David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with me David Payne. And today, we're going to be talking about music and listening to music as well. And joining me today, I am very pleased to welcome our old friend and guest, Eric Carzon, manager of the Twinbrook branch library. And Eric is the man behind one of MCPL's newest services, the Library of Things Music. So, welcome Eric.
Eric Carzon: Thank you. Good to be here.
David Payne: Good to have you back. And I see you've got a few props to entertain us with too.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: So, let's start by asking you how did you get into music and what instruments do you play.
Eric Carzon: Not really. Well, I just always loved music. My parents loved music a lot too, so was always playing in the house or they were singing. In fact, my grandfather was a singer as well. He sang - he was in World War II and he sang for the army, in the Washington Area. So growing up my mom would play Gordon Lightfoot, my dad would play Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, The Platters, a lot of doo-wop, some Janis Ian. Kind of a wide spread, a lot of different kinds of music, classical music as well. And then my grandmother, of all people, introduced me to Pink Floyd, so, you know, a little rock and roll too. In college my music buddies turned me on to the Indigo Girls, and of course there's all the great 80's-90's music, Eurythmics, U2, and whatnot. So I used to always be making up little songs and walking around the block singing them.
Then later on, I was in a church choir and the county choir later on. Eventually I was in a band in high school. No Top 100 hits yet though. I play the guitar mostly, and the ukulele. Mostly a rhythm guitar player, a little bit of lead work, and I sing and write songs as well.
David Payne: Great. What age did you start playing the guitar?
Eric Carzon: About - I think I took a class around fifth-sixth grade. Put it down for a while, eighth grade I picked it back up and just a couple of classes. I'm mostly self-taught and I learned from other musicians and books.
David Payne: Okay. So self-taught on the ukulele too?
Eric Carzon: Uh-huh, yeah, I picked that up about four or five years ago.
David Payne: Well, having said that, is there a musical instrument that you don't play but would like to if you had the chance?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah. One of the instruments in the Library of Things Music is the African djembe drum, a very popular West African drum. And I actually have one at home that I've had for decoration basically, but it's a real playing drum. And so I am motivated to learn how to play that for real. We've got some books and that we're about to have in the collection for that. And I went to a drum circle in the region recently where they sit around and they play. And it's a lot of fun, and it's very easy to get started with that instrument, so I do look forward to learning how to play that better.
David Payne: Okay. So, let's talk a bit about the Library of Things Music. For any listeners who haven't come across it before, can you tell us about your new innovation?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, absolutely. So we lend musical instruments, that's the Library of Things Music. It started at the Twinbrook branch, so that's the only branch right now, so you have to come to the Twinbrook branch to get the instrument, and when you return it you have to return it to the Twinbrook branch, which is in Rockville. And you have it for two weeks, 14 days. We do ask that the cardholder who checks the instrument out be 14 years or older. You could check it out for your kid obviously, and we have some that are sized for children specifically for that. But we do need a responsible party to check the instrument out. Of course, your account has to be in good standing, and you should be prepared with your identification so we can verify that your address is correct and that we have the right person.
At this time, we don't renew the checkout, so it is a strict 14 days. We don't do reserves through the computer system, but if you go to the Library of Things website, which is in the MCPL musical website you can get a look at what the instruments are and little bit of a description of what they are. And you can call us. So when you call us we'll tell you what's available or you can say, "Hey, I want a ukulele, do you have any?" And we'll look and we'll see if there's one available. So if there's one available for checkout we'll hold it for you for the balance of that business day. So if you call us 10:00 we'll hold it till 8:00, if you call us at 7:54 we'll hold it till 8:00 that day if it's a 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM day, which is Monday through Thursday for us. So that's what we can do in terms of reserve. But it's been going pretty well so far, and people seem to know how to use it.
David Payne: I was just going to ask, because we're a few weeks into it now, so yeah. So business is good.
Eric Carzon: It is. It's doing great. We have a total of 29 instruments and six amplifiers. And everything has gone out a few times and come back. Everything has come back in one piece, thank you everybody for taking care of the instruments. We've got a variety of guitars, we have a couple specifically children sized, we have the classical guitars, a couple of steel string, a couple of electric guitars, a couple of electric basses, we have several ukuleles, and then we have African drums, the djembes, we have a couple of Native American and Irish drums, a dumbak, which is like a Middle Eastern one, this Indian tabla drum, which is pretty cool, it's actually like a pair, like Master Blaster, so there's like a big one and small one, and one is brass and one is wood. It's pretty cool. We have a Jamaican steel drum, and we have a slot tongue drum, which is kind of like a wooden box with little mallets, and two kalimbas, which are pianos that you play with your thumb, so they're quite nifty.
David Payne: Quite a great collection there.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: So where did you, going back to the very beginning, where did you get the idea to lend musical instruments?
Eric Carzon: Well, we stole the idea. No, it's been around a long time. There have been library systems all over that country that had been lending musical instruments probably since the '60s or better in small numbers. I mean there's still not a whole lot of them, I wouldn't call it thousands of systems, but let's say there's probably at least 50-plus systems throughout the United States, and that's probably a low number, there's probably more. Ukulele, for instance, very easy, so it's very popular in a lot of systems, including several in the state, besides ourselves, lend ukuleles. I will say, we have a pretty wide selection and number, as far as I can tell, from the other systems that I looked at and compared. But it's not a new idea.
We've been wanting to do, what we call, a Library of Things in Montgomery County for a long time. But as we went through the planning processes different staff made different proposals for different kinds of things to lend. Some people had kitchenware, power tools, various kinds of computer or tablet or whatever. So there were a lot of different ideas on the table, and I proposed the music one, and it so happened that mine seemed to be the most feasible to implement so far. So we went for it.
David Payne: Right. And it seems your collection so far represents the diversity of the county.
Eric Carzon: Oh, that's what we were shooting for; get a nice wide diversity of musical instruments, kind of tempered with what we could take care of.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: So there was that sort of element, but we went as wide as we could within the scope of what we felt like we could take care of and what would sort of survive repeated use from customers.
David Payne: Right. So, obviously the response, the customer response so far has been great. Do you have any stories you can share with us about customer experience, any customers who have come in to borrow musical instruments, have you noticed anybody asking about music lessons or tutorials, anything you can share with us?
Eric Carzon: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. So the response has been great, and people have been pretty happy as they've turned in their surveys. I haven't gotten anybody unhappy, and everybody is pretty much top happy, very happy. We do get a lot of questions about lessons. And we ourselves, we can’t really give lessons, it wouldn't be - there's 29 different kind of instruments, so unless there were - unless the only people interested in lessons all were interested in the same instrument it would be kind of hard for us as a library system to give classes. Now that being said, we do have an online product that does have actually several different instruments in several different genres, so we'll talk about that a little later. But that is our version of a class.
The coolest thing that's happened so far is we have a music discussion group on the first Monday of each month, at 6:30 at Twinbrook. And so this Monday's music discussion group or the November 5th one, we had this little boy. He came in and he had just started guitar lessons, so he was like maybe eight lessons in. But actually - he was pretty impressive for a kid who's only had eight lessons, and he was kind of small. I mean his hands were small, so even the small guitar was a little large for him. So at this discussion group he saw the ukulele because I demoed several instruments and ukulele was one of them, and so he gave it a try. And so by the end of that hour he had actually taught himself with the help of one of our books, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And he, for the last 10 minutes, he played it over and over again until he got like fully down.
David Payne: Just right, yeah.
Eric Carzon: So his first time picking up the ukulele, like literally in his whole life and he walked away with that song. So, we'll talk a little later about this, but that's why I like ukulele because it's really easy and it's a great instrument for children.
David Payne: Right. You mentioned the ukulele, and I recall from our pervious podcast with you that that came up as well in the conversation. The instrument itself seems to have become increasingly more popular. Why do you think that is, and how difficult is it to play?
Eric Carzon: To me it's extremely easy to play. I don’t know I might be a little ambitious, but I'd like to say that most people could probably walk away within a couple of hours able to play a simple song on the ukulele. It's kind of that easy. It's gotten kind of a resurgence in the past, I'd say, decade or so because you've got some pretty large stars that also play ukulele. I mean it wasn't their solo - sole instrument, but I think like Taylor Swift has got a couple of ukulele tunes, Coco - I might be getting her name wrong, I think it's Coco, she does, and several other stars. I think Jason Mraz might even have one. So there's been some super huge pop stars that have like really put ukulele back on the map. And then it was always there, I mean there was Tiny Tim in the 60's or whatnot. But, so there's that, I mean it's got some star power. And then it's just - it's fun and it's easy. So there's that.
And like if you're a guitar player ukulele is like super easy to learn because even some of the chord shapes are the same, the principles of the instrument are the same, you just have to learn a few different chord patterns and realize that the scale - like which key you're in sort of differs a little bit, but not by much. I mean it's much like the guitar very efficiently designed, and so you can pick it up real quick. And then the other thing is the instrument itself is pretty affordable. I mean for $40 you can get one that will play and you can learn on. Really, I kind of recommend more like the $60-ish - I wouldn't pay less than $60 to $75 for a ukulele, and for that price though you get one that's like real and will keep its tune and is pretty decent, and anything above $300 you're just paying for show. So that's a pretty decent price range for a musical instrument. And for about $100 you can get a super-duper competent ukulele that holds its tune very well and plays excellently. So that's a plus. That's kind of a small investment for a real musical instrument.
David Payne: Okay.
Eric Carzon: So that's why I like it. And there's all sorts of books and lessons, and it's real easy.
David Payne: Great. I see you've actually bought a ukulele in.
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah.
David Payne: Can you give us a few notes on …
[Playing Ukulele] [00:12:02]
Eric Carzon: Just a little noodling there.
David Payne: Well, thank you. And well as a musician yourself, do you have any advice for any budding musicians?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, I've got lots of advice.
David Payne: We could fit a whole podcast with, I'm sure.
Eric Carzon: Yeah. But I think the first thing I would say that's most important to me is that if you're going to do music do it for yourself always first. It's a way to be in touch with what's spiritual and keeps your inner child fed and happy, I like to say. And I know music has helped me through some difficult times. So it's a personal, it's a spiritual gift. To the extent that you share it with other people, if those people are reasonable and kind then they will generally be supportive. If you're asking for it then they should give you constructive criticism. And if you've got other people that are being mean to you then they're not worth your time. But play it for yourself first and foremost. If I had never performed for anybody in my life I'd still be happy because the music is for me. So don't be obsessed with perfection, because I see that in a lot of people. You see people doing music and they stop because they're like, "Oh, I can't get this right. I can't get this perfect." It's like, well, who are you playing for. Does it have to be perfect, I mean are you having fun?
David Payne: It's all about the enjoyment, right.
Eric Carzon: Exactly.
David Payne: Yeah.
Eric Carzon: So if you're having fun then roll with it. Now that's not to say like if you really want to get good and get good enough that you could play for other people and they enjoy it, then that's great to go for as well. But that it takes time. I would say as well expose yourself to a variety of music, experience live music in variety as well, as music from tape and digital and wherever. It doesn't have to be paid concerts though. I mean there are churches; there are open mics, community events, library programs, city, county programs. There's free music everywhere, so you don't have to pay for the music, but go see it live, go see somebody do it, observe them. Because if you're serious about music and you want to get serious about performing it then you're definitely going to want to encounter other musical people and pick up and learn from them.
From a practical perspective, if you really want to get good, as the Malcolm Gladwell book says, it takes about 10,000 hours to get super good at anything.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: 10,000 hours of meaningful practice, he calls it. And it's fun, but you got to make it - make it fun. Don't make it a drag. I used to put myself to sleep by kind of sitting with my guitar and taking a couple of chords and kind of just very meditatively doing everything I could with that chord.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Eric Carzon: You know, I'd play an A sustained chord for 20 minutes and use my pinkies and other fingers to find every variation of that chord that I possibly could, and I would do that for hours on end and days on end. When you strung it all together you can write a whole song that way. And that's what I did; a lot of my songs come from some of those exercises. The other thing I'd say is don't be afraid to deviate a little or improvise. I get a lot of these musical books and sometimes they get really contorted. You're like reading that Hal Leonard and you're like, "Oh my god, I can't make that chord. My fingers just don't bend into that shape."
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: You know, improvise. Sometimes you could leave a couple of fingers off and that chord will be close enough or you could pick a couple of notes and kind of skip over, especially if it's like a real quick change. Don't feel like that is the total gospel. Sometimes search around for other versions. Sometimes a song, like the original song as done by the artist or actually as cooked up by some staffer at Hal Leonard or Alfred or one of those other music company books might look super complicated to you, but then do a little Google searching or whatever, you might encounter like a super simple, like - here, here's the three-chord version of that same song. Okay, it might not sound like Janis Joplin, or Def Leppard, or Pink Floyd did it originally, but if it's close enough and you can play it and enjoy it, hey, go for it. So don't be afraid. What's the worst that could happen? You're not going to get fined.
I would say two - and I'm a little bit of a music snob on this, don't buy a cruddy instrument if you can avoid it. We have really good music stores in the county and you don't have to buy - I'm not advocating that you buy top dollar, but if you're going to buy an instrument get something that's going to stay in tune and it produces the sound properly. For guitars, that means you want a solid top natural wood guitar, and those are very common, it's not like it's hard to find that. And in some cases you're only talking about a difference of maybe $50 or $100. I talked about the pricing for ukulele earlier. And like for guitar something between $150 and $350 will get you a good solid guitar that stays in tune and plays well. Much more than that and you're paying for something that's made of real special wood and sounds extra uber super-duper good and was made in America or something like that, I mean you're paying for that kind of thing.
But they mass produce guitars in Mexico and China pretty well. And for that price point of $150 to $350 you can get some good guitar. For a guitar, you want spruce or mahogany; you don't want laminate for the soundboard. For the neck, laminate is fine. If you get the stuff that's too cheap, like the stuff you find in Toys "R" Us, or Target, or Costco, yeah, you're essentially paying for a toy. So you're still going to pay $60 to $100 for it, and for another $50 you could've got yourself a real instrument. So I had some good instruments to start with, and those were the instruments I really learned to play on. I tried to get some junkie instruments, like I wanted an electric guitar, but I got a piece of junk. So, like for 10 years, I didn't really learn how to play electric guitar because what I had was …
David Payne: And the sound was probably horrible too.
Eric Carzon: Exactly. And it didn't produce sound and it didn't stay in tune. So if you want to learn how to play an instrument do your best to find one that actually plays, because otherwise you're going to hate it, then you're not going to play it as much or not going to play it at all. And then you wasted your money and you lost out on the opportunity to really learn how to play something well.
David Payne: Right, so shop around.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: Well, learning an instrument as an adult can seem particularly daunting. Do you have any tips for adults who want to try an instrument?
Eric Carzon: Yeah, definitely. Now, everything I just said about the budding musician sort of applies. Do it for yourself first. You don't have to shoot for a Grammy, unless you want a Grammy. And then if you want a Grammy don't be scared, go for it. But it's going to take you 10,000 hours. But don't let that sort of quality; search for perfection dominate your experience because that's not what it's about. I do highly recommend the ukulele because I think almost anybody can learn how to play it. It's a little less painful too. Like one of the things that dissuades people from guitar sometimes is that it does hurt your tips of your fingers a little bit. Not long, I mean, if you spend a month or so getting used to it then you won't feel any pain anymore, and it's really not that much pain. But some people are very - everybody is different, so some people are more sensitive to that pain than others.
The nice thing about ukuleles and guitars is that you don't have to know how to read music. And like with piano or saxophone or a lot of those other instruments, you are going to have to learn how to read music otherwise you're not going to be able to do anything. So with guitar and ukulele they're great amateur beginner instruments because they have all tons of books with the little chords just diagrammed right on there so you can look at the little diagram like, "Oh, that's where my fingers go." And you do it and you can play a whole song and learn it, so it's easy. I've been playing for 30 years, I still don't know how to read music, but I can play a lot of different songs. So I do highly recommend the uku and the guitar for that reason. I did take a class here and there, and that's good to do. If ArtistWorks was around when I was younger I would've been all over that.
So the online courses where you've got sort of a master player and they're showing you everything, and you got little videos, and you can watch them. And they chunk it up in these little five and seven-minute segments, so you can take it at your own pace. Those are awesome, and you should definitely try that out. I've tried it myself and I like it. And I know people who have tried it and they really enjoyed it. The other thing is to find people. One of the programs we'll talk about a little later is by a group called the Songwriters' Association of Washington. And they, if you Google them, saw.org is their website, and they have oodles of events, like pretty much two to four times a week they've got something going on somewhere in the region, all the way up as high as Baltimore, as far west as Manassas, everything on the western shore, pretty much from Washington County down to Charles County, they've got something. And a lot of Montgomery County, Washington, D.C., and Arlington, and Fairfax events especially.
But there's others groups, there's one called, I think it's like the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance or I might be butchering their name a little bit. But if you look around there are some organizations, they are either low-cost or free to join, or you can attend their events and you don't have to be a member, because a lot of them do open mics at bars and stuff. And then there's church groups, community groups, put it on a bulletin board. There's lots of different ways to connect with other people playing music, I guess, is what I'm getting at.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: And if you really want the full experience, that's the full experience. So find some other people and play with them and learn with them, start your own little group if you want. A lot of these events are - songwriters' circle in somebody's basement, so you come to their house with your guitar and some cheese and crackers, and everybody sits around and plays, and you learn from each other that way. So I definitely highly recommend that as part of the experience.
David Payne: That's great. Let's turn now to music resources. And start by asking you, what print resources does MCPL offer about music, musicians, and learning to play instruments or sing?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, so we have a wealth of stuff. It's generally in the non-fiction section, in what I call the 780s, so that the non-fiction range from 780 to 799 contains pretty much all of the music books. And it's a variety of things, so it's going to be books about artists. So there'll be the big thick book about The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or whatever, so there's that, so if you want to learn about musicians. Then there's sheet music, and then there's how to play different instruments or how to care for different instruments, and also books about like the music business. So we have that full spread. And I brought some with me just to give you a quick - so in my little stack here I've got, How to Rap, the Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC; Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop; from the children's section I got Learn to Play Keyboards; Usborne's Guitar for Beginners.
From the adult section, we've got Jazz, Rock, and Funk Guitar; Guitar Aerobics, which is like a daily exercise regimen to strengthen your fingers and improve your skills; Drum Circle: A Guide to World Percussion, that teach you how to play that djembe drum or the bongos or the congas, The Ukulele 3 Song Chord Book, so a lot of songs, pop songs broken down into three very easy chords; Alto Sax, 101 Hit Songs; Disney Hits for Ukulele; and one of my current reads, The Daily Ukulele: 365 Songs, so you can learn one song a day on ukulele; and of course, Hamilton: Music for Piano, Vocals, and Guitar.
David Payne: All right.
Eric Carzon: So that's kind of a sampling of physical books. And there's also DVDs in that, and I wouldn't ignore our DVD collection. In a couple of different dimensions they're important. You've got DVDs in non-fiction, such as You Can Play Electric Blues: A Complete Course for Beginner; and I know there's a good bass course on DVD as well. From the juvenile section there's a thing, I think most every branch has this, called, The Music Factory, and it's like eight or 10 different DVDs with like basic music for kids. And then you've got stuff like - I've got Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock, so pick up a couple of the DVDs of the sort of major live concerts, Absolute Guitar for Beginners, another course. And of course, you've got movies that either are musical or are either fiction about music or like sort of classical, like Broadway - we got a lot of Broadway.
In fact, with me here I've got Rent and The Jazz Singer, the Al Jolson version, I've got Singin' in the Rain; Jersey Boys, and Pitch Perfect. So that's also a great way to experience music, so highly recommend that. And then last but not least, we do have CDs in the branches. I brought with me a copy of The Beatles, The White Album. So physical collection, we've got CDs, we've got DVDs, we've got books, and definitely worth taking advantage of.
David Payne: Some great examples there. And I should mention to our listeners that, again, the resources that we mention in today's podcast can all be found under the show notes on the MCPL podcast website.
You mentioned ArtistWorks previously. Can you tell us about that, and some of the other digital resources for music and musical schools that MCPL has?
Eric Carzon: Great. Yes, absolutely. So, everything starts from the main webpage. So go to our webpage, montgomerycountymd.gov/library. And when you're looking right at it, in the left, the sort of first menu is Books, Movies, and Music. So you go Book, Movies, and Music, and go Find, and then you go find Music. So when you get to that menu article pops up, and that's everything we got about music is kind of in that article, and it's got a couple of tabs. One, the sort of first tab has a lot of our digital assets, and then the second tab talks more about our books and our scores. So, two of the standout digital resources are Freegal and the American music Streaming Music collection.
So, we'll start with Freegal. So Freegal stands for free and legal. So, there are over four million songs in every genre that you can imagine in Freegal. And so you login for the first time, you give it your library card number and your pin number and you can download the songs from Freegal, and they come to you as DRM-free files, MP3 files, which basically means you can do anything you want with that file, you want to email it to yourself, you want to put it in your collection whether - like I'm an iTunes user, so I download it and then I put it into my iTunes library and I can make playlists with all my other iTunes songs that I bought from iTunes or that I burned from CDs that I owned. If you're a Rhapsody user you can do the same thing or a general Windows user you can do the same thing because it's an MP3 file. So whatever you have it'll manipulate. And it's got everything from pop, to classical, to world music.
Some things that are on Freegal, you've got Daft Punk, they've got Adele, Springsteen, they've got classical music, world music, jazz, probably hundreds of thousands of artists literally. They've got the really popular stuff in broad array, and then they've got stuff that you've probably never heard of that you could explore. Now, I will say this about electronic music, nobody, absolutely nobody has everything. So Freegal has the Sony catalogue, and they estimate that it's about a quarter of what you would consider popular music. And then the rest of the world is divided between Apple, Rhapsody, and other music services, so none of them have access to everything digitally. But you can download five songs a week per account. So you can get pretty deep into music with that capability.
And it has lists, so you can do previews and you can put stuff on wish lists so you can remember what you wanted to download and then each time you login you can download another, and I think it turns over every Sunday night. So Sunday, at midnight, turns over, and the next week starts fresh. And it's great. You don't - Freegal is atypical of library services in that you do not have to return these songs. You check out the song, it's yours forever. And so that's not something you'll find in almost any other library product. But that makes it very easy to put them in your collection and manipulate them. And we'll come back to Freegal in a minute, because I have some fun things about Freegal.
But I want to talk about the American Music Streaming Collection. And so this is from a - the company is called Alexander Street, and you can actually just search the whole collection or they have it broken down, like they have certain major categories. So they have like American music, classical music, world sounds, and they have a - it's a mix of music, spoken word, and sounds. So you can hear everything from recordings of the poems of Langston Hughes, or you can have like sounds from nature. I did a search for frogs, I think it's - if you want to near a North American bull toad song they've got an entry about that, or I did animal sounds and they've got one with lions in the zoo. They got a lot of spoken word, so they got like a lot of famous works that are being read either by the original person or by somebody famous who is reading somebody famous. And then of course there's the music.
It's great especially like - really, I like blues and early jazz. So a couple of searches that they have a deep amount of songs in our Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, that was the woman in that HBO recent series. So if you want to know what she's all about you could do a search and they've got tons of songs from her. Billie Holiday, the famous blues player Lead Belly. Then they've got world music, and like an example of that, I did sort of a random search and Chernobyl songs came up, so authentic sort of Russian, Ukrainian ethnic music. And then we talked about frogs. Here's a couple of interesting searches to do. Search for The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and you get lots of the different versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. And then if you didn't know, The Lion Sleeps Tonight actually comes from an African song in the '30s called, Mbube, m-b-u-b-e.
So search of that, and that will - that is actually the name of the genre of music from South Africa, so you'll actually come up with a bunch of South African songs in that genre that are beautiful, they sound wonderful. And then, of course, there are tons of versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, which was also known as Wimoweh because that's what Pete Seeger brought it over to America, and that's what he called it. And so if you search for that then you'll get like all 18 different versions of him, and then the - I think it was The Tokens that made it famous the second time around, in the mid 50's. So it's a very interesting collection. It's got a lot of deep depth that you can get in to.
And then I did this little - I call it Freegal fun, so I do these little poems made up of songs that I got from Freegal. So for instance, here's one; Bruce is not bitter baby. I was born in the USA. Baby, I was born to run. Hard times in my hometown. We have all got a hungry heart for the glory days. And then here's one for blues; I went down to the crossroads to tell my baby that she done lost her good thing now. The thrill is gone, damn right, I got the blues. So there's five blues songs in each of those - in that poem. Blues two I did was; The sky is crying, mustang sally, voodoo child, let the good times roll. And then finally, Adele's Lament, this is all from her 25 album; Don't you remember how we set fire to the rain with our love song, now we've just turning tables. So that's what you can do with Freegal, I highly recommend. It's a lot of fun.
David Payne: You've given us some great examples of some very powerful resources there. Let's talk a bit about music programming that MCPL offers?
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah. So there's two monthly series that I know of, and I did sort of a search for programming, so I think I'm correct in asserting that just these two. So there's mine, at Twinbrook I call it Make More Music Discussion Group. And we've had our two groups so far. So it's going to be the first Monday of every month at 6:30. Keep an eye out on the webpage or call us to - just in case there's a holiday or something. But so far, there have not been any holiday blockages for first Mondays, so that's one of the reasons I picked first Mondays, so first Monday, 6:30, Twinbrook. Mine is a very open format. I'll do a little demo, a little clinic if there's anybody who has an issue and they want to see if the group has any advice about it, and then some sharing if people want to share.
Now actually, the first couple of groups, we've had a lot of kids and they've not had anything to share per say, but they wanted to explore the instruments, and so we basically did that for a large portion. But I did have some sharing in the first - we had this wonderful guy, he just played classical guitar throughout the whole conversation, for like 20 minutes, and he was just awesome. And he was like, "Oh, I just learned this as a student. I don't really play well." And he's playing like this guitar god. So you never know what you're going to encounter. I mean he was wonderful. So that's mine.
And then at the Rockville Library, they have a monthly songwriters' workshop, it's the second Saturdays, at 12:30. So it runs from 12:30 to 3:00. And it's a song circle by the Songwriters' Association of Washington. So what they generally do in this program is somebody will probably speak for a little bit at the beginning, maybe play two or three songs. So they'll have sort of somebody more experienced who will start everything off and give some tips to the rest of the audience. And then, basically, they'll go in a circle and they'll take turns. So everybody who wants to participate, they'll get to play one song. And you can bring - in fact they encourage you to bring 10 or 15 copies of your song and you pass it around, and people can give you constructive criticism and advice.
People sometimes - you can come with a partial song, and sometimes people have kibbutz on heh have you tried this lyric, I thought about that lyric, or did you think about changing this word or this chord structure, or do this or do that." So, it's really great if you want to get into songwriting, and you want to get some advice from folks. It's a great experience. Then the other thing is that all the branches are - we're always doing some kind of musical program. So on any given week somebody somewhere in Montgomery County Public Libraries is sponsoring a musical event of some sort. I know the Olney Library, about once a quarter; they have kind of an open mic that's themed. Their last one I think they had was like kids; they did like a 60's one which was a lot of fun. And I think they did the 70's and maybe even the 80's.
So they're doing like decades and other specialties. But the last one they did was with kids. I haven't seen one posted yet, so that one you'll have to keep a watch out for or call, and say, "Hey, when is your next open mic?" But then I know, for instance, at Twinbrook, we're also having a jazz program on December 13th with Christiana Drapkin who is regional, she's done a lot of accent libraries in Montgomery County and other jurisdictions. So we're doing jazz for kids specialty, and then a lot of branches are doing something. So there is something, like I said, every week. And so if you search or ask your branch what's coming up they'll tell you. If you search our events calendar from our web page you would want to look - there's a checkbox on the left, and if you checked performing arts and then selected all branches and gave it a date range, it would show you all the programs coming up that involve a performance.
And like I just did a search before I came here and I got two pages worth of hits going out all the way until June 30th of 2019. So, there's definitely musical acts, and they vary everything from jazz, to folk. I don't have one booked yet, but I'm going to book a drum circle some time before the end of 2019. And I'd say it's probably evenly divided between stuff for adults and stuff for kids. So some of the musical programs are specifically designed for children, and some of them are for all ages.
David Payne: And we should also talk about a couple of significant music programs, Vinyl Record Day, and the Make Music Montgomery Contest.
Eric Carzon: Oh yes, excellent. Thank you. Yeah, so on April 27th, 2019; we are hosting the second annual Day of the Record Vinyl Record Musical Festival at the Silver Spring library. This is going to be from about 12:00 to 4:00. And one of the main events of Vinyl Record Day is going to be what we call, Make Music Montgomery. So in December, we will release instructions on MCPL website for a call for auditions. So we're looking for folks who have about three-minute acts, and they must include a live musical component. So you could play a song. Doesn't have to be original, but you got to play a song. You could have a dance act as long as somebody is doing live music while the other person is dancing, or you can dance and sing at the same time if you want.
So the advice is going to be open. We're looking for as diverse a grouping of acts as we can. But this is a musical festival so we are insisting on a live musical component. But that's going to be a lot of fun. You'll be able to submit your auditions via an electronic file, which should be pretty easy for most folks. And we will have at least one live audition. I'll have one on my February 4th Make Music Discussion Group, will be live auditions for folks who want to come and audition live. But if you don't want to audition live you can still submit the file. And the submissions will be open from approximately mid December through the end of February.
David Payne: And as far as Vinyl Record Day, building on a very successful first year, last year.
Eric Carzon: Oh yeah, it was great.
David Payne: Yeah.
Eric Carzon: And so aside from the Make Music Discussion or the Make Music event at Vinyl Record Day, the other things, we'll have a keynote speaker, which we're still negotiating with, should be a lot of fun, and a panel discussion, and then a lot of other fun events. The super fun event we will have again is making crafts with records. So we'll have a whole bunch of beat up records and record covers, and you'll be able to make a craft out of that. And that was super popular at the last event. There'll also be an auction and a sale of vinyl records. So the friends of the library will bring tons of records to buy.
David Payne: Great. So stay tuned for Vinyl Record Day. Now, do you have a favorite book about music or about a particular musician?
Eric Carzon: Yeah. I quite enjoyed the book, Legends, Icons, & Rebels by Robbie Robertson. It's in our collection. I think most often it's in the teen collection. It's got a lot of beautiful pictures, and stories, and two CDs, so it basically talks - it does like short bios of a lot of the major musicians of sort of the golden age of rock and roll, so everybody from Chuck Berry, to Bob Marley, to Carol King, Bruce Springsteen, I think is in there as well, Aretha Franklin, folks like that. Another book that I recommend is The Rap Year Book. Whether you're in to rap or not, because I'm not super into rap, but there's some rap songs I do like, and it's such a major part of our culture that I wanted to learn more about it.
And this book is great because it takes one rap song, from like 1979 up through I think the mid 90's, and talks about the song and how it came about and the artists. And it's fascinating stories about some of these songs, and it's a really great read. And that is also in our collection, and I highly recommend that one.
David Payne: Well, from books to songs. Do you have a favorite song?
Eric Carzon: I - it's a hard question because there's 50 or more songs that I love dearly and play often, not including my own songs that I've written. But if I had to go with one I'm going to go with Smile. And I didn't know this about Smile until you asked me this question, I did a little research. And Smile was originally written by Charlie Chaplin as an instrumental. And he wrote it for his last silent film, Modern Times. And around that time, his mother had passed away. So it's kind of a sad by sweet song. And later on two lyricists, named John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, added the lyrics to it. Shortly thereafter, Nat King Cole, I think was first, and then a couple of years later, Tony Bennett both made the song with the lyrics, and that's what made the song famous. And since then it's been covered by everybody from Barbara Streisand to Michael Jackson and in between.
In fact Michael Jackson loved it so much it was his favorite song and he put it on - well he didn't; the people who made History after he died, HIStory put it on and they put on his version of Smile on to HIStory. At least according to MTV, that's where I got some of this information. Tony Bennett's version is still my favorite version, although I must say my second favorite is the TV show, Glee, did a great version of Smile with ukulele. And I like their version as well.
David Payne: Well, we typically close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are currently reading or recently enjoyed. So what can you share with us?
Eric Carzon: Okay, I'm ready. I've been reading - I've been taking the MCPL 2018 reading challenge, and I am three books away from finishing, so I am getting there.
David Payne: Good man.
Eric Carzon: I am reading The Daily Ukulele, so picked some songs there to sort of expand my repertoire of ukulele music. I am just starting March: One, by Congressman John Lewis, and it's great. I've read March: Three, so I started kind of backwards. But it's great because it gives you a lot of information about the Civil Rights era, and told from a not Martin Luther King perspective. Because we're all taught Martin Luther King, and that's important, but it's great to see other perspectives related, I mean because he worked with Dr. King, so - but it's great to see sort of all the other players, and he really goes in to that. He like talks about a lot of the different people and a lot of the history of some of those super important seminal events in our history. So I'm looking forward to finishing March: One.
The other book I'm reading is Gather Together in My Name, which is the second autobiography by Maya Angelou. And I'd always heard about Maya Angelou and heard little snippets of her poems from the presidential inaugurations and whatnot. But I'd never taken the time to read one until I finally read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was her first autobiography, and it was unbelievable. So I actually listened to it in audiobook from the collection, and then - so I've picked up the second, because now I - the first audiobook, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she sort of ends as an adolescent and she's like a young teenage mom, and then like ends. You're like, "What happened?" So the second book picks up and continues her story. So I'm really looking forward to that.
David Payne: Well, Eric, thank you very much for joining us today and sharing your passion for music, your knowledge in music. And congratulations on a great start with the Library of Things Music.
Eric Carzon: Thank you.
David Payne: Look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength.
Eric Carzon: Thank you. Appreciate it.
David Payne: Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we'd love to know what you think.
Thank you for listening to our conversation today. And see you next time.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, with your host, David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I'm Julie Dina.
David Payne: And today we're going to be talking about energy efficiency. We're recording this in the first week of November, just a few days after we put our clocks back, which means, of course there's lighter mornings but darker evenings. It means winter is coming. And of course as winter energy bills are coming. So, what better time to talk about energy efficiency. And joining us today to share their expertise, a very warm welcome to Angelisa Hawes, who is MCPL's Assistant Director of Facilities, and ADA matters.
Angelisa Hawes: Hi, thank you.
David Payne: And also a very warm welcome to Larissa Johnson, who is with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. And you have the very elaborate title of Residential Energy Program Manager. Did I get that right?
Larissa Johnson: That is correct. And thank you so much for having me.
David Payne: So, let's start off. We talk about energy efficiency, let's start off by asking, well, what does emergency efficiency mean?
Larissa Johnson: Yes, so that is a great question, especially because of this time of the year. And what I would love to start with is the fact that there is a difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency. So, energy conservation pertains to not using energy. So we hear this all the time when people say, "Turn off the lights" or "Take a shorter shower, five minutes." That's the recommendation; things of that nature. Basically the understanding is that the cheapest kilowatt hour is the kilowatt hour that we do not use. So energy conservation is where we start when we do outreach and education in the county. And then we move to energy efficiency. And energy efficiency is when you use new technologies to do the same tasks.
So, for instance, lighting, which is a big one; it's a super easy win for everyone in their homes, in their offices, in their churches. So, switching from incandescent light bulbs to LED, or light-emitting diodes, is one of the most energy-efficient things you can do. And it's a new technology, which means it uses less energy. So, when I'm out in the community and people ask me, "But how much energy is this LED using?" A typical incandescent light bulb uses 60 watts of energy, and an LED that is the same brightness, that is the same color, uses about 9 watts of energy. So that's just a little introduction to the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency.
David Payne: Let me ask you, and this may be a rather obvious question, but why is energy efficiency important?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, so I have to say that energy conservation is the most important thing, because we want to reduce how much energy we're using. Then we want to use energy efficiently, and then we want to switch to renewable energy. So it's a little bit of a drive down the road. You want to take one stop first before you make the other stops.
So, yes, energy efficiency is super important because we want to use less energy overall, and we want to make sure that we're using our energy as efficiently as possible. We use it every single day for everything we do. We use it to heat our food, to refrigerate our food, we use it to heat our showers; everything that you can think of we're using electricity and energy every single day.
David Payne: That just about covers it.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Now, I know you mentioned a lot of information about energy conservation. What exactly does Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection do?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah. So they have me.
Julie Dina: Number one.
Larissa Johnson: They created the position as the Residential Energy Program Manager, it is my job to go out into the community and talk to residents about how to reduce their energy usage, how to be more efficient, and how to switch to renewable energy. That's just what we do for outreach. But then within the Department of Environmental Protection, we also walk the walk. So we make sure that we're as energy efficient as possible as well as an agency. And we really do, we have two different sides of the energy program. I work on residential matters or things that have to do with county residents. And then my colleague, Lindsey Shaw, she works on the commercial side of things. And we have a few - we have some laws that back her work up. And mine is really based on just educating and doing outreach in the community.
David Payne: So, Larissa, what are some of the service that DEP offers residents, and also businesses?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. We have a lot of different programs. Now, I do have to preface this with the fact that DEP in the Montgomery County doesn't provide programs directly or incentives directly. Now, I say that because we promote a lot of programs that exist in the state. So, for instance, in Montgomery County and in Maryland as a whole, there's a program called EmPOWER Maryland, E-M-P-O-W-E-R Maryland. And EmPOWER Maryland has been in existence since 2008. And it is a law that was passed to reduce our energy consumption as a state. So, all of the utilities, we have five utilities in the state, three in Montgomery County, we have Potomac Edison, BGE, and Pepco. And all three utilities have to provide services to residents at no cost or low cost.
For instance, when I go out and do outreach, I'm always signing people up for something called a Quick Home Energy Checkup. And that is when a contractor comes to your home, they switch out your light bulbs to LEDs, they give you high-efficiency showerheads, faucet aerators, they're going to wrap your hot water heater, they've going to give you an advanced power strip. And they do an overall look at your apartment or house to see how energy efficient it is. And this doesn't cost residents anything; it's a no-cost program. It's already incorporate into your utility bills. The EmPOWER program also does things for small businesses; it does things for large businesses. The EmPOWER program is pretty large, so as the Montgomery County Residential Energy Program Manager, it's my job to make sure people know about these programs.
In Montgomery County, what we do have though is a residential property tax credit. And that's available to anyone who does energy efficiency upgrades in their home, and they can get up to a $250 tax credit from the county. So that's a direct program that we provide in Montgomery County. Most of the other programs that are going to have dollars attached to them are going to be through the EmPOWER program as the state level. But it's our role to make sure that residents know about these programs so that they're taking advantage of it and reducing their energy bills.
David Payne: So, do residents find out about EmPOWER through your website, for instance, or directly from the utility providers?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, each utility does direct outreach through pamphlets, brochures, mailers, things of that nature. And then they can also get information from our website, of course, yes.
David Payne: Great.
Julie Dina: That's good to know.
Larissa Johnson: Yes.
Julie Dina: Now, Angelisa, being the Assistant Director of Facilities and ADA for the Montgomery County Public Library could you tell us a little bit more about your role?
Angelisa Hawes: Okay, so I started my role on April 30th, 2018. And as the Director of Facilities and ADA, I'm responsible for facilities management for the 21 branches. I like to say that from the time you step foot in our parking lot to the time you go into our buildings and use our facilities, our bathrooms; those are all the things that I'm responsible for. I also oversee ADA for the library system, new construction, so like the new Wheaton Library, and the Refresh projects, worksite safety, of COOP, our COOP plan, which stands for Continuity of Operations Planning, so planning for things like disasters, whether it be fires, or a flood, or power outages, anything that affects our normal service. I'm also responsible for risk management. I'm also the liaison for security, and for the community use of public facilities. And then I also oversee 10 library branches.
David Payne: So you're busy.
Angelisa Hawes: Yes
David Payne: So, you talked about briefly the refreshes that you are working on and the system has been working on. Can you tell us that in all your refreshes and plus the current existing buildings such as Sliver Spring, what has MCPL done to make their buildings more energy efficient and environmentally friendly?
Angelisa Hawes: With the refreshes we have gone in and we have done energy-efficient LED lighting, some of them are new fixtures, and some are retrofitted. We have placed water-efficient toilets and sinks in our facilities, some have automatic sensors, some are energy-efficient low-flow toilets. We are putting carpet tiles in, that can be removed, rinsed, and replaced when they become dirty or soiled. We use paints, adhesives, and sealants with low VOCs; we've added dual water fountains with bottle filling stations. In all those locations we've also added hand-driers in to cut down the use of paper towels. We also reuse items and furniture that are in good condition. So with the refresh we'll have new items but - new furniture, but we will also have old furniture.
Another example of us reusing something is that the only branch where we reused existing brick and laminated wood beams from the old site. We salvaged them and we put them back into the new building. At Twinbrook, we've added an outside green space that's accessible for programs. We have green roofs at Sliver Spring and Gaithersburg which helps with heating and cooling, but also with natural absorption and irrigation system. We also, in our new buildings, are doing a lot of natural lighting, so buildings like Silver Spring and Olney have a lot of natural light. The county has provided us with green power at Olney and Silver Spring libraries. And we also have solar panels at Rockville Memorial Library and at Gaithersburg.
Julie Dina: So Larissa, we've been at a lot of outreach events together. For our listening audience, could you tell us if you have any DEP outreach events that are coming up actually in any of our branches, as well as let us know if there are any recent campaigns or initiatives that you might be working on?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. As I mentioned, I love working with libraries. It's where people go for information. So for me it's a no-brainer to have outreach events at libraries. And I try to make them as interactive and engaging as possible. So when I first started with the Department of Environmental Protection, we celebrated National Energy Action Month, which is something that happens every October. And we partnered with six libraries to provide energy exploration events, which were interactive experiences for all ages. It was a way for us to bring energy efficiency, which is such a weird concept for some folks or just not a fun concept. So we made arcade games to talk about the different ways that you could be energy efficient in your homes. So we brought that to libraries in October of 2016, was the first time we did it. And then we did it again, in 2017, at six different libraries.
During that time, we also found out that the Summer Reading Program, which happens every summer, had an amazing theme. And I think in 2017 it was, Build a Better World. And so we were able to use that as an opportunity to outreach to kids and to families about renewable energy. So we did Energy Express events at all of the library locations, and we made wind turbines, and solar cars with kids during those events. And then this year, we brought that back again and when libraries rocked this summer, during the Summer Reading Program, we talked about where electricity comes from, and the fact that a lot of our electricity comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy, two of which basically come from rocks originally. So we were able to use that. So I try to find a way to use the summer reading theme as an opportunity to talk about energy, and to talk about what Department of Environmental Protection does.
And then of course, this October, for National Energy Action Month, we did something called Books and Bulbs. So we deviated a little bit from the Energy Exploration events just because we had been to most of the libraries with that event. So we went to six locations this October and did Books and Bulbs, where we had people bring us their old incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs, and they could swap them out for light-emitting diodes, the LED light bulbs I was talking about earlier. And so they were able to do that. They could bring me as many light bulbs as they wanted and then they received three LEDs in exchange. So I think - I don't think, I do know that next summer we will be partnering with the libraries again on Energy Express events, again a way to connect the summer reading with STEM or STEAM opportunities and talk about energy.
And then we are also, just so everyone knows, you can always take out a Kill a Watt meter from your library. So you just go to the catalogue system and you can find out how much energy you're using with certain appliance by using a Kill a Watt meter. And sneak peek, this is brand new, but we will be adding thermal cameras to the library catalogue in the next six months, hopefully.
Julie Dina: Oh, that's nice.
Larissa Johnson: So people will be actually able to borrow an iPhone and Android-capable thermal cameras, they're extensions that you put on your phone, and then you can search your home to see how energy efficient your house is or where you have leaks and where it's super warm and where it's super cold, and it's pretty awesome. We're going to have, hopefully, eight cameras in circulation.
David Payne: You hear it first on Library Matters.
Julie Dina: That's right.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, you really did.
Julie Dina: I know earlier you mentioned people were able to turn in their light bulbs at certain outreach events.
Larissa Johnson: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: Now that the summer is over, does DEP have specific stations or offices where people can still turn in their light bulbs, is this a year-round?
Larissa Johnson: I do outreach in the entire county, and I don't just go to libraries. I also go the senior centers, I go to recreation centers, I go to housing complexes, I go to Manna food distribution sites, I go to a lot of different locations. So in December, I will actually be visiting a lot of senior centers, I'll be visiting Damascus, and Schweinhaut, and Bower Park, and a few other locations. And I'll be doing light bulb exchanges, and also we will be turning incandescent light bulbs into ornaments. So we're going to take your old inefficient light bulbs and turn them into a work of art. So that's a fun event.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah.
Julie Dina: I imagine people can get this information on your website?
Larissa Johnson: Yes. So our website is www.mygreenmontgomery.org, and then if you backslash energy, or if you just go to mygreenmontgomery.org you can find our information there. We have a calendar there, and all of these events are located there. We also have a Facebook page, which is mygreenmontgomery, and you can find information there as well.
Julie Dina: You heard it folks.
Larissa Johnson: Come bring your light.
David Payne: So, Angelisa, what are some of the resources MCPL offers to help customers go green?
Angelisa Hawes: Well, we have free scanning services from our copiers in all of our branches. We offer programs such as composting, Energy Express, Books and Bulbs. We have online resources such as e-books, e-magazines, music and movies; we have books and resources on green living. And with our partnership with DEP, as we've been talking about during this session, we pass out green bags, light bulbs for the Books and Bulbs program, we also have compost bins at Damascus, Maggie Nightingale, Kensington Park, and the FLO Silver Spring bookstore. The other thing that we have done recently is we have discontinued mailing out postcards for holds. So we either call you, text, or email you. So those are just-
David Payne: It's a significant contribution there.
Angelisa Hawes: Yes. I get a lot of those hold emails.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, and they offer the Kill a Watt meters, which are housed here at Rockville Library, but again, people can request them, and then they get sent directly to their library. So that's been a resource for the last five years or so.
Julie Dina: Okay, Larissa, so what would you consider is the most important step we can take right now towards being more environmentally responsible?
Larissa Johnson: Okay, so there is not just one step, there are a few steps. The first step is to make sure that we are using less energy, so conserving our energy, so turning off our lights, shorter showers; things of that nature. The next thing would be to be more energy efficient, so switching to LED light bulbs is the easiest thing you can do in your home. The next thing would be to switching to clean energy or to renewable energy. So for those that have the ability it would be to install solar panels on their homes or on their barns or over their carports, wherever they can. And then if you don't have that ability, there are other options. So there are things like switching to clean power. So in Maryland, we're a choice state, which means you get to choose who your energy supplier is.
So in Montgomery County residents can choose to go to wind energy or cleaner energy, and they would just go to our website, mygreenmontgomery.org and then look for Green Choices, that's what they're going to look for. And it's going to tell them what companies are available to them to switch to clean energy. And then they also have the ability to go solar, either putting solar panels on their roofs or participating in community solar, and that's another project that's happening in Montgomery County. And you can find more information on our website. And again, like Montgomery County Libraries is already a leader in this. They have solar panels on the roofs of their libraries, on Rockville Memorial and on Gaithersburg.
David Payne: So Angelisa, having said that, can you give us an example of how solar power makes a difference?
Angelisa Hawes: So at Gaithersburg, Solar City installed 720 panels on the roof. And we are generating over 270,000 kilowatt hours per year.
Larissa Johnson: That's a lot of hours.
Julie Dina: Now, Larissa, could you tell us if there's any particular project the DEP is actually working on currently?
Larissa Johnson: We are actually working on a project that has been in a making for a little bit of time, but we've been trying to work with partners, and really get this program to be what the county needs. And so as part of the Pepco-Exelon merger that happened a few years ago, the county received funding for energy programs, so one of them was to create the Montgomery County Green Bank. So I don't know if residents know about that or if listeners know about that, but that is something that has been in existence for the last two years, and that's an opportunity for people to do energy projects and to have financing to help them do those energy projects. So that's something that's good for residents and for businesses.
And another part of that Pepco-Exelon merger was to bring Montgomery County an Energy Coach Network. And so we are in the process of putting that together and working with Health and Human Services, with Department of Housing and Community Affairs, with the public libraries, with the senior centers. And so we're going to be launching something soon. I can't tell you what it's called. I can tell you that you will have thermal cameras in libraries soon, and that is a part of this project, in this initiative. So be on the lookout for something super exciting, and engaging, and fun. And it's going to be a county-wide initiative and program, all around energy because energy is amazing and we use it every day.
In addition to the Montgomery County Green Bank, there are opportunities for homeowners to actually receive funding to help them to energy efficiency programs or any energy-efficiency projects in their home. And so one of those is called the BeSMART Home Loan, and it's available to all residents in the entire state of Maryland. And it's up to $30,000 for energy projects, and that can be retrofits, it could be home comfort projects, it could be installing solar panels, though it only pays a percentage of that or only provides you with a loan for a percentage of that. And that's through the Department of Housing and Community Development. And again, it's up to $30,000 worth of funding, and it's at a 4.99 APR. And so that's another opportunity for residents and listeners to take advantage of that. And once they do that program, then they can qualify for the Montgomery County Property Tax Credit, the energy property tax credit, so it's a double whammy, but in a good way.
David Payne: Well, an important part of energy efficiency is LEED certification, L-E-E-D. Angelisa, if I could turn to you and ask you, Sliver Spring, Olney, and Gaithersburg libraries have gold LEED certifications. Can you tell us a little bit about the LEED certification process, what it means, and are there any future libraries that will be trying for LEED certification?
Angelisa Hawes: Okay. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. And it is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. LEED provides point system to score green buildings' design and construction. It's basically five basic areas, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy in atmosphere, materials resources, and indoor environmental quality. So buildings are awarded points based on those sustainable strategies. The more points they're awarded the higher level of certification, which is silver, gold, or platinum. So if you decided that you wanted to have a project that was LEED certified, you would first determine which you want to achieve, do you want to have silver or do you want to have gold. You would register your project, you would submit your certification application, then you would wait, the application review, and then they would make a decision on which level you achieved.
So, as future libraries that we're trying for LEED certification would be the Wheaton Library that's going to be combined with the Rec Center.
David Payne: So Larissa, turning to you, what about getting a home LEED certified, what are some of the pros and cons of doing that?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, so LEED certification is an option for homes. And as Angelisa just pointed out, there are five areas, and energy is one of those areas, and you can get a certain amount of points for that. The other thing is that you have to pay for LEED certification, so that's probably the biggest downfall is that there's a cost associated with it. The upside is that there is funding to help you with that through the BeSMART Home Loan, and through other programs that exist to help you make your home more energy efficient. One of the things that we talk about when we're talking about homes and energy efficiency is the Home Energy Rating System, or the HERS Index. And that's also another tool that homeowners can use especially when they're interested in selling or buying homes, they can find out how energy efficient that home is.
So LEED is more comprehensive, and talks about sustainability, water usage, environmental air quality, and the design and materials that are used, whereas HERS specially talks to the energy efficiency of a home. And also in Montgomery County, we have a disclosure form, so when you do buy a new home the homeowners - the previous homeowners have to give you the last 12 months worth of energy bills so that you can find out how energy efficient that home was. So that's something that has been in existence here in the county as well. So if you're interested in buying a home, looking for a new home, or just want to find out how energy-efficient your home is that's another opportunity. And again, it's specifically connected to energy use, where as LEED is a much more comprehensive holistic approach to sustainability.
Julie Dina: Now, Larissa, with all of that being said, how can county residents actually contact the DEP or find out more about your work.
Larissa Johnson: It's very easy. You can go to mygreenmontgomery.org, which is our website that connects residents to all things green in Montgomery County, hence the name, mygreenmontgomery. So you can find out information about what I'm doing around energy, you can find out what's happening around RainScapes and water, and all different areas that the Department of Environmental Protection focuses on. That's the easiest way. If people want to contact me directly it's firstname.lastname@example.org, that's the easiest way to get in touch with me. And I'm always happy to answer emails, that's the easiest way to get in touch with me because I'm out in the field so much that I'm not usually available via phone, so definitely emails. Our website is a great opportunity as well.
David Payne: And for listeners, who having heard the podcast want to take a look at how to be more energy efficient, what's the easiest step that someone can take right now to being more environmentally responsible?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. So I think that the most important step we can take right now is to take a step. So like I said before, to conserve energy, so stop using energy. Make sure that when you leave a room you are turning off the light, switching to LED light bulbs, we have lots of events where you can bring your old incandescent and CFL light bulbs to me and you can get LEDs at no cost to you. So that's an easy, easy way to do it. I want to really impress upon the fact that each choice that we make is impacting the entire system. So a lot of people think that what does it matter if I turn off my light, it doesn't really impact anything. But if you don't turn off your light, and everyone doesn't turn off their light because they don't think that their choices matter, then we have a big issue when it comes to energy choices.
So I really like to think about the solutions that we can do personally because that's going the impact the larger system. And there is another book that I love, love, love, it's called Energy Choices, and it is a look at the solutions everyday people can make just in regular things, so switching to solar panels, buying an electric vehicle if you have the ability and have the interest in that. Or super easy things, just walking to work or walking or using the metro, or using a bus. Things like that, so.
David Payne: I should of course remind listeners that all the resources that we mention today can be found in our show notes on the podcast section of MCPL's webpage.
Julie Dina: And Larissa, I know you do a lot to conserve energy and let the whole world know about it. Can you tell us about a strangest thing you've ever done in a quest to conserve energy?
Larissa Johnson: Oh gosh. The strangest thing I have ever done, so I actually, one of the things that I do provide residents with when they come to one of my workshops or one of my outreach events is a shower timer, and it's a five-minute shower timer. And I absolutely love it. I use it every single time I take a shower, I start it, and the sand starts coming down, and I know I have five minutes in my shower. So I think that's the silliest, quirkiest thing I do. And I'm happy to say that I can also share that with other residents because I provide them and I do workshops. So it's not over-the-top super crazy, but it's a great way to conserve energy.
Julie Dina: Sounds good.
David Payne: So we typically close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are enjoying or recently enjoyed, of course, under your LED light bulb, so let's start with Angelisa.
Angelisa Hawes: So, I'm reading Radical Candor, but Kim Scott, because I want to be a better boss. I think that starting from being a branch manager to becoming an administrator is a totally large jump. And so I don't want to lose my humanity when I make decisions, and so this book was recommended by another administrator. And so that's why I checked this book out.
Julie Dina: Larissa?
Larissa Johnson: Yes, so my book is one from Libby, and it's an audiobook, it's The Book of Joy, by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. And so for me, I believe that all things are connected. And so my personal energy impacts all of the choices I make, and that is something that I really believe in. And so I really try to make sure that I am connecting to the joy that I have within myself, and the laughter. And so this book has been inspirational, it's two amazing men talking about how joy has impacted their lives, they talk about sorrow, they talk about laughter, they talk about humanity and humility, and they bring it all together. And it's just so nice. And they have two actors that - or two readers that are reading it that sound just like the Dalai Lama and sound like Desmond Tutu, so that's one of the benefits of listening to a book on tape is you get to have different accents. The downfall is you get no pictures.
Julie Dina: You just have to come to the library and check out the book.
Larissa Johnson: Exactly.
Julie Dina: Well, I've got the say a big thank you to both our guests today on the episode.
Let's keep this conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we'd love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Julie: Hi, I'm Julie Dina. In this episode of Library Matters, we're doing something a little different. For the past few months, MCPL has invited children ages 10 through 14 to explore literature by recording a video about a book they've enjoyed.
We've collected some of these book talks to share with our Library Matters listeners. We hope you enjoy the enthusiasm these young readers have expressed for their books and for reading as much as we have.
You can see these and more of MCPL’s literary explorer videos on our YouTube channel mcplmd. MCPL’s literary explorer program was made possible by grants from the NBC Universal Foundation and Washington's NBC 4
Book Reviewer 1: Welcome to Serenity, America's ideal community, ideal, I muttered, ideal for clones until they figure out what's going on. That's when it dawns on me. I haven't seen a single human so far, no parents, no Purples, no sign of life: Masterminds, a criminal destiny by Gordon Korman.
After their escape from the Purples, the four clones reach the outside world. However, their mission is not finished yet. They must bring down Project Desirous for the faith they had created for them and the other six clones. The 11th had probably died during the escape. The mission brings them back to the heart Serenity.
There, they might learn an awful truth about their cloning. Masterminds is filled with creative strategies to get out of nearly impossible problems, mixed with twists and turns, showing kids can do unbelievable things. They can inspire you to make an incredible act for the community, but be careful, you might inhale the book.
Book Reviewer 2: What? And you're taking me where? How could you do this to me? Today, we're going to talk about the book The Truth About Stacey by Raina Telgemeier. Stacey has had a crazy year between babysitting her diabetes and moving, she has had her hands full.
She joins the club with three other people named Christy, Claudia and Marian. She realizes that keeping quiet has changed her life and that she will never do it again. I love this book because it was serious, funny at the same time and it had a lot of cliffhangers that popped up at surprising moments. Find out more, read the book The Truth About Stacey by Raina Telgemeier.
Book Reviewer 3: Being a kid can really stink sometimes especially when you're in middle school. But sometimes the experience of being a kid can really be exciting and funny. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is written by Jeff Kinney.
This book is about a kid named Greg Heffley, whose life is ruined by his family: his big brother Roderick, his dad Frank, his mom Susan and his little spoiled, most loved, trouble-proof brother Manny.
The book is a diary that Greg’s mom got him, but it's not cool to have a diary. So Greg says, this is really just a journal. Greg writes in his journal every day about his life at school and at home. He has light bulbs that go off inside his brain.
Sometimes the books blow out or explode, but it’s not really light bulbs that go off inside his brain, but ideas that sometimes work and sometimes backfire. I love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series by Jeff Kinney because it makes me feel good inside and makes me giggle too and other people should read this book because whenever they're frustrated, it will make them feel better.
Book Reviewer 4: Have you ever found out that your friend is half goat? Battled the Minotaur? Saw your mom disappear in golden light and be claimed by the sea god making you a demigod? Probably not unless you’re Percy Jackson.
In the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson, along with Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood the satyr embarks on a quest to return the master lightning bolt to Zeus, king of the gods. Along the way, Percy and his friends battle Medusa, play with the three-headed dog, travel to the underworld, escape Hades, God of the dead and battle Aries, god of war. Will he and his friends save the world from a war? Find out in the Lightning Thief.
Book Reviewer 5: Hello, my name is Avi G, and today I'll be talking about Wonder written by R.J. Palacio. This story is about a boy named Auggie with a facial difference. Many kids think he looks weird and that he is horrible and ugly.
Only his family is there to protect him including his sister Via and his two parents, then he enters school at Beecher Prep in fifth grade. School is a huge challenge for him. Will he be able to overcome this challenge and make new friends and fit in with his peers or will he have to quit school eventually? This story is wonderful. It just shows how a boy called Auggie can face the world and show that he can actually fit in.
When seventh graders bully him and hurt him, he doesn't cry and stays strong and his friends help him deal with the bully. Read this touching story about Auggie as he makes new friends and proves himself to be ordinary.
Book Reviewer 6: Hi, my name is Elise, and I'm here at the Olney Public Library recommending this book called Awkward. Awkward is one of my favorite books because they include so many details about characters and different stories brought into life.
And then also there's different comic strips on every page and the reason that I love this book is the characters go super well together but then there's also the bad times and it makes you super anxious to go to the next page, so you’ll just want to keep reading on and on and on about it.
A good thing about this book is that there's an adventure on every page. So each time you open up the book, there's always going to be something new to look forward to. I love this book because it's just super fun and creative and it's just really cool.
Book Reviewer 7: Have you ever wondered what it's like to be as fast as a cheetah, strong as an elephant, heal like a starfish, climb like a lizard or have echolocation like a bat. Well, in the book Going Wild by Lisa McMann, Charlie Wilde has all those powers. Thanks to her bracelet she accidentally found.
Charlie first discovered her powers playing her favorite sport, soccer. She sprinted 70 miles per hour across the field, dodging everyone in her way except her enemy Kelly. Kelly collided with Charlie and her foot smashed into Charlie's leg. But Charlie barely felt a thing because of her activated bracelet. Charlie is even more adventurous different than this one. Find out by reading this action packed page turner.
Book Reviewer 8: How does it feel to go from being a rich, wealthy princess like girl to a poor, orphan servant. This is the classic story The Little Princess by Frances Burnett. It is a story of a girl named Sara Crewe whose life goes downward after she learns that her father has died and has left her without any money.
This is a story set in England in a boarding school which Sara attends and she is living the life of a princess. Once her dad dies, she ends up as a servant living in the attic. Even when she's starving and freezing, she uses her imagination and determination to survive.
Though this book was written in 1905, the themes are still very relevant today. A true princess is not just wealth or money, but the richness in your heart, being kind, strong and persevering. This is the classic timeless book that you will enjoy and love reading.
Book Reviewer 9: If you go to middle school, maybe you will agree with this book and if you go to middle school next year, maybe this will help you to survive a rough year. My name is Sean and I would like to introduce a book named Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.
Rafe K is going to sixth grade and what he got the first day was getting a new boy named Miller and having a long speech by the principal and getting a rule book and reading it slowly and then a really good idea came to him.
Something may have changed the whole year. It's that he breaks all the rules trying not to keep the rule three times and he named that Operation RAFE, which stands for rules aren't for everyone. Will he win this game and survive this year with Miller and the teachers? Read the story to find out if he won or lost.
Book Reviewer 10: What happens when seven different students with nothing in common wind up in the same class with Mr. Terupt teacher magic. This book is because Mr. Terupt, a realistic fiction story by Rob Buyea, Peter, Alexia, Luke, Jeffrey, Anna, Danielle and Jessica land in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class.
They're completely different and have never gotten along. That is not until Mr. Terupt brings them all together. But it isn't until he's gone that everyone and everything really begin to change. This is a great book because you can see how the characters learn and grow and how Mr. Terupt in that one amazing school year changes their lives forever.
Julie: We hope you enjoy these engaging book talks. We're so glad these young readers shared their enthusiasm for their books with us. You can find all these books in MCPL’s catalog.
Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We will love to know what you think.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters; video host David Payne.
Lauren Martino: And I'm Lauren Martino.
David: And today we are going to be talking about trees, not the ones with leaves on, but of the family variety. And genealogy is our subject for today’s episode, and we are delighted to welcome two of our avid MCPL staffers who are going to share their genealogical experiences with us. I, first of all, welcome Adrienne Miles-Holderbaum.
Adrienne Miles-Holderbaum: Thank you.
David: Adrienne is Senior Librarian at our Germantown branch. Also I'm very pleased to welcome to today’s episode, Carol Reddan who is Library Associate at Olney. Welcome Carol.
Carol Reddan: Thank you.
David: And you are both very dedicated, passionate, and experienced genealogists and we are very pleased to have you share your experience with us.
Carol: I’ll take it.
David: Well compared to some of us. Anyway let’s start by asking you both basically what is genealogy. Let me start with you, Carol.
Carol: What is genealogy? Well, I had to look that up and a basic good definition is the study of the ancestral lines and that’s what I'm going to go with.
David: We’ll take it.
Carol: Okay. All right.
Adrienne: Yeah. I looked it up and Merriam-Webster says it’s an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms and it’s a study of family ancestral lines. I think everyone comes from somewhere and everyone has roots. We just didn’t appear out of nowhere and that’s why it’s fascinating.
David: Right. That covers everything.
Lauren: So what got you two interested in genealogy to begin with? Let’s start with Carol.
Carol: Just curiosity and I like detective work and it’s the ultimate puzzle, detective puzzle. And everybody is always, “Where am I from? What is my line?” And when you get real philosophical, you realize we all had to start from one point and then break apart and you get in that real chicken or egg kind of a mode and you just want to keep going further. It’s just basic downright human curiosity.
Adrienne: So for me it’s a little personal. My father didn’t know his biological parents. He was a fostered child in New York City and he always wondered who his parents were and he would always talk about it with us. So it’s a natural interest that I’ve already – always had. It’s something I’ve always wanted to know.
So I think that also kind of guided me to become a librarian because I’ve only been doing research for so long on this topic and just wondering like how we get to where we are, in general. So that was very influential. And I'm interested in genealogy. Also I really enjoy Henry Louis Gates. He is an author and he has the show in PBS called Finding Your Roots and I watch every episode. It’s fascinating to me to find about history and about people and I just – it’s just – I find it infinitely interesting.
Also as an African-American, I’ve always wondered about my roots because a lot of our roots are kind of missing due to the Transatlantic slave trade. Even my last name I’ve always known it wasn’t my last name, for other reasons, my dad was a fostered kid, but also because a lot of African-Americans, our last names aren’t like blood-related. So immigrants from other countries also have changed their last name to anglicize them.
So I think it’s not just African-Americans and I have that curiosity, but I’ve always wondered like, ‘where does my name come from, where does this come from,’ so that kind of stemmed my interest in genealogy.
David: So the fun fact, USA today found that genealogy is the second-most popular hobby in the country after gardening, and the second-most visited category of website after pornography. Why do you think that genealogy has become so popular? I’ll start with you, Adrienne.
Adrienne: I guess it goes back to familial origins. Everyone has them, even if you don’t know them like in my father’s case we'd all have it no matter what. Like I said earlier, no one just placed here like out of nowhere, we don’t just come here. So I think it’s fun, it’s interesting.
David: And rewarding.
Adrienne: And rewarding, right, rewarding and it’s time-consuming but rewarding and it’s – I think it’s a skill that anyone can develop if you have the patience and the interest.
Carol: Yeah, I would concur, I think everybody is curious about where they are from, but I just think the influx of DNA, DNA testing and now it’s so easy and it’s advertised and it’s publicized and it’s very easy now. Price keeps coming down to just send in a sample and find out your DNA and start that search. So it’s easy. It’s more accessible now to start it sort of as a hobby. But, yeah, you do have to be careful because it can’t be a hobby or it can really like overturn your life and I have those stories too.
David: Presumably you talked about accessibility. Presumably the availability of electronic resources...
Carol: Well, that end – to just send away for a kit now, I did ancestry like four years ago and it was like $150. Just like when you bought a toaster in 1950, it was a certain price. And what is a toaster? $12.99 on sale. And the cost of these kits keeps going down. They have specials. So it’s making it easier for more people to do and more and more people are doing it, which is why I keep getting updates on the ancestry why my apparently ancestry keeps changing because they have more people to match it against, because more people are doing it.
Adrienne: What’s interesting is my father did it in 2006. He did like ancestry – I don’t remember what DNA website he used, but it was expensive, but also it wasn’t very specific. It was like very general. It was like 50% European, 50% Sub-Saharan African. So he is like, okay, now it’s like super detail. The sample size is larger. So they have more I guess DNA to pull from. So it’s like so different, so…
Carol: But even still be aware because there are commercialists. I always thought I was German. Now I got my results back and I have to buy kilt. Keep the lederhosen because it happened to me. It happened to me because I get updates and if you go and get a tattoo, you might be in trouble with the Viking tattoo.
Lauren: So Adrienne, you’ve been doing genealogy research for a while now. How is it different now than a DNA testing as so readily available from when you began?
Adrienne: Sure. I feel like it’s easier. I’ve been getting – so the website I used, we entered our email addresses and then you can also be contacted. So I’ve been contacted from like distant cousins and I’ve contacted distant cousins and we were like, “Are we really related?” How are we related? What does it mean?” And I don’t know how accurate or what it even means or if it means anything. But I definitely think it’s the world is smaller and we are more accessible, so the information is more accessible and you are more -- yeah.
Lauren: You are making connections with people whereas before you just might just know them as a name in a book.
Adrienne: Right, right, but if you have like names or last names like familial names that you are aware of, it is interesting to kind of contact those people with the last names who are matching and really figure out the common ancestor. I’ve done that with like one person in particular.
Lauren: I love doing that.
Carol: That’s the best way to do. It is to find a match and then to try to go up the trees and it’s like a little puzzle to find the point where you connect and it is changing a lot because I’ll get updates all the time. I’ve done 23andMe and Ancestry and I get updates on both of them all the time and Ancestry particularly it just gets easier and easier. The more people do it, more people upload pictures like just you think you will never see a picture of your great, great, great grandfather, you might. And that’s like when you hit pay dirt. That’s like when you see a picture of these people. That’s the best. So distant cousins are uploading military records, pictures, family – all kinds of content.
Lauren: Wow! It is exciting. So did you find a lot of difference between like the two, you said you use like 23andMe and Ancestry? Did they agree with each other or?
Carol: No, of course not.
Carol: The DNA part of it I don’t really want to focus on so much because you just – for me being 99.4% European, so for a European, Europe was a mess for so many years and I'm the commercial where I always thought I'm just German and Irish, German and Irish, pretty straightforward, but I did ancestry three years ago and it said 29% Scandinavian, 25% Italian-Greece, 24% Irish, Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish and I was like, oh, I'm way more exotic than I ever thought and I was getting into it and loving it.
But then the update comes and you go full circle and it’s like right back where I started from, German and Irish. Yeah, so I take it with a grain of salt and what the DNA is telling you is who your DNA matches people where they are living today. It doesn’t tell you, oh, this is matching people from the past. And the thing about people is they have always moved around a lot. So my DNA tells me what my DNA looks like to people related today.
But my ancestors, if I go up family trees, I have ancestors in Switzerland in the 1500s. I know they were there at that point. I don’t know where they were in the 5th century, the 6th century, the 7th century and all that’s impacting your DNA. So I suspect in a couple of months I could have a new update saying something even yet more different, so that I take with the grain of salt. I put more importance on the family trees and oral history and how those combined. That’s what means more to me. I know it’s kind of fun to say, oh, I'm this, I'm that, but, hmm, you are just a mud.
Adrienne: Yeah, and I feel it the same way. I think one interesting thing is my dad did his DNA and he is like 42% Iberian Peninsula which is Spain and I'm less than 2%, but I know I'm his daughter. So what genes did I get? So it’s just – it’s like if I really was just to go by my DNA, it wouldn’t really tell a story.
Carol: And the other part of that is every time every person is a card deck shuffle of genes. So I always think about Queen Elizabeth and Norman the Conqueror and he is supposed to be like 26th great grandfather, but really if you were to extract DNA from him and her DNA, I wonder if they would match on any segments because a first cousin you should match 12 to 14%. A second cousin 6%, a third great grandparent like 12%, so it’s diluting, diluting, diluting, but yet like I saw that picture, my great, great grandfather and I swear we look like him. It’s spooky and creepy and great.
David: Well, you both talked a little bit about resources. Let me ask you both, ‘what MCPL resources would you recommend for genealogy?’ Actually I should mention for our listeners that any O and O resources that we mention in today’s episode can be found in the show notes for today’s program. So, Adrienne, let me ask you.
Adrienne: Sure, Heritage Quest is a database that has census records, the US Freedman’s bank records from 1865 to 1871, Revolutionary War era pension and Bounty Land Warrant application files and you can search, find information on people and places describe 28,000 family and local histories via Heritage Quest. We also have newspaper databases for arbitrary research and that’s pretty popular.
A lot of customers come in looking for a specific arbitraries of family members. We have links to Legacy.com, the Social Security Death Index and we have vital records all on our database, on our lib guide. So, yeah, that’s our – and then a librarian to show you these resources. So I think those are pretty awesome resources and I know Carol has some books that she recommends.
Carol: Yeah, I do have some books that I really, really liked. First one is, you mentioned Henry Louis Gates Jr who does the PBS series and he wrote a book Finding Your Roots, and this book goes into several celebrities in-depth. Robert Downey Jr, Kevin Bacon, it’s just interesting to see their -- to a certain degree, and it absolutely proves it – How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Denise May Levenick, some helpful points on keeping, archiving and keeping keepsakes.
Also Genealogy for Dummies, Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm always your good basic guide and AARP Genealogy Online, Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm again, was also very helpful. But the other one I do want to mention which is fairly new, Adam Rutherford, a brief history of everyone who ever lived. This is more like a critique. It gives you – he is a geneticist and it gives you the real low-down on what DNA testing is good for, what it’s not good for, we over-promise, we over-expect and it’s pretty realistic and it’s very, very interesting.
Adrienne: I think also we have a link to the Montgomery County Historical Society on our website and that’s good for local history. If you are doing local genealogy research you could use their resources also, so.
Lauren: In addition to MCPL’s resources, do you have any other sources of information that have been helpful to you or you think might be helpful to other people that are beginning genealogy research?
Adrienne: The Ancestry.com which I think is the most popular website that people use for genealogical research. I have only used it like I haven’t really got in-depth. I don’t know, Carol you use it.
Carol: I have been using it. So I did Ancestry and right now I have a subscription. So I will pay extra for a few months while I really delve deeply into family records or whatnot. And so it’s giving me access to just a zillion databases, military records, most importantly the family trees that other members have compiled and you can easily go up those and then the content that they’ve added on their family trees, they’ve done all the research for you basically. Newspaper clippings, wedding photos, graves, pictures of grave sights and things like that, so the thing I found most valuable is the family tree access that Ancestry offers.
Adrienne: I would agree. I have a cousin doing research and he gave me access to his the family tree via his account and I was amazed, but he has found another…
Carol: Right. One thing about 23andMe that I like though is that when it gives you your match list, when you send in your DNA and the company comes back and they tell you your ancestry or whatnot, they will also give you DNA matches which typically can be like a thousand people who've also done that service.
So these are like your distant cousins, it will hierarchy it. Like it will have the people who you are most closely related to on down to, you know, that you share 15% DNA within 10 segments down to 5th or greater cousins and you share like a little half segment percent of DNA. And it's fun to go and click on these distant cousins and 23andMe lets you bring up both charts and they will overlap and show you exactly what chromosome you are related to that cousin on.
And then you can block out like I have Jewish ancestry. So I have cousins who I can put our charts together and I can see that we are related on the 10th chromosome which is where my Jewish ancestry is. So that tell me I'm related to, it’s a Jewish ancestor we have in common. So then I can go on Ancestry that website and look up the family trees and I'm looking, trying to find the Jewish ancestor.
Adrienne: That’s so cool. The Family Tree DNA is the site that I used for my DNA, I guess, my DNA results. But – so it’s similar for that website but there is also a site called GEDmatch.com where you can upload your raw autosomal data and then it combines different – anyone who uses it, so anyone can download their raw autosomal data from any of the other websites like Ancestry.com or Family Tree DNA or whatever and then…
Lauren: So raw what data?
Adrienne: Raw autosomal, I hope I'm pronouncing that right.
Lauren: What does that mean exactly?
Adrienne: Okay. Let me find out.
Carol: And while Adrienne is looking, I’ll just want to bring up a point about people when you get results from Ancestry and 23andME or private companies who just swear they are not going to share your information and I believe them, I believe them, but many people and I’ve done it, you upload your DNA to this public site which now is just billowing out with tons of DNA, but it’s awesome because this is the way they are catching a lot of – catching cold cases and…
Adrienne: And we talked about that…
Carol: This is a huge breakthrough for crime solving. It’s like combining genealogy with forensics. They go and you take the DNA from a crime scene and they’ll upload it to the public database and they’ll get a hit and you might have a person’s fourth or fifth cousin, but they’ll – but then they will give it to a genealogist or better if you can be both the genealogist and the forensic crime expert.
Lauren: So everyone leave librarianship.
Carol: Well, my dream job, but then they work it back and they are starting to solve a lot of cases like that.
Adrienne: So autosomal DNA is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes. An autosome is any of the numbered chromosomes as opposed to the sex chromosomes. So humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes, X chromosome and the Y chromosome.
Lauren: So it’s basically just the DNA data?
Adrienne: Yeah, it’s just your raw data.
Adrienne: I'm not a geneticist, but I know I had to upload that.
Lauren: It sounds good to me.
Adrienne: To GEDmatch.com, which is really helpful if you are doing genealogy research because it broadens the pool. So not just people have used Ancestry.com, other websites they’ve used. If they’ve used GEDmatch and they’ve uploaded their data, you can like access it. It's like open-source DNA.
Lauren: Open-source DNA, public domain.
Adrienne: Public domain. There is also a website called Geni.com like Geni.com, like genealogy, not spelt that way, but Geni.com another librarian told me about it and she has done a lot of family research with that. It’s also an open site. It’s free, so Ancestry does cost money, but Geni.com is free. So that’s another barrier for Ancestry. You have to do monthly or yearly fee for it.
There is also Facebook genealogical groups that people are members of. There is also an old school message boards for different surnames that you can join. So people with your surname or if you are doing research for someone in your family that surname you can join the message board. Also YouTube has videos.
Adrienne: Yeah, so there is like videos and like how to conduct your family, like I just did a research and I found a bunch of stuff and people like it and it has a lot of views. So you can also use YouTube to do your research to know how to do your research rather, if you don’t come to a librarian, you can go to YouTube.
Lauren: You mentioned a while back just like the patience involved. I think that that’s sort of preventing me from starting on any kind of journey like this, because just the scariness of the sheer amount of research all of this requires, do you have any tips for beginners like kind of where to start, what kind of resources probably the first go to?
Carol: I would say the first is the census records and it does take tenacity and will power to stick through it. But when you find something out that’s so gratifying, it makes it so worth it. So census, I’ll give you a little family story and how I solved and how difficult and time-consuming it can be to solve it. So my mother always told me when she was little, she would visit her grandmother, so my great maternal great grandmother, and in her room she had a picture of a really pretty young girl that she would look at and cry.
And it was her niece who she loved very much and she had passed away in the flu pandemic in 1918 and she would get teary-eyed every time she looked at this picture. So I was, “What’s her name?” I just lost the history. She doesn’t even know where the picture is. And so I was like always curious about what her name was, and my great grandmother loved her and everything. So I started with census records. And it is just excruciating.
My great grandmother's name was Laura Hollenbaugh who was born in 1875 and she married a McDorman [Ph] [00:21:47]. So Laura Hollenbaugh was one of like eight kids which was really common. In Pennsylvania you have eight or nine kids and it’s a real problem when these things come through the woman, and to follow census records through the woman because of all the name changes.
So I wanted to find out who this relative who died in the flu pandemic was, and I know that it’s my great grandmother's niece. So I go through my great grandmother all her brothers who carry that last name and I go through all the census records, and then some of them are -- 1900 is a mess because of a fire, and da, da, da, da, da, and you just have to like stick with it. The handwritings faint and light and messy, but it didn’t appear it could have been any of the brothers.
None of them had a daughter that would have been the right age around 1918. So then I had to go to the women, her sisters and you start going through and – but I hit pay dirt, Mable Ployer. She was actually 40 in 1918 and I saw her church death record, the actual death record signed by the doctor. She reported feeling ill on October 1st, 1918, and so she died on October 9th. All the church records for October and November influenza, influenza, influenza and it was Mable Ployer.
She was my great grandmother’s niece, but they were peers. They were like the same age because she was the daughter of my great grandmother’s older sister who was like 18 years older than my great grandmother. So I know her name, but I know I need the picture. I need that picture.
Adrienne: I would say talk to family members to get names from your oldest family members, so your grandparents or great aunt or someone that is, that might have the memory of someone that was older than them. So like my grandmother, her grandmother, like so you can go back as far as you can and get family names. I think that’s a good way to start. And then I would say then I would look in the census once I have the names and like have the rough dates and locations, like places, because when you look up census, you need to know the dates, you need to know roughly the area or the state where they were from. So I think that’s important to get oral histories from older people.
David: So presumable assemble as much information possible…
Adrienne: Exactly, exactly, I think that’s so important to get that first.
Lauren: Yeah. When you do a search in any of these databases and they have their charts to fill out; fill out as much as you possibly can, because then – otherwise you will be getting hits of just tons of non-applicable data.
Adrienne: Right. And you can also -- they spell things differently in the census records. Sometimes it was like a neighbor – it looked like the person wasn’t there. The neighbor is like, oh, that’s so and so and so like the names, the spellings can be off even the years can be off. For me the race could be off because when I look to like some – the one year my family was Mulatto, then they were black, then they were Mulatto.
So it’s really like – it’s kind of tricky even when you have the census data. So I would say start with oral history from your family and get the names, get the dates, get the places, and also vital records after you have the information. The birth records, the marriage, death certificates, census, use the library. And also be prepared for the emotional reaction because you may not have one, but someone in your family may have one about something you discover.
So just be aware of that. Not everyone is excited. So just be aware of that. Not everyone will have the same excitement you have or the same curiosity. They may say you don’t want to know that or I don’t want to know that. So just be prepared for that too because I think that’s something I wasn’t really prepared for when I did the research.
Lauren: Do you have any examples or any stories?
Lauren: That you would be willing to share it or…?
Adrienne: No, my father, so I mentioned my father not knowing his birth family. I actually found his maternal, his mom and her family and he was kind of like curious but then said he didn’t want to know, but then he found out and it was just so much – there are so many different emotions and she actually passed right before we found the family and ironically I was able to find the family based on obituary.
So I had been doing research for a long time and just couldn’t quite connect all the dots and then I found her obituary and she passed away in 2015 and then I found like all the family names and part of her story, most of her story and then I was able to find her living relatives through Facebook. My brother did and so we were contacting people and we got some really interesting responses from some of our family.
They were – there was one person who was barely – didn’t want to talk to us and then there was one person who was so wonderful and he is the one that connected us with everyone else. So we got some different, some pushback, what’s your aim, why are you contacting us, so, yeah, you just have to be careful with that, but it turned out they are really lovely people.
Carol: So my story is my rocking chair I have in my house now, my little rocking chair that I got many years ago when I just needed stuff to fill a place in my – this had been in my parent’s basement just kind of, I mean, not treated mean or anything, but it was just sitting in the basement and I was like, oh, I’ll take that and it was this little rocking chair covered in, a trillion tons of paint.
Any my father was hesitating. He was like, “Well, yeah, okay, but…” And I think I had heard the story before. It belonged to his great, great grandmother, my third great grandmother Sarah Bush and Sarah was – lived in Northeastern Pennsylvania like Schuylkill County, and she would rock in the rocking chair and wait and worry for her husband to come home from the Civil War. It was her worry rocking chair and he never did.
He died at Gettysburg. Benjamin Bush died at Gettysburg. I was like, oh, that’s sad. But I took the chair and we like sanded all the layers of paint off of it and refinished it, and it’s really more decorative. I don’t really want to challenge it by sitting in it. It’s just to look at, put a stuffed animal on. But I would always go to Gettysburg like in the ‘80s and early ‘90s before all of this, and we tried to use the research tools they had at the time because suppose Benjamin Bush was buried at Gettysburg and we just came up and did nothing, nothing, nothing.
So I joined Ancestry. So I start plugging in everything I know about Sarah Bush, her rough dates of birth and the family, and I start plugging it in and you start going up the family trees and I see that Sarah Bush was married to Benjamin Bush. Sarah Bush died in 1914; she was born in 1816. Benjamin Bush died in 1911, but they are buried together in Art Cemetery in Hegins, PA. And I'm like, oh, I thought he was buried at Gettysburg.
Now you go up the family tree. Sarah had a first husband Immanuel Moyer who is actually my great, great, great grandfather and he died in 1864 at the Cold Harbor Battle in New Kent County, Virginia and it makes me so sad because no one remembers him. She was only married to him for like eight years but they had four kids together and then she married Benjamin Bush like in 1867 a couple of years after the Civil War was over and he did die.
So family history kind of had some correct things. She was waiting for her husband. She was rocking in the chair, but it was her first husband Immanuel. He didn’t die at Gettysburg. He died at Cold Harbor and he – we also didn’t know he was listed in American Civil War Jewish veterans, which was something we never knew or anything. So I tell all this. I think this is fascinating. I think this is awesome. I'm like, “Hey, it’s not Benjamin Bush. It’s Immanuel Moyer. And don’t you know this?”
And my dad was like no, whatever. And I'm telling my cousins. They are like, “So?” And I'm like, “Doesn’t this mean I figured this out? I figured this out. This person is who you are related to.” And they are like, “Yeah, whatever.”
Lauren: They don’t want their family legends.
Carol: I’ve done all of this work for them.
David: But it was rewarding for you.
Carol: Yeah, totally gratifying. The picture would just be like, ‘oh my gosh!’ So now you talked about history in a way weaving history with this research. So now I'm like all about the Cold Harbor Battle, the Overland Campaign, we went down to New Kent County. It’s very close to Williamsburg and I went into the Resource Center there and I'm showing the man who worked there, I'm showing him the park range or whatnot, see, he died June 21, 1864.
He was like, “Well, that’s wrong. That’s impossible.” But I'm showing him the actual military record on my phone. He was like, “No, because this battle ended June 10th.” I'm like, “Well, this says June 21.” And also the family story was that it was kind of mean. They said, “Oh, yeah, he was on picket duty and he stuck his head out and got himself shot like it’s his fault.” Like give him a break. Blame the victim.
But he had just been promoted to sergeant a week before and then – so the man at the station started doing some looking into his computer. He was like, “What do you know? You learn something every day.” And he found out there was skirmishing. Some people had to stay behind and there were little outbreaks of rebellion and he like even made it through Cold Harbor Battle proper, but in the skirmishing, he was shot like in little rebellions like a couple of weeks later. It makes me really sad.
Lauren: So are there some groups of people that’s easier to find out information about than others, because if you’ve lived in the same place forever and ever and ever and you’ve got county records that go back forever and ever and ever, that’s one thing. But if your ancestors came from another country, there are some special challenges if your ancestors came over in a slave boat, so there are some special challenges. Do you know any research strategies for people that are kind of running up against it, because they don’t fit the common mold of people doing genealogical research?
Adrienne: Yeah, definitely. As someone who is African-American, so my descendance, in any descendance, even if you are in like the Caribbean or South America descendance of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade have a lot of difficulty due to slavery and we talked about that a little bit earlier that in the US it’s specific to the year 1790 to 1860, which was right before the Civil War. An awesome resource. Actually there is a PowerPoint from the national archives that has a guide to doing research for African-Americans, which is awesome, I’ve used it.
And we can link to it in the show notes because I can send it and make it available to everyone. So it says and I'm going to quote it, it says, "Some aspects of African-Americans in the census differs from that of other groups, particularly before 1870. This is due to the enslaved status of the majority of the black population, and the legal marginalization of those who are free prior to the 1870 census. Even after 1870, the census often undercounted the black population."
So it talks also about after 1870, so after the Civil War, this is – it’s the first time a list of all the African-Americans by name is provided, and it’s the first official record for a lot of families and the surnames in there usually, of former slaves, from their slave owners, and that’s the case for my family. So I was able to do research on my dad’s side back to 1870 and that census is when I first see the last name, the family last name and it’s actually mills not miles.
So it was pretty interesting. And then problems for all groups, so there might be hard for all eight groups if you have the wrong ages, if you use Geni.com or Ancestry.com, someone else might have done research, but it was incorrect and then you are using that research to do your own research, so then it just keeps going and going.
Lauren: So you have to take it with…
Adrienne: Exactly and mistyped names, the wrong ancestor, so you just have to be really careful and really – some of them might not be accurate but you just keep doing your research and try to connect the dots and you would see what makes sense and what – how does the story, how is the story really told and find out.
David: Well, you both regaled us with some great stories. Let me ask you about all the research and all the wonderful things you’ve come up with. What’s the most interesting thing that you found out doing genealogical research? Let me start with you, Carol?
Carol: I uncovered a murder February 1922. Everyone has that – if you look long enough, the things you find, so this was – I found this through Ancestry where in certain family trees, they’ve posted these articles, so apparently in 1922 my paternal grandfather’s cousin Lloyd Smith shot his father John Smith who owned a dairy farm outside of Harrisburg. So that was the story. That’s what he was tried for murdering his father.
His defense was that it wasn’t him, auto bandits did it. So Harrisburg put him on trial and it was a fairly big sensation in Harrisburg. The newspapers talk about like 200 people being – coming to watch the courtroom trials or whatnot, and I found pictures of the grieving widow with her youngest son, and he was acquitted and the courtroom, the newspaper articles referenced the courtroom erupted in cheers; they were very happy he got off because apparently his father John Elias was some known to be like a jerk or whatnot. And even his mother was very, very happy he got off. They hugged and he came back to live on the family farm and he lived until 1966.
David: We typically close each episode by asking, I guess, what they are currently reading. So let me ask Adrienne.
Adrienne: Sure. What am I reading right now? When do I have time to read? So I'm trying to read The Wife by Alafair Burke. I'm also reading lots of organizational books for home. I like design books just because I like looking at interior design, but also as a new mom to two and I work full time, I'm super busy, so I'm obsessed with organization. So there is a couple of – yeah, right, anything to hack my life, so the Modern Organic Home by Natalie Weiss, Mad about the House: How to decorate your home with style by Kate Watson-Smyth and she is a blogger, a British blogger.
Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster and Loving Your Home Every Day by Melissa Maker and she is a professional cleaner and she provides her tip and I'm like I want to know. And then also I'm reading another kind of organizational books for work. So I'm reading about organization like management, so The Nordstrom Way: The Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Company by Robert Spector. It’s an older book, but it has a lot of good tenets about good customer service.
And then another book called Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus. So I'm obsessed with home and work like making both better, so, yeah. That’s what I'm reading.
David: It sounds like you will be organized.
Adrienne: Yes, hopefully.
Carol: I'm reading Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan and I'm reading this. I had read it a couple of years ago. So technically I'm rereading it. We are going to have a nonfiction book club at Olney on October 24. This is the book we will be discussing. So it’s by Debbie Nathan and it sort of dissects the whole Sybil explosion. If you remember in the mid ‘70’s, a book came out Sybil and the woman who had 26 personalities and about her doctor and…
Lauren: It was a movie too, right?
Carol: It was a miniseries with Sally Field that won many awards and it was an explosive book and everyone thought they had multi-personalities and they were starting to be diagnosed with the whole little explosion. Well, Debbie Nathan goes into it and she does the book about Sybil whose real name was Shirley Mason, her doctor, and Flora Schreiber who wrote the book and the psychiatrist was Cornelia Wilbur and how Sybil really probably never had those personalities.
She just wanted to please her psychiatrist who just wanted to be famous and Flora Schreiber just wanted to hit book. So one thing led to another. Basically Sybil just had a few problems, but it just exploded into some movement.
Lauren: It’s kind of true crimey, right.
Carol: Not true crime, but you can make this stuff up.
Lauren: Thank you so much Carol and Adrienne for joining us today and sharing your family stories. Please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the app of podcast app Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts; we'd love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
[End of audio]
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, with your host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I am Julie Dina.
David Payne: And today we're looking at local voting. In case you haven't heard, it's election season again. And on the ballots, there are a number of issues which have a bearing on local, state, national interest, things of interest. And we're delighted to have a very special guest with us today for the podcast, Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, or otherwise known as Dr. Z, outreach coordinator at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. So, welcome, Dr. Z.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
David Payne: For our very first question then let's ask you about the Board of Elections. So a lot of people don't know, what is the actual role of the Board of Elections, what do you actually do. And what actually interests me is, obviously, elections happen twice a year, but I presume your work is year-round. What do you do or what does your year look like for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, so we administer the, not only the local elections, but the state elections as it pertains to a particular contest. So we have them every even year, so a Montgomery County resident will vote, exercise their constitutional right every two years. So, obviously, 2016 was the presidential elections. It's 2018; it's the gubernatorial midterm elections. And then after this election we're looking again towards the presidential in 2020. In between elections, on the odd years, we do a lot of outreach. We look at best practices; we looked towards our neighbors and our counterparts across the U.S. to see what programs, what systems we could implement to improve the process, not only for the voters, but internally.
We do a lot of voter maintenance, equipment maintenance, extensive outreach. We have an aggressive outreach campaign, an incredible team that goes out into the community. So a lot of individuals will say, what do you do every other - like in the odd years. I would love to say sleep. But the fact is that we are always working. And then what's interesting, the election profession is something that you don't really grow up wanting to be. You know, when I grew up I want to be a police officer or a librarian or a physician, you never say an election administrator. But it's a very rewarding profession.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I was one of those 18-year-olds like, "Why do people vote?" But now as an adult and in my past experiences it's very critical that every individual exercise their constitutional right to a secret ballot. Maryland is extremely progressive as it pertains to the franchise. We have a lot of incredible mechanisms in which we will allow voters to vote. And so we are tasked, and that was the first part of your question. We are tasked to be ready for every single registered voter who desires to exercise that right. We always look for 100% turnout. Some elections are dismal. But we always prepare for a full turnout.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we want to ensure that if an individual has a desire to exercise their constitutional right that we are prepared, and we are transparent, and we are ready.
David Payne: How many regular staff do you have year-round?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we're about 24 full-time county employees. And then we will bulk up to over a hundred temporary seasonal staff and do an incredible extension of our team. It's similar to other departments like recreation; they hire a lot of lifeguards. So when it's election season we have a lot of individuals we hire, from election judge recruitment, polling place support, operations, nursing home program, outreach. You know, we really - there's a huge need to be there and ready to serve the public. And we do a lot of outreach as it pertains to newly naturalized citizens to introduce them to their franchise.
For us, we have our bias because we know how the system works. You know you have to register to vote. But Montgomery County is extremely diverse. I believe five of the 10 top the most diverse cities in the nation are in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we recognize the abundance, the beauty of the various languages and cultures. And so we want to meet them halfway so they understand their constitutional rights. We want to make sure they're ready and they're prepared, and we want to meet them halfway to ensure a seamless, painless experience.
David Payne: Great. Sounds like you're doing a good job.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I hope so.
Julie Dina: Well, since I'm also in outreach for the libraries, I know you mentioned earlier the nursing home program. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So we identify and we work with nursing home facilities, assisted living facilities in Montgomery County, and we do extensive outreach. We will reach out to their social coordinator or therapist or a social worker and we set a date and time, and we train our staff to be competent in how to help these individuals exercise their rights to vote. Whether health reasons or they can't access their polling place on Election Day or during early voting, we ensure that they could vote and leverage an absentee request to vote by mail. And then also we would assist them and they could vote with our team members. We send a team of opposite parties, democrat or republican, or a democrat and unaffiliated, and then we're there to serve. And we will meet them at their facility. So we coordinate that ahead of time.
In between the election seasons if there's new facilities that arise or maybe some will close or they expand, so we do a lot of maintenance to maintain those relationships with the different facilities in Montgomery County.
Julie Dina: Wonderful. So it sounds like you ensure no one is left out.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's our goal. You know, that's our goal. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to their franchise. We're always trying to find that equation, that precise science how to encourage people to vote, but that's at the personal level. But we want to make sure that you have a multitude of options. And Maryland, and specifically Montgomery County, I call it The Cheesecake Factory of elections, because if you ever go to a Cheesecake Factory there's a million things in that menu and you always pick the same one, as I am always guilty of getting the orange chicken. But at the same time you have vote-by-mail numerous weeks before actual Election Day, you have eight days of early voting. And then you have Election Day.
And on top of that, we have same-day registration, and we have an aggressive outreach component, nursing home program. It's a large, large - we have a lot of tentacles in the community, but that little piece of crust, the turnout, we're always trying to fine-tune that to encourage individuals to exercise that right to vote every single election.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: Well, talking about relationships and building relationship, can you tell us the difference between the county's Board of Election and the County Government, what are the major differences, if there is any?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we follow policy procedures established by the Maryland State Board of Elections. So we're kind of a quasi agency. We're county employees, but we follow those rules established by the State of Maryland. We do collaborate closely with the county executive, the assistant CAOs, obviously the County Council because they have to appropriate our budget. And so there is a close relationship between county government, the council, the second floor, the county executive, the assistant CAOs, but also with the delegation in Annapolis and with the State of Maryland Board of Election. So it's a large family, so there's a very close relationship with all the parties. And then the most important individual is the actual voter. So it's both from the bottom-up and from the top-down. So yes, there's that close relationship between all parties.
David Payne: Do you work closely with other Maryland County Board of Elections [CROSSTALK] [00:08:51]?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes, we have our neighbors. I mean, there's over 24 counties in Baltimore City, so we work closely, and we also meet for best practices.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Sometimes you have smaller counties, like Wicomico, they do some really great things. And also, they want to implement what we do in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And later on we'll talk about some of the successes that we implement here in actually one of the programs, it's the only program, it's called the Future Vote Initiative. It's the only program in the entire United States that brings in students as young as middle school to work as Election Day aids, and the goal of the program is for them to serve as a full-fledged election judge before they graduate from high school. And just in 2016, we had over 1,100 17-year-olds serve as an election judge.
Julie Dina: And do they all have to go to Montgomery County public schools?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No. As long as you are a Maryland resident and registered to vote you could serve as an election judge. Obviously, if I you live in Howard County or Prince George's we don't want to take their voters from them. But at the same time, a lot of them will work for Montgomery County, they live close, maybe near Sliver Spring, and so it's just a matter of the voters' interest. And we let them know you could vote for the - you could participate in Prince George's County and, but a lot of times they’ll serve for us. At the end of the day, whatever works for the voter works for us. But for those individuals that do live outside of Montgomery County but within Maryland we do coordinate with them, so they could vote either by mail or during early voting, but we still want them to cast their vote even if they're working for us on Election Day.
David Payne: So, Dr. Z, let me put you in the spotlight. How long have you worked with the County Board of Elections? What do you most like about it? And what you find most challenging?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, I joined the Montgomery County Board of Elections on September of 2003. And actually a little tidbit, I was the outreach coordinator for the public library system from 2000 to 2003, when I joined - prior to joining the Board of Elections. What I enjoy is meeting individuals, informing them, giving them the tools to be successful to have an outstanding experience while voting. There's a lot of sacrifice that come before me to have the opportunity to engage and empower the community to vote. I personally, my family is from El Salvador. So even during the Civil War I had an uncle who actually disappeared trying to bring democracy to El Salvador.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So I have a personal vested interest in the right to exercise your voting privilege. What's challenging with my position is the hours. And I've been blessed with a great family; I have two sons. Sebastian is 12 and Julian, he's nine, and a beautiful wife, Karen. And polling 15 hours a day, but it's a short period. You know, it's a short-term commitment with long-term impact because 90 days leading to an election it's busy. There's a lot of moving parts. You want to make sure that the machinery is well-oiled, and so you pool a lot of hours.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Election night is a long day. The last day of early voting it's a long day. But it's very rewarding. And there's always - of course, we all take our vacations and our breaks, but my family, they, when I became a father my children were young. And so they know that it's an even year, "Good night, Dad. See you tomorrow." And so that's the most challenging, is the time commitment needed. But the reward is way - they're much, much, much, that the rewards are like ten-folds. And so it's a commitment, it's a sacrifice. And it's my little part I could help to defend the constitution.
David Payne: And, I presume, the ultimate reward is seeing high voter turnouts.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. In the beginning when I worked, that was my goal. And then I would get frustrated because then the turnout wasn't as high as I expected. But my reward is daily. Today, this is a reward for me, the fact that I could inform, and educate, and empower a voter; someone may learn something today. That will satisfy my cup for the day. But yes, we always, not just me, but the entire agency, from the director down to myself, we always desire a 100% turnout. And we if we in the low 16%, like we did in 2014 or a little under 25% this past primary, we will always tweak the machine and hopefully aim for a higher turnout. But at the end of the day, we're all adults.
And for your reason why you desired not to vote, it can't be for the options, because once again, we have The Cheesecake Factory options of voting; there's a lot of options for you, so your time, your vote, your voice. So it's imperative that you decide how you're going to exercise that constitutional right through a secret ballot.
David Payne: Absolutely.
Julie Dina: And while we're still on that note, for our listeners, can you tell our listeners why it is very important to vote for the local elections.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Well, all politics are local. And it's important that there is an empty seat at the table. And I think by exercising your right to vote you are being known. You show up, you're prepared, you get your sample ballot, you do your due diligence and your research, and you mark your ballot, you scan it, and you go home, and you get that famous I Voted sticker. And so I assure you, you will feel so much better when you get the sticker on your lapel or on your chest; it's a badge of pride. And like I said earlier before, a lot has transpired to keep that right to vote. There's so many countries around the world that desire to have what we have. And when you have an average or a low voter turnout it does hurt. But at the end of the day, I'm here to serve. I'm a public servant, and I will do anything to help you reach that goal of helping you vote.
I can't tell you how to vote, do not carry your left or right, center, up and down, north, east, west, south; it doesn't matter. But my desire at the end of the day is that you cast your vote.
Julie Dina: And have you mastered ways that might be helpful to get great turnout?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know we've done a lot of outreach. On average, we average about a thousand outreach events in election season.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Where it's - we, for the presidential, between the 2014 gubernatorial general and the 2016 presidential primary - general primary, I apologize. General presidential elections, we did over 1,100 events. And I personally do not care if it's a room with five people, like today, we're four. And - or a big event, like Oktoberfest in Kentlands with 5,000; it doesn't matter. That opportunity to connect with an individual, and so we have done farmers' market, PTAs, food drives; we've done it all. We've gone to clinics and shelters. So at the end of the day, we want to meet individuals halfway. So we've done it all, both electronically. We're kind of meeting millennials with this whole QR codes and geo-fencing, and a lot of neat things are going on right now. But at the end of the day, whether you got a sample ballot or you get a geo-fence tag, whether you got a QR code in the mail, whether you saw us at an event or a farmers' market or at the library, that individual must take ownership and a desire to vote.
David Payne: So we talk about voting. Dr. Z, can you remind us when Election Day is this fall?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Our polls are open from 7:00 AM till 8:00 PM. We have approximately 235 precincts. Voters should definitely look out for their sample ballot, which is mailed several weeks before Election Day. And then, also, we have early voting. So if Tuesday, November 6, and you're busy, then you could vote during early voting, which is October 25th, that's a Thursday through Thursday November 1st, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, that includes the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. And we have 11 early voting centers across Montgomery County. What's interesting, you're not tied to a specific early voting center. So let's say, I'm going to use myself as an example. I live in Clarksburg; I am doing events Downtown Silver Spring, at the Silver Spring Library. I could flex my right to vote at the Silver Spring Civic Center.
But for Election Day you are tied to your Election Day precinct. However, we are blessed with traffic in this area. If for some reason you can’t make it to your precinct you could go to a neighboring precinct, you would vote a provisional ballot, and then we would do some research to ensure that whether that ballot is accepted in full or not. But we do encourage you to do due diligence, to go to your neighborhood precinct on Election Day, but the early voting centers are there to facilitate access to the franchise. So you have early voting, you have Election Day, and then you have vote-by-mail. Right now we have the absentee vote-by-mail application online. You can make a request via email or the old style, download an application and mail it to us. And then we will do our due diligence to send the appropriate ballot style to that address that is presented on the application.
Julie Dina: So, for those who haven't already registered, how can they do so, and how can people find out if they have registered in the past or not? And also, how would they find out where their local polling station is?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, great questions. So the first thing, I encourage individuals to go to our website, which is 777vote.org. You go to our website, and if you scroll to the bottom there's a tab that says Voter Lookup. And you would click on that or tab if you look on your cell phone and you - it depends. You have to be correct, unless you have a touchscreen monitor at home. And what you would do is you would put your last name, first name, date of birth, and zip code, and we will cross-reference that information, it'll tell you've registered or not. If you don't get anything back from the database then we would encourage you, on the same website, especially if you have a Maryland driver's license, a Maryland permit, or a Maryland ID, you could register to vote online on our website, and it's easy. You could see, it says Voter Registration, and there's a tab that says Register Online. But you must have one of the Maryland-issued IDs in order to do so.
If you do not have an ID, driver's license, or permit, there's also a tab, Register to Vote, and you could download the paper format, fill that out, and mail it to us to the address that appears on the application. Even if you live in Prince George's or, let's say, Washington County, it's the state form. And on the back of that form is the corresponding address for that corresponding local board of election of Baltimore City, so you can mail it to them. If you are already registered but you want to do maybe a name change, address change, party affiliation change, you could actually fax your application to the local board of election if you don't have a Maryland ID or driver's license or permit. But if you do have those forms of ID you could update your registration online.
You could go to the libraries. The libraries will have copies of the voter registration application. You could go to the local DMV or the Motor Vehicle Administration to register as well. There's a lot of options, there's a lot of - you know, this is Maryland, and you live in Montgomery County there's no excuses. And I, trust me, I've spoken to thousands of voters over my career, and I've heard all the excuses, and I come back with …
David Payne: There isn't one.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: There isn't one. This one's on you, my friend.
Julie Dina: It's all on you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So there's a lot of options. And they could also call our office, 240-777-8532. And I will - definitely glad to help, and we're there to serve.
David Payne: Great/
Julie Dina: Sounds good.
David Payne: So, a couple of other voting questions. When is the last day to register to vote? And also, if anyone perhaps new to Montgomery County, are there any particular residency requirements to vote?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, as it pertains to the deadline, it's Tuesday, October 16th. As it pertains to residency requirements, if you've registered to vote, we have something called same-day registration. So, let's say you missed the voter registration deadline and you're new to the county, you could register to vote during early voting. You would present ID, Maryland-issued ID or driver's license or permit. And if you don't have that because you just moved in, then proof of residency, bank statement, the lease of your home, utility bill with your name and the address, and then we could register. And then we will grant you the opportunity to vote during early voting. Now, if you missed the voter registration deadline, which is once again, Tuesday, October 16th, and you don't leverage same-day registration during the eight days of early voting, from the 25th of October through the 1st of November, then we would provide you a provisional ballot on Election Day.
We would do our due diligence to research, because it could be that you lived in Prince George's County, could be that you registered and maybe you got married or divorced and there's an error on your record. We always provide - we always give the voter the benefit of the doubt. We will do extensive research. And if it happens to be that you are registered to vote and you casted a provisional ballot, then we will make recommendations to our board of directors to either accept or accept in part your provisional ballot. If you're truly not registered and you showed up on Election Day, November 6th, and you are given a provisional ballot, you will be ready for 2020. The provisional ballot application doubles as a voter registration application. Another quick tip is look out for your sample ballot.
If you don't get your sample ballot within, like, two to three weeks, either contact the Board of Elections or go to our website just to make sure that you're registered to vote. So, if you're listening to this podcast I would highly recommend not to wait until November 7th, which is a day too late, because Election Day is the day before.
David Payne: Right. So as you say, no excuses.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, no excuses. Yeah, there's no excuses.
David Payne: Yeah.
Julie Dina: How exactly do they determine the polling stations? And how many polling places are there in the county?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So there are, give or take, about 235. They change, sometimes we consolidated precincts, sometimes we add precincts. We keep tabs on the population growth of the county. We look at our, we call it MD Voters, which is our voter registration database. Everything is based off of that, the allocation of election judges, the allocations or creation or consolidation of precincts. Obviously, if you look at Silver Spring, 50% of our voters live in the Silver Spring area. So if you would look at a precinct map you'll see over close to 75 to 80 precincts in the Sliver Spring area. If you go to Poolesville, there's two precincts. So it's based on population, and based on our voter registration database. So we have about 660,000 registered voters, it's always growing daily. And so after an election we will tweak, if needed.
If a precinct grows too big, for example, let's say they have 3,500 voters, then we may consider identifying another facility within the neighborhood, and even splitting that. But there's like an extensive research, vetting, we have opportunities for the community to give us recommendations and to share their concerns. We don't anything on the fly.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's not how we roll.
Julie Dina: So you just don't say [CROSSTALK] [00:26:57].
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, you vote here now [CROSSTALK] [00:27:01] we don't operate like that.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: We don't want to disenfranchise voters. We want to facilitate their right to vote. And sometimes schools close, they open, they do a refresh, like some libraries do refreshes.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Or they'll build a new facility. And so we always add. And we may temporary relocate voters to a different location. And we understand that sometimes the voters do get upset with us, but ultimately our goal is not to upset you. Our goal is to protect you, and your right to vote. So I tell voters to be patient with us, you know thank - and there's one thing I always want to tell individuals, you need to thank our volunteers, our election judges. After an election all the campaigns are like, "Woo". Either they're sobbing in a corner or elated and popping champagne. But don't forget our volunteers; don't forget our team members, the staff. Because - and I'm going to take the liberty of saying that without our volunteers and without the staff this party wouldn't take place.
David Payne: Right.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So when you go and vote, say thank you to our election judge. If you see a young lad or a young lady volunteering at the pools handing out I Voted stickers, say thank you, tell them how proud you are. That little extra smile, you know. We don't want to see frowns; we want to see your teeth, okay. And thank us, because at the end of the day we're there to serve.
David Payne: What's the typical voter turnout that you may expect for a midterm election? And presumably you're anticipating a large turnout or hoping for a large turnout. Is there sort of a benchmark figure that would be acceptable for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: 100% is acceptable, nothing less; nothing less. We always aim for 100, it could be 60%. It all depends on the climate, it depends what's going on in the nation, depends what's going on local politics.
David Payne: The weather even, I suppose.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Even the weather. Yes, even the weather. And it's interesting because even when I compare what we have, and we're blessed what we have now. And I compare it, for example, to El Salvador, they don't have provisional balloting, but their voter turnout is higher.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's interesting. And so we always aim for 100, let's say we get 60%-70%. Obviously, if we get 70% we're still missing 30% of the electorate. But we try to target those 30%. We have those famous super voters, and they will come regardless if there's a hurricane coming, they will show up. And that's great.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, for those individuals that historically vote every year, we love you. Can you help us identify someone who doesn't vote every other year and bring them with you, because then you're an extension of us, and that would be help us tremendously, because at the end of the day we have a finite budget, we all pay taxes, and we want to leverage that accordingly. So please help us.
David Payne: Can you give us suggestions as to where someone can find out about candidates for smaller offices, let's say, a school board or city council?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we collaborate with a lot of organizations. The League of Women Voters, whether it's Maryland or Montgomery County or your particular county, does incredible work. Also, they have the voter's guide that goes out. That's a good publication that you could get at your neighborhood libraries. I believe they deliver them to all their branches.
David Payne: They do, uh-huh. Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know, in the advent of internet, Google it. [CROSSTALK] [00:30:45] tell people, "Google it." And if you don't know how to Google it, find someone who does. Everything is online nowadays. I know sometimes the candidates, I know they will mail out the mailings, the research seen, so read that information they send. We will not - all we will provide in our sample ballot is the candidate's name and the contest for which he or she is running for. Other than that, the League, a lot of nonprofit organizations, there's a multitude of forums - forums that will take place for the different contests, keep your eye out on those. I say go to those forums and ask your questions, and the local newspapers and print. Print or online, or TV, but do your due diligence, get your sample ballot, do your research, markup your sample ballot; vote.
David Payne: Be informed.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Please, yes. Yes, please. Because it makes early voting and Election Day go much smoother when you know how you're going to vote your ballot, as opposed to taking 69,000 leaflets, and the voter's guide, and the posts. And then the voter is like, "Why do I have all that paper laid out on them and on that ballot booth?" Do your homework beforehand; I'm telling you ahead of time. So you got about two months, so get cracking.
Julie Dina: It's funny we talked about googling it earlier, but I was going to ask you, how has technology helped to improve voting procedures and efficiency, and just voting in general?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, right now, we're working with the Department of Technology Services to create geo-fencing or geo-tagging. And hopefully, I'm crossing my fingers, but what would happen is as you go near an early voting center you get a little tag, a notification that you're close to the Potomac Community Rec Center. It'll have information, it'll have directions; it's pretty neat. And the reason I wanted that geo-tag capability is also when we do outreach into the community. We're going to visit all the high schools or when we come to the libraries, we could geo-fence the Rockville Library, and everyone who's walking around the Rockville Library could say, "Oh, people are - I could register at the Rockville - there's someone from the Board of Elections."
Those are kind of the things. And it's something that I was dying, I wanted to do since, actually 2014, but the technology wasn't there yet. And it was expensive back then. Now it's cheaper. That's one of the kind of things we want to implement with the advent of technology. We're starting to QR code everything because that's the language of millennials. A bookmark, you know, and it works for the libraries. But for us when you go to a student and you give him a bookmark with information they look at it like, "Okay, thank you. Oh, that's to my grandmother." And it's funny because, "Okay, I guess this is not going to work." But they love QR codes because they'll just scan the QR code and they could register the vote, they could sign up to be an election judge, they could get information; so QR coding is great. It's simple, it's inexpensive.
And texting, you know, texting. And we're starting to use more social media. That's another - you know, it's been around for a while, but I think more agencies are using social media. But it looks easy, but it does take time. And so - but I think those are the three tips, I would say. Geo-fencing and QR coding are two good quick ways to leverage technology in favor of promoting or selling your services.
David Payne: Sticking with technology, the hacking of elections is a very topical subject. Can you tell us what hacking elections actually means, and also what procedures the Board of Elections has to ensure the protection of our voting process?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, there's a lot of internal mechanisms in which we implement as guided by the State Board of Elections, especially when you do the VPN network for early voting we don't share Wi-Fi, we don't upload results on election night over the internet. I mean, we literally drive everything. I think individuals, because of the age of the internet, everyone's an expert. And so I tell individuals, at least in Maryland and Montgomery County, it's secure, okay. I think what we need to focus is encouraging your neighbors to vote, marking up your sample ballot, ensuring that your voter registration is current. Even if you are moving within the same building, so let's say you live in apartment 101, you marry; you have two kids, now you move into apartment 201 in the same facility, that's a new address for us.
So make sure everything is current. And make sure you make a cognizant decision, am I voting by mail during eight days of early voting or on Election Day. The hacking, security; we got that covered. Trust me, we got that covered.
Julie Dina: Cool.
David Payne: Sounds good.
Julie Dina: So do you have any tips for those who bring their kids to the polls, and also for, and I can tell there's got to be crazy things or crazy situations or stories that you can actually share with us.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yeah. So with children, if your child is 12 and older and you bring him to the polls, we will request that they fill out a voter assistance form, because the thought process is that individual could entire the voter to change their decision who to vote for, okay, because they're 12, and kids are very intelligent, very sophisticated thinkers. Having said that, for those families with children grade six to 12 in Montgomery County, we welcome them to work as future vote ambassadors on Election Day. All the information is on our website, 777vote.org, and the upper-right-hand corner, it says future vote, or midway on a page on the left-hand side it says Future Vote, has all the FAQs on how to register your child, there's a training that's mandatory, so one-hour training session in middle October. They'll work in their precinct; they earn SSL credits that they need.
And then once they hit 16, we would love for them to serve as election judge. And they could earn up to $210. But this is also for our voters. So if you're an adult and you have some extra time and you want to serve as an election judge, go to our website, signup, serve, and we will call you every other year to see if you're available. Now, interesting story, I have a lot of stories. Let me see, we'll try to find a PG story - rated G story. So this was the funniest. And so we had one of our future vote ambassadors, sixth grader, big-eyed 11-year-old, and we happened to forget to pack the power chord for one of our voting system, this was several years ago. So the chief judge was ecstatic, "Oh my god, what are we going to do? We need a power chord, we're missing one. We have to call the office." So they called the hotline, you know, our helpdesk. We said we'll deliver the power chord tomorrow morning, it's okay, there's a battery pack, you're fine.
So there was this 11-year-old and he said, "Oh, let me look at the equipment." And they're not supposed to touch the equipment. He's like, "No, I'm not touching; I just want to look at it." And he told the chief judge, "Can I call my dad." He's like, "Okay." He's like, "Dad, go to my PlayStation and go to my DVD, and take the power chord off and bring it to me now." So then the dad's like running up the street, goes to the precinct, and it fit. It worked. And so now the chief judge could sleep at night, because the meeting was on Monday night. And then he woke up early, showed up at the polls at 6:00 AM to open the doors at 7:00. And the power cord, it worked. And then the funny thing is after the student did their four-hour shift in the morning he came back in the evening, knocked at the window of the school. And the judge is like, "Are you okay, what's wrong? Did you forget something?" "Yes, I forgot my power chord." And he took his power chord back from his PlayStation. So that's a funny story.
Julie Dina: Wow, that's really cute.
David Payne: We're ending on a happy note. Dr. Z, we always close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are reading or recently enjoyed. So, something other than League of Women Voters election guide, perhaps.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Uh, COMAR and the Maryland election law book, unfortunately that's what I read, unfortunately for now. You know, finding time to read, and with my sons, that's - every year I say I'm going to read this book. I have a book called, Path to Power.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's the autobiography of Lyndon B. Johnson. I owe the library a lot of money.
Julie Dina: Take note.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I've had that book since 2004. And I always have to restart it because I forget what I read three years before. But yes, but that's one of my list of things to do. So I won't lie. I don't read much lately. But right now what's on my desk are the COMAR and Maryland election law.
David Payne: Well, thank you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You're welcome.
Julie Dina: I've got to say, Dr. Z, it's been very enlightening. Thank you so much for joining us on this particular program.
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 Podcasts App, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts. We'll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening for our conversation today, and see you next time.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with our host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I'm Julie Dina.
David Payne: And for today's episode, we're going to be delving into the fascinating world of banned books. Why banned books? Well, because in the public library world, one of the highlights of September is Banned Book Week. And here to tell us and share their passion and interest for banned books are two of our librarians from the MCPL system, Danielle Deaver, who is the young adult librarian at Germantown. Welcome Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
David Payne: And from Olney Library, we welcome Alessandro Russo, who is the Senior Librarian there. Welcome Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
David Payne: And um, Danielle, you've had some experience with banned books displays at Germantown?
Danielle Deaver: Yes, I have. We do banned book displays in our adult and children's sections. And this year I got to do the one in the adult section.
David Payne: That's great. And Alessandro you were telling me earlier your rebellious nature attracted you to the field of banned books?
Alessandro Russo: Yes, I believe it was when I started as a volunteer and they told me I wasn't allowed to read certain books that I was like, "Hey, I'm going to do completely opposite and I'm going to read these books."
David Payne: That's great. That's great. Well, let's start by looking at band book next week and asking you both, what's the purpose of banned books week, if I start with Danielle?
Danielle Deaver: Sure. Well, I think the purpose is basically to draw attention to the fact that all over the country every day, books are being challenged by people and even banned by library system, school systems and other -- and government agencies. And I kind of, though it had existed forever, but I found out today that it started in the early 1980s when book challenges started becoming more common.
David Payne: And you mentioned it started -- We will go back to 19, the 1980s. Do you think that over time since then it's attracted more and more interest?
Danielle Deaver: Oh, I think it definitely has. It's become, sort of, something that you see merchandised now where you can actually buy bags that have banned book titles on them. And I think it's become, you know, something that is kind of starting to attract a lot of attention and popular culture.
Alessandro Russo: And as you know, social media and it becomes more available and to see, you know, and to track news and information. I think people are getting a better understanding of what banned books are and why kind of this movement is growing in a sense.
Julie Dina: Well, since we're talking about banned books, when exactly is Banned Book Week and more importantly, how does MCPL participate in banned books week, Alessandro?
Alessandro Russo: Banned books week is from September 23rd to September 29th. And just in general, I believe our system, we do a great job in displaying banned books and kind of adding a little literature to explaining what banned books are. And we actually, I know they're doing a story time at Gaithersburg Library with a banned book.
Julie Dina: Danielle, did you have anything to add?
Danielle Deaver: No, I mean we do the displays and it actually generates a lot of conversation. We had a little girl today who came in and said, you know, "What's a banned book?" And her mother actually said, "Well, let's go over and look at them and I will tell you about that." So that was, that was really nice.
David Payne: So, I think we should, we should clarify for our listeners, Banned Books Week is actually a national event I think. Is it from the American Library Association?
Alessandro Russo: Yes, yeah.
David Payne: Can you tell us, really talk about banned books and challenged books and there's a difference between the two. Can you explain what, what the difference is Alessandro?
Alessandro Russo: So challenged book is basically presenting the question of why are we going to remove this book from a collection or why are we going to censor this book? And then, a banned book is actually if the verdict get passed by whoever saying we are officially pulling this book from the stack or the collection. So the easiest way to look at it is a challenged book is phase one and then if it goes further, phase two, is the banned book, so.
Danielle Deaver: And we actually only see a small snapshot of what it's challenged around the country. The American Library Association tracked 416 books that were challenged or banned in 2017, but 82% to 97% of book challenges are never reported to organizations that track such things. So there are probably a lot of challenges and even bans yes, going on.
Julie Dina: So what would you say is MCPL's policy regarding book challenges and has MCPL ever banned a book?
Danielle Deaver: Well, I asked around about this and people who have been here much longer than I have say that in their institutional memory, about 30 years, they have not seen or heard of any books being banned from MCPL.
Alessandro Russo: So it's actually in MCPL collection policy on page 10 section 4, Intellectual Freedom. It's, and there is -- I'll just quickly go for what we're looking for. The statement pertains to all formation formats, including print, video, audio, digital, and electronic formats. "Libraries assure that the collection is open and accessible to all residents. It is committed to well-balanced print electronic and electronic collection, which presents various points of views on all subjects, controversial or not. Libraries do not remove, restrict, or withdraw materials because they are regarded as discriminatory or inflammatory by an individual or group."
David Payne: And there you have it.
Alessandro Russo: Yes.
David Payne: So, looking at the lists over the years of banned books and challenged books, obviously a great diversity in amongst the titles that fall into that category. But what are the think of any, of the strangest reasons that you've come across for banning a book? Let's start with you Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: My favorite is a cultism or Satanic worship, which in particular, the example was any -- the Harry Potter series when they came out and it's that kind of just an interesting way to read that book as many people read it in a completely different way. But yeah.
Danielle Deaver: The strangest reasons I found were in 1983, the Alabama State Textbook Committee wanted to ban Anne Frank's diary of a young girl because it was "A real downer."
Julie Dina: Wow.
Danielle Deaver: Yes. And in 1987, school officials in Alaska tried to, or actually did ban the American heritage dictionary because it used slang terms such as "bed," "knocker," and "balls." So they just banned the dictionary.
Julie Dina: Okay.
David Payne: Okay. On that note.
Julie Dina: On that note, now can you tell us about what are the most common reasons for challenging or banning books?
Danielle Deaver: Sure. Officially, the top three are that the material is considered to be sexually explicit, to contain offensive language or be unsuited to age group and most people who bring book challenges are parents. But a lot of people have started noticing and writing about lately the fact that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that feature diverse characters, diverse, you know -- or are written by diverse authors. And in 2015, nine of the top 10 challenged books included diverse content. They were about, you know, transgender teens, they were about LGBTQ characters. And so, that's a disturbing trend that's kind of not officially on the radar.
Julie Dina: Why do you think those are the most common ones or are the top three that keep popping up?
Danielle Deaver: Well, Professor Emily Knox in Illinois researched this topic. She looked at the ALA's annual top 10 challenged book lists from 2001 to 2015, and 29 diverse books appeared a total of 63 times on the list. And they were all -- a lot of them actually said that they were in question because they depicted racism such as, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. And, you know, she kind of brings up the fact that, you know, this is -- these books are being challenged for being about diversity implies that the topic of diversity itself is inherently wrong or controversial, which is of course, you know, extremely disturbing.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah. It's kind of like that overall discussion. Actually, I had a discussion with a colleague of mine the other day about should classics be banned because they are written in a different time period. And so, someone reading that nowadays without any kind of prior knowledge can read it as being offensive or you know, racial. But both of our curt collusions came, it's kind of like learning about history, if you kind of censor that part of history, that way of writing, how will you learn about the present and the future?
David Payne: Right. So can I ask you both to give us some examples of some recently banned, banned books? Let's start with Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Okay, 13 Reasons Why is a teen book by Jay Asher that was made into a Netflix movie earlier this year. And that has been -- that was the number one banned book in or challenged book in 2017 because of the discussion and the themes about suicide. The book Drama, which is a children's book, a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, that is immensely popular in our library and I think all over the system, was challenged -- and it's also won a lot of awards. And it was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered confusing.
And the other one that was kind of upsetting because I loved this book, was The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. And that's one of those books that has really drawn in even teenagers who don't particularly like to read. It shows a side of the controversies over police shootings of black unarmed teenagers that we don't often see and that's the impact on the community. And that book will also be a movie in a couple of weeks. And that was challenged because it's drug use, profanity, and offensive language. So that's just kind of a snapshot.
Alessandro Russo: And then one that has made the list of, since 2007 is one of, one of my favorite young adult books is the Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian, written by Sherman Alexie. And the, the, the reason why it keeps, it's getting challenged are you know, poverty, alcoholism, sexuality. Even though the book won a national book award, was a national book award winner, and I thought it was a -- even though it's fiction, it was a great look into living on a reservation life and kind of like the reality's a person would face day-to-day as a, especially as a teenager's point of, perspective. One of my other favorite classics that have historically been banned is Catcher in the Rye. And if anyone who read it knows the profanity and how many times the "F" word comes up in that book.
Danielle Deaver: I think it's a good book.
Alessandro Russo: But it's so -- I love it because it's so crude and it's so real, like it's just a teenager skipping school one day and doing what he has to do, you know.
Julie Dina: Yeah, but that's not you.
Alessandro Russo: No, I was the good teen.
Julie Dina: We could tell.
David Payne: So really when it comes to, to, to banned books across the whole spectrum, really we're looking at children's books as much as adult books as much as young adult books.
Alessandro Russo: Oh yeah.
David Payne: Is that correct?
Danielle Deaver: Yes. Yeah. Where the Wild Things Are, was challenged and banned when it first came out because the characters were imaginary, which some people thought I believe would be somewhat occult like. And the -- also it was just, it was very real at a time when most picture books and children's books depicted children as being, you know, good little boys and girls. These kid's, you know, hammering nails into walls and chasing the dog and running off to bed and being punished and they just didn't want to deal with it.
Julie Dina: Well, now that you've listed examples of recently banned books, can you tell us which book actually tops many of the banned book list? Let's start with you, Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Honestly, I could not find one clear winner, not over all the years. The classics come up time and time again. Let's see, Harry Potter was challenged more than 3000 times, although it fell off the list in like the early 2000s. And Judy Bloom, who writes books for, I guess, tween and teen girls, wonderful books, she was banned quite frequently. And Maya Angelou has also been banned quite frequently. The Bible actually gets challenged and banned a lot. It was number six on this year's list.
Julie Dina: What?
Danielle Deaver: For religious content. Yes, I thought that was-
Julie Dina: That's, that's what it's for.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Danielle Deaver: And also, I think more recent challenges have objected to, things like the stoning of the homosexual man in a book that I would know if I was better at the Bible.
David Payne: So when it comes to banning books, what are the, or what do you see as the determinating factors that go into banning a book?
Alessandro Russo: So there's a cool feature online that there's, it's not complete, but there's a map of showing the location of where these books have been challenged and banned. And a lot of them are in Bible Belt America, Midwest America. And so I would say just off of that information, location is a major influence, obviously content of the book and being part of the location aspect, the personal beliefs, you know.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah. Just anecdotally, I would say that if you get a big enough group of people who is challenging the book, it's going to be more likely that the ban will go through. But I think Alessandro is right, it's a lot to do with location and just what type of censorship the population supports.
David Payne: And interesting, interesting enough, I think banned books are a pretty much a worldwide phenomenon. It's not just this country, right?
Danielle Deaver: Yes.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: Back to the ancient Greeks.
David Payne: Right?
Danielle Deaver: Yes. And even when they're not officially banned, my manager and I today we're, or we're talking about how customers do sometimes find ways to kind of ban them themselves. One of the branches I worked in had the racier issues of cosmopolitan turned backward so people couldn't see the cover. And she was telling me that at some libraries, the book, Go the F to Sleep was constantly being turned around and once it was moved from new books to the stacks, it just disappeared. And I did a display for Gay Pride Month in the teen section last year, and when I walked past it on the second day, all of the books had been knocked down so that they were, you know, the covers faced, were just down in the bookshelf and you couldn't see them.
Julie Dina: You're sure it wasn't construction?
Danielle Deaver: I don't think it was because the historical fiction display across the way with oddly enough totally fine.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah, I think the most recent experience would be The Fifty Shades series.
David Payne: Yes.
Alessandro Russo: Where those tend to disappear or accidentally get re-shelved somehow in a completely different place.
David Payne: Different place.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah, yeah.
Julie Dina: Which leads me to my next question. Why do you think books get banned, do you think, for offending the sensibilities of mostly one group of people or do many different groups of people have to get involved?
Danielle Deaver: I think that a lot of the people who, you know, write about this and think about it a lot more than I do, use the word fear a lot. And a lot of it is society is changing and the things that are changing in it are scary and people don't want to deal with it, they don't want to read about it and they especially they don't want their children reading about it. The largest group of people who challenge these books are parents. And I think that that, you know kind of says a lot about how we think of childhood as a protected time, that isn't quite realistic.
Alessandro Russo: And one of my favorite quotes is from a Simpson’s character saying, "Think of the children." And so when I see a banned book or I hear about a banned book, that's the first thing that comes to mind.
Danielle Deaver: "Think about the children."
Julie Dina: Exactly.
David Payne: But that leads me to my next question. I'm going to put you both, both on the spot and ask you, have either of you ever been tempted to, to ban or challenge a book? And if so, what's your response to yourself? I'll start with, with Alessandro.
Alessandro Russo: So absolutely not to the first part of that question. Even I remember in library school, we were discussing about challenged books and what happens if you find, if there's a book out there that tells you how to put a bomb together? There are certain limitations to that. And the overall idea is if the book is going to cause harm to someone or is going to hurt someone in a non-psychological manner, then it's okay.
David Payne: Mm-hmm.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah, I've never been tempted to ban a book, although like Alessandro said, I mean, a lot of these, you know, if somebody writes an entire book about, you know, how to build a nuclear bomb, like he said, like, I mean, we're not going to buy it. So a lot of that kind of takes place before the book ever reaches me. But when it comes to like fiction and that kind of stuff where it's more of a judgment call, I think every person reads every book differently almost to the point where they read a different book than I would. And so, I don't feel that I need to tell them what to read, they can choose.
Julie Dina: Well, I'll start with you Alessandro because I know before the program started, you mentioned the answer to this question. Does banning a book actually encourage more people to read it?
Alessandro Russo: I believe so. And then, I don't have a psychological explanation why, but I'm going to go based off of kind of that idea when you tell someone don't do something, they're going to do the complete opposite. That, that movement it's kind of increasing too as you know, more, more diverse books get challenged and banned and kind of go against the grain of society. So.
Danielle Deaver: Yeah, I agree. I think it does, it makes them more attractive to people because they feel like they're doing something daring.
Alessandro Russo: Yeah.
Danielle Deaver: And also, I mean I think people are starting to realize that a lot of the books that are being challenged and banned are books that address important topics. There's a group called Commonsense Media and it's a nonprofit that advocates for kind of using technology and media in a positive way for children. And it gives like ratings for various TV shows and movies and stuff. And they published an article last year encouraging families to read banned books together because it was a good way to get into these sometimes difficult but really important topics.
David Payne: So again, putting you both on the spot, can you tell us what your favorite banned books are and, and why? Let's start with you Danielle.
Danielle Deaver: Oh, I have to go with the, the really obvious answer, which is the Harry Potter series.
Alessandro Russo: Oh, Harry Potter, yeah.
Danielle Deaver: I just love them for the same -- you know, I think the -- what people saw as maybe witchcraft to me was just total escapism.
Alessandro Russo: I will go with a graphic novel, i-it's the Bone Series by Jeff Smith. And I believe they got banned originally because of political views and there was some cry because there was racism and violence.
Julie Dina: And down to our final question, it's actually traditional on our show for us to ask this final question, what are you both currently reading? Let's start with-
David Payne: Banned books or otherwise.
Danielle Deaver: Right now I'm reading a book called Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano. And I actually checked it out, it was an eBook from the Overdrive app at the Kendall County Library system.
Alessandro Russo: So I usually juggle a few books at the time, but the one that I've been deep into is Jim, it's a biography, Jim Henson by Brian Jones. And it's a fascinating book and it goes beyond the Muppets Incorporate and gets perspective of everyone he has worked with, his family, a recommended read if you're a biography enthusiast.
Julie Dina: Well, I would like to say a big thank you for coming on the program today. Thank you so much for being our guests. 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 Apple Podcasts, we'll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Lauren Martino: Hello listeners welcome to Library Matters. My name is Lauren Martino and I'm your host today. And today we're talking about the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. And with me today is Dr. Jackson Bryer who's been involved with the festival from the very beginning in 1996 and who has edited several books about F. Scott Fitzgerald, welcome Dr. Bryer.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Hi.
Lauren Martino: We also have with us Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham, Professor Emerita at Concordia, Saint Paul, which is the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald. We have with us as well Eric Carzon, who's the Branch Manager of the Twinbrook library and also very involved in this festival. Welcome Ellie.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Thank you, good to be here.
Lauren Martino: And welcome Eric.
Eric Carzon: Thanks, good to be here.
Lauren Martino: So Dr. Bryer, can you tell us a little bit about what the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival is?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it's as you said it started in 1996, which was the centennial year of F. Scott Fitzgerald's birth. And in that year the City of Rockville decided they wanted to do something to commemorate Fitzgerald who is buried in Rockville. We can talk about that a little later as to why he is here. And they appointed a group of citizens from the community to organize what I think they anticipated would be a one-year celebration of him. And we did that in 1996 and it was so successful that we've been doing it ever since.
It started as a one-day event and has now become a three-day event in the sense that there are programs on Thursday afternoon sponsored by one of our partners the Friends of the Library. And an event on Friday night at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then the main event here in Rockville all day Saturday. So it's a three-day festival. It is in many ways sort of a dual event in that it honors Fitzgerald. But it also honors writers both established writers who we honor every year with the F. Scott Fitzgerald award and also encourages younger writers of all ages to pursue writing of various kinds.
We have writing workshops and there are other programs where we frequently show a film. We also have master classes and we have in recent years affiliated very closely with the Montgomery County Public Schools and we can talk about that as well.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And the number of the writers who have been honored from really panoply of the great writers of our century beginning with William Styron, John Barth, and another Marylander and even a fantastic novelist, E. L. Doctorow. So many of them are gone now, so that it's wonderful that we had them and that fledgling writers got to meet them and talk to them and go to a master class with them.
Lauren Martino: You’ve gotten over twenty years of writers you’ve honored in this festival.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And the last year was Annie Proulx, she was terrific.
Lauren Martino: So when are the dates of the festival?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: It begins on the afternoon of October 18th at Strathmore Mansion with a program in the afternoon. It continues on Friday night October 19th at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then all day Saturday October 20th at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.
Lauren Martino: Eric can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s role in this festival?
Eric Carzon: Sure, yeah MCPL is very pleased to be part of the committee this year. And we've planned several events throughout the library system to compliment the festival. So the first one that's coming up is Tuesday, September 18th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library. And so we'll be doing our Twinbrook Library book discussion group.
And we're going to discuss Richard Russo's book Trajectory and Richard Russo is this year's honoree at the festival. So if you want to be part of the book discussion group, you can give the branch a call at 240-777-0240, or just show up at the program, try to read the book of course before you come, but --.
Lauren Martino: That always helps.
Eric Carzon: We’ll take everybody who comes.
Lauren Martino: But you're going to spoil the end.
Eric Carzon: Yeah. And then on Monday, September 24th at 07:00 PM which is F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, The Rockville Memorial Library is going to have a screening of Bernice Bobs Her Hair, which is a movie that was inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story of the same title. We’ll also have a little bit of birthday cake courtesy of the Friends of the Library Montgomery County. And we’ll be showing it using MCPL’s new streaming movie service called Canopy, which people can access online by the way as well.
On Thursday, September 27th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library Ellie and Jackson who are here today are going to discuss the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories, Winter Dreams and Babylon Revisited. And then on Saturday, October 6th at 03:00 PM at the Twinbrook Library, we're going to show the movie Benjamin Button, which is also inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. And then we'll have a discussion afterwards with members of the F. Scott Fitzgerald festival planning committee.
And then finally on Thursday, October 11th at 06:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library, the three student finalists from this year's F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival Short Story Writing Contest will be invited to read and discuss their short stories with the audience.
Lauren Martino: Are there other events related to the festival going on elsewhere?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: There's luncheon that is given at the Strathmore Mansion that Jackson mentioned the three-day event, so that's on a Thursday. Reservations do need to be made through the Friends of the Library. And it's a smaller event, but I think that the room perhaps hold 60, so people do need to make a reservation, but it does get you in the spirit of the event and then on Friday at the Writer’s Center, Jenny Boylan who's going to introduce Richard Russo, the next day will be there to be honored herself.
She is very interesting writer I don't know what you know about her, but she has made some important changes in our life and she'll be there with other writers who will read in the honor of Jenny Boylan and Richard Russo. So it's really literary rich time. And then on Saturday the number of people who are doing workshop, six different local writers are with these more fledgling writers in small groups. They're coming and they range from Ethelbert Miller to --.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Susan Coll.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes and her husband.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Patricia Browning Griffith. There are two fiction workshops, two nonfiction workshops. Margaret Talbot who is a staff writer for The New Yorker is going to --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: To be honored.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Do going to do a nonfiction workshop as the Ethelbert Miller is doing a memoir workshop and Susan Coll and her husband, Paul Goldberg are doing fiction workshops as well. So there's a little something for everybody that's for beginning writers and immediate writers, anybody who is interested. We try each year to have a theme. This year in honor of Richard Russo, who has done a lot of work with first generation immigrant writers in his native state of Maine, in his honor we've kind of structured some of the festival around the theme of literature without borders.
And two other writers who are reading on Friday night at the Writer’s Center, not Jenny Boylan, but the other two writers are themselves not native to this country and are in sense immigrant writers. And so we want in some ways to stress that we think that's very important. I'm sure Richard Russo will speak about that and about the program that he is involved in in Maine that encourages young first generation Americans to write about their experiences.
Lauren Martino: So we have a lot of busy people in Montgomery County and there will be people that can only do maybe one or two of these events. What would you – okay, let's do it for writers and for non-writers because it sounds like there's a lot of things out there, if you are a writer what is the one event you wouldn't want to miss.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I think you wouldn't want to miss the writer workshops and the master class, those are on Saturday. And you go to ‘FScottfestival’ all one word ‘.org’ and make your reservation for that. You do need to sign up for a writing workshop, a specific one because they are contained, they are small. The event I don't think we said where it is, it’s in Richard Montgomery High School which is large – as large – some large and some small classrooms just rather perfect for our uses and a large parking lot. And it’s very easy to find, its right out Rockville pike. It's very easy.
So if you want the master class I mean if you want the workshops, you do need to register. But there also people can come in and there is a registration fee it's very modest. But you can come in for anything, you can come in just to hear Russo or you can come in in the morning and see the movie at which she will be present to talk about it. There are two wonderful movies made of his books, The Empire Falls and Everybody’s Fool, wonderful movies and we're going to have one of those.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Nobody’s fool, it's Nobody’s Fool.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Nobody’s fool.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And he'll be talking about the film after the film is presented. Also in order to maintain the connection with the F. Scott Fitzgerald, we're very-very pleased this year that F. Scott Fitzgerald's granddaughters, Eleanor Lanahan and Cecilia Ross have agreed to come to the festival. They came to one of the earlier festivals, but they have been back in probably 15 or 20 years and they're coming this year along with Eleanor's daughter, Blake Hazard who is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's great granddaughter and who also now works with her mother and her aunt in administering the Fitzgerald estate. And so they will be participating in a panel discussion on Saturday afternoon talking about what it is like to be the heirs of a great American writer and also what it is like to administer the estate of a great American writer. So we're particularly pleased this year that they're going to be with us.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Blake is also a singer. And they're going to be speaking exactly across the pike from the grave of their great grandfather. You know that both Fitzgeralds and other members of the family I think about six or seven other graves of Fitzgerald’s are right across the street in the Saint Mary's cemetery. There is a tour, but you don't need to take the tour to go to see the graves, anybody can go at any time and park back by the school and see.
So we beat on boats against the current on the gravestone and whatever little goodies people have left bottles, roses, signs, in honor of the Fitzgeralds. Scott was moved there; he was buried in another non-sacred plot close by until his daughter until his wife’s death. And then his daughter and -- I don't know how she arranged it, it's quite amazing because I don't think they were good church goers all their lives, but they are now in St Mary's churchyard.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And so is their daughter?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So can you tell us a little bit about the Fitzgeralds connection to Rockville in Montgomery County. Why were they buried?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, Fitzgerald’s father's family was from Montgomery County and even though Fitzgerald lived most of his life in Midwest and in the east, he always had a real connection to his father's family. And when he died he died very suddenly and unexpectedly. And everybody involved his daughter and his widow all knew that where he wants to be buried was in Montgomery County with his father's family. And as Ellie said he was originally buried in the Union Cemetery not in the church cemetery and so was Zelda. And then I think in the middle of seventies maybe their daughter arranged to have them move to Saint Mary's which is where many of the other parts of the family are, but it's true his father's family that he has the connection with Montgomery County and he came here often to visit. And he lived in Baltimore for fairly long period of his life, so he has that Maryland connection as well.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And close by Washington to, I believe his parents were married there actually.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, yeah. So that's the connection. And as Ellie said the last -- this is the second time we've been at Richard Montgomery with the festival. And you can literally look out the windows of the Richard Montgomery High School Library and see the graveyard where the Fitzgerald plot is. So you couldn't be in a more appropriate spot for an F. Scott Fitzgerald festival.
Lauren Martino: I wonder what it would be like to go to school in that place and then live in the shadow of this and your English teachers can always keep pointing to it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: It would be wonderful. I hope they all know that where the -- how close they are to a great legend, one of our great, maybe if you name five of the greatest I would put Fitzgerald in there.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Maybe they work that into their paper grading, F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried here, you can do better. D-.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: When you go there that spot is in the middle of a terrible traffic pattern and when you're standing there in that little graveyard, every time I've been there it seems peaceful somehow. It's quite remarkable and there is a kind of sacred quality about it. His mother actually died in Montgomery County.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: We're also very pleased that we have a increasingly close connection with the Montgomery Public Schools. We have for many years had two short story contest as part of the festival; one for -- is open to anyone who lives in the DC Maryland, Virginia area and the other is open to students in Montgomery County. And we gave two awards; well actually we gave an award for a winner in each contest and a couple of runners up in each contest.
Also in the last few years, we have asked each Montgomery County Public High School to name one of their students an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar and those individual students attend the festival as our guest. They have special programs with the honoree and with other special people, master classes. They receive a book signed by the honoree and also they get a certificate indicating that they have been selected as an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar.
So that’s quite a distinction and almost every high school last year name somebody as a Fitzgerald scholar and we're hoping I mean we usually have between 15 and 20 high school students who attend. The winner of the high school short story contest does get to speak at the festival. And as Eric said this year we're very excited because the libraries are going to have a program where all the finalists, the three finalists for the student short story contest will be able to read their stories and speak about them at the public library as Eric mentioned.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And nobody will know who the winner is, of course see that will heighten the interest. We hope that everybody who hears the stories will want them to come to here who was named though the actual winner of that contest. Stories are wonderful. Last year's story was just a marvelous, intercultural story, an intergenerational story, very sensitive story. So I'm looking forward. They're printed in our program too.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Is it too late to enter the contest? When does the—
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think the student short story contest deadline has passed, but I think the adult or open short story contest deadline is August 11th.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So for next year, yeah.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Is past, but people should keep it in mind for next year.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: They should practice.
Lauren Martino: About a year to work on it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Can you imagine for your college entrance, I mean intrinsic reward of the honor is great. But also it does not look bad on your college application.
Lauren Martino: Who knows maybe you'll have an honoree for the F. Scott Fitzgerald award one year that's previously won the short story contest.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: In 2040?
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Winner, let me look that.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, one year when we applied for a grant, one of their letters of support was from a previous winner of the short story contest who has gone on to become a fairly accomplished short story writer and he testified to how important winning the festival's short story contest have been in his career.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: He is not a young person, I mean he is an adult who has submitted a story one and was very encouraged by that, and he’s continued to write. I mean one of the things that could easily happen and he would be a perfect candidate. He could very easily be one of our workshop leaders some day and that would be a wonderful succession of having a previous short story winner be the workshop leader in a fiction workshop.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: That such a good idea we should put that on our agenda. I think that's a wonderful idea. When I go back to the family a moment if I may because I think we left this out, it's pretty important. Francis Scott Key of course is an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Lauren Martino: Really.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Hence his name.
Lauren Martino: Fitzgerald.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes and of course Maryland. So that's very important Maryland connection.
Lauren Martino: Are there other any references to Maryland or to Montgomery County in any of their works.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I think there's a beautiful one. Jack will elaborate on this, he probably knows the passage by heart but Dick Diver in Tender is the Night which is autobiographical of the marriage particularly much more so than the Great Gatsby as you probably know. But he goes home – his father dies and he goes home which is – I don't remember if the place is actually named but I always get the sense of coming back to Montgomery County. It's a southern place in the novel. And he thinks about tradition and his fine father is having a crisis in his own life and he remembers his father's strong ethos. It's a very moving passage and one of the most autobiographical I think in all of Fitzgerald is about the middle of the book.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah I mean the passage is something -- he also wrote a very famous essay about his father when his father died. I mean it's kind of ironic because his father was a terrible failure as a businessman and as a wage earner. But it's interesting because his mother was by far the dominant person in his life and his mother's family supported Fitzgerald. And his father for most of his life because his father -- his grandfather on his mother's side was a very successful I guess you'd say grocer; he ran a grocery store and he died – very relatively young and left quite a bit of money.
Fitzgerald's father on the other hand never could keep a job, but Fitzgerald learned from his father what you might call the graces of the south. I mean he said at one point maybe in this essay I can't remember that he always referred judgments to his father because he always thought his father had that sense of noblesse oblige and southern grace that he admired and you know that cut across whether he was successful or not.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Actually when you think about the Great Gatsby begins with a reference to the next father, I don't know, you know my father taught me to reserve all judgment. I don't know whether that came from Fitzgerald’s own father or not but it is an homage to fathers.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and so his father represented something very important to him beyond whether he was successful. I mean he never got over -- Fitzgerald never got over when his father lost his job. They lived in upstate New York for a while, and he came home one day and said he lost his job. And Fitzgerald was very young at the time probably seven or eight years old and he said that was a devastating moment in his life. But he still remained – had a tremendous respect for his father.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The issue of money of course is so central in all of Fitzgerald's work in most 20th century fiction I guess. But his first biography -- one of his first biographers, Malcolm Cowley, I think it was who said that F. Scott Fitzgerald resembled the little boy at the candy store window with his nose pressed against it looking and not able to afford what was within, just a kind of devastatingly sad picture and not untrue.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah I mean he grew up I mean all you have to know about Fitzgerald is to go to Saint Paul and see where his house was. And his house was across the street from the backyards of all the biggest houses in Saint Paul and he was -- his friends, his playmates were all the children of Saint Paul's richest and most successful citizens. And because of his grandfather's money, he was able to go to a very good private school. But he was always aware that he was not one of them and he was always aspiring in a way to be one of them at the same time is realizing that was never going to be possible. And all his work is filled with that sort of double sense of envy and regret that you find just by seeing the physical situation in Saint Paul.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And his story, the rich boy, of course starts with one of the most famous served catalogs of why the rich are different. It's the one that Hemingway made fun of. but it's much more true than Hemingway's attacked on it. The rich are different.
Lauren Martino: And it's suppose around here there's a lot of that that resonates just with the extreme wealth we have --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: These days.
Lauren Martino: Yeah especially in the DC area.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: We ought to say something about Richard Russo who is this year's honoree. He is a marvelous, marvelous novelist; Empire Falls which won the Pulitzer Prize is probably his most famous book, but he has got several other wonderful books.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I've been reading the older books now, I’ve read Everybody and Nobody's Fool. Now I'm reading Bridge of Sighs. It did get an award, but I don't -- I think it got overshadowed later.
Lauren Martino: There's a warmth to him. He loves his characters. There's humor. He puts them in ridiculous situations. In Bridge of Sighs, a little boy gets stuck in a trunk and people make love over the trunk. And I mean that’s the beginning of the book.
Lauren Martino: He loves such a crazy situation, yeah, really.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You know, the situations people get in and he pulls them out of them with the most loving, that's the word -- maybe that's too sloppy a word Jackson, but I get the sense that he loves his characters and he loves America.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, he's also written one of the funniest novels about academic life called Straight Man which is based on his long experience as a college teacher. It's a very-very funny novel. The other thing about Richard Russo that I'm particularly looking forward to hear -- in my experience he is one of the most articulate writers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. What I mean is there a lot of writers who are brilliant writers, but who don't necessarily talk that well about what they do that doesn't mean they're not good writers they just write, they don't talk about it.
Richard Russo talks beautifully about the art of writing, the art of fiction, about teaching. And I'm really looking forward to his master class where he'll talk about the craft of writing and will answer questions. I don't know anybody I go to a lot of readings where writers come to town with their books. I don't know anybody who is more interesting and more articulate in a Q&A than Richard Russo. So I recommend that as one of the features of this year's festival. I'm really looking forward to. And he is a wonderful person as Ellie says in his books you can feel that.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You wrote a memoir about his -- it's ostensibly about his mother. But of course he is the other major character and he is a professor and writer in the book. So there you get a lot of the pressures on a writer, time pressures and how you advance in academia and how you blend that with the needs of your family. Again, the portrait of his mother is affectionate and a slightly humorous ironic. And it's a wonderful book, it's a wonderful memoir.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think we have to say something about Jenny Boylan. We ask the honoree every year who he would like to have introduced him or her at the event and it's usually another writer and we try to honor that request. And this year Richard Russo ask the Jenny Boylan be asked to introduce him.
Jenny Boylan is a Professor at Barnard College in New York, but for many years she was James Boylan at Colby College. One of his colleagues and she underwent a sex change about 15 or 20 years very publicly. She has written about it. And so has Richard Russo written about the trauma that he went through had seeing his best friend become a woman in a way and how difficult that was for him initially and now they obviously have maintained the friendship. And I'm really looking forward to meeting Jenny Boylan, as I say she has written a couple of books about her experiences. And I think people will be interested in her story as well as in Richard Russo's.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: By the way you said the word books gives me a chance to say that thanks to Montgomery County Library. We will be selling books by all of the workshop people, Richard Russo of course and Jenny Boylan.
Lauren Martino: The Friends of the Library will be selling this.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes, at the Saturday event.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And also on the Friday event.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And the writers are usually very-very willing to sign copies of their books and to -- writers always like to see their books sold. And if signing them will help sell them, they'll do it.
Lauren Martino: So how do you choose the recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald award every year? Who does the choosing?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well the committee, the committee basically talks it over each year and we come up – I mean I have to admit that sometimes we ask somebody and they can't do it. And so then we have to go to another choice, although in recent years it's very interesting when we first started out we were very lucky we got a couple of very good writers at the very beginning. And then people began to turn us down because we don't offer a lot of money and there isn't much prestige.
But then as we began to honor certain writers, other writers who had previously turned us down suddenly were willing to come. I mean I very fondly remember John Updike refusing us until we gave the award to Norman Mailer. He somehow found it in his schedule to be possible to come to Rockville and get the award. As Ellie said we've had just a star studded array of writers over the years. I think we're now up to 14 Pulitzer Prize. Well, not 14 different writers, but 14 Pulitzer Prizes won by the writers that we have honored.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The real reason we have these people, they're willing to come here that they know Jackson Bryer who has edited their work or introduce them in some other context. And so we sit at the meeting and Jackson says, “Why don't I write so and so,” and we say, “Oh, sounds like a very good idea.”
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, that's partially true, but also the festival now has become well enough known. So that when we invite a writer, they know who the other writers are that we've honored and they are very pleased to be on the list now. So I think that's part of it too.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I noticed that Richard Russo's book – no, no, I noticed that Robert Olen Butler’s book, I just read another one of his mysteries and it features the F. Scott Fitzgerald award on the back of the, you know, on his credits.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Oh, which is it.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Biography it is featured along with the Pulitzer.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, last year we honored Annie Proulx and this year the national book festival in September 1st is honoring Annie Proulx. They got the idea from us for sure.
Lauren Martino: Are there any other previous honorees you'd like to mention?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, two years ago we honored Garrison Keillor who is a great Fitzgerald fan. And he very generously agreed to do a program on Friday night at Strathmore. And he donated the entire receipts from that event, which we split with Strathmore. And as you can imagine filling Strathmore brought in a great deal of money and we're not a particularly wealthy organization. And because of his generosity, we are in much better financial shape than we were before he did that. And I know he has had some trouble since then, but we remain extremely grateful to him for that.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And he was wonderful with the high school students. He refused to let anybody other than the high school students for that part of the day the next day. And you could hear this laughter – all these high school students and they never did tell us what they talked about it. But he charmed them and he certainly charmed us and --.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well and when we introduced the Fitzgerald scholars which is the group that he met with, he knew something about every single one of those students and had talked to each of them individually. So given the difficulties he has been having I think it needs to be said that he certainly was a model honoree for us.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He was indeed. He was wonderful. And I should mention that there's one local honoree, wonderful-wonderful writer I'm sure you know Alice McDermott. She has been an honoree and she is also participated in other parts of the festival, otherwise there's no geographical limit to where we find the people. But it’s wonderful to have her be part of it.
Lauren Martino: I have a confession to make I have not read any F. Scott Fitzgerald since high school and I did not enjoy the Great Gatsby in high school. Is there anything you can say to all of those people like out there like me who have just not taken a look at F. Scott Fitzgerald since their, you know, adolescent brains were –
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, I think you need to look, read them as an adult.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: You grown into him.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: I think I'm retired as a college teacher and I now teach adults, Ellie does too. And the difference between reading when you're 15, 16 and 17 years old and when you're an adult is a very different experience. I don't guarantee that you would love Fitzgerald now, but I think you are to give him another chance because I think after you've lived a little while you might see things in him. Also The Great Gatsby is I think a great novel not because of its story or not because of anything other than how beautifully written.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Style.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Just is almost, you can read The Great Gatsby almost the way you read a poem word for word. It's just beautifully-beautifully written and I think you should give it another chance. But you could also start with some of his short stories which are obviously briefer and can be read more quickly. And you know he may not be to your taste, but he seems to be to the taste of a lot of, as I said a lot of modern writers who admire him a great deal.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The style is magnificent and of course he rewrote so many times. Gradual dissertations have been written on comparing version one degree -- Version 7.
Lauren Martino: Version 7.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The green light didn't appear at first as it does in the beginning, it just appeared later. And his wonderful editor, Maxwell Perkins relationship is so famous that there's a whole separate movie about Maxwell Perkins suggested that it become a motif and he put it in. There was a big debate about the title of the book that is very revealing about what he thought of the book because it didn't begin as The Great Gatsby. There are a number of other titles among Ash Heaps and Millionaires for example.
But as Jackson said the story of people with varying degrees of selfishness and jealousy and desires is wonderful on one level. And although my daughter when she read it when she was too young she said, at age 15 she said, “I think they're very immature people”. That was my impression too. But then you read it and you realize well of course that's the point in a way I mean Daisy is not worth it the dream but to have such a dream. And then to couch it in language which is poetic. I've heard it read well, Jackson has seen the play which is the whole book.
And in Saint Paul, Garrison Keillor again arranged a reading of the entire book all one day with famous people reading each chapter. When you hear it and you can't skim, you can't skip over anything. You realize that it's a, there's humor in it that you missed the first time, little ironic twist stuck in and there's just great beauty. And these lists of things are all interesting in themselves, you know the guests who come, their names and so forth. And then there are historical people and then the man who fixed the World Series, for example you learn a little bit of history if you have a good English teacher. I taught high school before I taught college at Stone Ridge.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: For 18 years. So there are hundreds and hundreds of young women out there who have -- I hope have a happy version of the book.
Lauren Martino: Do you think that's a plug for listening to the audiobook verses reading it, would this make a good audiobook just because you can't skip over the language.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I like to do that because you -- I think you need both. But yes you do hear things differently and you don't miss it if you are attentive, you don't miss anything so and you don't mind traffic jams or doing the dishes or whatever it is that's mindless while you listen.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it show that Ellie was referring to is a show called gats in which the elevator repair service, theatre company had an actor who read the entire text of Gatsby while other actors were silently acting out parts of the book. And this year pleasure of hearing this actor read the book. He didn't act the book, he just read it. He didn't attempt to act the roles, he just simply sat there and read the book and it was incredible.
And as Ellie said it brought out how very humors in a clever way Fitzgerald's languages. There were a lot of laughs in that audience and a lot of chuckles and it was an incredible experience just to hear the book read out loud.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: In some way it is more satisfying than the movies.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Oh the movies, yeah. The movies can’t because the book isn't really a great book because of the story. It's a book -- it's a great book because of the way it's written and the movies can't convey that. They've tried with having voice over say some of mixed lines but you just can't convey, it’s a different medium, you can't convey it.
Lauren Martino: Are there any particular movies based on Fitzgerald books that you think are particularly well done or particularly poorly done, which you’d like to talk about?
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, it's interesting I don't think that the movie versions of the Great Gatsby, the two most recent ones are all that bad.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I love the Robert Redford movie.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, I -- there -- it's interesting because each generation does a version of The Great Gatsby that is that generation’s version of The Great Gatsby. And each version is slightly different because each version is made by a movie maker who sees different things in the book. And I thought Baz Luhrmann’s version the most recent one was really quite good.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I hated it.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, I know a lot of people did.
Lauren Martino: Why did you hate it?
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: It was too noisy and too big and there was a psychiatrist who's not in the book and bunch of things like that. But we showed -- Jackson arranged for us to see the Alan Ladd version that’s a 1940 or something.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: It ’45 or ’46, I can’t remember.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Which completely changes the story, it’s black and white in it.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, but it's a gangster movie.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Yes.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: Because that was what was popular, you know, it starts with a silent stretch of film where some people do a gangland killing. And I assume you're supposed to believe that Gatsby's henchmen are doing that. And it's just a completely forties version of Gatsby. And in a way I mean I certainly respect Ellie’s opinion of Baz Luhrmann’s movie but each generation should interpret the novel the way that generation wants to interpret it.
A book isn't static, a book, you know, a book means different things to different people. And it means different things to different movie producers and directors and writers. And the very fact that it's been done so many different times says something about its enduring power.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: There had been a couple of television, many episode ones like six hour depictions which have been good to.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and you know there's a movie of Tender is the Night that's pretty awful. And but – again, it was a testimony to the fact that somebody thought it was worth doing. And there've been dramatic versions of both I mean Gatsby was made into a play in the twenties and it's been adapted into a play by a contemporary playwright. And I've seen it and it's pretty good. He is smart enough to remain pretty faithful to the book.
I think that same playwright is done it adaptation of Tender is the Night. Fitzgerald seems to hold an appeal for people part of the reason obviously he holds an appeal for people is that his and Zelda's life story is kind of interesting. I mean people, you know, there's a certain glamour involved with the Fitzgerald’s --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: They defined the Jazz Age.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah and so people are interested for that reason but one --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He also wanted to be a playwright, I mean he did write plays, not successfully [Indiscernible] [00:41:46].
Dr. Jackson Bryer: He wrote one very unsuccessful, but --.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: He wrote them when he was a kid.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Yeah, he did and he also wrote plays at Princeton. He wrote the triangle club plays, but you know part of the reason he survives is Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald are one of the most glamorous literary couples of the 20th century.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: And tragic.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: And tragic and somewhat hard to understand like all marriages it's a mystery and it's fascinating to people. But one would hope that if they're attracted by the story of their lives that they'll sit down and read the books and see that the real value is in the books.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: The President, the new president who is taking over from Jackson of our committee is undertaking a study of Zelda's art, the visual art. And I think she'll have a good book someday about it. And she gave a lecture at Twinbrook which was wonderful I thought. You know everything -- she fascinates people and to the extent that they know more about her I just think people will turn to the books more they will see details in there. In the diver marriage in Tender is the Night, there is a lot of the real Zelda.
Lauren Martino: So we like to ask all of our guests at the end of the episode, what are you reading right now, we'll start with Eric.
Eric Carzon: I am currently reading a short book it's called ‘The Poet Slave of Cuba’ and it’s fascinating. So it's a story of this poet, he is a Cuban poet and he was a slave as well. And it just -- so it's sort of an autobiographical poem about his life.
Lauren Martino: Like a book length poem?
Eric Carzon: Yeah, I mean it’s a fairly short book, but yeah it is fascinating read and it's just a very-very odd situation for this poor person, because he was a slave and then the rich slave owner sort of saw something in him, so he sort of ripped him away from his parents. And you know, gave him a lot of opportunities, but he is still a slave. Like even at some point in the story the slave owner who is a little crazy, frees his mother and father, but keeps him as a slave. So like he is a slave and his parents are free and he can't be free until she dies and it just goes south from there. So very fascinating story so far and I'm about I guess two-thirds of the way through.
Lauren Martino: All right, thanks Eric. How about you Jack.
Dr. Jackson Bryer: Well, I just finished reading Anne Tyler's most recent book ‘Clock Dance’ and I'm a great Anne Tyler fan. We'd love to get her to the festival, but she doesn't go anyplace so. We've tried and now I'm reading a novel by a man name Kent Haruf called Benediction and -- which I'm liking very much. But I certainly recommend Anne Tyler to anybody who has never read her work. She's quite something and she's local. She writes mostly about Baltimore.
Lauren Martino: Ellie what are you reading.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: I'm reading Richard Russo. Everything I can get and I’m so enjoying that the characters are so marvelous. But I'm also going back to Robert Olen Butler who was – he has participated in two separate years and he started writing mysteries that are, sort of crime espionage stories that are set in World War I with, you know, Zeppelins and a character whose mother plays Hamlet.
Lauren Martino: Oh wow.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: His mother plays Hamlet. And it's really great fun and so I have read a couple of those for entertainment. He is a person who is written very serious books about Vietnam experience, you know, veterans and so forth and love stories. But he is also written some wild far out things like a collection of short stories based on imagined and real enquirer headlines, you know, tomato speaks for the child and the family or you know, really very strange stories. He has got a great imagination, so that’s fun.
Lauren Martino: So he is just trying to come up with a situation where this would make sense.
Dr. Eleanor Heginbotham: One of the things about this festival is and I think Jackson so much for inviting me to be part of it, he was one of my advisors at Maryland. But one of the great things is you get to know the authors who come and because you know you're going to be meeting them, you want to know their work. And for example I wouldn't -- I don't think I would've read works about a sports writer like Richard Ford, but what a deeply satisfying experience it is to read his novels and that was, you know, the work of another summer for example. And then I really -- James Salter who wrote about Flying Aces in Korea.
Again sort of guy fiction, but it turned out no, no, not so, they're universal and they're wonderful. And having the privilege of taking him to the grave to see the Fitzgerald grave shortly before his own death – shortly after our festival is something that personally I treasure a great deal.
Lauren Martino: Eric, Jackson and Ellie, thank you so much for your time today and sharing your wealth of knowledge. We really enjoyed this conversation and I am so glad we could have you here today.
Eric Carzon: Thank you. Thank you, it’s our pleasure and we also hope to see you at the MCPL events and at the festival.
Lauren Martino: Yes. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review us and rate us on Apple podcasts. We'd love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Lauren Martino: Hello, listeners, this is Lauren Martino, host of this Library Matters episode. Before we get started, I want to let you know that this episode is all about true crime and includes discussion of murder and other related unpleasantries. So be advised if you have any sensitive listeners or children around while playing this episode. Okay, let’s get started.
Welcome to Library Matters. I’m your host Lauren Martino and I’m here today with Carol Reddan who is the Library Associate at Only Library and also a true crime enthusiast. [00:00:30] Welcome Carol.
Carol Reddan: Thank you.
Lauren Martino: So I must admit this is not an area I'm well versed in. I'm a children’s librarian and there is only so much children’s true crime out there, but Carol, well, how do you define the true crime genre?
Carol Reddan: Probably best to keep it super, super simple and literal, a book that talks about, investigates, delves into a true crime. So obviously a lot of the time that’s going to be murder [00:01:00] or something violent like that, but also I am really into white-collar crime too. A fabulous book I read fairly recently was “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis that they made the motion picture out of with Steve Carell. It’s fabulous. It went into the whole before the 2008 real estate crash what was going on in real estate in Florida, just as interesting, just as drawing you in, so…
Lauren Martino: So it’s fascinating because, yeah, you think about [00:01:30] brutal murders and serial killers and…
Carol Reddan: Nope the broad definition delving into a crime that has – I like the fact that what draws me in is this really happened. I have a young niece who – when you give her toys or whatnot or books or whatever and she is like five and she is like, “Did this really happen? Did this really happen?” And that’s the thing about nonfiction. It adds so much to it. It really happened. That’s – it’s nobody made it up. [00:02:00] It really happened. That adds…
Lauren Martino: It’s crazier than anything…
Carol Reddan: It adds that it gives it this extra, hmm, it happened.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. What gets you excited about true crime books. What makes you pick them up over, say, a mystery or horror books or something?
Carol Reddan: I'm just drawn to them and part of it I think is I particularly like unsolved.
Lauren Martino: Unsolved?
Carol Reddan: That, yeah, unsolved like the zodiac. It’s just – [00:02:30] it’s a puzzle. It’s a puzzle to solve, even once that – the outcome is known. It's fascinating to watch the piecing together of it, the investigators, something happened in exact certain way and we either won’t know about it or maybe we’ll be able to go back. Investigators will be able to piece it together. But something happened in exact way. One act followed another and it’s a challenge of puzzle to piece that altogether and [00:03:00] find out how it happened the layout, exactly how it happened. It’s basically the thrill of solving a puzzle.
Lauren Martino: Because nobody else has solved.
Carol Reddan: It’s a big question mark. But a lot of the famous ones are things that have teased and tantalize people for decades and forever. And Lizzie Borden is technically, we would say, unsolved. Someone did this. It happened a certain way. Someone killed her parents [00:03:30] on this hot summer afternoon and she was found not guilty and people have speculated so many different theories. It could happen this way. It could happen that way. But really on that afternoon it happened one way and we just don’t know what it is and that just drives you crazy.
Lauren Martino: I guess it’s like the John F. Kennedy assassination where people have speculated and speculated for the decades.
Carol Reddan: Quadrillions of words written about that and the speculation and the different scenarios and yet on that afternoon there was [00:04:00] one set of events that happened in a certain way and it’s become so convoluted. We probably never know what that precise sequence of events was, but, yeah.
Lauren Martino: Do you find that most authors of these unsolved crime books try to come up with their own theory of what they think happened or do they really leave it up to you?
Carol Reddan: A lot of them tem really do. I think they do and sometimes I think they feel artificially compelled to do so and it ends up not so great. I’ve read some things Lizzie Borden [00:04:30] like they come up with that. Her sister was 20 miles away in another town visiting relatives, but one author took the tact that she came back and she actually did it, not Lizzie Borden. So sometimes I think they are going out of their way to come up with something novel, something new
Some people, some authors I think are just contrarians. A really famous case I’ve always followed is the Jeffrey MacDonald case with the Fort Bragg military [00:05:00] physician who killed his wife and two children. And it is like the most litigated case in history. He keeps appealing and he is going back and forth. But initially he had a military trial, which they let him go. But his wife’s father stayed on it so much that he was brought to a criminal trial and found guilty.
And, yeah, I followed that a lot and a lot of authors like Joe McGinniss wrote one of the first landmark true crime books [00:05:30] Fatal Vision which was also like a miniseries and I remember watching that. It was just fascinating. But a lot of authors I think feel compelled to come back and say, “No, he didn’t.” They will look and they’ll argue for evidence the other way, but I guess it keeps it interesting.
Lauren Martino: What first got you into true crime? Is there a book that really sort of lit the flame for you or–?
Carol Reddan: Well, in third grade, well, this sort of I guess was the start of it for my birthday, my mother gave me my first Nancy Drew book. [00:06:00] Does it sound, well – but she gave me that. It was the Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion and then just from there out, mystery was like – I love the camaraderie of Nancy and Bess and George going to the mansion everyday trying to figure out what was going on. And I thought it was terribly scary and moaning and screeching coming from the mansion, but that set me on the mystery course.
So then – and I do like mystery also, but mysteries, but then I think it was actually [00:06:30] roughly around the same time Helter Skelter and Fatal Vision came out. They are both like true crime giants or whatnot and they were just so engrossing and Vincent Bugliosi is the prosecutor who prosecuted Charles Manson and Helter Skelter, I mean, it was just a phenomenal miniseries and book and it was great.
But Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss I thought was just so wonderful. He stayed [00:07:00] with Jeffrey MacDonald while he was being tried for the murder and he just like got to know him in such a way in Fatal Vision he just offers such psychological background and input into his personality and what was going behind the cold blue eyes.
Lauren Martino: The cold blue eyes.
Carol Reddan: Yeah, yeah. It’s scary. And true crime just gives you a window into like you just see people here and there on the street and you never really know [00:07:30] people, what’s behind people. It’s just fascinating what goes on behind people’s mind sometime.
Lauren Martino: What’s the most interesting or unusual crime you’ve ever read about?
Carol Reddan: One of my favorites and because it stays with you because it’s still one of the unsolved ones and we actually did a book club at Only Library on it a few weeks ago is the murder of William Desmond Taylor. So this takes place in the roaring 20s and Hollywood [00:08:00] and he is a very respected famous film director and he is shot one night in his bungalow and they have…
Over the years they’ve had so many suspects, so many theories but it’s never been solved and that one has just always fascinated me because it’s just a part of Hollywood history and there are so many different theories and other actresses, famous silent screen actresses were suspected of the crime. [00:08:30] One actresses mother was suspected of the crime because they were worried – she worried that her daughter was in love with this famous director that she just wanted to quit her career and marry him and have children and that would have stopped the cash flow. So she has always been a big suspect. It’s just so quintessential classic silent screen Hollywood with all the different suspects and that one has always fascinated me.
Lauren Martino: Do you ever find that some true crime books are just [00:09:00] too scary in light of the fact that the events actually took place that just stopped you from reading it?
Carol Reddan: No.
Lauren Martino: No?
Carol Reddan: No. I can always read them, but afterwards it does give you the chills a little bit, but, no, I’ll just always keep on reading through. The one that scares me the most, so one that I think is particularly scary is, it gets me is the Zodiac.
Lauren Martino: Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Carol Reddan: Okay. So the Zodiac was in the mid to late ’60’s in [00:09:30] Northern California or around the San Francisco area and that just terrified that whole area. He basically stalked couples who were parking kind of in lovers lane situations and he was active from like 1966 through 1969 and he would write letters to the San Francisco examiner like taunting them and you can’t catch me [00:10:00] and all that kind of thing.
He just sounded absolutely very, very scary. That one scares me, but they never caught him, but always every couple of years you will hear something like he used to mail letters to the San Francisco examiner. So now they took the stamps off the back of the letters and they put them through DNA analysis and they got a partial profile. So the San Francisco police say like every now and again they run it [00:10:30] through the databases to see if they get a hit, but nothing so far.
Lauren Martino: So far.
Carol Reddan: And every couple of years for sure someone will write a book saying that my father was the Zodiac or something like that. But that’s a real tantalizing one that never caught. But I like the fact that the one I wanted to mention was a new one ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara who was married to Patton Oswalt [00:11:00] and she monikered the Golden State Killer. There was a lot of rapes and killings going on in California in the ’70’s and it just didn’t for some reason get the attention of the Zodiac.
So her feeling was it’s because there is no great moniker for this. So she gave him a moniker and she wrote this book and it came out earlier this year and she passed away shortly after she wrote the book. So detectives [00:11:30] kept running, well, they had some suspects. And through DNA they have caught. The killer has now been arrested and he is going to stay on trial through DNA. So they had their suspects. So they waited for him to go to a restaurant and then they grabbed his utensils and they put it through DNA testing.
So it gives you hope that a lot of these really like unsolved cases with DNA there is hope that they will be solved and I think they did it through a public [00:12:00] generic database because Ancestry and 23andMe, their information is private. But a lot of people have uploaded their DNA to more public databases and if can just get a match on one of their distant relatives which I think happened in this case, they can trace it back. They traced it back to the Golden State Killer.
So it’s just it gives you a lot of hope that a lot of these cold cases that you think, no, they are just never, never, never going to know but maybe [00:12:30] they’ve even tried DNA analysis on a lot of things having to do with Jack the Ripper. Yeah, but time, the chain of evidence and time makes your evidence that you are getting very suspect. But someone bought a saw from an auction that was purported to be from one of the Ripper victims and it had blood on it and so they put it through DNA testing. So who know – if anything will ever come up from that or not.
Lauren Martino: And it’s just able to do more and more. [00:13:00] It's more and more chances…
Carol Reddan: Yeah, if a serial killer in 1969 is licking stamps and sending taunting letters to the newspaper, it’s never on their radar the mere act of me licking the stamp will be my demise in decades from now. Of course they might be long gone, but the Golden State Killer was really surprised when some cop showed up at his door.
Lauren Martino: I bet. Like the serial killers, please use – just a wet wipe or something.
Carol Reddan: I mean, no, you are going to leave something of yourself, you just are. [00:13:30].
Lauren Martino: Do you find yourself watching true crime documentaries or movies based on true crime or podcasts based on true crime? Do you have anything that you’d like to recommend to us?
Carol Reddan: Oh, yeah. I watch – I’ll definitely watch true crime. I love they used to do the miniseries like Fatal Vision and Helter Skelter were great miniseries that were really well done, well-acted and stay true to the books. Those were great. Now it’s the podcasts and I [00:14:00] was just like three years ago serial was just like I was obsessed. I went up to the library. It was – that was fascinating. I love the serial podcast.
Lauren Martino: You went up to the library?
Carol Reddan: The library that figures into the story, so – Adnan, it’s a group of high school students up in Baltimore County and they go to Woodlawn High School which is – the campus is right across the street from the library. So after school the high school kids, tons would just like [00:14:30] funnel over to the library. So – and that was just their routine, their habit.
So years after the murder when they are relooking into this and Adnan is accused of killing his girlfriend Hae Lee, a young lady who was at the library said, “No, you couldn’t have done it, because I saw you at the library at that time.” So they went back and they were trying to go to the library. Do you have any records of paper being on the computer? Now take, this was in 1999 and they were asking this in 2015.
Lauren Martino: Oh, gosh!
Carol Reddan: [00:15:00] So the answer was, “No, we don’t have any records left of the computer usage for that day.” But I went to the library, it gives you a weird feeling to be in a place where you know certain things happened. It’s a ‘ooh’ feeling, yeah.
Lauren Martino: So probably let our listeners know that in most cases any kind of library record is very confidential and…
Carol Reddan: Yeah, they didn’t have anything anyways.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any special way that you look for these books? Do you take recommendations [00:15:30] from friends or the library’s resources you use to find them?
Carol Reddan: Sure. Yeah, I'm always going through our readers’ café new nonfiction and I’ll be seeing it advertised or on TV or whatnot. I heard Patton Oswalt was really doing a lot of interviews because he is a widower and his wife who had died while writing her big true crime book which we are carrying now.
Lauren Martino: Which book is that?
Carol Reddan: ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara. [00:16:00] It’s really, really popular hot right now. So I heard about Patton Oswalt going on a lot of shows promoting the book. So I knew that was coming. Also I got on the odd list early for that and it’s a fascination. It was really well researched, a great book. It’s just a shame that she had to die before she saw that it’s a lot of her intensive effort which put attention back on the case, which probably prompted investigators to look at this again and then solve it.
Lauren Martino: Have you ever had a [00:16:30] situation where a family member or a friend has seen what you are reading and said, “Oh my goodness, we need to get you some help,” because that’s really disturbing. Why are you reading that?
Carol Reddan: A little bit. What that comes down to is like the frequency like you are a consistent true crime reader and they are like ‘What’s with you? Why? What is with you? Why do you find that?’ So you keep consistently going there. ‘I'm like–’ but a lot of [00:17:00] the case is that I'm drawn to if you go online, you will see that there are so many websites devoted to these cases and many, many people are intrigued and obsessed with these same very cases too or there just wouldn’t be that many websites devoted to them. I mean there are so many websites devoted to finding the Zodiac.
There is Jeffrey MacDonald websites, William Desmond Taylor, when I did the book club for the Tinseltown by William Mann which [00:17:30] takes a fresh look at the William Desmond Taylor murder. And so apparently somehow there are a lot of fanatics about that particular murder and somehow it got to an author who wrote a book about the William Desmond Taylor case in 1979.
And he called me and he wanted to take part in the book club, but the only problem was he was one of the people who he had a – [00:18:00] he has a very steadfast idea of who did it, which greatly disagreed with the new book Tinseltown and their theory and their conclusion. And so – and we sort of wanted people to sort of have their own opinion and idea and he was just very biased in favor of one suspect, one person doing it. So it didn’t work out.
Lauren Martino: So you have a true crime book club at ‘Ole’?
Carol Reddan: [00:18:30] We do. So it’s temporary. It’s a four-session special book club. So it is – if it’s Monday, it must be murder. So our first session was on the William Desmond Taylor murder and we went all into that, which was really good and people we have a display up and people are just always coming by it and reading because we give them a little overview of what we are going to be doing [00:19:00] that time.
People are just really drawn into it. So we did William Desmond Taylor, Tinseltown first and looked at that unsolved murder. Secondly we did a teen book. Actually there is a fairly new teen nonfiction book by Sarah Miller on Lizzie Borden. It’s called the Borden murders by Sarah Miller. So that was our book that sort of took us into the whole Lizzie Borden trial and murder and whatnot. And that’s a famous [00:19:30] one that people are just always drawn into really, really famous.
And I had a lot to add to that one because I’ve been Fall River. This is where my family was drawing the line. We went to Massachusetts. We went to Boston. We went to Cape Cod and I was like we are stopping in Fall River. This is where she lived and we went to her house. Her house is now a bed and breakfast. You can go all through her house and see the exact rooms they’ve tried to replicate them exactly as they were.
Lauren Martino: Oh my goodness!
Carol Reddan: In [00:20:00] 1892 when the Lizzie Borden murders of her parents were committed.
Lauren Martino: Did you stay there?
Carol Reddan: No. I did not stay there. Walked around the town though. It’s a really interesting town. Fall River, Massachusetts is a very old factory textile town. So now I guess we call it working class, but you walk around and it’s like they all know whereabouts this murder. This is a big part of our history or culture and this is why we are famous. And so if you [00:20:30] walk around and you will ask someone close to the Lizzie Borden house, they’ll start talking to you and I loved it. It just really gave me chills.
We were talking to this older gentleman and he said, “You know what, if you just go a couple of blocks down there, they built these apartments over here in the ‘60’s and there are a few old people living in those apartments who were children who remember Lizzie Borden when she was an old lady and they used to go by her house at Halloween.” So it gave me chills to know [00:21:00] I'm standing right here but over in those apartments are people who are now very elderly who actually saw Lizzie Borden.
Lauren Martino: Wow!
Carol Reddan: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: So all I really know about the Lizzie Borden case is the nursery rhyme.
Carol Reddan: Like a lot of people, right.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit more?
Carol Reddan: That’s another one that there was a really famous TV movie with Elizabeth Montgomery played Lizzie Borden and just a couple of years ago I think I want to say Christina Ricci did a new [00:21:30] Lizzie Borden movie.
Lauren Martino: But what exactly happened? What’s the story?
Carol Reddan: So this was in August 1892 and it’s in Fall River, Massachusetts. And Lizzie is a – she is 32-years-old, which for the time she was considered just a spinster. And she lives with her father and her stepmother and her sister in a small house in Fall River. And the conflict and what is going on is [00:22:00] that Lizzie is upset because she feels her father is going to leave all his fortune to her stepmother and her and her sister will be cut out of the will.
Her father is a very wealthy man, but there is a lot of tension because Lizzie likes and wants the finer things in life. She wants to travel in nice clothes and her father is tight as a drum. He will not – they don’t have running [00:22:30] water. He will not go for any luxury. So that’s generally what most people will say is at the root of a tension and she did not get along with her stepmother.
And so one morning, one hot morning, in every book you read, the morning gets hotter and hotter, but it was hot. If you went back and look back at the actual weather records, it was like 88 degrees. But nevertheless there were rumors that the [00:23:00] Borden family had suffered from food poisoning the night before. The druggist said Lizzie had been to the pharmacy asking for strychnine, all kinds of little leading up things like that.
But nevertheless on the morning I think it was August 4, 1892, Lizzie calls to her maid and says to come here quick, someone’s murdered father. And the father was in the pallet room couch and he had been [00:23:30] – his head had been axed like 40 times. They called the police. They called neighbors. Everyone starts flooding to the house and someone says to her, “Where is your stepmother?” And she had a fishy suspicious story, “Oh, she got a note that a friend was sick and she needed to go visit them.” So they go upstairs and the stepmother’s body is in the guest bedroom.
So both of them have been axed [00:24:00] and the town just went crazy. It was like the trial of the century and the police I think just a couple of days later charged her with the murder, which was huge, because nobody thought a woman at the time could commit a murder. And the prosecutor and everybody went after her but the – and her stories were inconsistent and nowadays – it would just be so – we would just think, of course, she did it.
And most people still to this day say, “Of course, she did it.” But they found her not guilty and most people say because they just [00:24:30] people did not think a woman could, would do that. A violent – it was a very, very violent crime. So she became like a pariah in Fall River and her sister stood by her. So she was found not guilty. So her and her sister did inherit all the money and she finally got her wish and they moved a couple of blocks over to the nicer side of Fall River and a big house and she had servants and maids and nice cars and [00:25:00] nice clothing.
So she did get all those material things that everybody thought she was after. But she was like a pariah and kids used to come by the house and taunt her. Probably one of those kids who was an elderly person in that apartment complex that the gentleman was talking about. And most of Fall River society really wouldn’t talk to them or have anything to do with them. But she lived – she was like in her late ’60’s into the 1920’s, which was a decent life span for that time.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any [00:25:30] Pet Peeve Tropes when it comes to true crime, anything that everybody does that just drives you crazy or–?
Carol Reddan: I guess when I think certain people are being naïve or I think that a writer is writing a book just to take a contrarian stand or a ridiculous take on the crime that everybody knows this is probably not true sort of feel like they are doing it just to get attention or whatnot, come up with a wild theory that you know probably isn’t true just to get attention.
Lauren Martino: Are there any favorite [00:26:00] true crime tropes of yours?
Carol Reddan: Well, my favorite is I really – ones that have not been solved, unsolved, that it’s still a question mark. Jack the Ripper, I guess, Lizzie Borden technically falls in that because she was found not guilty and they don’t know who killed her parents technically. And the John F. Kennedy assassination too that I read a lot of stuff on that. It happened a certain way and there is so many different theories. I'm not a big [00:26:30] conspiracy person on that. But we don’t know the whole story at least and it’s still – it’s a puzzle to be solved and put together.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any new favorites you haven’t mentioned, just anything that’s come out recently?
Carol Reddan: Well, I do like the podcasts. I really enjoy listening to them, ‘Making a Murderer,’ Keepers I’ve listened to – all those are fabulous.
Lauren Martino: What are those about? I'm not familiar with those.
Carol Reddan: Keepers is local again. [00:27:00] It takes place up in Baltimore. It goes into a private school and the murder of a nun. And, yeah, it was really interesting and that is on Netflix. Keepers is on Netflix, but – and it goes into the hierarchy of the church and whatnot and it was fascinating.
Lauren Martino: So besides the unsolved mystery and the white-collar mystery, are there [00:27:30] any other sub genres that you feel kind of stand out?
Carol Reddan: I do like true crime that involves things that have happened locally in this area in the Washington D.C., metro area. In fact some of the most fascinating ones I think are, what we mention, Baltimore seems to have more than their fair share of these stories, but once they really stick out in my mind that I remember because I lived in Montgomery County very long time. [00:28:00] An unsolved one that’s really tantalizing is the Bradford Bishop case from 1976.
Lauren Martino: Okay. What was that about?
Carol Reddan: Fabulous family it is mom, dad, and their three great boys and they lived with his, the husband’s mother. And they lived in Carderock Springs in Bethesda and he works for the state department. He is a Foreign Service officer. He is very successful, really [00:28:30] good-looking family. And everybody on their block loved them. Their boys were very athletic. They swam. Everybody thought they are the greatest family.
The bishops are just like the greatest family in the world and they have been living in Bethesda just a couple of years and it’s March 1976 and the story goes –. And I remember I lived here at the time and just hearing this story, it was just like enveloped the news. He – on the day [00:29:00] of the murders, he had been denied a promotion. So the story goes that he went home. He stopped at the Sears at Montgomery Mall and bought a hammer and he stopped at a hardware store in the little shopping center that’s still River Road and Falls Road and bought some more supplies.
And he went home and he basically killed his whole family except his dog. And the way it came to light was [00:29:30] he didn’t show up for work the next couple of days and it had been a week and the neighbors realize we haven’t seen the Bishops. Where are the Bishops and at first they thought they were the type of family who would just pick up and go skiing. So they didn’t think anything about it.
But once seven, eight days had passed, one of the neighbors called the police. The Montgomery police went and they went inside the house and it was a bloodbath. They found three boys, his mother, and his wife [00:30:00] slaughtered. It was with the hammer and there is no dad, no husband. So at the same time some cops in North Carolina are called to a remote park in North Carolina because there is a forest fire and they went and look in the forest fire, they find the Bishop family.
So the speculation is he had murdered his family, loaded them up in this car, driven to North Carolina and he was going to try to bury them and burn them [00:30:30] but no sighting of him. And so then the FBI, everybody is on it. They have dogs and they finally found his car abandoned just over the North Carolina, Tennessee state line and he has never been seen again.
Now some people – he spoke like five languages fluently. He worked for the state department. He could have access to getting passport. So the theories about him are endless. Many people think he escaped to Europe and he is living there and [00:31:00] he is just blended in to European society fine. Some people feel he would have committed suicide but nobody really knows. Some people claim to have sightings of him in Europe, but it’s tantalizing because he just disappeared into thin air and he got away with it. He would be 81 today.
And a couple of years ago the FBI added him back to the 10 most wanted list. Nothing is ever panned out. So that was just in Bethesda and he is [00:31:30] mentioned – there is a really excellent chapter the famous FBI agent John Douglas, he writes a lot of books on crime. He did anatomy of a motive and it has a nice chapter on Brad Bishop and family annihilators like people who killed their family.
Lauren Martino: Wow! Do you have any theories…?
Carol Reddan: Well, the profile usually of someone according to John Douglas is a very insecure person or whatnot, but the reason he profiled Brad Bishop was because he fit none of the stereotypes. He seemingly had a very successful career on the state department. So he breaks all the – it’s just a huge mystery like why he did this. But he took the dog with him. Somebody – actually somebody did see him. Other dogs picked up on the scent of the dog and him in these remote North Carolina areas, but then they lost the scent.
Lauren Martino: Wow! I don’t suppose there are any bed and breakfast for the [00:32:30] true crime locally?
Carol Reddan: Not that I know of. They have kept track of the Bradford Bishop house and it’s changed hands many times and a lot of times when it changes owners, they’ll go and talk to the owners, ‘Do you know the history of this house? Is this okay with you?’ And most people are like that was then. It’s a lovely house. We love our home and it doesn’t bother us. It’d bother me.
Lauren Martino: I think it would bother me too. And you got to wonder if the FBI just come pocking around that house just to see if there is anything they missed?
Carol Reddan: I doubt it now. Another really famous – another local murder that is unsolved, technically unsolved and that’s really famous is and it ties into the Kennedys. John Kennedy was having an affair as he was well known to do. But this one was a little different. This was with a woman who – she was a socialite and a painter in [00:33:30] Georgetown in the early ‘60’s and her name was Mary Pinchot Meyers and it’s significant because a lot of people said that this was like a really important relationship to John Kennedy like most of his other affairs were very superficial or whatnot.
This was an important person in his life. And she was married to a very high up CIA official and they were divorced and she was seeing John F. Kennedy which he was killed in November 1963, [00:34:00] so just 10 months later in October 1964 it was just like a – it was a Monday morning in October. She is painting in her studio in Georgetown and she set her painting up to dry and then after she would do it, it was her routine she would take a walk along the C&O Canal.
This one morning around 12:30 a car mechanic was working on a car close by and he heard a woman yelling [00:34:30] for help and when he looked over the bridge and he saw a man standing over a woman and then run away. So he called the police. The police enveloped the canal. They tried to shut everything off. They find her body.
Mary Pinchot Meyer had been shot two times in the head and they are searching around the Potomac River around the – everywhere in the woods and the trees and they find a gentleman, a young laborer Ray Crump who is then arrested [00:35:00] for the murder. So he goes to trial and he is found not guilty. He had a really fabulous lawyer, Dovey Roundtree who – there’s been a lot of biographies written about her too.
She was a really famous black woman attorney and he is found not guilty. So it’s technically unsolved. So there is a lot of rumors that they framed him that the CIA really who has had something to do with this murder, but it just remains unsolved. And there was a very good [00:35:30] biography of her, A Very Private Woman by Nina Burleigh which is a biography of her but it also goes into the murder a lot.
Lauren Martino: Carol, we like to ask everybody right before we sign off, what are you reading right now? Is it true crime or is it something else?
Carol Reddan: I'm reading a book on organizing and decluttering. It’s important. That’s what I'm looking at right now.
Lauren Martino: Which one?
Carol Reddan: Still nonfiction. It’s the…
Lauren Martino: Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Carol Reddan: Yeah and [00:36:00] that is…
Lauren Martino: By Marie Kondo.
Carol Reddan: Marie Kondo, yes.
Lauren Martino: Did you know they have a graphic novel based on that?
Carol Reddan: It's funny.
Lauren Martino: Called the Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up.
Carol Reddan: That would be great.
Lauren Martino: [Indiscernible] [00:36:11] I was like this is so amazing that’s a success.
Carol Reddan: That’s great. I like that. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: But maybe after you are finished with that one, you can move into this.
Carol Reddan: Yeah, the graphic novel.
Lauren Martino: Thank you so much for your time, Carol and being on our show. [00:36:30] Listeners, feel free to check our show notes we are going to have titles, authors, any kind of information that you forgot to write down during our show. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcasts on the Apple podcast app or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also review and rate us on Apple podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and see your next time. [00:37:00]
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.