
Alessandro Russo: Can you give us some examples of learning activities?
Susan Moritz: Sure. Christine?
Christine Freeman: Yeah. So I am really excited about our theme this year. It's Build a Better World, and I think what's so great about the activities is it's not just in the library, they're exploring outside in our communities. So, for our little ones, activities like listening to a book about animals or attend a library program and sing along; elementary children might attend a science program at a library where they might look at a map or a globe and maybe talk to some about what they learned. They might even be exploring out at a park and making a picture of what they see, do a lot of great activities in there. And I think having community, diversity, recycling on our planet are all themes of the - overall theme of Build a Better World that's really nice about this program.
Alessandro Russo: That sounds like a great addition to the reading part, but you're also getting kids out and inside and involved and kind of interested in their community?
Christine Freeman: It's really important, because kids learn in different ways. Not all kids can sit and just read. Some kids need to explore. They need to use their hands, they need to listen. So I think that really helps with the children that learn in different ways to participate.
Susan Moritz: Yeah. It definitely encourages those reluctant readers who learn by doing.
David Watts: Could you tell us how Summer Read and Learn integrates with our MCPL strategic plan.
Susan Moritz: Sure. I love how it - how it does support our strategic plan, and I sort of think of it as supporting in two major ways. One is our Literate Montgomery. Our Literate Montgomery, one of the pieces of Literate Montgomery is early literacy, and early literacy is sometimes I think of it's just a fancy way to explain about, it's the skills that kids need, especially our babies through preschoolers, to make sure that they are reading ready and they are ready to learn, and those things need to be in place before the kids learn to read. So, in our Summer Read and Learn program, our tracks are based on those early literacy areas. So the read, sing, play, write, and talk, and we have activities within those that are great encouragements for parents and sort of modeling for parents what things they should be doing to be able to get their - get their kids ready and excited to learn and get those skills in place.
And what I also love about that is our story times, and I know both Christine and I have done story times in MCPL. And if you haven't done, if you're a parent or a caregiver who hasn't brought your kid to story time, you should bring your kid to story time. They're wonderfully fun, exciting, learning environments and the librarians are actually modeling these kinds of things that you can do at home or wherever you are in order to encourage those early literacy skills, and so your kids can gain them, so they can be successful. And one of the ones that I like to pick on is sing, and something we do a lot in our baby programs is sing. And so for instance, if I say the word "Happiness," you just hear happiness, but if I sing, "Haa-ppi-ness," kids are hearing those little phonological sounds, there is like smaller sounds in the words and that's how they're going to be sounding out words when they go to read. So I think that's - so our librarians are such a great model of what you can be doing and like I would tell the parents, "You know, you are your child's first and best teacher," and we want to - we want to get that information to our parents and caregivers so that their kids can be a success. So I think between our read and learn activities and our story times that really supports that Literate Montgomery.
And the other one that I really think is great is of course the light of Montgomery. I think everyone's going to be really delighted just with the activities and the reading that go along with the Summer Read and Learn, just with everything, the online component, our game boards, the activities they can do, our STEM programs, you've got great learning, programs that are coming that encourage those kids to engage young minds and to get them curious and ask, "Why," and answer those science questions. And we're also going to be having a lot more story times in our branches than I think a lot of our customers have seen in years past during summer time. I think we'll have a lot more of those. So I think I'm excited about it as you can see.
Christine Freeman: I think there's nothing more exciting than seeing the children coming with the parents and they finish summer reading, because the sense of accomplishment that the parents and the child has is just really great, big smiles, everybody is happy. It's really a lot of fun to see.
Susan Moritz: Uh-huh. And I think one of the great things that Christine did at Noyes Library, I think, did you have like a little announcement or something?
Christine Freeman: We did.
Susan Moritz: When kids were to complete the program which I think was exciting.
Christine Freeman: We had a bell, and actually when somebody finished summer reading, we would ring the bell and then we will make an announcement and it was like, "Christine has finished summer reading program, let's give her a big round of applause," and everybody will clap their hands and the child gets all excited and really did that when the child wanted us to. If they were really shy of course, we did a quiet celebration.
Susan Moritz: There you go.
Christine Freeman: A celebration nonetheless, right.
Alessandro Russo: So, Montgomery County, as you know, is a very diverse county, how do you think residents will see themselves with the - in the Summer Read and Learn program?
Christine Freeman: Yeah. The Kids is designed to be appealing to our diverse communities. We have tracks like read a folk tale from another country or you can listen to music from another country. And I think that will encourage sharing and celebrating differences. We all took community-based activities, such as visit a park and draw a picture of what you see, which I mentioned earlier, and read a book about Maryland, DC, Virginia or Delaware, and that kind of shows us that we're all one world, which is in going with the theme.
Susan Moritz: Uh-huh, definitely. And I think our book lists also this year I believe are very - they've got very diverse titles and very diverse authors. So, I think a lot of kids are going to be excited to see these - their book list based on grades, so if you're a parent, you're like, "Ah, what should my third-grader read," we've got a book list for third grade, we've got a book list for second grade, that sort of runs in the gamut, and I think not only will our very diverse community be able to see themselves in the book titles that are being suggested this year. I think they're also being excited about exploring other cultures and learning about other people that are in our community.
Christine Freeman: I don't think keeping on the book list, she was really looking at mirrors and windows, and I think that's really important, even our tracks I think reflect that we really do keep in mind that our Montgomery County is a diverse community.
Susan Moritz: I love that phrase, "Mirrors and windows." Yeah. That's a wonderful phrase.
David Watts: I know you've touched on it briefly, but I'm going to ask you if you would underscore the importance of the summer reading program, and how it fits into the local school's effort to keep learning alive during the whole summer?
Susan Moritz: Definitely. I can't emphasize enough how important the Summer Read and Learn program is. I mean, we're basically open when the schools are closed, and we're very attuned to and very excited about trying to prevent summer slide. And I think we've touched a little bit on summer slide, which is if you haven't heard of it before, it's basically how kids start to lose that that achievement gains that they gained throughout the year. They - and we want to help prevent that as much as possible by keeping them engaged and learning with, you know, between the books and the learning activities and just everything. So - and we're I mean in general, we are open when the schools are after school, and we're open on the weekends, and we're open on the evenings and we're excited to have - to be able to help keep kids engaged and turn them into lifelong learners because we're - you learn at every stage, and so, stop - helping prevent summer slide is definitely one of the keys.
The other thing that we are super-excited about to be partners with Montgomery County Public Schools is our Library Link program, and the best way to describe it is we want to get a free library card in every kid's hand in Montgomery County Public Schools, because that library card is the key to everything. It is the key to our collection, our books, our databases, our homework help; just everything that keeps them engaged and learning and excited about STEM and just everything. So we're super-excited to have that to be doing that, you know, to be partners with the schools and to be doing that.
And the other way that we interact with schools since we're talking about Summer Read and Learn of course, is our school visits, which we are super-excited about, our librarians have started to be going to the schools, and they are visiting the classrooms and the all the local schools in their area, and they are getting the kids excited about Summer Read and Learn to get them excited and ready to sign-up. And they also a lot of times do books talks as well, and I know, I think Christine and I both have been on school visits before, and let me tell you there's nothing like the feeling like you go in a little bit nervous because especially if sometimes, you know, you're in that room, in that auditorium room, you know, sometimes with like half the school or the whole school and - but then you just get so excited by talking to the kids. They are just like, "How many of you signed up for the Summer Read and Learn before?" And they're raising their hands, and you just sort of feel of their excitement about Summer Read and Learn. And of course there's nothing like that feeling about also being back at the branch when the kids come in, "You came to my school," or you know, "Sign me up, I'm ready to sign-up," or you know, which the other one that my heart just melts is when kids would be - would say, "I want to check out that book you talked about when you came to my school." And that's - there's nothing more heart-melting than that. So we're really excited that the local schools allow us access to come in and talk to the kids and get them, because we're all in it together to help kids prevent summer slide, so get them excited about learning and engagement.
Christine Freeman: I have to tell you that I went last year to an assembly up in Olney, two assemblies actually back to back, and one little boy, he always talking and he said, "I know libraries are so cool." And I had to stop - I had to stop and I was like, "What did you say?" And I made him say it really loud, so everybody could hear. And it was fun, because after he came up to me, he was like, "What is that music thing you were talking about?" And I'm like, oh, Freegal, do want me to tell you about it. So I got it in my phone, I was showing him, I'm surprised his teacher didn't notice he was kind of straggling behind. He was really excited.
Susan Moritz: For a good reason, he was straggling behind, yes.
Christine Freeman: Yeah. And it's really fun to see all the kids get excited summer reading.
Susan Moritz: Yeah, definitely, definitely. And free also, wonderful - you can download free music, I think up to five songs a week I want to say now.
Christine Freeman: Uh-huh.
Susan Moritz: So yeah, definitely.
Christine Freeman: And I've to tell you, I bought Adele's album, and then I went to Freegal and I was like, "Ah," like I could have gotten the songs from there! Yeah.
Susan Moritz: Definitely, definitely. And I have got a long wish list in there, so that I can keep track of which ones I want to come back if I can't get them all, you know, the whole album downloaded that week there, so…
Alessandro Russo: So, part of the Summer Read and Learn program involves some great performances and events that are happening throughout the county. Can you highlight some of those events?
Christine Freeman: I am so super-excited about this, because I've booked the programs that was sponsored through Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, so, we have some great stuff coming there of storytellers, we have inspirational speakers, we have a wide variety of musicians from all over the place. And I did see when a performer named Chris Fascione and he's at Chicago and he's a storyteller; fabulous. He takes folktales, and he does all the parts. So he's like running around doing all these different characters, and he's just - it's great, it will be in a couple of our libraries. We also have Under the Sea that is out of Glen Echo Park Aquarium. And they bring live animals, and it's great because it's educational, it's fun, it's interactive, the parents loved it, so they will also be at some of our libraries. We have so many programs throughout the system that this is a great opportunity to go visit a library that you've never seen before. So, on checking out our online calendar, you'll see everything there that we have.
Susan Moritz: Okay, I'm excited about the Under the Sea because I know Christine raved about it before about how wonderful they were at Noyes, when they came to visit. So yeah, so I'm excited about the - yeah, they all sound great. I want to go to see everything.
Christine Freeman: We had some great music of the didgeri, digeridoo?
Susan Moritz: Yes didgeridoo, right?
Christine Freeman: They were like awesome. We have some percussionists coming in, they were going to bring drums and that was - it's like a kind of like a Latin sound. That will be fun. 1,2,3 Con Andreas, who does a bilingual program; lots of great stuff coming in.
Susan Moritz: Yeah, I can't wait.
David Watts: The Great Fines Read Off program runs year round, but it is particularly popular during the summer. Please tell us about Great Fines Read Off and how it would work?
Susan Moritz: Sure, Great Fines Read Off is super-simple, easy, and like you said, popular. So for kids 17, ages 17 and younger, they can earn a "Library Buck," and make them a little air quotes; for every half-hour they read in the library, so it's super-simple, they just come into the library, and they've got library fines on their card, go to sign-up at the information desk or whatever branch they're at, they go and read while they're in the library and they can read whatever they want to, they can read books, e-magazines, e-books, you know, websites, whatever they want to read. And then they go and then at the end they just check back in that they're finished with their reading, they clipped whatever library books they earn and take it to the checkout desk and get those fines off their card. And like you said, it is so super-popular; even I had an adult one time who was a little bit bummed that she could not take part in the program, she said she would love to read off her credit card bill, and you know, I too would also love to read. I know I wish everybody did this, right, you could just read off your bills at the library; sounds awesome to me, so - but unfortunately it is just for kids 17 years and younger, but it would be like you said it goes on all year long.
Christine Freeman: And parents can read off for the little kids who can't read yet, right?
Susan Moritz: Yeah, definitely, definitely. and yes, have you - siblings too, if you've got an older sibling that reads, you know, and you both earn, the reader and the readee, both can earn there, so just they both have to check-in and check-in at the branch when they come in. Great program definitely.
Christine Freeman: Definitely.
Alessandro Russo: So, if you're an adult and you want to participate in Summer Read and Learn, but you have no clue what to read; what are some resources that we have that can help that?
Susan Moritz: Perfect, well, they've come to the right place. So, yes, we are a great place to find exciting titles to read. So, one of the ways is of course through our reading challenge that I spoke about, and they can sign-up for an account with Beanstack if they don't have it already and join that. And like I said, they've got 12 reading challenges like the end of the cover the book is green or read a sci-fi or fantasy book or read - I mean, just so there's 12 different reading challenges. So, that's one way to sort of like - or I like to call it read like a librarian, because we read so much and so many different things to help - because you never know what customer is coming up. Customer maybe coming up that loves Westerns, or you know, teen dystopias, so you never quite know. So I'd say it's like a read like a librarian, having that nice challenge there. So that's definitely one way.
We've got another way that if you don't know what to read is we got a great online service called What Do I Check Out Next? And what people can do is they can fill in our form online and they can say sort of what types of books either they like to read or they are in the mood to read, what kind of genres, and then we can email them back a - we email them back three to five reading suggestions. So that's like a personalized reading list that we've got. And another one, which I completely also need to of course to mention, is in Beanstack you can also get personalized recommendations through them. So through that online service you can say they've got like four pathways or four doorways, you can say like, "I love plot-driven novels," or you know, whatever it is that you love. And they will of course either email you their personalized reading suggestion, and or you can if you get too much emails, like I do sometimes, you can just log-in to your Beanstack account and see what's recommended to you. But I love that - what I love about Beanstack and What Do I Take Out Next especially are the personalized, it's you know finding that the right book for the right person at the right time. So, I love that.
Christine Freeman: And if you happen to be in a library, take advantage of your librarian. So, librarians love to give readers advisory advice. Walk up to the info desk, and they'll be happy to show you some of their favorites or some that they think you might like.
Susan Moritz: Definitely. I remember before I started to work at MCPL, I was like, "Ah, what should I read? What should I read?" And I'm like, had I known I could just walk up to the desk and ask them like - that's just sort of - that would have blown my mind at the time.
Christine Freeman: And I feel the children's librarian and I look for her, like I would find her when I was little and she would take me and help me to find the books that I wanted.
Susan Moritz: I love that, I love that…
Christine Freeman: It is great, excited to be a librarian when I had that children's librarian's help, I must have been like eight.
Susan Moritz: Definitely. That's fabulous, because you definitely do remember those like reading suggestions you do get from your librarian. I mean, I do remember my school librarian reading text like Make Way for Ducklings, and it's like you know these stories they're just like ah, you know, you just think back so fondly of them, and like you said, make it your favorites librarians, and so - for more recommendations.
Christine Freeman: I know they're waiting.
Susan Moritz: Yes. That's what they call it now, but come on in…
David Watts: How has the Summer Read and Learn program grown and developed over the years?
Christine Freeman: So, in the past, we've had children log the books that they've read, and as we know not all children like to read. So, the great thing about Summer Read and Learn program is that the kids who don't like to read so much can participate by doing learning activities. Now the kids that love to read, they don't have do any activities, they can just keep reading books, and they can do that. It really helps for children that are not strong readers, and that's why we now have a reading program that everyone will be able to enjoy. Of course, we are always looking for feedback from our customers, and we'll continue to evolve our summer reading program to meet the needs of our community.
Alessandro Russo: So, traditionally we ask our guest if they have a favorite book, or if they want to share what book is currently on their desk ready to read?
Susan Moritz: Sure. So, the two that I read that I really liked recently were The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, and I was really excited - for some reason I get sucked into those stories where there's sort of like a locked room kind of mysteries, you know, so there's a journalist, she gets a chance to go on this maiden voyage of this like rich - it's like a cruise line, where it is very limited, I think there is like 10 cabins. And so, like, this rich person is like taking out these very wealthy people, but also invite some journalists for good publicity for their new cruise line. And of course, that evening, she had - well, earlier in the day, she had spoken to this woman who was in the cabin next door in cabin 10, and then of course that evening she hears a woman scream and a splash, and you know, and of course the woman is gone, she can't find her, and of course no one on the ship says, "Oh, that cabin was supposed to be empty. There's nobody in there." So yes, so of course you got to read the book to find out - did the woman really exist, is it all in her mind? So I love that. That was a great one that I really read recently.
And another one was An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I love that one, it's a teen dystopia as Romanesque, and it's like the Romanesque empire is sort of taken over the lid and sort of subjugated these people call the scholars. And of course Laia, her - she's a scholar, and her parents have since been killed by them, and her grandparents, she witnesses her grandparents being killed. But when they stormed sort of into her home and her brother is taken prisoner and is escorted off presumably to die, and she of course wants to find the resistance and save her brother and all sorts of exciting thing. It's a great audio book because the alternate voice has got two different narrators. So I love that.
And next up, which I haven't read much about, the Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, I'm going to be - that's next on my to-read list. So, what exciting books have you been reading, Christine?
Christine Freeman: Let's see. I think, well, I think my favorite book of one year that came out was Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. It's great. It's set in San Francisco, where I'm from. And it's a terrorist event occurs and these really smart teenagers happen to be cosplaying there. And so, they kind of like figure out what's really going on and kind of save the day, I like that. I'm also a big fan of YA, other YA dystopian books. I just got to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, not very long ago, if you like Queen of the Tearling, you'll love the Red Queen. It kind of combines dystopian and fantasy, which I like. That's great. And of course anything by Rick Riordan, I'm a huge fan.
Susan Moritz: Definitely, definitely.
Christine Freeman: Huge fan.
Susan Moritz: Yeah, I know, I was thinking fondly of the Rick Riordan books, because I had a kid who came in - he was actually visiting our branch while he was visiting his grandparents, so he's out from Florida. And he was like, I've got - he wanted to recommend books to me. So he's like pulling off from the shelf one of which was The Lightning Thief, you know, the first Percy Jackson book, so I was like I've got to read this book there, so…
Christine Freeman: I have to say they are only books I buy…
Susan Moritz: Oh, that's great. That's great. That's great.
Christine Freeman: Everything else from the library, but I buy Rick Riordan…
Susan Moritz: Definitely, definitely. And I'm excited about the Victoria - Aveyard?
Christine Freeman: Yeah.
Susan Moritz: I haven't read that one there, that sounds good but I have read Little Brother and that is an exciting - that's a very - I truly understood water boarding, after that I was sort of liking that, so it was just like - but yeah, was really like - it was like tense and exciting and you didn't know what was going to happen next. Yeah, that was a really good book.
Christine Freeman: Yeah…
Susan Moritz: Yeah, definitely.
David Watts: Well, we want to thank both of you for joining us today. We've enjoyed our conversation. But let's keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and wherever you get your podcast. Also please review and read us on iTunes. We'd love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to the conversation today. See you next time.
Recording Date: May 3, 2017
Guests: Christine Freeman, Early Literacy and Children's Services Manager, and Susan Moritz, Program Manager, Virtual Services.
Episode Summary: Our guests discuss MCPL's upcoming Summer Read and Learn program. MCPL's Summer Read and Learn program promotes reading and learning all summer long through a variety of reading and activity based learning tracks.
MCPL resources and services mentioned during this episode:
Summer Read and Learn: This program runs from June 10 through September 10, 2017. There will be activities for children, teens, and adults.
Four Doorways to Reading: Legendary librarian Nancy Pearl identified 4 reasons people fall in love with books. They are plot, people, place, and prose. Sign up through Beanstack for reading recommendations based on your preferences among these 4 doorways to literature.
Freegal: Download up to 5 song each week for free. Choose from over 3,000,000 recordings.
Library Link: A partnership between MCPL and Montgomery County Public Schools to ensure every child enrolled in a county public school receives a library card.
MCPL 2017 Reading Challenge: Over the course of 2017, read one book from each of twelve different categories. The categories include items such as a book set in your home state or country, a book with a viewpoint different from your own, and a book with a cover that is green.
MCPL's Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) programs.
MCPL Strategic Plan: To provide access to services, resources, and programs so that everyone can participate in making a more Literate Montgomery, Connected Montgomery, Strong and Vibrant Montgomery, and Delighted Montgomery.
What Do I Check Out Next?: Tell us what you like to read and we'll e-mail you a personalized list of 3 to 5 books that our readers' advisory experts have chosen for you.
Books and other media mentioned during this episode:
Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: Laia goes undercover at the empire's military academy in order to save her brother from execution.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Marcus uses his hacking skills to resist an out of control Department of Homeland Security.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: Princess Kelsea returns home to ascend the throne amidst political intrigue and personal peril.
The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: A commoner with rare power, Mare risks everything to help a growing rebellion.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See: Two sisters leave Shanghai to begin new lives in 1930s Los Angeles.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: A journalist suspects the murder of a passenger no else believes was ever on board their cruise ship.
Rick Riordan: Bestselling author of children's book series such as The Heroes of Olympus, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and The Kane Chronicles.
Adrienne Miles Holderbaum: Welcome to Library Matters, Montgomery County Public Libraries' Podcast.
Alessandro Russo: Library Matters is Montgomery County Public Libraries' Podcast. Each episode will explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning. I am Alessandro Russo…
David Watts: And I am David Watts. We hope you'll join us as we discuss the challenges and opportunities facing libraries and the people they serve. In an effort to keep our library branch locations in optimum operating condition, Montgomery County has invested money for upgrades to the aesthetics and functionality of some branch locations. So that we may better understand this important process, we are joined today by our Public Services Administrator for Facilities, Rita Gale. Welcome to Library Matters, Rita.
Rita Gale: Thank you very much for inviting me.
David Watts: Please introduce yourself to our listeners and tell them what your background is and how you've been with MCPL.
Rita Gale: Okay. I am currently the public services administrator for space management, ADA, and collection management. I have been with Montgomery County Public Library since 1986. I joined the library system as a Branch Manager at the Potomac Library. And have moved up, became an agency manager at Rockville. And then when the public services administrator position which at that time was called library regional administrator position became vacant for the different area because we've been - the public service administrators had been various things in my career. We had areas at that time when the Gaithersburg area became vacant, I took that position. And I have been a variation of a public services administrator ever since 1988.
David Watts: Rita, if you wouldn't mind, could you explain to our listeners what the refresh process is properly defined as and how that occurs naturally?
Rita Gale: Okay, so basically in the library department previously we did our projects what we called through renovations. They were full scale often times teardowns of the buildings. The concept was that it was taking about 20 to 30 years to actually get through all of our libraries since we have 21 of them. And in library land, changes and modernization happens much faster than 20 year. So, we were not seeing that our facilities were current in 21st century by going through that process. Plus, it was very slow and very expensive.
So when we did our facilities plan in FY'13, the concept of refresh came through as a way that we could cycle through each of our facilities in a seven-year period and make changes to them, not on the grand scale that a renovation did, but in a very efficient and quick methodology to both refresh them from the perspective of having new paint and carpeting, but also modernizing them, so that they included elements of services that libraries throughout the country were offering. For example, collaboration spaces, also technology, the latest and greatest in technology.
For example, we offered charging stations for mobile devices. We had just put those and added those at Kensington Park and Twinbrook when we reopened them. So the refresh concept is relatively new for libraries. Definitely, new for the county and is just a better and a faster way of actually modernizing and refreshing our facilities.
Alessandro Russo: How are branches determined like which branches are selected for a refresh, how is that determined?
Rita Gale: Okay. So we have 21 facilities and we intend to refresh them all. The way that we determine the order of doing those refreshes was basically looking at the condition of the facilities. And so, we as I mentioned actually defined a scope of work. And in looking at that scope of work for all of our facilities and what feedback we had received from the community about what new things or what improvements needed to be made, input that we received from our funders about what they think we should we doing in our facilities. And then looking at the actual condition of our facilities, we made the decision in FY 15 which was the first year that we did refresh projects to modernize the Kensington Park and Twinbrook libraries. Those were libraries that we felt needed the most attention immediately.
As we have now gone through the process and done three libraries for FY 16 and are about – are in construction for the FY 17 projects, we've added some input that we've received which is the proximity of the libraries we choose to each other and the proximity of impact libraries for those projects as elements that we consider, but primarily we're looking at what the condition of the facilities are.
Alessandro Russo: Just to clarify, impact libraries meaning when a branch closes that means naturally there is going to be more people traffic at that specific branch.
Rita Gale: Well, and also the concept is that when we close a facility, we expect that the people – that our customers who use that facility are going to go some else hopefully to continue to have service while we're actually closed in the refresh branches. And so, the facilities that we expect those customers to go to are what we call our impact facilities.
David Watts: What are the advantages of a refresh as opposed to a renovation?
Rita Gale: I think probably the biggest advantage is that we get around to every single one of our facilities faster. We're actually able to touch every one of the 21 facilities as I said in a seven-year period. Previously when we were doing full scale renovations, it was taking us 20 years to get to maybe one, at the most two facilities. So, it was a really lengthy process. The other advantage is that our intent with the refresh projects is that they will be only closed 4 to 6 months. One of the things that we heard from the community when we did our full renovations was that it was taking a year-and-a-half to two years to complete the work in those facilities. We are blessed with customers who love us and who actually want their libraries all the time. And they were not very happy that they did not have library service in that two-year period. So, we felt that in addition to being able to improve our facilities that we were going to be able to also do that with less impact on the customers, not that there still isn't, but definitely less impact. And those are two things that we hope really are helping to sell the concept of refresh.
Alessandro Russo: What are the budgetary limits for refresh projects?
Rita Gale: So with all of the construction projects in the county, there is a budget called the capital improvement program budget, which is funded by the county. And it provides the primary means of paying for construction and improvements in county facilities. So, when we introduced the concept with the FY'13 to '15 – FY'13 to '16 facilities plan, we had the concept, but we really didn't have the funding in place. So we spent the first year actually talking with the county executive, with the office of management and budget, with the council about the advantages of this program and how we would like to have it funded on a continuous basis as opposed to having to go every year to solicit funding.
So, we were fortunate enough to receive what's called level of effort funding through the capital improvement program budget. And that means that for the six years of that capital improvement program budget, there is an amount allocated per year for these refresh projects to take place. Now in addition to that, we also wanted to incorporate where we could improvements that were needed in the facilities related to Americans for Disabilities Act. And the county has a separate division, the ADA compliance unit that has funding. And so we wanted to make sure that if there were improvements that needed to be made that we would do that at the same time.
And so, that unit actually funds some of the improvements that are made. And then, the division of facilities management who maintains our facilities has also level of effort funding for special projects like roof replacements, striping parking lots, replacing HVAC equipment. And we felt that if while we were doing the programmatic things in a refresh; there was building things that needed to happen like roofs and parking lots that we would try to coordinate that with the facilities management division. So when we do our projects, we try to do that.
And then funding for those elements comes from those budgets. And then, the final piece is that the Maryland State – the State of Maryland has funding called capital grants, which are strictly for capital improvements. They are meant for the 22 public library systems in the state. And we have to apply each year. And we have to compete. And we have been fortunate for all the years that we've been competing to receive funding from the state, which actually helps to contribute as well.
David Watts: If you wouldn't mind, Rita, could you give us a status update on your current projects which are in process? And perhaps, some of the upcoming plans for projects?
Rita Gale: Certainly. So as I mentioned, we have completed two projects, the FY'15 projects at Kensington Park and Twinbrook, both opened last year and are fully operational. We are currently completing construction on the Aspen Hill and Little Falls libraries. And they were two of three libraries in FY'16. The Davis Library was the third. And we just opened the Davis Library on April 8th. We are very excited. We've gotten great feedbacks so far about the improvements we made there. We don't have dates yet for Aspen Hill or Little Falls, but we're hoping within the next month – two months that we'll be opening those facilities.
We are also in preparation for the FY'17 refresh projects which are Quince Orchard, White Oak, and Bethesda. And both White Oak and Quince Orchard have closed for the beginnings of their refresh projects. Construction will start on Quince Orchard actually hopefully next week, and at White Oak, in a couple of weeks. And then, we have decided to hold off on Bethesda in terms of closing it because remember I mentioned that word impact before, well, one of the impact branches for Little Falls was Bethesda.
And so, we felt that if we closed Bethesda at this stage without having both Davis and the Little Falls open that we would probably hear from the customers telling us that that was a bad decision on our part. An so, our director made the decision that we would hold off opening – I am sorry, closing of Bethesda until we opened to Little Falls.
And then, we are going to go into design in July for the FY'18 projects which will be Marilyn Praisner, Poolesville, and Long Branch. Thank you.
Alessandro Russo: You mentioned earlier that different libraries are older than others and they kind of need specific projects for those. But just in general, how do - the refresh projects between branch is differ and how are they similar?
Rita Gale: So I would say that the similarities are that generally we work on bathrooms for all of the projects. Modernizing them and in many cases making ADA improvements. We usually carpet or put new flooring in and we usually paint. So, those are primarily the things that we carry over from project to project. The variations come in when we start putting in programmatic things that relate to the demographics of the community.
So, one of the things that we are trying very hard to do in all of our facilities, not so much from demographics, but because of the way that our public uses libraries now is what we call collaboration spaces. And our collaboration spaces are in closed rooms that will house between two and six individuals, who can be in that space for whatever collaborative efforts they're looking for. So it could be students who're working on a project, who need a space where they can talk and spread out papers, and maybe work on a computer, or it could be businessmen in the community who need a space to meet with somebody to talk about a business plan.
So, collaboration spaces are spaces that we'd like to put in, but we don't necessarily always have the room to put them in. An example of a demographic space that we look at, for example, we have never really build out our facilities to have dedicated space for teens, most of our facilities have an adult reading room and a children's reading room, but we haven't called out teens, and in many of our communities the demographic is that there are enough teens that we really feel like we should have spaces dedicated to them. So, that those are the kinds of things that vary from place-to-place. If we had a demographic that was heavily senior-related, we might create spaces that were a little different and at seniors. So, those are the more programmatic improvements that are related to what the community is about.
Alessandro Russo: You have to customize those localized communities.
Rita Gale: That's correct, yes.
David Watts: Rita, tell us about where staff is assigned while the branches are closed for refresh?
Rita Gale: So, the first couple of weeks, we keep the staff in the facility and they help us shut it down. In other words, get it ready for the construction company to come in. That usually involves going through storage cabinet, supply cabinets, reading out things that may have accumulated over years, so that we're trim and fit when we open up. If we're going to move collections, reorganize the space, we try to do that during those first two weeks. So pretty much by the time this staff leave after the first two weeks, we've got the building in a place where it is as organized as it can be and as reorganized spatially as it's going to be. The staff then go, again, to those impact branches that I mentioned before, we actually check with our staff to see where they would like to go with the impact branches that we identify. And then we also often times identify branches that need some additional staffing because they can seize another reasons. So, our staff generally then spend the next four months in those libraries helping the staff in those libraries to provide service to the customers, who hopefully they are seeing coming to those impact branches to receive service.
Alessandro Russo: And it also helps from the patron side to kind of if they never went to that library just an extra level of comfort to, you know - to familiar library face.
Rita Gale: Having another human being there that they actually have seen before who can help maybe introduce them to the services to have that particular library is laid out, maybe explain certain policies, yes, that's part of the reason why we feel it's important for them to be located in places where we expect that the customers from the closed branch are going to go.
Alessandro Russo: As far as from the public side has there any comments specific comments as far as they love the collaboration spaces, they love the paint jobs and anything that kinds of sticks out to you?
Rita Gale: Well we see positive input again we've opened Kensington Park and Twinbrook at those two libraries one of the things that we did, we made a conscious decision to move the children rooms in both those locations which were spaces that were open and we move them into closed spaces and the spaces that from what I understand the feedback that the branches have – those two branches have received, that they received very positive feedback from parents, caregivers, people generally about those spaces and how they were designed, I mentioned that we just opened the Davis Library on April 8 and I understand that one of the things that people have said about Davis is that even though we didn't do lighting improvements in the aspect of replacing light fixtures, we actually changed out the light bulbs, put all new bulbs in and fit it out the ones that perhaps were lit and people have commented about how much brighter the branch is which was an unintended consequence for us. We've also heard that the collaboration spaces at Kensington and Twinbrook are very well used and we're starting to see that at Davis where we also have collaboration spaces.
David Watts: You preciously stated that all the branches will eventually be refreshed, what are the next steps when that has occurred, when all the branches have been completed?
Rita Gale: Well as I mentioned we have a six-year capital improvement program budget and we expect that within seven years we'll get through all 21 facilities and because we really feel that this model is working well for us, we believe it's working well for our public that we expect to yes that we're going to ask for that capital improvement program to be extended for another seven years and our full expectation is that we will start all over again, now we may not start in the same order because we have learned some lessons, but again remember what I said is that part of the reason we're doing it is not just to refresh the building, but to modernize the building and even in seven years, we probably will have had many changes occur in library land that we will want to see implemented in these facilities.
So we fully expect that we will have different changes to make, but that in seven years when we start over again, we'll have we may paint again, we may carpet, but we will have other programmatic and service related things that we can implement and again the piece about the funding is that we may not necessarily always be able to fund everything the first go around, so the other piece about having funding to go back again a second time is that we may be doing things that we haven't done the first time. So for example, we haven't been able to spend a lot of time and effort and work on our staff areas and so on the second round we may actually make improvements to our staff areas in addition to our program, our public areas.
Alessandro Russo: Are there any current trends you see in the current library refresh projects like as far as the charging stations I know we're kind of a big one is there anything?
Rita Gale: Well, one of the things that we're technologically one of things that we're working on doing is making our meeting rooms and where we can space wise with our collaboration spaces what we call smart rooms and by that I mean that we're trying to put equipment into those rooms that the public can use to do, to help them with that piece that I described about collaboration.
So, that if the person brings a laptop and wants to show the other people in the room something that they've designed perhaps or they want to do a mini presentation that instead of having glass walls which we have in many of our collaboration spaces which don't do well for projection. That we will have equipment that is inherent on the table that they can actually do, so we're looking at that for example in our collaboration spaces. In our meeting rooms instead of having what, what's called LCD projectors and I'm not sure what that abbreviation stands for, but we had projectors mounted on the ceiling that we then would project on to a screen.
We're actually putting in TV's, so we actually have TV monitors, TV screens that on which the customers will plug in to do their presentations and show them on a nice large screen. We've also introduced laptops and we at some point in time are going to look at putting iPads or tablets not necessarily iPads, but tablets for customers to use in the branch because while we have workstations with actual equipment PCs.
We also have all of these this furniture that part of the refreshes to put electric near every piece of furniture, because everybody brings in a device that needs to be plugged into something and so, what we want to do is take advantage of that electric and say okay instead of putting PC's in our locations what will do is will loan the customers laptops to plug into or loan them a tablet to use, so that we can maximize the space again.
David Watts: Rita, have you developed any favorite features in the Refresh process?
Rita Gale: Well, I would say that my favorite piece about the Refresh projects is, is the fact that in four months we can actually improve them so, that they look all of our facilities look different that they, they don't that they're not as tired looking, that they're modernized and that people are energized by coming into these buildings and seeing that we can actually make improvements and we don't have to close them down for two years. So, I don't have a specific individual thing, but I am energized by the concept that we can actually make visible improvements to those facilities that will make them hopefully better for the, our customer base and also more modern for our customer base.
David Watts: And maybe just give you a victory lap here great project in Silver Spring. Recently awarded as Design EX award for urban libraries I believe. I know that was a great collaboration for you with the planning office and with the project manager. Now you've got Wheaton that's about ready to start, you want to add anything about that?
Rita Gale: Well, definitely Silver Spring is a new construction it was a project that was designed to move out of a about 14,000 square foot facility into a 70,000 square foot facility so a much larger facility of a very well use base, very loved library in terms of the community and how much they're using at end and all of the services.
And you are correct that the other new construction that has just begun is with the Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center, our first project where we will actually physically be collocated in the same building with a recreation of the Community Recreation Center. We currently on the same campus at Marilyn Praisner with a Community Recreation Center, but that's a campus location not a building location. So, the demolition of the Wheaton Library occurred a few weeks ago and construction is underway.
Alessandro Russo: It's our tradition here on Library Matters to ask our guest what their favorite book is or also is there any is there a book waiting to be read on your nightstand.
Rita Gale: So, I like to travel. So, what I have on my nightstand right now are Fodor's guides for Alaska, because I'm going to be taking a Cruise this summer to Alaska. And so, I'm reading up I also have things that I would love to read that I just don't have that, have not had a chance and there are two series that I'm interested in reading one is the wicked series a play that I saw at the Kennedy Center that just loved one of my very favorite ones by Gregory Maguire. And I'm also a big fan of an A&E Program that has gone over to Netflix called Longmire and Greg Johnson has written a whole series of books and I would love to be able to actually get around to reading those as well.
David Watts: Well, we want to thank you for being our guest today; certainly we wish we could go in there Alaska Cruise with you. But we do hope that you have an enjoyable time and we do congratulate you on all your success as a Public Administrator.
Rita Gale: Great, thank you so much for inviting me.
Alessandro Russo: And then for listeners, keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to describe to the podcast on iTunes Stitcher or whatever, wherever you get your podcast from. Also please review and rate us on iTunes. We love to know what you think. Thank you, and see you next time.
Recording Date: April 25, 2017
Guest: Rita Gale, Public Services Administrator for Space Management, ADA, and Collections
Summary: Guest Rita Gale discusses MCPL's innovative refresh project initiative, which allows MCPL branches to be updated to meet customers' changing needs while minimizing the time a branch is closed.
MCPL resources and services mentioned during this episode:
Branch Refresh Project: A “refresh” project is a new Capital Improvement Program process approved by Montgomery County Council and the County Executive to allow library buildings to get significant and timely updates without having to close for the lengthy time it takes for a full renovation. The Library Refurbishment CIP funds programmatic, cosmetic, and service impact updates to two to three libraries every year.
Charging Stations: Free, lockable charging stations for charging phones, tablets, or laptops. Available at every branch except Noyes.
Collaboration Rooms: Sometimes called group study or tutor rooms, these rooms fit 2 to 8 people and can be reserved, for free, from the MCPL website.
Loanable Laptops: Laptops can be borrowed for in branch use at select locations. Laptops checkouts are for three hours or until closing time.
Design Excellence Award for Silver Spring Library: The Montgomery County Planning Department awarded their 2nd Annual Design Excellence Award to Silver Spring Library for the building's dynamic design and commitment to public transportation (the library was built to accommodate a planned light rail station.)
Wheaton Library Renovation: In contrast to a refresh, which is limited to the interior of a library, the Wheaton branch has been torn down and will be replaced by a completely new building.
Books and other media mentioned during this episode:
Fodor's 2015 Alaska by Teeka Ballas, et al.
Fodor's the Complete Guide to Alaska Cruises by Teeka Ballas, et al.
The Wicked series - A series of four adult books reinterpreting the story and characters from the Wizard of Oz.
Other items of interest:
NACo Award - In 2016, MCPL received an award from the National Association of Counties for quickly adapting to the changing needs of Montgomery County residents in a cost effective manner through the branch refresh initiative.
Top Innovators Award 2016 - Organizational Change and Strategic Management - Urban Libraries Council: In fall of 2016, MCPL received this prestigious award from the Urban Libraries Council for its branch refresh initiative, which "implements improvements to library construction and enhances information services and technologies based on changing community needs."
Funding sources for MCPL's Branch Refresh projects include the Library Refurbishment Level of Effort and the 21st Century Library Enhancements Level of Effort.