David Payne: Welcome to the Library Matters with your host David Payne. I'm here with two of my colleagues Lauren Martino.
Lauren Martino: Hello David.
David Payne: And Julie Dina.
Julie Dina: Hi, everyone.
David Payne: Lauren is children's librarian at Silver Spring Library and Julie is the Outreach Librarian and I am the Branch Manager, Davis Library and also the current Interim Manager at the Potomac Library. So here we are at the beginning of 2018, and want better time to talk about New Year's resolutions or lack of them. And Julie and Laura are going to join me in talking about resolutions and whether we've made any. Can we keep them? Why do you think people make resolutions?
Lauren Martino: I think we just all have things that we want to improve about ourselves and improve about the world, improve in general and this is the excuse you know. It's like you need a reason to push yourself.
David Payne: A fresh start?
Lauren Martino: Yes. This is just the yearly excuse that comes by to push yourself to do whatever it is you've been wanting to do.
Julie Dina: And I think typically everyone waits for the beginning of the year because it's traditional. New Year’s rolls up and everyone starts talking about what's something new that you are going to be doing? So I think that's probably why people usually set aside New Year's resolutions.
Lauren Martino: Maybe there's a little bit of help through just the fact everyone's doing it together.
David Payne: Right. Right. So you are starting off in theory together.
Lauren Martino: There's a little bit of accountability in there. Yeah.
David Payne: Yeah. The interesting thing, I think, is that statistically, you look at all the statistics that however many people start off with resolutions, very few of them actually stay the course. I guess it's all about willpower.
Lauren Martino: I've got an article by Psychology Today that says it's 19% two years later that say they've stuck with it. However, you are 10 times more likely to make a change if you do make a resolution than if you don't. So it's like you are not likely to stick with it however, you are much more likely to stick with it than if you never do it.
David Payne: That's right.
Lauren Martino: So that's the reason to make it happen.
David Payne: Do you think that there are other times in one night, I mean, we talk about the New Year typically the start of the New Year's resolution obviously, but we can make resolutions at other times in our lives I think. Would you agree?
Julie Dina: I think so. Well personally I know I've decided to make certain changes and it also depends on what's going on around you, or in your life, or in your family’s life. So when my mom fell sick, one of the main changes that I wanted to do was to eat better and to spend more time with my family you know, and also I was talking with my colleagues earlier about how my daughter you know, she does a lot of sports and she's constantly talking about the healthier foods to eat and based around that alone I've had to make changes. So I didn't necessarily wait till New Year's Day to roll around so that would be my reason.
Lauren Martino: I think I come up with a resolution just about every week or two. The problem is sticking with it. I'm always resolving to do something it's just a – yes maybe New Year's is the reason to stick with them a little longer than I otherwise might.
David Payne: I think for me I make resolutions not to make resolutions. But there was a very interesting article in the Washington Post magazine a few weeks ago which had a break down. They did a survey and had a breakdown of what kind of resolutions people make, and the top one was obviously losing weight, health and fitness, exercising more spending less money, eating healthy. But then they found that typically only about 8% of people actually make it.
Lauren Martino: It's really hard to change.
David Payne: It's very hard to change.
Lauren Martino: I mean we've got these habits and our habits are ingrained in us and our brains are wired to do things automatically and it's an uphill battle trying to change that.
David Payne: It is. It is.
Julie Dina: And not only that in the beginning of anything everyone is always excited. You know. Oh yeah we are going to do this. I'm excited to do that. But then following through is always the harder part.
David Payne: Have any of you made any resolutions? Care to share? I haven't.
Julie Dina: Well I don't know if I'll call it a resolution, but as I mentioned earlier I have said that this year I want to eat healthier and not only that. I do want to be conscious as to how much money I'm saving.
Lauren Martino: Saving. I like the new positive spin on that.
David Payne: Saving is good.
Julie Dina: And that's – in fact I'm always saying this every month that, "This month this is what I want to save." I want to start doing, or coming up with measures as to how I can save money in every aspect of my life.
David Payne: We'll check back in six months if that will flow.
Julie Dina: Actually six weeks. How about you Lauren?
Lauren Martino: Well I have a nice list of you know, probably half a page long things that I'd like to work on. I think the one I'm settling on is like waking up a little earlier in the morning just to pray a little bit, to spend some time in some silence and without – before I start like – everything starts crowding in and I'm like, "Okay. I have to do this and I have to do this. I have to do this. I have to do this." Just to spend a little bit of time in silence. And so far yeah the main barrier is the 4 year-old. Like so if you’re getting up early is always like dependent on whether she has crawled into my bed and you know is needs and has decided to wake up at that point.
David Payne: I'm sure the cold weather doesn't help either.
Lauren Martino: Oh absolutely. It's like, "I'm cold." So yeah but you know, a couple of times I've gotten there. I'm with my coffee and I'm like – I think things have gone better for that. It's just you know keeping it up and trying to be flexible. I read a couple of articles just trying to get a grip on this topic. I think it was the Psychology Today when it was going on about how – no. No. No. It’s about Washington Post. I don't know if we read the same article, but it talked about how it's like, you are going to fail. The people who succeed in their New Year's resolutions like 71% of the time they fail on the first month. So it's like, the difference is, are you going to fail and then see that as part of the process and keep going or are you going to fail and say, oh. I failed, and give up on it?
Julie Dina: Did the article actually mention why 71% of the people actually fail at doing this?
Lauren Martino: I don't know if it mentioned specifically. One of the articles I read talked about just how difficult it is to change a habit. Just rewiring your brain and your brain does not want to be rewired, because you've got your groove. You are surviving on it and your brain wants to keep you surviving, and it doesn't like to change what's not broken. But it seems like if you are going to succeed you need a strategy of some sort. So the people that succeeded in eating better were the people that didn't even go to the cookie party. Like you can't go to the cookie party and – you can't stop gossiping if you are going to hang around the water cooler that sort of thing. You are not going to stop spending money if you go out with your mother and your hobby of shopping. You got to make a change to what's going to allow you to do that. I think also having a very specific goal helps because if you just say, I'm going to eat better and you know, it's like, this white toast with butter on it is not as unhealthy as the doughnut I could be eating. Whereas if you say, I'm going to eat something with protein and at least one fruit or vegetable every morning for breakfast. It's a little bit more you know when you've gotten it when you haven't.
Julie Dina: That sounds more like a plan.
David Payne: Yeah. And that's interesting because actually the Washington Post survey I looked at, the top reasons for failure was 58% not enough willpower.
Lauren Martino: Not enough willpower.
David Payne: Which, as you said, you got all right coming up with a goal but think it through. Is it measurable? Is it doable? Because you do have to adjust your life and your brain. And 44% cited lack of a plan, 32% time management and 28% again, as you mentioned, goals weren't well-defined. So all very well coming up with a resolution but has to be measurable, has to have a specific outcome, and I think that's obviously where people are failing. When we look to renew ourselves at the beginning of the year, or whenever with our resolutions, often people turn to self-help books. Do you like self-help books? Some of them I'm drawn towards. Most of them I'm not, because I think they are so many on the market now, have to pick and choose. I think. So any thoughts about self-help books? What's a good self-help book to you?
Julie Dina: I don't particularly love self-help books. I've read some. The ones that I do like though are the ones that at the end of each chapter it has exercises. You know they are interactive and it depends on what that chapter is about. It asks you to do certain exercises, and I like the ones that mention step-by-step ways on accomplishing those goals. And I sometimes will refer to them just so I know what I'm suggesting for my customers mainly. But, will I really use them? Maybe in the future.
Lauren Martino: Maybe later.
Julie Dina: Maybe later.
Lauren Martino: I'm a little bit the opposite. I think it's one of those occupational hazards of working in a library. I feel I'm surrounded all the time by books promising me a better life. It's like I'm waiting for the elevator. There's an entire cart of non-fiction books there and it's like, I could eat better. I could eliminate sugar from my diet. I could be more assertive. I could –
David Payne: Be rich.
Lauren Martino: Yes. I could be rich. I could learn how to use the 20% of time that I'm using at work goofing off to better my performance. It's just the library promises everything and it's finding the willpower to say, "Okay. I'm going to focus on this one and give it my attention." And usually that breaks down for me right around the time of those exercises, because then I'm like, Oh men. I have to get up and get a piece of paper and a pencil. So yeah. Willpower at least that much.
David Payne: But I should say that MCPL does have a tremendous array of self-help books in all subjects.
Julie Dina: They sure do.
David Payne: The most popular ones were decluttering, finance, relationships. Yeah.
Julie Dina: Oh yeah.
Lauren Martino: And I was just talking to Beth Chandler and she's like, "Oh yeah, I'm ordering more." They are on the horizon as well.
Julie Dina: Beyond the lookout.
David Payne: We have something for you.
Lauren Martino: Just in terms of self-help books. Some of the ones I like are almost more of the overarching ones like the, you know, "How to Help Yourself." There's one by – I'm going to totally slaughter his name - I think he is just known on Being Mortal Atul Gawande
David Payne: Oh yes.
Lauren Martino: Yes. But he wrote this lovely I mean short little book. Short little book about the checklist manifesto. I have to say if there's one self-help book and I'm not even sure it was written as a self-help book, because it's almost more his journey of like how he discovered, oh, yeah. They started using this with surgeries and it works. At some point while they were developing like airplanes and they were starting to use them in the military, they discovered that the planes they were building were just way too complex for any human to use. And they are like, oh well. These are too complicated for people and sort of giving up on them. They are like, oh. We can write down this list of steps. Everything you need to do before you take off and before you land. And at some point he came to this conclusion, "We should really be doing this when we cut people open."
Julie Dina: That would be a good idea.
Lauren Martino: Checklist: Are all the surgical instruments out? Check! And it was kind of a breakthrough and I'm like, "Oh yeah. Getting out the door in the morning.”We had a small baby at home. It's like, yes. Pacifier. Check. Everything I need for the breast pump. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.
Julie Dina: Formula.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Formula. Check. Yeah just this way of making a complex world a heck of a lot less complicated. Has to be my number one that I've actually gotten something out of.
David Payne: Yeah, I really like for me, Getting Things Done by David Allen it's now a classic, has really transformed my way of trying to keep order with my workload. It's been a book that's been around for a fair while now. But I definitely recommend it. It's a great book for thinking about what the word done actually means and he breaks it down.
Lauren Martino: That's where I struggle too. So what does the word done actually mean?
David Payne: Well, it encourages you to define what it means for you because as we talked about, the problem with setting goals and plans is people don't think, "How are you breaking it down so it's actually achievable?" And he makes you think or realize a plan has to have a beginning, and an end, and the component parts. And people get stressed because they are over ambitious with their plans, with their management, their time management skills, desires, and that's where it all gets lost. So he's very, very good at breaking things down and making you think and coming to your own conclusion of what done means for you. You think about it in a way that makes it sensible for you. That's why it's a great book. It really helped me thinking – in my thinking of arranging my clutter and workload. Definitely recommend it.
Lauren Martino: Okay, Getting Things Done.
Julie Dina: Done. Check.
Lauren Martino: Done. Check. Because I have this lovely – okay. What I've been focusing on recently and this has been maybe my downfall with the number of goals I have. But I have this lovely app on my phone called Habitica. It's essentially a role-playing game/to-do list. So you get like okay, this is ridiculous and I feel a little embarrassed about it. But if anybody thinks this is a good idea, please join our party because we need more people. But yes, it's like every time you do something you can assign how hard you think it is and you know it's like the longer it takes you to do it the more points it's worth, but you get experience points and you get coins and you could buy gear with your coins and then you can go battle monsters. You do damage to them based on what you do.
But part of this is also you've got habits you want to develop for yourself and of course you know every time I do something wrong it's like, okay. There's another habit. But what I get to is like, okay. Well I checked all these off. I did exactly what it says here. Now I need to make another item because it's like, well. This isn't really resolved. I asked my boss about this and now I need to act on what he just said. So yeah. It's like I don't know if we humans are really equipped [inaudible 00:16:33] involving to do, I think
David Payne: I think so. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Into the world we have created for ourselves.
Lisa Navidi: And now, a brief message about MCPL services and resources. Love is in the air. February is Library Lovers Month. Think of all the ways you love your library. It's a place to check out books, attend programs, learn new skills, and so much more. Join us for the Library Lovers' Month kickoff event. A family-friendly STEM program at Aspen Hill on February 3rd at 11:00 am. You can find a link to this and other Library Lovers Month events in these episode show notes. Now back to our program.
David Payne: Julie you talked about money savings earlier. I read a very good book on personal finance, money management which is a great read, Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry. Came out last year. It's actually a book for the millennial generation which I'm afraid I'm past. But it's a very easy to read book, straightforward book on money management.
Julie Dina: What are the highlights, or what are major things in the book that will actually help me?
David Payne: Well, I think the parent who's looking at university costs, tuition, they talk a lot because it's geared to that age range.
Julie Dina: I'm glad you brought that up. My daughter starts –her last year is actually this year.
Lauren Martino: That's terrifying isn't it?
Julie Dina: Yeah it really is.
David Payne: They talk a lot – she talks about student loans and the whole business of applying for them and then paying back. Which is the parent of a student who's just graduated and its payback time. Very interesting to me. But no it’s very, very good book. Very straightforward. Written in very clear language. I'd definitely recommend that for readers of all ages. And it's on our library shelves.
Julie Dina: I will take heed.
David Payne: Take a look at that one.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Speaking of financial self-help and financial matters, I was going over this with all of my colleagues and Michelle Halber who will also be on our podcast about romance novels mentioned Michelle Singletary, who's got a column in the Post, she's got a number of books too, and I think she just came out with like a 20 day financial fast book that, if we don't have it we have it on order.
David Payne: And in fact this Broke Millennial was actually recommended by Michelle Singletary last year, so that's how I got hold of it.
Lauren Martino: She's got so much common sense.
Lauren Martino: Yes. You are so right.
David Payne: But for looking ahead for the person who wants, let's say, to learn something new in 2018, what are some of the great MCPL resources that can help a person do that? I know we got some exciting new resources that we can tell everybody about?
Lauren Martino: Looking at the outreach person who –
Julie Dina: Well I know we've recently just got into our system something called lynda.com.
David Payne: lynda.com is a great resource for learning new things.
Lauren Martino: There's a lot of different computer skills on there.
David Payne: A lot of computer skills.
Lauren Martino: Very technical things that I don't think we have anywhere else.
David Payne: Right.
Lauren Martino: And a lot of people have been asking for it.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: The good thing about it they cover these things at various levels. So it can be for the beginner who wants to learn about word processing, or the basics of computing to a higher level of, let's say, Excel or PowerPoint. And they have a whole selection of videos to go with each course, so that's a very powerful database that can be accessed from our website.
Julie Dina: Also Gill courses. They are bigger and bigger each year and every event that I go to, actually the fliers usually run out. It seems like people already know about them. In the beginning I would have to talk and tell people about them but now they ask me, "Why are the classes filling up quickly?" So Gill courses, I mean we have over 300 courses. So you can imagine. Ranging from Nurse's Assistant courses, we have accounting. We have cooking, photography, anything you can think of.
Lauren Martino: American Sign Language.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: Yes.
Lauren Martino: Books. Things for teachers.
Julie Dina: And people love the fact that it's actually free. I mean you are not going to get this anywhere else and sometimes you have to pay a lot of money to get certification for some of these courses, so once they know it's free and now that a lot of people know it's free, the classes fill up quickly. I like them.
Lauren Martino: And they are demanding. Like they are not just like you watch a video and that's it.
David Payne: No. No. You have to keep up.
Lauren Martino: You've got exercises and it has a time frame. I think that kind of helps you like feel a little better –
Julie Dina: Exactly.
Lauren Martino: You got a deadline. You got to do this.
David Payne: Yeah. We've also got another fairly new resource, Learning Express, which has – I don't know whether all of you’ve used it already, sample tests for students, but also courses on basic computing as well, I think.
Lauren Martino: There's things in there for people with IP courses and also basic things like if you want to become a better writer at work. Like better just adults, workplace English skills. Things like that.
David Payne: Yeah. And I think the great thing about Learning Express is that it addresses younger students, teenagers, perhaps students with the SAT, ACT, and then adults in the workforce as well. Looking for vocational tests and then general skills like computing. So great resource.
Lauren Martino: I've been playing around a lot with ArtistWorks.
Julie Dina: Oh my gosh. That's my favorite. Everyone – that's all I talk about. That's how I start any conversation at any event that I go to. It's the best.
Lauren Martino: So tell us about ArtistWorks.
Julie Dina: I'll tell you.
Lauren Martino: Give us the low down.
Julie Dina: I'll give you the low down. So imagine you've been trying to learn a particular instrument for a while. And we all know how much costly it could be. ArtistWorks all you need to do is create an account with us with your library card, and there is an array of instruments that are actually offered.
Lauren Martino: And it's a big array.
Julie Dina: Any instrument that you can actually think of. Actually I think the ukulele is even one of them.
Lauren Martino: They didn’t because I was looking for that. And they didn't have it at first. And then it was recommended and it came and then we were all like, "We have a big ukulele culture here.” I don’t know if you are aware of that.
Julie Dina: Exactly.
Lauren Martino: And all of us were like, "When are you getting to ukulele?" And they are like, "It's in production. We are getting it." And then, “It's available now."
Julie Dina: Yes and we do have it. So when I go to a lot of the back to school nights, I talk about it so that parents know and sometimes parents actually are excited that they can actually sign up too. And best of all MCPL always brings the best for their customers. Guess what? The instructors are actually Grammy and Emmy Award winners. So imagine you are getting the best to teach you the best. And what they do in the beginning is you take a test in the beginning, so that they know if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced. In that way they can set aside how your courses would actually be. But I think it's the best thing. They offer graphic drawing in there, voice lessons, piano. I've always wanted to be a rock star so.
David Payne: There's a chart. There's a chart there.
Julie Dina: I mean I could be a rock star for free.
Lauren Martino: Provided you’ve got the commitment.
Julie Dina: Exactly.
Lauren Martino: I learned a nice little ukulele act.
Julie Dina: Oh have you?
Lauren Martino: Yes. Yeah. I was amazed because it was like something that I don't think you come across in just like a standard book. But yeah was this really like innovative way of trying to get your fingers to move like, apart from each other. It's like, "Take your index and your ring finger and try to touch them at the same time to your thumb. And then take your middle finger and your pinkie.”
Julie Dina: I tried.
Lauren Martino: It's hard.
David Payne: It sounds hard.
Lauren Martino: It's hard and they are like, "Yeah, yeah. This is hard but do it every day."
David Payne: You'll get sore fingers.
Lauren Martino: You'll get sore fingers. Yeah. I mean you are doing this on the strings and yeah it was just really helpful and I got a banjo for Christmas too so I am like, "We are breaking up that banjo. ArtistWorks. And we are going to give it a shot too."
David Payne: That's great. So all those are available on our MCPL website.
Lauren Martino: Those are all available on our website with your library card.
David Payne: With your library card. So we traditionally end our podcasts with question to be asked our guests about what they are reading right now or a book that they recently enjoyed. Julie, any thoughts.
Julie Dina: Well, since I've been talking about money all day, it's to no surprise the book that I'm actually reading right now it’s entitled, Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi. I'm only in the beginning part of it, but so far I'm loving it and it's saying, "Why would you continue to do the same thing if it's bringing you results that you don't want?" So you've got to venture out of what you are used to doing and start taking risks. And he's saying this. He's obviously a millionaire and he hangs around millionaires, and he gives us secrets as to what millionaires actually talk about and actually do to produce results.
Lauren Martino: So you are the fly on the wall in the millionaires like clubhouse?
Julie Dina: Yeah. I mean, I could say I'm a millionaire. I'm reading their book.
David Payne: Pass all the secrets to us.
Julie Dina: I'll see what I can do. How about you Lauren?
Lauren Martino: Well I think somebody else said just like in a previous episode said this was an awesome book so I gave it a try. It’s Clayton Byrd, children’s librarian here full disclosure. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Garcia Williams. I loved her – oh gosh. She wrote One Crazy Summer, and Gone Crazy in Alabama, and just a series about these lovely little girls whose mommy was a Black Panther and they went to visit her in California. Just her way of writing about relationships. Like sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers, and just the way of kind of portraying just how rich and loving they are in all of the flaws. Clayton, he's got his grandfather and his grandfather –he loves his grandfather and his grandfather loves him, and they are the closest in the world. And at the same time we've got Clayton's mommy who the grandfather was a blues musician. Left her behind all the time.
And so it's Clayton – it happens at the very beginning of the book, so I'm not spoiling too much. But spoiler alert. Grandfather dies. And so we've got the little boy who's mourning his grandfather and his mother. She’s dealing with it in her own way. But she's basically trying to get him out of the house. Getting him out of their life and the boy is like, "No. No. You’re getting rid of his guitars. Why? This is his guitars. Famous blues musician. Just getting rid of his guitars." So just how he's coping with that. He's a kid so and this is an adventure story so he runs away. Shenanigans ensue. But I just love how she writes about families and in this very believable nuanced way. And that's my adult take on this kids' book.
David Payne: Sounds great. And for me normally I don't read fiction. I'm generally a non-fiction reader but when John le Carre came out with his latest book, Legacy of Spies, I couldn't put it down. Johhn Le Carre I think, my fellow country man is a master storyteller and his latest book is a great read. We are not going to be spoilers, but it draws on two of his previous works, one of his very first ones, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold which I think came out in the early 60s and then Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and he draws on those two books and moves between the past and the present at quite a rate. And always a great read. That book is available, as I think the ones you mentioned, at MCPL. So thank you both very much indeed for sharing your resolutions and your hopes and –
Julie Dina: It's been great.
Lauren Martino: And next time I resolve to do something with finances, or something with productivity, I know where to go.
David Payne: And Julie, we'll check back and see if you made it.
Lauren Martino: No. We should do this again next year.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lauren Martino: See where we are all at.
Julie Dina: That's true. That'll be fun.
Lauren Martino: One year from now. Here we go.
Julie Dina: We would like to say a special thank you to our listeners. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stature, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We'll love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Episode Summary: Hosts Julie Dina, Lauren Martino, and David Payne talk about New Years resolutions. Are they helpful? What are some strategies for keeping them? How can MCPL help you make a change?
Recording Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Hosts: Julie Dina, Lauren Martino, and David Payne
Featured MCPL Resource: February is Library Lovers Month. The Library Lovers Month Kickoff event will take place at Aspen Hill Library, February 3, 2018 at 11 AM. It will feature an interactive STEM show and a hands-on booth “Bubbling Potions and Explosions” by the Science Guys of Baltimore. Here are some other fun events to help you express your love for libraries.
What Our Hosts Are Reading:
Julie Dina: Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi
Books and other MCPL Resources Mentioned During this Episode:
Artist Works: Unlimited access to beginning through advanced, self-paced video lessons for instruments, voice and physical art. NOTE: Our subscription to Artist Works does not currently include quizzes.
Gale Courses: High-quality, free courses and career training programs offered entirely online.
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Learning Express: Offers online tutorials, practice tests, and e-books to improve job search and workplace skills; reading, writing, math, and basic science comprehension; and career certification, licensure and education testing skills.
Lynda.com: Learn new skills online! Lynda.com offers over 6,000 courses in business, technology, and creative endeavors taught by industry experts.
The 21 Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom by Michelle Singletary
Other Items of Interest:
Habitica: App mentioned by host Lauren Martino that turns adopting good habits and avoiding bad ones into a game.
Lauren Martino: Hello, welcome to Library Matters. I'm Lauren Martino, your host.
David Payne: And I'm David Payne.
Lauren Martino: And today we are here with Dana Alsup, and Amy Alapati who are going to talk to us about MoComCon. MoComCon is coming up guys, it's coming up very quickly.
Dana Alsup: Yes it is.
Lauren Martino: We are very excited to hear more about this event in January. So can you tell us a little bit about what is MoComCon; what is the silly name all about?
Dana Alsup: Well, MoComCon is the Montgomery County Public Libraries Comic Con, so Comic Con let's bring it back even further past MoComCon Comic Con.
Lauren Martino: It's for us square people.
Dana Alsup: I see, it means Comic Convention, and it's an event celebrating comics and comic culture. There’s Comic Con celebrated all over the country, all over the world. The biggest one in the United States is in San Diego and that is when people usually say Comic Con that's what they were referring to. And that's where big names go to and they talk about new movies, they talk about new Star Wars, they talk about new Marvel, and stuff like that. So ours is not San Diego.
David Payne: Not quite.
Lauren Martino: Stan Lee won’t be there?
Dana Alsup: Stan Lee will not be there, he’ll just be the janitor in the corner making a subtle appearance.
Lauren Martino: Exactly.
Dana Alsup: But we will have local authors and we will have artists, we will have cosplay contests, there will be cosplayers there. Cosplay is costumes that people dress up as characters, there will be workshops and panels and drop-in events and merriment in abundance there.
Lauren Martino: For people of all ages too.
Dana Alsup: For people of all ages.
Amy Alapati: Not just for grownups and it's not just for comic book geeks.
David Payne: It's for everybody.
Amy Alapati: Everybody, Everyone would be interested, preschoolers, there's story time at the beginning.
Lauren Martino: Technically a little bit before.
Amy Alapati: A little bit before the start time, there's things for elementary age kids, teens, young adults, adults, senior citizens so no matter what your interest, if it's comic books, if it’s graphic novels, mange, anime, superheroes, fantastical realms, dragons, magic, time travel, zombies or any other pop culture fandom you are sure to find something of interest in our Comic Con.
Lauren Martino: If you want to geek out?
Amy Alapati: Yes.
Lauren Martino: So this is the place to geek out?
David Payne: So now that we define MoComCon and a Com con, tell us when, where, how do we get to it, where do we find it?
Amy Alapati: So this year MoComCon is the same place that it was last year at the Silver Spring library, the address is 900 Wayne Avenue Silver Spring Maryland 20910, and it's happening on Saturday January 27th 2018. The day is going to start with that super hero story time we talked about that's for preschoolers and that's at 10:30 but the workshops and panels begin at 12:00 noon. So we're hoping that people will arrive in the morning sometime between 11:00 and 12:00 to get registered, to get their bearings, to look around make their plans. There is convenient free parking located in the Wayne Avenue parking garage directly across the street from the library, the address for the parking garage is 921 Wayne Avenue. So set your GPS for that, but the library also has easy access by public transport, you can get there via the on bus, the Metro bus or the Metro Red Line, and there are directions to Comic Con on our website www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library.
Lauren Martino: We'll put all of this in our show notes as well, so in case you didn't have your pen to write everything down.
David Payne: There you have it.
Lauren Martino: There you have it. So if I'm not into comics or graphic novels, if I just I haven't read either of those should I still go to MoComCon? Is there something for me there?
Dana Alsup: Yes, do you like crafts?
Lauren Martino: I do like crafts.
Dana Alsup: Then you should go, because there's going to be a DIY dragon egg.
Lauren Martino: My favorite.
Dana Alsup: You can make your own dragon egg, so if you want to make a dragon egg ala Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. And then.
Lauren Martino: Your choice.
Dana Alsup: And then you could take your dragon egg and go sit in our very own homemade Iron Throne.
Lauren Martino: And put the crown on your head, 3D printed.
Dana Alsup: You could do it all. So if you like crafts, there's going to be button making, there’s going to be crafts for kids and they can be superheroes, or you, do you like to dress up?
Lauren Martino: Who doesn’t like to dress up?
Dana Alsup: Costumes or not just for Halloween, you can reuse them at Comic Con and if you're into learning about new technologies, we have a Google expeditions that will have there and you can immerse yourself into various TV production sites like say The TARDIS, you can get yourself into a TARDIS via Google expeditious.
Lauren Martino: Seriously that's what we're doing at Google ex- how to.
David Payne: That’s actually great because as a Doctor Who nut I do have to ask you what is there for the Doctor Who fan?
Dana Alsup: Okay, well for.
Lauren Martino: Amy is sighing, last year she had the complete outfit with the hat.
Amy Alapati: Yeah last year was the TARDIS last year was the TARDIS.
Lauren Martino: It was the most incredible TARDIS wasn’t it?
David Payne: Yeah how do you follow that?
Amy Alapati: I followed it by going to Awesome Con and having David Tennant sign my TARDIS hat.
Lauren Martino: Oh my goodness.
Amy Alapati: Sadly David Tennant is not coming to MoComCon.
Dana Alsup: But you know what David, if you're listening, you are welcome to join us we would be thrilled absolutely.
David Payne: And there is always next year.
Dana Alsup: Always next year. So there's lots of stuff to be doing, and comics play a large part in Comic Cons, but it's all kinds of fandom, it's not just things that have started as comic books, imagine Harry Potter, Game of Thrones those are not comic books, but it’s all kinds of fandom's, Disney, we are going to have stuff about Disney there as well all kinds of stuff.
Amy Alapati: We have a really exciting Harry Potter link this year, do you want to talk about it Dana?
Dana Alsup: We have a Harry Potter escape room this year, so you can solve Harry Potter style riddles to get out of the escape room. And I – That's what I think I maybe most exited for, and it makes me a little bit sad that I'm not attending as just as someone coming into the building and attending the whole event, I will be working the whole time.
Amy Alapati: One of these years.
Dana Alsup: One of these years.
Lauren Martino: You just have to not be part of the Comic Con but yeah I want to see how many people show up in costume during the Harry Potter escape room because that would be amazing.
Dana Alsup: I am a huge Harry Potter person so I'm very jazzed about that.
Amy Alapati: We had a lot of great costumes last year and I'm hoping that we will again this year, we have that cosplay contest and we give a nice prize.
Dana Alsup: Yes we do.
Amy Alapati: And in three different categories, the kids category, the teen category, and the adult category. So lots of adults came in costume last year, there were some pretty serious costume.
Dana Alsup: There were.
Amy Alapati: Several doctors, 10 and 11 were both there.
Dana Alsup: And the kid who won the kid's costly contest that Amy and I judged, it was incredible he was a Pokémon card, It was such and he [crosstalk].
Amy Alapati: He had lights.
Lauren Martino: He had lights.
Dana Alsup: It was such an amazing – it was so amazing I couldn't believe that he had made this at home, we were so impressed by the talent and the skill put into this costume.
Amy Alapati: He was little like what do you think like seven eight years old?
Dana Alsup: Yeah.
Amy Alapati: And he was there all day long and it was like a card, it was almost like a box around him and he wore it all day long.
Dana Alsup: It was very impressive. He was excellent.
David Payne: Maybe he will come with something else this year.
Amy Alapati: Hope so, I hope so.
Dana Alsup: Oh gosh yeah, one up himself.
David Payne: So as you mentioned this is the second year of MoComCon. How did the idea of, how did the idea come about of doing MoComCon and why Silver Spring Library?
Dana Alsup: So the origin story of MoComCon is that one of our assistant directors attended a conference where she learned about Dover Public Libraries Comic Convention and in Delaware, and she gave this idea– she loved this idea and she gave it over to a teen committee who is made up of librarians and other staff members who come up with programming and stuff for teens throughout the county. So they worked pretty hard coming up with an outline of what a Comic Con at the library would look like and last year we made it happen.
Lauren Martino: First time ever.
Dana Alsup: First time ever and it was intense trying to figure out what exactly we should do, what people would want to attend, and we – I think we did a good job.
Amy Alapati: We had 10,000 more ideas than we could actually do and even the week before we’re like, “What if we add–” “No, we can’t no.”
Dana Alsup: No, and they're even ideas for this year where we had to table them and it's like maybe next year, maybe next year, there's so many possibilities but there's only so much time and space unless we are in the TARDIS. So that was how it kind of came to be, and MCPL wanted to have an event not just for teens although the main focus of it was providing programming for teens, but just like a great community event, a large event. And last year we picked the date which was January 21st 2017, we picked it in the spring and later it became the day of the Women's March which was little bit of a blow at first, but our community really turned out for the event and it was an incredible day. It was bananas I think for staff, I don't think I stopped talking saying the same things about where everything was as for four hours straight, but I walked out of there with a big dumb smile on my face seeing that everyone was happy.
Amy Alapati: So many customers thanked us for having such a fun and positive event at a time that was in a little bit of upheaval for our country, and even people who went to the Women's March instead of coming to Comic Con, when they got off the Metro, off the Red Line they stopped in MoComCon on their way home from the Women's March some of them so that was fun too.
Dana Alsup: It was great.
Amy Alapati: To be able to help serve everybody.
Dana Alsup: Yeah and then why is Silver Spring as Amy mentioned before it has enough, it has a lot of parking and that garage across the street and it's free on the weekends, and it's close to the Metro station and many bus routes. So it's very accessible for a lot of people in the county and also coming over from the district as well.
Amy Alapati: And it's a big building, it's a three story building so there's a lot of space, there's a lot of rooms where we can have different events, we can have fandom rooms, we can have workshops, we can have tabletop activities, so it's a good marriage between the two of accessibility and the space.
Lauren Martino: Not to mention plenty of plugs.
David Payne: And I’m guessing people come from quit a distance to–
Dana Alsup: We do one of the people on our panels Melody on our author panel is coming from New York just to attend our conference and to be a part of our panel on our presentations which is pretty great.
David Payne: That’s great.
Dana Alsup: And we know that people came from various parts of the state even to come to this. Comic Cons tend to get followings and people seek out these events, so I'm glad that people were getting involved and seeing like they're coming from Baltimore, they're coming from Anne Arundel County to come to our MoComCon.
Amy Alapati: Our first ever MoComCon, we didn't know how many people would come, we didn’t know if there would be ten people or a thousand people, and we had a good number.
Dana Alsup: We did.
David Payne: Are there sort of Comic Con listservs you post this information on this kind of thing or?
Dana Alsup: I don’t know about listservs but I may have to look into that. But there are – posting things in local like comic shops and in places like that where we might catch the attention of people who are interested in cons. And not just within the county but in other places, not everyone lives in this county staff-wise, so we tend to take it home with us and sharing our communities outside of Montgomery County as well to pull people into it.
Lauren Martino: So what's different this year? What are you excited about this year that we didn't have last year?
Amy Alapati: Well, for me I'm excited about that Harry Potter escape room that we talked about. But I'm really excited about one of our guest speakers this year Marc Tyler Nobleman.
Lauren Martino: Yes, please do tell us.
Amy Alapati: He is such an entertaining speaker, he is going to talk primarily about two of his nonfiction books. He wrote about the creators of some of our most iconic superheroes. His first book was Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, it got multiple stared reviews and it made the front page of USA Today. And then his second book it went even further it's called Bill The Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, and this book is about just what it says the co-creator Batman that nobody really knew about until Marc Tyler Nobleman started researching the origins of Batman, and he discovered that this guy really was the co-creator but never had any credit for it. And so he wrote a book about it, and it drew so much attention it inspired a Hulu documentary called Batman and Bill. It has inspired a TED talk, it's been covered by NPR's All Things Considered, the Today Show, The New York Times, Forbes Magazine; it made the best of the year lists at USA Today and The Washington Post and on MTV.
So Marc’s research for this book turned the history of comic books upside down, and if you want to learn more you're going to have to come to his presentation which for adults teens and children ages eight and older and he'll do a whole PowerPoint and talk about his journey and his journey with Bill Fingers family members, who also did not know about his history. It’s pretty inspiring.
Dana Alsup: It’s amazing, I'm very excited about him coming, I think it's such an incredible journey that he's been on and then will take us on. We’ll become a part of it, but we have a couple different presentations we have Marc Tyler Nobleman coming in the escape room, we have some new table crafts and the dragon eggs which is a staff led program, then the Google expeditions as I mentioned we can go inside the TARDIS. We have fandom rooms at Comic Con and for those that didn't attend last year we are in the smaller meeting rooms within Silver Spring and there are rooms that are dedicated to one fandom. So last year like there's one room and it's all Star Wars and you can just immerse yourself in Star Wars and there's props, and you can take photos, there's posters, there's backdrops all kinds of fun stuff in there.
Amy Alapati: We had Doctor Who last year.
Dana Alsup: Last year we had Doctor Who so we're bringing some back we will have Star Wars again but we're having some newer ones and we're going to have anime and manga specific one, we're going to have Disney and we're going to have a Game of Thrones one, which is where you will find said homemade iron throne.
Lauren Martino: That Dana-
Dana Alsup: Yeah is in my living room. And I'm very fearful pocking an eye out on.
David Payne: It sounds intriguing.
Dana Alsup: It’s intense. My dog is not a fan and one of our other work group members Tom is 3D printing a crown to wear, so you can just have your dragon egg, wear the crown, do the whole thing and.
David Payne: Get the whole experience.
Dana Alsup: The whole thing immerses you.
Amy Alapati: Immersion.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any tips for anybody trying to make a throne at home?
Dana Alsup: A throne at home, hot glue super glue did not hold it the way I wanted it to, it's just got to be a hot glue gun, and you got to get your Adirondack chair before they sell out. Lauren reminded me of that shortly before I bought my chair. “I think Dana, they're going to sell out.” “You’re right, they will.” So we have also another local person coming and a fellow podcaster Matthew Winner is coming and his podcast and his website is All the Wonders and it's about children's books, so he'll be doing a presentation about children's graphic novels which I find to be some of the best graphic novels.
Amy Alapati: I agree with that.
Dana Alsup: Children's graphic novels [crosstalk] we were reading one like reading one today, they're fantastic. So he is going to talk about those. And he is also a media specialist – an elementary school media specialist, so he is – that is his thing, is children's books and children's graphic novels, so he's coming as well. And I think those are some different things that we have going on this year.
Amy Alapati: And then some old favorites coming back the button machine.
Dana Alsup: Yes the buttons machine we have two this year.
Amy Alapati: Yes, the line won’t not going to be as long if you were there last year.
Dana Alsup: You can button away.
Amy Alapati: You can make your own button badges and we have all different kinds of artwork for you to manipulate into a button or a badge.
Dana Alsup: And we have Don Sakers who is back doing his writing and publishing sci fi and fantasy workshops which are very popular last year so he's coming back to do those again as well. And Future Makers is going to be doing workshops – different last year we had a Dalek drawbots. Another nod to Dr. Who.
Dana Alsup: We had Doctor Who cover.
Amy Alapati: We did; we had Doctor Who covered last year, sorry David.
David Payne: Well, next year. [crosstalk] [0:17:21].
Amy Alapati: That will be existing, and this year they're going to do drawing with light wands. So that’s a fun thing.
Amy Alapati: That is going to be fun.
David Payne: Yeah obviously putting on an event of this scale seems to require a lot of planning and preparation, is that the kind of thing where the minute you stop the 2018 event you'll be looking ahead to 2019 how do you go planning that?
Dana Alsup: Oh yeah.
Amy Alapati: Absolutely.
Lauren Martino: Tell us your secrets.
Dana Alsup: We started planning 2018 the moment 2017 – during 2017.
Amy Alapati: During 2017 next year we are not doing this again.
Dana Alsup: We all started, going into your first one you don't know exactly what you're coming into and you of some things you just have to make up because you're not sure how it's going to go. And so during 2017 we over all I think left with like tiny pieces of scrap paper in our pocket with ideas and comments, this did not work, this is absolutely worked. A customer said we should do this, let's try this next year. And in two weeks after the event we came together again as a team and we did a massive debrief for two hours of just nonstop, what worked? What didn't work? What do we do better? How do we change this? What about next year?. And then shortly thereafter I was tasked with heading up the team for 2018 so every all planning started pretty much immediately. But we've been working solidly on this one for about seven months.
Amy Alapati: Yeah and of cause it's – I'm going to say this because I'm not in charge of it, it’s so much easier this year than last year because we're not starting from scratch, because we have
some expectations realistic expectations of what works, what didn't work, how it's going to run. So I feel like this year we had a better handle on – from the start gate, how it was going to go.
Dana Alsup: Yes, I agree even as the person writing it, I totally agree. The wonderful Lennea did this last year, and she created an amazing framework that I have and structure that I have really built this on without altering too many things but-
Lauren Martino: Can you tell us a little bit about that for anybody that's out there wanting to do this in their library?
Dana Alsup: I mean it's every – you start with nothing, you start with I want to have a Comic Con. And what the heck does that mean? You start with nothing and I – Thank goodness, I have Amy and the other teams, you send them emails, “Does this make sense? Will this work? Is this a real thing? Am I making these words up?” So I have a great team to bounce all these wacky ideas off of-
Amy Alapati: And she’s open to hearing. “No, Dana that's crazy, that’s not going to work.”
Dana Alsup: Yes, “Dana these are not real words, none of this makes sense.” But Lennea, and us as a team last year we started with nothing except, “I think we want to have a cosplay contest.” “I think we want to have local authors.” “I think we want to have a panel about diversity and comics,” and then you just build everything. You find people in the community who are experts in the field of diversity in comics, you find local authors, these fandom rooms were-
Amy Alapati: From people's closets.
Dana Alsup: Closets, you know, honestly. I think I have–
Lauren Martino: So you picked people there were big geeks that had a bunch of stuff.
Dana Alsup: Exactly. You say, “Well actually I have this and I'm willing to loan it for the day.”
Amy Alapati: I had 17 cauldrons in my closet and some brooms.
Dana Alsup: Great, terrific, let’s put it in a room. And we used – you know the Future Makers have done various things throughout Montgomery County for years now and so we called on them, and they were willing to adapt something to be a Dalek rather than what they had originally called it to – So it’s starts from just ideas and what you think of what this could be and you think of what other cons are and how can you make it happen here, but it's a lot of work-
David Payne: And he managed to get you other work done at the same time.
Dana Alsup: Somehow. Although I feel like with it coming up so quickly but my life is just dominated by it. I can't escape it. I have boxes of Comic Con stuff in my house, I have that chair in my living room. I cannot escape Comic Con right now, but it's well worth it I have to say. To see how happy our community was at the end of last year’s was just – I think it's what pushed the majority of all of us, of the team from last year to come back and do it again, was how much fun it really was.
Amy Alapati: Yeah. And it's really – it's a way for people to come together and over things that they have in common. Even if you're a Harry Potter fan and somebody else is a Star Wars fan, but you're coming together in this open and welcoming environment where it's okay, to be all of those things.
David Payne: For all of our ages.
Amy Alapati: For all ages.
Dana Alsup: For all ages.
Amy Alapati: It crosses generations, it crosses socioeconomic backgrounds, it just – it connects everybody together.
Lauren Martino: So Dana I’m a librarian what’s your super power?
Dana Alsup: My super power if I had one would probably be flight that I don't have to commute anymore. Then I could just fly right on over. Although it's really cold today, so maybe I wouldn’t-
Lauren Martino: The wind chill.
Dana Alsup: Want to be up that high, but may so maybe I have some super thermal stuff going on to – I did watch Wonder Woman over the weekend and that truth lasso was pretty spectacular.
Amy Alapati: Oh yeah.
Dana Alsup: That could be handy.
Lauren Martino: That was a great trait, yeah.
Dana Alsup: Yeah. That was – There are so many fun superpowers.
Amy Alapati: Mine is going to cover everything, she's not really a superhero, but when I was growing up she was my superhero, I want to be Jeannie, from I Dream of Jeannie.
Lauren Martino: There you go-
Amy Alapati: Blinking power because then I could have everything, I could blink myself able to fly or if it's too cold I could just blink myself directly to work, or I'd blink [crosstalk] [0:23:47].
Dana Alsup: Blink yourself to Hawaii.
Amy Alapati: A TARDIS costume or whatever I would you know.
Lauren Martino: I like how all of your superpowers revolve around commuting.
Amy Alapati: I only have 10 minute commute, my commute’s good so.
Dana Alsup: I could fly right to my relatives across the country, it will be great, flight I'm really liking flight, also hopefully I wouldn't get airsick, right?
David Payne: Yeah.
Amy Alapati: My sister would like to apparate, that's the power that she wants.
Lauren Martino: That would be good.
Amy Alapati: Yeah. It that would be pretty cool.
Lauren Martino: I’ve always thought I’d like to be able to like shape shift. [crosstalk] [0:24:19]
David Payne: That could be useful yeah.
Lauren Martino: Yeah I’ll shift myself into being an eagle or something and I’ll fly right along with Dana or yeah.
Dana Alsup: Yeah. That sounds like fun.
Lauren Martino: absolutely.
David Payne: For the beginner who is looking to get into the com world what are some comic books that you would recommend?
Amy Alapati: So like with any recommendation it depends on the reader's interests and age group. If you want to explore your particular interests as a listener let a library staff person know the type of book that you like and we’ll help you find a graphic novel for you in that same genre. So you tell us a novel that you liked we’ll find you a graphic novel in the same vein. But to be more specific to give you some examples, if you're an adult who enjoys nonfiction, a classic like Maus by Art Spiegelman is about the Holocaust or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi which is about growing up in Iran would be good choices for you. But if you're a kid who likes funny stories about friendship, you could try anything by Raina Telgemeier if you can find it on the shelf, they're incredibly popular.
Lauren Martino: Good luck.
Amy Alapati: So Smiles, Sisters, Drama that’s not just popular with girls though those books are also popular with boys even though the main characters are mainly girls. Also popular with new readers is Dav Pilkey’s hilarious Dog Man about a crime fighting superhero dog. Teens have been asking for the March trilogy recently by Andrew Iden and Nate Powell and the civil rights leader John Lewis. It's a series that tells the story of Lewis’ life in the broader context of the civil rights movement, so it's autobiographical. So those are just a few examples for me what about you Dana do you have anything else or you have the same list-
Dana Alsup: All the same.
Amy Alapati: We have all the same things, we have the same brain.
Dana Alsup: Amy and I have very similar tasted in these beginning of books. I also have Persepolis and Maus and anything by Raina Telgemeier because she's glorious and her books are fantastic. I also love Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales.
Lauren Martino: Oh my goodness.
Dana Alsup: Those are children’s graphic novel and-
Lauren Martino: What’s the Donner party one called?
Dana Alsup: The Donner Dinner Party. Which is the first one I read and I loved it, the World War One, one – is The World War One Book One, one, is fantastic, it's intense, I read it on vacation – it's not really a vacation read.
David Payne: That doesn’t seem like it, no.
Dana Alsup: But I read it on vacation. And it was great the Underground Abductor is about Harriet Tubman and I loved that one as well. They are – Just they're great that, you don't have to be a kid, they're fantastic, they're funny, they're accurate-
Amy Alapati: And you learned dates.
Dana Alsup: Just great, they’re so much fun.
Amy Alapati: Yeah, you learn about history.
Dana Alsup: I also love Gene Yang with Boxers and Saints.
Lauren Martino: Yes, yes.
Dana Alsup: His dual graphic novels set there and American born Chinese is a great way to get into graphic novels as well. I'm much more of a nonfiction graphic novel reader than I am a fiction graphic novel reader, personally.
Lauren Martino: I saw Gene Yang at the National Book Festival and he was the nicest guy in the world, I was waiting in line, waiting in line and waiting in line and then like I was two people from him and my four year old daughter comes up crying, “Mommy I need you now.” He was so nice about it, he was so, so nice about it, he’s like, “I will make this quick,” but he talked to me and told me stories and stuff like, and it was like I swear 20 seconds. It was this 20 second encounter with Gene Yang over my crying daughter, I was like, “You are the best person ever.” Sorry I just had to share that.
Amy Alapati: It's exciting when you meet somebody and they turn out to be just as nice as you wanted them to be.
Lauren Martino: And if Gene Yang wants to come to Comic Con, please Gene Yang we would like to have you.
Amy Alapati: Or Shaun Tan. I love Shaun Tan books and I have a friend in Australia and she came to this and she said, “Oh, I have something for you.” And out of her purse she put a little scrap of paper and it said, just a scrap of paper not a book not – It said to Amy from Shaun Tan. She had seen him at a conference and didn't have anything for him to sign but she said could you sign this for my friend in America, and so he did.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Amy Alapati: So yeah, it’s exciting to have to connect with those authors that you love and there's illustrators that you love.
Lauren Martino: I know it can’t be easy to deal with this crowds and these crazy people all day long but–
Dana Alsup: And I’ve also said there is some graphic novels that are classic novels that have been put into a graphic novel form, so you can also search for those. If you're familiar with that novel then that's a good introduction into-
Amy Alapati: A Wrinkle in Time which is coming out in a movie format, in spring that would be a good choice for you.
Dana Alsup: Or reread the classics that way, it gives you a different perspective on the-
Amy Alapati: The Rick Riordan books are all graphic novels, the Percy Jackson books-
Lauren Martino: There's that MacBeth with animals that’s like hilarious because the queen is the cheetah and she says, “Out damn spot!”
Amy Alapati: We talked a lot about graphic novels for older readers and teens, but if you're looking for something for your very, very most beginner most reader then my personal favorite graphic novel of all time is The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yes.
Dana Alsup: It's a wordless book and it's a very imaginative tale about a little dog who sets out in a boat and finds adventure. And that would be good for kids ages three and up. It's filled with wonder though, so even an older child might enjoy it. It was a personal favorite of mine and my youngest child, and now my youngest child is in art school hoping to be a graphic novelist inspired by all the wonderful books that Montgomery County Public Libraries has in its collection and beyond.
David Payne: A future guest at MoComCon.
Dana Alsup: Hopefully.
Lauren Martino: That sounds like a good one to have your child tell to you.
Amy Alapati: Absolutely.
Lauren Martino: But they can’t read yet but they can tell you the story and they can-
David Payne: If someone is unable to actually attend MoComCon this year, is there any other way they can participate?
Dana Alsup: Yes. There are 19 lead events at various branches throughout the county that are happening in January. And you can attend those, they're all on our website, there in our paper calendar, that you can pick up at any of our branches, but there is movies, there's crafts, there's story times, there's all kinds of fun stuff happening. You can make your own superhero at Little Falls on January 24th, you can celebrate MoComCon with Harry Potter at Maggie Nightingale by making your own mandrake and watching the first Harry Potter movie on January 25th.
There is also on the 25th at Marilyn Praisner, a fandom Jeopardy, so you can compete to show how amazing you are with your fandoms if you can't come to our fandom rooms. There's a ton of stuff happening in the county throughout January.
David Payne: And a reminder you can find our complete list of events on our MCPL website.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any costume suggestions for anybody that might be last minute can't think of anything?
Amy Alapati: You know what any costume is great, store bought costumes are great. In the cosplay contest you're going to want to make a homemade costume if you want to win or do well, but you're welcome to wear any kind of costume. I like closet cosplay, so a lot of times my cosplay costumes are not – they don't look exactly like the character from the movie or the TV show. I find a blue dress in my closet and I write police box on white tape and put it across.
Lauren Martino: You made that, you made that.
Amy Alapati: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Oh, my goodness I didn’t realize that.
Amy Alapati: So when I find a blue hat and I take a dollar store votive candle and put a cut up spice container over it and that's the light on top of it to be the TARDIS light. So I'm a big fan of costume making out of whatever you've got in your closet.
Dana Alsup: You can easily be like a, you can go to Hogwarts put on a pair of slacks and a sweater and a tie, and draw a lightning bolt on your forehead and you're good to go. You can be you know, casual at home Harry and just wear your everyday stuff and put [indiscernible] [0:32:44]. I have always, personally I've always wanted to dress up as Hans Solo, but I don’t really – I have not had to dress up for Halloween for years now and so I haven't yet.
Amy Alapati: Last year I was the TARDIS but I went to Awesome Con this year and I had, I wore my TARDIS costume one day. I was Professor Sprout another day, and I made that costume just with some brown fabric and I cut arm holes into it and made a cape, and then I cut out some leaf shapes from green fabric and stuck them on it, and made a brown burlap hat and just had some wool flowers in my closet and so I just wrap them around. And then my kids had, had – My family we've had at least three or four Harry Potter birthday themed parties for my two children that I have.
Lauren Martino: But who’s counting.
Amy Alapati: And one year they went out in the woods and got sticks and burnt the tips of them and those were wands that we gave to everybody. So that was my wand, it's not a fancy wand, it's not a special expensive wand. It's a stick from the woods and they just burnt the tip of it and that was my wand so.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Amy Alapati: Yeah.
Dana Alsup: You can do a lot with just use your imagination, you can be Amy Pond from-
Amy Alapati: You could be Amy Pond.
Dana Alsup: You could just wear a plaid shirt and pants and shoes, Amy Pond everybody it’s-
Lauren Martino: Remind me who Amy Pond is I’m sorry.
Dana Alsup: Amy Pond.
David Payne: Doctor Who.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Dana Alsup: Yeah she one of the Doctor’s who [crosstalk] [0:34:10] she’s the eleventh doctors.
Amy Alapati: The eleventh first female.
David Payne: The eleventh doctor.
Amy Alapati: First female first companion.
David Payne: First companion.
Lauren Martino: First companion. Okay.
Dana Alsup: Amelia Pond she’s [crosstalk] [0:34:20].
David Payne: More formally known yeah. We ask all of our guest one closing question, tell us about a book you've enjoyed recently.
Dana Alsup: I am currently in the middle of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, I loved Fan Girl which is – this kind of ties into it all with fandoms. Fan Girl was fantastic and then Carry On is the story that is discussed with in fan girls and I reading Carry On and it's-
Lauren Martino: Oh is that where it came from?
Dana Alsup: Harry Potter-esc. Yeah it’s, that’s where it came from..
Lauren Martino: Because I picked it up but I had no idea that there was a precedent.
Dana Alsup: Well and Carry On as written after Fan Girl, because people wanted to know about this story that the main character is writing fan fiction for. So I’m in the middle of that and it's very Harry Potter-esc I feel like I know where it's going, but it's fun and it makes me feel happy right before bed time which is when I read it. And then I was reading today before I came here. I am just halfway through it, a children's graphic novel that we just got in at the branch called Pashmina by – I'm going to try this name Nidhi Chanani and it's about eight. I think she's like 16 or so, 16 year old girl and her mother is – she's Indian her mother is from India and she will never talk about India, she won't talk about why she left, she won’t talk about her father and the girl – the daughter finds a Pashmina that she puts on, and when she puts it on she's transported to India, and she starts to learn about India and her past and everything. But I’m only half way through.
Amy Alapati: That’s good that you won’t give away the ending.
Dana Alsup: So I did put a hold on it so that I can get that back in my hands, but sadly it had to go somewhere else first.
Amy Alapati: And a recent favorite for me would be Broccoli Boy, The Adventures of Broccoli Boy Frank Cottrell Boyce, and it's about a boy who wakes up one day and he's green, his skin has turned green and nobody knows why, so they quarantine him in the hospital, but he knows why he's sure that he's turned green because he's a superhero, because the only green people that you know about are superheroes, the Hulk, the Green Lantern.
So he's convinced that he's a superhero and he's got super powers, so he sneaks out of the hospital at night and he does super heroic deeds with these superhero powers that he is convinced that he has, but does he really have those powers and what happens when some of his friends start to turn green too and they’re put in quarantine with him, and one of them is not really a friend, one of them is more of a bully, not even a frenemy but a bully. And I don't want to tell you what happens after that you'll have to read it.
David Payne: But there's no connection to him turning green and eating broccoli?
Amy Alapati: You’ll have to read the book, you’ll have to read the book and keep eating your broccoli.
David Payne: That’s right.
Amy Alapati: You never know.
David Payne: Anyway Amy and Dana, thank you so much for joining us today, for giving us a sneak preview to what sounds to be a very, very exciting MoComCon 2018, I can't wait for that. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple Podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also please review and rate us on Apple podcast, we'd love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to the conversation today; see you next time.
David Payne: Don't forget MoComCon MCPL's Comic Con will take place at Silver Spring library on Saturday, January the 27th;; we’ll see you there.
[0:37:50] [Audio Ends]
Episode Summary: Librarians Amy Alapati and Dana Alsup discuss MCPL's upcoming comic convention, MoComCon. The event will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay, all free of charge.
MoComCon will take place at Silver Spring Library on Saturday, January 27, 2018 (weather date is February 10) from 11 AM - 4 PM. Parking, which is free on Saturdays, is available in the Wayne Avenue Garage at 921 Wayne Avenue.
Recording Date: December 13, 2017
Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne
Guests: Amy Alapati, a children's librarian at Damascus Library is a member of the committee organizing MoComCon. Dana Alsup, a librarian at Marilyn Praisner Library, is the chair of this year's MoComCon Committee.
Featured MCPL Resource: Free WiFi is available in all MCPL branches, no special encryption settings, user names, or passwords are required.
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Amy Alapati: The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Books Mentioned During this Episode:
Adventures of Polo by Regi Faller
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Boys of Steel by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Bill the Boy Wonder by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
March trilogy by John Lewis
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Other Items of Interested Mentioned During this Episode:
Cosplay - Costumed roleplaying that involves wearing costumes and accessories to represent a specific character.
Don Sakers - Baltimore/Washington area author and sci fi convention speaker.
Futuremakers - Organization focused on providing training, tools, and materials for makers.
MoComCon - MCPL's comic convention. MoComCon will include a variety of panels, workshops, programs, displays, exhibits, and cosplay, all free of charge.
San Diego Comic Con - The premiere comic convention in the United States.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne.
Lauren Martino: And I'm Lauren Martino.
David Payne: And as we kick off the New Year 2018 and we haven't quite forgotten 2017 and here to discuss the 2017 book here with us, two MCPL staff members, JoEllen Sarff, who is with our collection management department and Dianne Whitaker, who is branch manager at Wheaton Interim Library. We're going to be talking a lot about books obviously and a lot of titles will be mentioned and a reminder that you can find the list of everything that's mentioned in today's podcast by going to the Library Matters website and checking our show notes. So looking back over 2017, what kind of year has it been for literature? How would you both sum up the year?
JoEllen Sarff: I think children's and teen books it's been a very good year. We've seen many more diverse characters represented in the books that have been published. There are more biographies of people of color and international people, lesser known people that are important to our world. In the adult fiction and adult non-fictions areas, this year, I saw that the refuge experience in the United States and in Europe was a theme as well as the stranger in a strange land kind of experience. It definitely seemed to be a theme in the fiction. There were more people from multicultural backgrounds, diverse backgrounds who were writing and getting published this year. In addition, in the non-fiction area, racism and totalitarianism were big themes, and for instance, the national book award of non-fiction winner was The Future Is History.
David Payne: So in terms of quality then, you would say, sum up 2017, a good year overall.
JoEllen Sarff: Yes, definitely.
David Payne: Well, looking back over the year, which of 2017’s hottest titles took you both by surprise?
Dianne Whitaker: What took me by surprise was the emergence of classic old literature that became top of the best seller list. For instance, it can happen here by Sinclair Lewis, the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and the subsequent television show on who and which one and Emmy award for best drama and the 1984 by George Orwell were all top of the best seller list.
JoEllen Sarff: And I found interesting that a very old story that was just written in pieces by Mark Twain, he has become very popular, The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine and it was actually Mark Twain wrote it, wrote down pieces of it as he told his daughters a bedtime story and it was found in Berkeley where his papers are kept. An author took that and wrote the rest of the story, filled in the gaps. So it's kind of interesting to see over 100 years ago, here we have Mark Twain coming back with a new story that no one's ever heard before. The other one is a book called After the Fall by Dan Santat and it's about what happens to Humpty Dumpty. And, the rhyme says that Humpty Dumpty couldn't be put back together again, but in this book, he is put back together. And it's a very interesting story about how he's afraid of heights and he doesn't want to go back on the wall, so it gives children a support when it's okay to be fearful and that he overcomes his fear and does go back on the wall to watch his beloved birds.
David Payne: Very interesting. Who knew that Humpty Dumpty would be the star of 2017?
JoEllen Sarff: Exactly.
David Payne: What's in store for 2018 I wonder? So breaking down by genre, what in particular stood out for you both in fiction, anything that really comes to mind and was it a good year in fiction?
JoEllen Sarff: I think it was a very good year in fiction. There were lots of different stories told with lots of multicultural characters, people from other countries. Two that kind of stand out for me is the Wishtree, which was written by Katherine Applegate and it's a story told by a tree, the tree is red, he's been around for 216 years and he's seen many things happen. And one day, someone carves the word leave, leave into the tree and there's a new immigrant family that's Muslim that lives in the neighborhood. And so, the owner of the property is thinking, well, should I cut the tree down, should I leave it, it's a permanent mark on the tree. And so what happens when the tree tries to help carry things along and has a very satisfying ending. And the other book is Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds and the whole story takes place in 60 seconds. And it's about a boy whose brother was killed and he has a code where you don't cry, you don't snitch and there's always revenge. So he gets on the elevator on the seventh floor of his house, he's grabbed a gun, put it in the back of his waistband, and as he gets eight floor, he stops and someone gets on the elevator, someone who's passed away, but has a message for him and what happens when he gets down to the ground level, what's he going to do, very powerful, yes.
David Payne: like to see that Dianne?
Dianne Whitaker: Several books stood out for me this year. In historical fiction and it was also I think kind of a literary fiction book was Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It was really a unique book because it started off, was telling the story of the death of Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln son and his first - when he was first in the White House and - but that's just the beginning, that's just the stage for the book. The book is really about the - almost I guess the battle for Willie's soul as he is in the Bardo, the netherworld between death and the afterlife. And Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln comes to Willie to grieve and show his love that he misses him so much and so Willie has a hard time going on, but what's really unique about the book is it's told in multiple voices of the ghosts, the spirits that inhabit the cemetery and inhabit the Bardo. And they are amazed at the love that Abraham Lincoln has for Willie. And what's really I think really unique is, you're going back and forth in different spaces of time and place over a course of several months. It's not truly a narrative fiction. So it is very unique and it won the Man Booker award for this year.
Another title that I really liked this year was the final book in the Broken Earth trilogy N.K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky. It really was probably one of the best fantasy books that I've read in many years. The whole Broken Earth trilogy, the first book, the Fifth Season won the 2016 Hugo, the second book, the Obelisk Gate won the 2017 Hugo and I suspect The Stone Sky will be running for the 2018 Hugo, but basically, it's the story of a person in an alternate Earth where they have these cataclysmic geologic disasters known as fifth seasons and it turns out that it could be very far in the future in an alternative Earth, but it's the theme and it is actually racism underneath and how you overcome slavery and those are told, so that it has an actual - very intense moral message for our time and it's also the story of love, both romantic love and love between a mother and a daughter. I would highly recommend that. And as far as non-fiction, adult non-fiction, I really like the Hidden Life of Trees, which gave me a really interesting perspective on how trees are in forest for a reason, they communicate through the roots and they live together in community and it's a narrative non-fiction told by a German forester and I would highly recommend people reading and if they really want to understand why nature needs to be protected.
Lauren Martino: So we've talked about some of the adult titles that have been popular this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the outstanding children's and young adult titles?
JoEllen Sarff: Yes. There are many. To choose from, it's hard to just do a few. I would like people to know about Lauren Wolk's book, Beyond the Bright Sea. It's an interesting story about a baby who set adrift and lands on an island and an older gentleman finds her and cares for her. And she knows nothing about her past, nobody does and when she becomes older, they notice that there are some fires off in the distance and the fires are coming closer, so they're a bit concerned what this all means. And as the story unfolds, you find out more about her past and what the fires mean.
Lauren Martino: So this isn't some sort of like maybe future scenario where we're not quite sure?
JoEllen Sarff: I want to yes. One of those where you kind of go, oh, okay, it's - we're not quite sure what happened.
Lauren Martino: So a little bit ambiguous, now trying to figure out the entire time exactly what's going on. It is interesting.
JoEllen Sarff: Exactly. And another book that people might be interested in is Step Up to the Plate. Maria Singh wrote this book. It's a historical fiction, 1945, California, the city towns, people want to start a girl's softball team and the main character in this story wants to be on the team and so it's her getting ready to prepare for the team and that her family heritage is interesting. She has a Spanish mother and her father is Eastern Indian. You learn a lot about her family as you read the book and how she tries to get on the team. And I talked about Wishtree a little bit earlier and that's one of my favorite books for this year about the old oak tree and how they try to save the oak tree from being cut down and wishtree comes from hanging wishes on the tree on May 1st and the owner of the tree had forgotten about her family history and how that came about and how they resolved the tree issue.
David Payne: Interesting that trees have [CROSSTALK] [00:11:31].
JoEllen Sarff: And you find out the trees are named just very plainly. It's red, because it's a red oak tree. And his friend Bongo who is a crow, the two of them talking.
Lauren Martino: So it's from the tree's perspective?
JoEllen Sarff: Yes. It is. The tree and the tree - you have the tree's thoughts and at one point, he actually says something to a human being, which is something you never do. Trees don't talk. But they did. So that was very interesting. And a couple of children's books, the Wolf in the Snow and if you've seen that one as -
Lauren Martino: I don't think so. Is it a picture book or?
JoEllen Sarff: It's a picture book it has a little boy in a red snowsuit on the front and a little baby wolf and they both are out in the snow and they get lost in a snowstorm. So they're walking, trying to find their homes and they find each other. So the little boy is almost wordless, but the boy kind of helps the wolf because he can't walk in the snow. It's getting too deep and he carries him and then they hear wolves howling and the little boy is frightened and suddenly, you have a little boy holding the wolf, baby wolf and momma wolf and you wonder what's going to happen. Well, momma wolf takes baby wolf and then the wolves kind of follow him and then he finds his way. And the other one is Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Deedy.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. It's gotten a lot of buzz. Hasn't it?
JoEllen Sarff: I guess, you heard her tell stories twice. She's an incredible storyteller and now she's starting to write some of her own stories and putting them in picture books.
Lauren Martino: Like Martina the Beautiful Cockroach.
JoEllen Sarff: Yes. She has another one. I hope she does. I heard her tell a story. It's about the sun and the moon and how this sun and the moon don't pass and the moon always wants to see the children, but she can't because it's night out and so how they work that out and I hope she makes that into a picture book in the future. Let's talk about it.
Lauren Martino: Do you have any Dianne?
Dianne Whitaker: One I would add to the list is Amina's Voice. I really liked that book. It's a story of a young girl who is 11, going to middle School for the sixth grade and she's got a best friend, Soojin. Soojin is Korean American and Amina is Pakistani American. And Amina becomes very upset because Soojin starts to be friending another girl named Emily who Amina is not quite sure she likes her and she, in a way becomes a little bit jealous of Soojin and Emily's relationship. As it happens, it's very typical middle school.
Lauren Martino: Yes. It's like half of all middle school books, but it's true life.
Dianne Whitaker: But the truth of it is Amina is also coming to terms with her identity as a young Muslim and there's things about being Muslim, she doesn't like because she has a very overbearing uncle who comes to visit and he tells her that she's got - she loves music, she loves to sing, she likes playing the piano and he tells her music is not something that she should be doing, tells her father that. And so, she's not real thrilled with that. And she's very concerned because she wants to stay being a good girl, but she loves her music. But she also is - she's looking forward to a Quran competition where they do a recitation of the Quran and then their community center, I guess, the mosque is vandalized. And it's how things turn around or change because of the vandalism, that's the crux of the story. And it just seemed very appropriate in their time, because I thought it that there might be a lot of middle school and upper elementary children in their community who might find it very, very good read, so. Yes. It was very good, very good.
Lauren Martino: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Febe Huezo: Hey, did you know that a library card is a must have in your wallet? With a library card, you can download books, learn a new language in my favorite download music. Visit a nearby branch and get your library card today. So the next time someone asks you what's in your wallet, you can show them your MCPL card.
Lauren Martino: Now, back to our program.
David Payne: Well, out of all that you read this year, if you have to choose a gift for somebody, give a book as a gift, what would you choose and why?
JoEllen Sarff: Well, it depends on the person. I couldn't choose just one title. I would - there's like two or three titles that I would choose. The Broken Earth trilogy, I would give to the science fiction fantasy fans in my family, it is just so good that I felt that they would definitely enjoy because of the emphasis on love and just the unique setting of a geologic upheaval that these people are going through and just all the overcoming of the enslavement and just how they become better people and then find their identity through who they are. And it's definitely adult book. It's - has strong sexual themes in it, but it is really, really got a good message.
Lauren Martino: So it's science fiction that really focuses on the human aspect?
JoEllen Sarff: Yes, definitely, particularly estrangement between mother and daughter and then the love between mother and daughter and that's one of the key themes in it.
David Payne: Sounds like a good read.
JoEllen Sarff: It is - the other one that I would - for the non science fiction fans, I would recommend, it is actually a book from last year, but I got hold of it and read it this year was Hillbilly Elegy. It was a really good biography about overcoming hardships and particularly what it's like to grow up in rural Appalachian Rust Belt, southern Ohio and actually become a very successful person. And I think knowing different people that - those would be by choices. Also Neil Gaiman's mythology, Norse mythology would be another choice that I would give, because actually my son in law asked for that.
David Payne: Yeah, and your game is always a winner.
JoEllen Sarff: Necessarily yes, and the audio books too. Well, he tells the stories in current English that is easy to understand, but he brings them to life in a way that’s uniquely Neil Gaiman.
Lauren Martino: And just some of the dry, like, I'm going to kill you and this is the way he says it. It's hilarious. But not every author can narrate their own audiobooks and Neil Gaiman is the strong exception. Sorry, I'll stop with the audiobooks.
JoEllen Sarff: I have three giftbooks that I'd like to suggest. The first one is Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares. It's a story about two cardinals that live in this huge pinetree. More trees? Yes. And one day Red is off gathering some food to bring back to Lulu and when he comes back, the tree has been cut down and it's on a hotbed truck pulling away from the house that they've lived up in front of her salon. And he's just frantic. So he starts flying as fast as he can trying to keep up with the truck and he can hear Lulu talking. She's crying to him and he's reassuring her, I'm going to be there, but they are going to New York City. And there's this incredible picture where Lulu, friend Red is over here and you see the George Washington Bridge and you see the truck with a tree way in the distance. And so, he frantically flies all over New York, looking for the tree. And he remembers a song that people sang, the old Christmas tree and he hears that song. And he finds Lulu. It's just a really sweet story. Another work book is called Dance by Matthew Van Fleet. And it's about a little chick that was born, hatched out of an egg yesterday and he goes to the local dance hall, because he says, "I don't know how to dance." That's his first priority. I am born, need to dance. And so he meets various people in the dance hall and the hippos teaching the [hula] [00:20:58], the rabbits teach him how to hop and the crazy pigs teach him how to tap. So at the end of the book, you see him doing all the various dances. It's a word book with flaps, little hinges that actually turn. So, it would just be a great one for preschool. And I could just see them learning the dances and then dancing and [CROSSTALK] [00:21:25]. And then for the older non-fiction, there's a Harry Potter journey through magic book, which is really beautiful. It's got lots of color pictures and talks about the history of magic and brings Harry Potter movies in a - books and movies into it.
Lauren Martino: Is there anything you're still waiting on or anything you didn't quite get finished this year that you're excited about?
JoEllen Sarff: Many
Dianne Whitaker: Me too. I have a fairly long list of titles that I would like to read for and I actually have several holds. I'm looking at Pachinko set in Japan and Korea and it's - it was shortlisted for National Book Award, but as I said, it's a historical fiction set in the early 20th Century and other than that, it looked interesting. So I think I'll put that on - that's on my list. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Roy - Arundhati Roy. That looks really interesting. It's on my bookshelf, but I haven't quite started reading it yet. Column of Fire by Ken Follett is another one on my list. The Radium Girls is another one on my list.
Lauren Martino: Just never ends. Does it?
Dianne Whitaker: It never ends. And Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. I love biographies as well as historical fictions. So that one is definitely on my list too.
David Payne: Ken Follett's huge book will keep you busy for a while I suspect.
Dianne Whitaker: And I've read Pillars of Fire and World Without End. So I've read the other two. So it's just - I like the Century trilogy that came out in 2010, 11 and 13, 14 that that was good, but I like this one too.
JoEllen Sarff: One of the books that I've been interested in reading is called Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi. He wrote Ship Breaker several years ago and I really enjoyed that book and he's since come out with Dream Cities and this is another one I am not really calling it as sequel, it is just part of a series. So I'm not sure exactly how they are connected together, but in this one, their tool is actually a robot Android that works for the government. And -
Lauren Martino: A bureaucrat robot.
JoEllen Sarff: Yes. A bureaucrat robot and he becomes self-aware and decides he doesn't like what the government is doing. So, kind of - I mean, I'm interested in seeing what happens because I really did enjoy the first book. And the First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. It's about a girl who moves to Chicago with her mom and she's always been a little bit of an outsider. She marches to her own drama. In the first day of school, she violates the dress code and then she meets up with the popular girl in school and she decides she doesn't want to be friends with her. She wants to stay with other people and she starts a band. So, this is definitely marching to her own drum. And then Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Garcia Williams - Williams-Garcia. It sounds like a great story about -
Lauren Martino: At one crazy summer.
JoEllen Sarff: Yeah. Right. And that Clayton's grandfather who was a musician passes away and his mother says that we can't play music in the house anymore. And so he just hurts - he wants to remember his grandfather, he went with him all the time and he plays harmonica, so he ends up running away and joining up with some of the men who his grandfather used to play with and they go out on the road.
Lauren Martino: This could be the year of the musical kids [CROSSTALK] [00:25:50] and Clayton Byrd. Yes. Diverse musical kids. Do you have any - so, this isn't a question on - we didn't prep you for this question, but do you have any new barrier, Caldecott predictions. I don't know if this will come out by the time they've announced them, but -
JoEllen Sarff: It should. I love Wishtree. I just think it's just one of those perfect books where there's so definitely for a new very - I'm hoping it's seriously considered. And Rooster Who Wouldn't be Quiet, Wolf in the Snow and Red and Lulu. I think they are all great contenders for the Caldecott. We'll find out.
Lauren Martino: We'll find out soon.
David Payne: Well, can you tell us some of the - give us any tips as to how we might find out about the latest books? What's coming out? What are the tools and resources that MCPL has that we can use?
JoEllen Sarff: The books and author's database is one tool to be using. I've been using it for about a year I guess and it's very interesting, because you can create an account, similar in a way to - you would use good reads where you can rate things and then you could - it comes up with reader likes or books that they would recommend as well. And you can see what's forthcoming, which I think is a good feature. There's also a Novelist, which also gives reader likes as well. And has a Novelist K-8, yes, and then there's our own forthcoming books on our website too.
Lauren Martino: our Digital Times too those splash up like with the top couple of titles that have been checked out for children and for adults. Those are kind of fun too.
JoEllen Sarff: I'd also like to suggest Beanstack as a good resource for parents where you can actually sign up your children and they will send you emails with suggested books. And there's also an adult component to that.
Dianne Whitaker: So I would just like to talk about some of the trends that I'm seeing in science fiction. One of the themes I saw this year was climate change becoming a theme. And dystopia in general has been a continuing theme as well. There was a September article in The New York Times about climate change fiction and several titles were from 2017 were recommended, including New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson. I finished reading last month and American War by Omar El Akkad and he's an up and coming new writer, Canadian actually. That was really interesting too because it wasn't just about climate change, it was about the future as though we had a civil war over climate change and the survivors. And it is set in the early 22nd century, in the Southern United States, so I’ll give you an hint on that, they also recommended born by Jeff Vandermeer who's a well known science fiction writer and that was kind of unique because it wasn't really climate change, it was more the after effects of pollution on the grand scale and genetic engineering go on a wry and it's a love story actually I think and how one person finds humanity by adopting a critter that is truly unique and how the interplay between bioengineered critters become paramount in their world of that time and how the two main characters come to terms with their past and they find their love surviving.
Lauren Martino: So we ask all of our guests here on Library Matters, what's in your bed stand that you're just dying to gush about and tell it. Share with the world.
JoEllen Sarff: Right now, I have two books on my nightstand and they're both fairly thick. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson is my science fiction of the month and then I also have the Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.
Lauren Martino: So you're going to get to it very soon.
JoEllen Sarff: Next week.
Dianne Whitaker: I have an adult book on my nightstand, The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille. I belong to a book club and we're going to be reading it for next month and the other one is Wonder. I have not read it and I want to read it before I go see the movie.
Lauren Martino: [CROSSTALK] [00:30:49] we've had like five people ask this one after the other.
Dianne Whitaker: I hope to get to it this weekend and return it so someone else can enjoy it.
Lauren Martino: Have you started it yet?
Dianne Whitaker: No.
Lauren Martino: Oh my Gosh. That first chapter, it's like laugh cry, laugh cry, it's credible. Well, thank you so much Dianne and JoEllen for coming and talking to us today about what's been great this year in the world of literature. Please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast and we love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and we'll see you next time.
Recording Date: December 13, 2017
Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne
Episode Summary: Guests JoEllen Sarff and Dianne Whitaker, who both have experience selecting books for MCPL, discuss their picks for the best books of 2017, along with a few titles from other years, because, well, we're librarians. Our book love can't be confined by something so pedestrian as time.
Guests: Librarian JoEllen Sarff, from our Collection Management department, and Wheaton Interim Branch Manager Dianne Whitaker, former head of Collection Management.
Featured MCPL Resource: An MCPL library card is your ticket to new worlds, a new life, a new career, and more. MCPL offers fantastic fiction to fuel your imagination, exercise and nutrition books and DVDs to enhance your health. online training to catapult your career, and so much more. Get your MCPL library card today.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Books Mentioned During this Episode:
American War (2017) by Omar El Akkad
Borne (2017) by Jeff VanderMeer
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
1984 by George Orwell
The Future Is History (2017) by Masha Gessen
Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlenben
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Leonardo da Vinci (2017) by Walter Isaacson
Radium Girls: the Dark Story of America's Shining Women (2017) by Kate Moore
After the Fall (2017) by Dan Santat
Amina's Voice (2017) by Hena Khan
Beyond the Bright Sea (2017) by Lauren Wolk
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (2017) by Rita Williams-Garcia
Dance (2017) by Matthew Van Fleet
The First Rule of Punk (2017) by Celia C Perez
Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson
Pachinko (2017) by Min Jin Lee
Red and Lulu (2017) by Matt Tavares
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet (2017) by Carmen Agra Deedy
Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh (2017) by Uma Krishnaswami
Wishtree (2017) by Katherine Applegate
Wolf in the Snow (2017) by Matthew Cordell
Harry Potter: a Journey Through the History of Magic (2017) The British Library
Long Way Down (2017) by Jason Reynolds
Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
Beanstack: An online service where users can log their reading, write reviews, and get reading recommendations.
Books & Authors: A book discovery tool with read-alikes and suggestions, awards lists, reviews, and reader ratings.
New in Media: Check the left column of our catalog for links to the latest film and television DVD's, as well as adult and children's books on CD, that MCPL has received.
NoveList Plus: Find fiction by series, plot, setting, and read-alikes. Also offers book discussion guides, booktalks, and articles.
On Order Titles: Check the left column of our catalog for links to new books that MCPL has ordered, but have not yet arrived. You can place holds on these incoming books.
Top 4 Checkouts: See the top 4 checkouts for adult fiction and non-fiction, children's fiction and non-fiction, and teen fiction during the last several months.
Julie Dina: Welcome to Library Matters, a podcast at the Montgomery County Public Library. I’m your host, Julie Dina. Everyone wants a friend and I’m glad to say Montgomery County Public Library has a friend with the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County chapter.
Today on the program, we have Ari Brooks, Executive Director, and Lance Salins, Business Manager of the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County chapter, FOLMC. Welcome guys.
Ari Brooks: Thank you.
Lance Salins: Yeah, thank you for having us.
Julie Dina: So let’s start of if you can let the listeners know what exactly is FOLMC?
Ari Brooks: We are a group of dedicated residents of Montgomery County who believe very strongly in the value of the library system and came together back in 1983 to make a good library system, a great library system.
FOLMC is first of all a parent organization, Friends of the Library Montgomery County to 17 chapters of Friends of the Library. So at the 21 branches here at MCPL, 17 of those branches have chapters that report under our parent organization.
Julie Dina: What would you say is the difference between the FOLMC and the Friends of each individual chapter?
Ari Brooks: Well, the major difference is that FOLMC, the parent organization works with the public library system to provide enhanced programs or services throughout the entire system. So we for example helped pilot a lot of the new materials in libraries that really didn’t exist back in the ‘80s or even in the ‘90s.
So we piloted the VHS tapes as a new media. So we purchased, I think it was $60,000 that we put into the collections budget. And then when DVDs replaced the VHS tapes, we purchased DVDs for the collections. We piloted CDs, musical CDs, to help the system to determine whether or not people would go to the library and check out other materials, you know, other than books or magazines, your traditional materials.
So those were the kinds of things that we provide, again, enhanced programs, services, and materials that are going to impact the entire library community. Another example of that is the fact that we piloted the first session management software found in MCPL. So remember a very long time ago when the computers were first introduced to libraries, volunteers and library staff actually cued the lines.
And then software was developed to allow you to enter your library card number to be able to use the computer for a certain amount of time. Well, we piloted that software first at the Long Branch Library. And then the library director came back and wanted to pilot another version of that. We purchased that. Again, it was piloted at the Long Branch, branch and at Gaithersburg because those were two branches that had traditionally the highest computer use, public computer use.
And so, again, we are in the position that we can help the system by funding things that will benefit the entire library community. Whereas the local chapters really work hand in hand with their branch mangers to look at what the unique needs are of their community and how they can fund programming that is very specific to their community needs.
So you might find more Chinese Lunar New Year programs at one branch because of a certain, you know, demographics or you might find more children’s programming at one branch or more programming for older adults at another branch. Again, based on demographics and based on what the branch manager says the community really needs. So that is the major differences. We’re looking at the system as a whole whereas the chapters are really focused on their branches in their communities.
Julie Dina: So tell us about your work with the FOLMC? Exactly, what would you say your role is in the whole thing?
Ari Brooks: Sure. Well, I’ve been the executive director for almost 15 years now.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Ari Brooks: I know.
Julie Dina: Did you start when you were five?
Ari Brooks: Basically, six.
Julie Dina: Six?
Ari Brooks: Six and a half. And so my role is to oversee the organization to make sure that the mission and vision as it has been carved out by the Board of Trustees is carried out. And we do that through a strategic plan to make sure that community needs are being met and that the residents of this county needs are being met through our support of public libraries.
So I get to work very closely with Lance who oversees the bookstore, so a big part of what I do is support him in his role. We do have a development staff that does your traditional fundraising. We’re a membership organization, so we recruit people to become members of Friends of the Library. We do receive grants. So there is a lot of very traditional fund raising that goes on as well. So I oversee all of those activities and the administrative functions as well. It doesn’t sound very exciting the way I’m describing it right now, but it is my –.
Julie Dina: I’m sure it is.
Ari Brooks: – life’s passion. It is a very rewarding work to know that I am in a position to be able to support something that every single resident of Montgomery County can ultimately benefit from.
Julie Dina: Sounds good. So who then can join the Friends?
Ari Brooks: You can join the Friends. Anyone –.
Julie Dina: I can be your friends?
Lance Salins: Anyone, everyone.
Ari Brooks: Anyone can join the Friends of the Library. We’re a very welcoming group. And we want to expand our base of friends in Montgomery County because, you know, when you consider how many people have library cards, all of those people potentially should be a friend of the library.
Julie Dina: That is true.
Ari Brooks: Even if you don’t have a library card or don’t consider yourself a library person or a reader, you should still be a friend of the library.
Lance Salins: Yeah, even if you’re not a regular library user every day and I’ve met people at our stores that say that they don’t – they just buy books new. They don’t use the library. But they – it is still would benefit them to support and be a friend of their library system because it is a community wide service that we’re providing, that everyone is providing. And so, you know, if they may not use it individually, other members in their community are using it. And so it won’t impact them that way.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And I know that library systems have been tied into things like property values and having a strong library system is really in everyone’s best interest. And, you know, you might be a book buyer today, but you might not be able to be a book buyer tomorrow.
Julie Dina: That is true.
Ari Brooks: And you want that public library there so that you can access it in the event that you might need it. I know that in – the downturn of the economy, often libraries and especially our bookstores will see an upsurge and use. And so it is very important that communities have a strong library system regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a library user. So everyone is welcome to be a friend of the library.
Julie Dina: How can they join?
Ari Brooks: Well, you can join a number of ways. In our website @folmc.org, there is membership brochure throughout the entire library system in all branches. You can call into the office at 240-777-0020. And segue into the bookstores, you can actually join at the bookstores as well.
Lance Salins: Yes, that is what I was eager to say. You can come and see us at the bookstores. We’re open approximately 359 days every year. We offer a year round. We’re open 62 hours a week and are currently have two locations. At any time that we’re open, you can come in there and purchase a membership and it gets you 10% off of all materials at our bookstores.
Julie Dina: I would think that is one incentive that everyone should join.
Ari Brooks: Definitely. Many people come to get their membership card so that they can enjoy that benefit. But that is one of many membership benefits. We do programs throughout the year. We also do an annual gala during national library weeks. So we offer discounted rates on our events as well. MCPL also produces a quarterly calendar of events, so members who receive that from FOLMC through subscription. You also would get our quarterly newsletter which highlights our organization and events that we produce. So you get first-hand information about what is happening in libraries if you’re a member.
Julie Dina: And is this the same way you generate your funding or how exactly do you acquire funding?
Ari Brooks: Well, the largest funding strain comes from the use bookstores. And so –.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: – and Lance can speak to that. But membership – like I mentioned before, we do traditional fundraisings such as grants. We’re a large organization, a large arts and humanities organization in the county, probably a medium size, arts and humanities organization in the State of Maryland. So we are a large grantee through the Arts and Humanities Council. So we do received grants. So we also receive foundation support, so the Family Foundations. But definitely, the largest chunk of our funding comes from the – to use bookstores that we currently operate.
Male Speaker: And now, a brief message about MCPL Services and Resources.
Female Speaker: Flipster, what in the world is Flipster? Is it a new word game or gymnastics move? No, it is a great way to read your favorite magazines absolutely free. You’ll find entertainment magazines like “People,” news magazines like, “Time,” financial, children’s, fitness, and lots more. You can read the magazines in your browser or download the Flipster app and read them offline. You can find the link to Flipster and our other e-magazine resources in this episode’s show notes.
Male Speaker: Now, back to our program.
Julie Dina: And talking about bookstores, can you tell us something about your wonderful bookstore, Lance?
Lance Salins: I will tell you something, I can tell you anything and everything. It is really – I love the bookstores. That is how I was drawn into the organization. A family member of mine took me to the bookstore, they were like, “You should come and check out this bookstore, the prices are really good.” I went in. And the first time I was over there I spent two hours just wandering around. And it is in four weeks expanded our Rockville location.
I just was in awe looking at the shelves up and down. It is so affordable. You know, I was just not so long out of college at that point and so on a tight book budget. But every thing was just so – it was just amazing, the opportunity for a book lover to just create your own library, we are just immense. And so I just spend so much time wandering around. So I immediately signed up on the website to volunteer. And the bookstore manager at that time, he is still the bookstore manager at Rockville, got in touch with me. And so that was a little over years ago I started as volunteer. And I sort of worked my way to the position I’m in now.
But our bookstores, as I said earlier, they are open 62 hours a week to the public. We take donations from the public during our normal hours. And that is how we operate entirely is on donations from the public. And it is amazing. I am amazed every day at the quality of materials that we get. This is a wonderfully diverse area in terms of cultures and educations and backgrounds and interests. And we see that in our donations in the wonderful assortment of things that we get.
And we’ve grown a solid group of regulars that come from pretty much up and down the east coast to visit us because they know that we just get such an amazing panoply of things that they – and we get thousands of books donated to us every day. We sell thousands of books every day. The turn around is incredibly quick. We can sell a book within 10 minutes of it coming in, because someone drops it off and then we price it and someone else walks in the door and that is the book they have been looking for, for years. And so we see, you know, the confluence like that and it is really fun to see the books really enriching people’s lives like that.
Julie Dina: And it is funny you mentioned how you get an array of books daily. I actually read, I think it was in Montgomery County Media, about a book that the FOL bookstores recently sold for a significant amount of money. Can you tell us a little about that?
Lance Salins: Sure. That would the signed copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.” It was a limited edition that he did before publication. I think it was in 1929. And he was pretty young at that point. I think he was only 30. And so he signed. I believe it was 500 or 510 of these. It is fairly well-known book among book collectors.
And so a few years ago, one night a staff member was going through a box of books and he called me and I came over. And when I looked at him, he was very pale. He was like almost shaking a little bit. And I walked over and he said he just had the book in his hand, and he said, “Is this real?” And I looked at it. And I went, “Oh my.” And so I said, “Well, let’s find out.” We did a little research and then indeed it was real signed. He was holding and I was holding a book that Ernest Hemingway had once held and singed. It was number of 382 of 510 copies.
And it came in a Baileys Irish cream box, liquor box. Somebody had just dropped it off. Clearly, they had no idea what they had and what they were dropping off, but we were very grateful to receive it. We’re not even sure to this day who donated it. I suspect that it was in somebody’s garage or someone’s attic, you know, just a book that some of their family members have had. And it winded its way to us and we were delighted to receive it. And we were able to broker a sale and we sold it for $6,000 to a private collector in Oregon.
Julie Dina: Wow, all the way in Oregon.
Lance Salins: Yes. We had a listing online for it. It was online for a number of months. And we were finally able to find the right buyer for it.
Julie Dina: So would – can we then say that is true friend indeed.
Lance Salins: Absolutely. I would say, definitely a supporter of libraries, lover of libraries. And then as this the person who brought it in seemingly without realizing it, they just said, “Oh, I got this old box of books in my garage or my attic.” And they just dropped it off not knowing that there was $6,000 check in the box that we were able to convert it into that. But that is what we are relying on every day. And that is why I’m always very excited and eager to greet our donors when they show up, because often times they’ll be in the midst of something they’re moving. They’re downsizing. They’re dealing with an estate or their kids going off to college or any number of different life circumstances could lead someone to having to just get rid of stuff.
And so when they show up, and they usually like, “How does this work? Where do we drop it off?” And I’m just happy to say, “If you got books, we’d love to help you. We can bring them in. Thank you for bringing them to us.” They may not realize what they have, but that is our life blood, is those donors’ books. And as Ari said, it is – our biggest fundraising mechanism is our bookstores. It is our biggest face to the community. And we would not be there without the community every day being willing to donate to us, to shop with us. And really, it is a wonderful thing to see.
Julie Dina: And how often does this rare opportunity occur?
Lance Salins: You mean a collectible like that?
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lance Salins: I would say on a monthly basis, we get some very valuable books in. I just wrote in our quarterly newsletter which our members receive directly via the mail about a book of Picasso’s lithographs that is worth a few thousand dollars for original lithographs were produced for this book. I believe it is called "Toreros". And Picasso did those, I believe it was published 1961. And, again, I just found that going through an ordinary box of donations. And another one that we found was –.
Ari Brooker: The Andy Warhol.
Lance Salins: The Andy Warhol. Yes, thank you. We had a book that was doubly signed by Andy Warhol, once on the cover, the dust jacket of the book and on the title pages as well. And it is a beautiful book Andy Warhol’s exposure. It is a book compilation of his photos of his celebrity friends. I believe it dates from a book signing that he did in the 1970s in Downtown, DC. So it is two legitimate signatures by Andy Warhol who was just an icon of the Pop Art Movement.
So, on a monthly basis we get very valuable books like this. We’ve had signed – book signed by Langston Hughes. I think we’re up to nine different presidents that we’ve had book signed by that we’ve sold. I found three books signed by Richard Nixon just this week and a book signed by George Bush.
Ari Brooks: And presidential candidates.
Lance Salins: Presidential candidates as well, Bernie Sanders –.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Lance Salins: – Elizabeth Warren, anybody you can think of. We live in such a diverse area here. There are so many different luminaries in different fields. We get donations from lawyers, ambassadors, doctors, teachers –.
Ari Brooks: Senators.
Lance Salins: – senators, yes. They all, well, you know, a lot of them live in this area. And so if they have libraries or offices that they need to clear out they’ll say, “Well, we’ll just, you know, give it to a good cause, give it to the library.” They’ll bring it to us and we’re very grateful because they’re handing over sometimes treasures that we’re able to convert into funding for the entire library system, so.
Ari Brooks: And that is a testament, the ability to identify these books is a strong testament to the training that Lance provides to the managers and to our staff because we take very seriously our job to turn these books and these materials into moneys –.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: – that we can then put back into the public library system. At the end of the day, that is what our purpose is, that is what our mission is, is to fundraise for the enhancement of Montgomery County Public Libraries.
Lance Salins: Yeah. And me and Ari talked about that a lot and I do with our bookstore staff. And we do have – a lot of people don’t realize, we do not pay professional trained staff that are evaluating these books at both book stores year around. It is not – we do have volunteers who are very grateful for their help, but we have paid staffs that are handling the money and handling these very valuable materials because as Ari said, we have a duty to the library system to make sure that it is carried out in the best way as possible in the best responsible manner.
Ari Brooks: Yeah, to extract value from them so that we fund these items that can benefit the entire Montgomery County Community.
Lance Salins: Yeah. And it is really a public trust from all those donors that stream to the store. They are trusting us to extract that value to benefit their libraries. When they drop off that box of books, eventually in their mind they’re thinking this is going to benefit the library. This is going to put a book in a child’s hand. This is going to provide better technology for library staff to serve the entire county.
Julie Dina: So this is big stuff we’re talking about here.
Lance Salins: It really is, yeah. We get – it gets lost some time in the day to day but really, we’re working to help strengthen and just make a better system for all of us, including ourselves. You know, we’re part of this community, too, so that is – I think I know that is why I love it and I think that is why Ari loves it as well is that we’re trying to make a difference and make a better system.
Julie Dina: And you guys are.
Ari Brooks: Thanks.
Lance Salins: Thank you.
Ari Brooks: And I think – and just to clarify Lance’s comment, it gets lost, I think, and not an – and we’re very clear about what our mission is.
Lance Salins: Oh, absolutely.
Ari Brooks: But it gets lost in the public when they see all these books coming in and the volume that comes in and goes out. It gets lost in the translation for other people who assume those books were given to us for a different reason. And so we’re very clear about what our stated purpose and mission is and why we’re doing what we’re doing and how we’re benefiting the community.
Julie Dina: And for our listeners who are now hearing you mention all these treasurable books, don’t be surprised if tomorrow you get tons of people come into the bookstore.
Ari Brooks: We love that.
Lance Salins: We welcome it.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: That is our stated goal at the bookstores, is to be placed in Montgomery County where people can donate their books that they longer need and where they can purchase books for any and all purposes. We have a broad range of books. We take books in every subject, every language as long as it is in good condition we will accept it and we have customers from all over the world who buy for a number of reasons, including the philanthropic reasons.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And so people can really responsibly donate to us. You know, if it is in sellable condition we will find a home for it. And then we have a variety of other ways that we responsibly handle the materials, including helping, you know, set designers with their sets. I think two years ago, books from our bookstore were actually featured in the White House Christmas display.
Lance Salins: Yeah, they were. They were crafted, absolutely a set designer for that – I believe that – I believe the first lady was working with to decorate the White House. She stopped by the – from a design agency and she spent a few hours buying books that they eventually turned into a tree of books. They arranged it in layers such that it resembled the traditional Christmas tree that was made entirely out of books.
Ari Brooks: Books that we – that couldn’t be sold because they were in a condition where you couldn’t read them at that point.
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Julie Dina: But it was still use –.
Lance Salins: She did, yeah.
Ari Brooks: You could still use like that – maybe like the cover of them.
Lance Salins: And she did buy them. We were able to sell them for that purpose. So if there is a book that we know – you normally wouldn’t put on a shelf because it may not be seem readable to the average consumer, we will make every effort we can to repurpose that book and give it, not only to raise funds by selling it, but also to keep it out of the waste stream, to give another purpose. We have people buy books to turn into clocks.
Ari Brooks: Purses.
Lance Salins: Purses, all sorts of different crafts. They’ll show up every month. They may go have a blank journal. I have had different –.
Ari Brooks: Art teachers –.
Lance Salins: Art teachers coming in.
Ari Brooks: – contacted us to work to have materials again that are not in sellable condition. Clearly, you know, there is pages torn out of them or –.
Lance Salins: Or see discs, compact discs or DVDs that are heavily scratched and won’t play. Even those, we have our teachers that work with the school system or home schoolers that will use them for arts, arts and crafts and collaging and repurposing. So that is part of our effort to be environmental stewards and to make sure that we are doing everything we can to lessen the landfill stream.
Ari Brooks: To lessen – to decrease our footprint.
Lance Salins: Absolutely.
Ari Brooks: Yeah. And so, you know, every book hopefully will have a home.
Lance Salins: Yes.
Ari Brooks: But then there are books that – and I’m sure your listening audience might want to know what does happen to books that are soiled beyond repair. And, you know, working in the used book business is a dirty business. And so we unfortunately do get books that are just completely beyond repair or books that would be at –.
Lance Salins: Beyond recognition. They’ll be soiled contaminated and this is where – but it does come with the territory and we’re prepared to handle that.
Ari Brooks: It could be hazardous if they were redistributed to the community at one point when we were also physically located in the lower level of the Wheaton branch. We have to not only protect our collection but the libraries collection above. And so if things with, you know, visibly molded, we do work. We have worked with Montgomery County solid waste division to train our staff on how to properly dispose of items that could be hazard to us, to our customers, and to library patrons.
Lance Salins: Yeah, absolutely. We work with them to train them – our staff on recycling the best practices just to make sure. There are such things as paper viruses that they will get into the paper and they can spread throughout collections. That is what Ari was mentioning about protecting not only our own collections but anybody that were collocated with, which we were at one point in the Wheaton branch. But that is all just part of our general management.
Ari Brooks: And we’re also, you know, very sensitive to help other communities want to handle their discarded books. So we work with – we have a volunteer who works with a rabbi –.
Lance Salins: Yes.
Ari Brooks: – to dispose of Judaica.
Lance Salins: Yeah. There is a certain way, listeners may not know, but there is a certain way that books in the Jewish faith need to be disposed off when they’re no longer readable. And so we do have volunteer that it is a member of a synagogue and he works with the rabbinic leadership there to make sure that those materials are properly disposed off in accordance with their cultural traditions.
Ari Brooks: So at the end of the day we’re book lovers.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: We love books.
Lance Salins: From beginning to end.
Ari Brooks: From beginning to end and, you know, we definitely take very seriously our purpose to recycle these books and to repurpose them so that, again, that we can fulfill our ultimate mission, which is to use these funds to go back into the public library system.
Lance Salins: Yeah. We’ve sort of become – because our bookstores have grown so much, a lot of people don't realized we become a major recycling and repurposing resource in the county just because people come to us so much with these goods that they no longer need and they want for a greater cause that on our end we have taken these measures to be stewards of the environment and to make sure that we’re handling all the material, this great influx of material that we’re handling it properly.
Julie Dina: So that is plenty. You guys actually have – other than selling books you actually have this big operation. You have lots of stuff going on behind the scenes just to have everything going.
Lance Salins: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we do. And we only had books. We had already form book imaginable. We have comic books.
Ari Brooks: We have vinyl records.
Lance Salins: Vinyl records, compact discs, CDs. Sometimes they buy the CDs cheaper than to download the album because we sell our CDs usually for $2 each and usually on online it can be $10.
Julie Dina: Don’t you have a coupon system that you –?
Lance Salins: We do.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Lance Salins: We send that membership coupon when anybody signs up for their initial membership they’ll get a coupon. We distribute coupons at our events.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: We’ve worked with schools, Montgomery County public schools, to do individualized coupons for programs that they have.
Ari Brooks: To help encourage reading and so that parents will know that there is a resource for their families to purchase affordable books, work a lot with home scholars, too, who purchased textbooks from us. I have known families who have bought textbooks from us so that their kids don’t have to take books back and forth to school.
And we also are the major funder of MCPL’s Summer Read and Learn Program. So the children and teens that participate and successfully complete that program also get a coupon as one of the many incentives that MCPL gives out to them. And we make a really big deal about that when the kids bring in their coupons and congratulate them on completing the program and, you know, making them feel really good about being readers.
Lance Salins: And vinyl actually on the upswing, vinyl records. There are people starting to release vinyl records. New bands are – were releasing new records in that format. A lot of audio files are seeking out that content, the order content because they prefer how it sounds in that format. We have a number of collectors that frequent at our stores so we’ve had a series of vinyl auctions collectible, vintage vinyl. And I believe MCPL is working on having an event next year that will focus on that community that –.
Ari Brooks: Yes.
Lance Salins: – help vinyl enthusiasts.
Ari Brooks: MCPL, FOLMC, the Levine School of Music, and Open Sky Jazz are partnering for a vinyl just for the record day.
Julie Dina: And this is sometime next year.
Ari Brooks: It is in April.
Lance Salins: Yes, still in the planning stages and we – at the bookstores we have a vinyl list people can join if they email bookstores at folmc.org and we keep people up to date on all of the vinyl collectibles because we do get vinyl – just like we get book collectibles we get vinyl collectibles. We sold records for as much as $400 individual records.
Julie Dina: That is a record?
Lance Salins: Yeah, yeah.
Julie Dina: No pun intended?
Lance Salins: But, yeah, which is exciting. We have people that shop. They’ll come by every day looking to see if we have new records.
Ari Brooks: Every single day.
Lance Salins: Oh, yes. They’re committed.
Ari Brooks: Every day there is – there are people who literally come every single day. I can remember going to the stores and seeing like the same guy. Every single time I went and go and asking –.
Lance Salins: They’ll be like, “Did I hire this person?”
Ari Brooks: Did they hire this guy, like?
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: And when I see on the payroll why is he here every time I’m here and then we go – I, you know, find out that, no, he actually just comes every single day after work –.
Julie Dina: So it is not just because you’re there.
Ari Brooks: Right.
Julie Dina: It is because he is there all the time.
Lance Salins: Oh, yeah. We have committed regulars that we know by name and it is great.
Ari Brooks: That has got to really feel good.
Lance Salins: It does. We’re a regular part of their life in their community and now they’ll pull up a chair, and they’ll read, and they’ll shop, and they’ll talk, and they’ll meet other regulars, and they’ll talk, and they’ll trade book recommendations, and just talk about their book collections or their music collections and there is a lot of cross talking. That is really where we see the community aspect.
Ari Brooks: The community, yeah.
Lance Salins: And that is what we strive to be a welcoming community bookstore because we just think that it is a wonderful thing to see people enjoying books, enjoying literacy, artistic expression. It is just it is great.
Ari Brooks: And I think part of our success is that we turn the books over. When I think of used bookstores from my past, I think of the books being there, you know, the one month going back, the next month the book is still there.
Lance Salins: It is all static.
Ari Brooks: And then the book is on the floor and then the next time I go back and we actually have a constant turnover of books and are always seeking outlets to get the books into the hands of people regardless of whether they’re sold in our store or sold through other set –.
Lance Salins: Online, we sell online.
FeLance Salins: – online vendors.
Lance Salins: Where – then we’re like we sold the Hemmingway online just because it was such a rare item. The chances of having somebody walk in with $6,000 to spend –.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Ari Brooks: Right.
Lance Salins: – may not have been that high. But – so we do use online market places, but that is just to extract the greatest value and the greatest return for the library because that is our mission and that is our duty.
Ari Brooks: Right. So they aren’t sold in the store. There is another place that we will try to sell it.
Lance Salins: Oh, yeah. We’re constantly thinking of new channels and new ways that we can find homes for these materials and these books. And that is all to serve our greater mission. But it is fun and it is enjoyable to find new outlets and that is why we have these reading lists. We also have a comics list where we send out messages to comic enthusiasts to let them know we have a new batch of comics in and they flock.
I’ll go to the store the morning after I’ve sent an email to our comics list and they will be 10 people eagerly waiting inline crowding around the door because they want to get in there and start going through and looking for those comics to complete their sets or the comic from the their childhood that they’ve been looking for, for 15 years and they just can’t find it, or they can’t find it because it is, you know, a thousand dollars online and they’re hoping to find it on our store for a better price. Yeah, that is what we see.
Julie Dina: That is awesome. So we usually like to close the show off with what books are you currently reading? We’ll start with you first.
Ari Brooks: Okay. So I am finishing up "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" by Dinaw Mengestu, which is the big read book that we hope the entire Montgomery County will be reading with us from April to June of 2018. And I’m reading with my daughter the “Case of the Missing Lion” by Alexander McCall Smith, one of his young adult books.
Lance Salins: I am reading “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, which is amazing. I definitely recommend it. I’m only about a third of the way through, but it is very intense and I highly recommend it. I’m also reading a number of other things like I kind of tend to alternate and switch around with my books. And I also want to give a shout out with my niece. I currently – I’m reading with here, she is working her way through the Warriors series –.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Lance Salins: – by Erin Hunter which is extremely popular.
Ari Brooks: The cats.
Lance Salins: Those cats get up to some really –.
Ari Brooks: I know.
Lance Salins: It is very –.
Ari Brooks: I’ve been there and done that with my daughters.
Julie Dina: Yeah, the cats.
Lance Salins: Yeah. Talk about intensity, oh my goodness. She was explaining to me all the intricacies of these different clans.
Ari Brooks: The clans.
Julie Dina: Yes.
Lance Salins: And all of the – just all the behind the scenes politics and backstabbing or I guess back cloying or all the different things. And it was – she would kept explaining it to me and I was just sitting there stunned because it was – it almost read like “Game of Thrones,” all the intricacies and just nine – just my nine-year-old niece is telling me all of this. I’m just like, “Wow, that is intense.” I was impressed with her grasp on all of it. So I give a shout out to the Warrior series for her.
Julie Dina: I hope you heard that, niecy [Phonetic] [0:35:48].
Lance Salins: Yes, absolutely. Or anybody that is looking for that great level, that fourth, fifth, sixth great level.
Ari Brooks: I highly recommend it.
Lance Salins: Yeah.
Ari Brooks: My older daughter went through that whole face and just gobbled those books up.
Julie Dina: Well, I’ve got to say this was very, very – a very, very nice conversation. And I have to mention that on behalf of Montgomery County staff, we want to say a very big thank you to our friends, Friends of the Library, for all the many show stopping programs you guys have been able to allow us to provide to our customers and for everything that you guys do. We really, really appreciate it. So thank you to Ari and thank you Lance for coming to the program today.
And keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Recording Date: November 29, 2017
Hosts: Julie Dina
Episode Summary: Julie Dina discusses the work of the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County (FOLMC) with FOLMC Executive Director Ari Brooks and Business Manager Lance Salins.
Guests: FOLMC Executive Director Ari Brooks and FOLMC Business Manager Lance Salins
Featured MCPL Resource: Flipster is an online collection of current and back issues of your favorite magazines such as Cooking Light, Ebony, and Sports Illustrated. A different selection of popular magazines is available through our other online magazine service, RBdigital Magazines.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
FOLMC Bookstores: The FOLMC operates 2 used bookstores. 1 in Rockville and 1 in Silver Spring. The revenues from these bookstores support FOLMC's mission. Here is a description of the items they accept for donations.
"Friends of the Library Sells Rare Copy of Hemingway's Farewell to Arms for $6,000": MyMCMedia news article about the discovery and sale of a copy of Farewell to Arms signed by Ernest Hemingway.
Friends of the Library, Chapters: 17 of MCPL's 21 branches have individual Friends of the Library chapters. The Deaf Culture Digital Library also has a Friends chapter.
Friends of the Library, Montgomery County (FOLMC): An independent nonprofit that provides supplemental funding, programs, materials, and equipment to MCPL.
Library After Dark: An annual gala at which library staff, volunteers, donors, and community leaders are recognized for their contributions to making MCPL a nationally recognized library system.
Montgomery County Library Board: The Library Board makes recommendations to the County Executive on matters affecting the public library system. 23 subcommittees of the Library Board, called Library Advisory Committees (LACs) represent each library branch, the correctional facility, and the accessibility community.
David Payne: Hello and welcome to another edition of Library Matters with your host, David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I’m Julie Dina.
David Payne: Today, we are talking about a genre which has become increasingly popular but increasingly difficult to define and that is science fiction. And here with us to talk about sci-fi and explain it, we have two MCPL staff members, Richard McElroy.
Richard McElroy: Hi there.
David Payne: And Beth Chandler.
Beth Chandler: Hello.
David Payne: Just a reminder that all of the books, authors, television shows, and movies that we mention during the podcast today can be found listed on our show notes on the Library Matters website.
Julie Dina: So why don’t we start the show off with asking the most obvious question? What exactly is science fiction?
Beth Chandler: Well, in my experience science fiction is a genre in which the creator extrapolates from our current technology and our current knowledge of the universe and projects what it might be like in the future.
Richard McElroy: In coming up with the definition I would try to, I guess, just still it into a few words as possible. And so based on these two words, science and fiction, it is just a work of fiction that is based around scientific technology. Because it is fiction, it would be based on technology that is not currently possible but that is feasible.
Julie Dina: So do we say is this – does this have anything to do with STEM?
Richard McElroy: That is right.
Beth Chandler: Because it has lot to do with STEM.
Julie Dina: Since everyone is talking about STEM these days.
Beth Chandler: You can find the elements of all sciences and technologies in it. And some stories also incorporate art, language, music, and other elements of, you know, basic – you know, anything that you think about with society or civilization, either hours or some potential civilization with very different beings.
Richard McElroy: Yeah. And it is great because it is fun, so it can encourage kids to get involve with STEM.
Julie Dina: It will encourage me for sure.
David Payne: So now that we’ve defined sci-fi and we know what it is, we tend to think of it, science fiction, as always being set in the future. Is that necessarily the case?
Richard McElroy: Well, I don’t think it has to be the case. It often is the case because that is the easiest way to present science that is not currently possible. But there has been plenty of science fiction that has been set in the present like, Jules Verne, set all of his books in the present and they were all about fantastic journeys into parts of the world that we hadn’t yet discovered using technology that wasn’t quite available at the time.
Beth Chandler: Definitely you can go back in the past – the past and have things for instance, let’s say Leonardo da Vinci had gotten much further with some of his inventions that never came to fruition. And we had 19th century technology back in the renaissance era. That is a possible setting for science fiction or could go back to the days in pyramids and say, “Yes, there really were aliens who helped build the pyramids.” And, you know, and write a story, you know, based on that with highly advanced technology.
Julie Dina: Now, science fiction is often paired with fantasy. Can you tell us why exactly and are there differences, are there similarities between the two genres?
Beth Chandler: One of the similarities is that they both deal with things that we don’t have in our present reality. And a lot of authors also write books of science fiction and fantasy, sometimes you can’t tell the difference. People who’ve read – may read very well know that. A lot of stories are fantasy and some of them edge into a combination and Martian Chronicles is a good example. He brings some characters from the past and from fairy tails into future stories about Mars and the Martians.
One of my favorite Manga, “Fullmetal Alchemist,” is mostly about Alchemian magic. But there is also something called automail, which is a prosthetic replacement for people that actually interacts with their own musculature and nerves that is something that were only starting to develop now these days. And this story was written more than 10 years ago.
Richard McElroy: Beth hit on this a little bit, but I think science fiction and fantasy are often paired together because they often look very similar on the surface. They both often involved aliens, and monsters, and spaceships, and explosions, and stuff like that. But I think the key difference is that science fiction as I said in my first answer is something that is feasible. It is something that we could see ourselves progressing towards as species, or as a society, or as fantasy as something that is not feasible. It is something where we have to suspend our disbelief and go into another world often involving magic or alternate universes or just world that don’t exist altogether.
Oh, and one other thing I’d like to add is a clear example of the difference between science fiction and fantasy is the difference between “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”. I think that “Star Trek” is a classic example of science fiction as it takes place in our world, set in the future based on scientific advancement, whereas “Star Wars” is more of a space fantasy. It is sort of this big opera that is about the story and involves magical elements and it is in a galaxy far, far away, and isn’t necessarily as directly related to the world that we live in.
David Payne: What has drawn you both to science fiction? How do you develop your interest for science fiction books, movies, and so on?
Richard McElroy: I was drawn into science fiction originally as a kid. I used to watch a lot of “Twilight Zone.” My mom would watch it a lot, especially the marathons that would go on TV. I believe on New Years Eve there would be marathons of Twilight’s unplayed. So since then I’ve always been interested in potential futures. I’ve always been interested in the questions about life and possibilities that it brings up.
Beth Chandler: I was to add a similar introduction. It was, you know, through TV. I grew up in the era of the “Star Trek: Animated Series,” which people growing up in the ’70s will remember. And actually we used to play “Star Trek,” my brother, and my cousin, and I. They always wanted to kill aliens and I was more interested in investigating new worlds and new civilizations which are the great appeal for me is exploring the unknown, getting to know that new ways of being – as ancient being.
Julie Dina: What is some of the best science fiction books you’ve ever read?
Richard McElroy: Well, I say that my favorite is probably “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I – If you’ve only seen the movie and never read book, I highly encourage reading the book available at the Montgomery County Public Libraries.
The “Frankenstein” monster is a much more intelligent creature than he was in the movie. And it really grapples with a lot of questions about existence in our world. About what it is to be human? What it is to be a person? How to be an accepted member of our society? Some other preferred science fiction books of mine include “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick. Also my favorite science fiction short story is probably “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov.
Beth Chandler: I enjoyed the last question, too. I spent much of my teen years reading short stories, many by Isaac Asimov. My favorite for many, many years it does time with one or two others is the “Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K Le Guin. It is a story about a single human who goes as the envoy to try to convince a planet of humans who have been for millennia, millennia distance from other humans. He is going to influence them to join a sort of consortium of known worlds. And this particular planet has people who do not have one set gender. They become either male or female once a month.
Ursula K Le Guin when writing this said that she went to play with the idea of what would a society be without gender? So it is a very character-driven and concept-driven story, but also it has a lot to say about skepticism, how much politics influences things. And also quite a bit about the nature of friendship, loyalty and, you know, patriotism. In addition, she does manage to get some good humor into it.
Richard McElroy: I’m glad that you mentioned humor, because I love humor in science fiction, too, and some matters that I might mention are Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” is just a fantastic, really funny science fiction book that is really easy to read. It is a short readable book that I highly recommend.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, that is a good place to start off with science fiction if you want something that is not going to throw a lot of data in advance science that you would also be very enjoyable. I enjoyed “The Hitchhiker’s” series myself. And actually my other favorite author besides Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, has a wonderful gift for humor. And sometimes, you know, write up one of the most heart wrenching period to the story a moment later she will throw in this sort of rye joke. And you’re like, “I was almost crying a minute ago and now I’m cracking up.” So she was –.
Richard McElroy: – emotions.
Beth Chandler: Yeah. Yes it is.
Julie Dina: So she knows how to sneak it in.
Beth Chandler: She knows how to sneak it in and she has amazingly, you know, well rounded characters. There is, you know, cast of dozens in her “Vorkosigan Saga” stories. And when one pops up, again, I remember, you know, who they are, what their personality is, little bit of their history, very memorable.
David Payne: So let’s go from authors to characters. Which character from a science fiction movie or TV show would you most want as a co-worker?
Richard McElroy: Well, that is easy for me. And I think it is might be the same for most science fiction fans, but I would say Spock from “Star Trek”. He is unemotional. He is completely rational. He is the science officer. And so he is easily as efficient as possible because he doesn’t have to grapple with work place emotions that often arise. Who wouldn’t want to have Spock as a co-worker?
Beth Chandler: Yeah. I thought about Spock, too, actually. And then I thought, you know, he does have that occasional sort of rye almost sensitive humor. But, you know, if I wanted someone friendly to chat with, you know, my other favorite is the Fourth Doctor from the British Doctor Who series. He was one of my favorite doctors. He is cheerful. He is also very ethical. He seems genuinely fun to people. Does his best to get along with everyone and just gives this whole sense that, you know, everything is somehow okay and he is going to be okay. And we’re going to have a pretty, pretty good time dealing with it whatever it is.
Richard McElroy: And if you have a bad day just leave on his TARDIS.
Beth Chandler: Also true.
Julie Dina: So in your opinion, what elements should good science fiction book or film contain?
Beth Chandler: I think it needs to have something of everything. A good, you know, good plot, technology that is, you know, realistic to extrapolate from what we have now or is so far in the future that it seems realistic even though it is something that we can’t quite figure out how it will work. So you need that, the technology, a good plot line, characters you really care about. I love a lot of the old classic science fiction, but I have to admit some of the characters are basically there to, you know, support the technology and the plot and fortunately that has changed the great deal.
Richard McElroy: In my opinion, good science fiction provides a vision of the future that is connected to our present day reality. And the way I distinguished good science fiction from, let say hackey [Phonetic] science fiction, is that the good science fiction allows you to come up with your conclusions about whatever the subject matter is. It stimulates your own curiosity rather than telling you how the future should be.
A lot of science fiction I think often falls into the pitfalls of being preachy and saying how the future should look. Whereas good science fiction just sort of presents concepts that are difficult and doesn’t necessarily tell you what the answer is, but allows you to come up for the answer yourself. And a lot of that I think involves conflicting virtues. Science fiction often presents two different virtues that when taken to their extreme might clash with one another and it forces us to grapple with which ones we value more.
David Payne: Do you think then sci-fi has become more complex if we’re – if our world today is more complex and we’re looking – if we are looking at future worlds? Has it become more difficult to understand?
Richard McElroy: No. I don’t – I mean, I think that it is always been able to. It just progressed with the times and with the progression of technology. So talking about space travel in the first place was difficult to understand for people 100 years ago. And now what is difficult for us to understand is something like let’s say, the nature of consciousness and what it is to be a person and whether an artificial life form can have an equal status to a human life form and where do you draw the line between life and let say having your conscious uploaded on to a computer. There are a lot of questions that for us seem difficult now that might seem easy to those in the future and questions that in the past seem easy to us now but might have been difficult for them.
Beth Chandler: I agree with Richard. Science fiction is always dealt with some of the major more in philosophical issues going back to some of the classics. Isaac Asimov writing his Robot stories, you know, dealt with the question of, you know, a robot is more good for humans or bad for them and the answer seeming, you know, different and ambiguous going all the way up through his timeline further and further into the future. And he explored all sorts of advantages and disadvantages of that one particular type of technology the positronic robot that he created with his mind and his knowledge of science as it existed in the ’50s and ’60s.
Richard McElroy: It seems like most of the good science fiction coming out nowadays is about artificial intelligence because that is something that is really blossoming right now and it is – there are a lot of moral issues that come up there. We have to really have an understanding of if we’re going to move forward with the development of artificial intelligence.
Julie Dina: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Lisa Navidi: Ever wonder about the who, what and why of a book? Readers Cafe is a virtual meeting place for books and readers. Your one stop center for book clubs, book blogs, articles, and literally research. Take a look and you can be the envy of your literally chums. You can find the link in this episode show notes.
Julie Dina: Now, back to our program.
David Payne: Which science fiction world would you most and least like to live in?
Beth Chandler: The first book in the “Terra Ignota” series, “Too Like the Lightning” by Ada Palmer. She – this is just her first novel. She has only written one other when so far that has been published. And it is a future world about 300 years on from now where the, you know, the world is separated into entirely different concept, to what countries are. We finally have our flying cars and they can cross the world in the matter of hours. Still working on trying to colonize Mars, but there is a lot of wonderful things about the culture and the way human beings get along with each other. But of course, there is always that little deed of something that starts falling apart, so I’d like to live there before things start falling apart.
Richard McElroy: Okay. I would say that the science fiction world that I would most like to live in, you know, is about to go with “Star Trek,” which seems to be a common answer for me, but instead I’m going to go with “Firefly,” the TV show by Joss Whedon, because “Star Trek” is a little too sanitized for my taste, whereas “Firefly” is similar. It is a futuristic space series, but it is a little more wild west like. There is a little more freedom out there, a little more conflict, and it just seems like a more a fun universe to live in than, let say “Star Trek.”
David Payne: So looking back over the years, the whole history of the sci-fi genre, which sci-fi movie or novel written long ago and set either in the past or the current present is most hilariously wrong and which is the most accurate?
Richard McElroy: Well, I think it is very important to note that in ‘Back to the Future’ they went to 2015 and the newspaper headline said ‘Chicago Cubs win World Series.’ They were one year off. The Cubs won their first World Series in 110 years in 2016.
David Payne: Right.
Richard McElroy: So that was really impressively accurate.
Julie Dina: That was close.
Beth Chandler: Yeah. One I thought of – as being hilariously wrong was of 2001, “Space Odyssey,” the original book by Arthur C. Clarke in which he has people referring to hotels as Hiltons. He figured, you know, just as many people called refrigerators as frigidaires and adhesive bandages – Band Aids that we’d all be calling hotel Hiltons and we don’t. There are a lot of other things. There was a space station. We had gotten much further forward in space travel than he expected we would, which is one of the ongoing limits of a lot of science fiction fans as well as scientists themselves.
Richard McElroy: There are a lot of technologies that have been predicted very accurately like “Star Trek” for example. Can you tell that I like “Star Trek”?
David Payne: Oh, you bet.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Richard McElroy: They were using these little screens that they had in their hands that were just like tablets today. They had –.
Julie Dina: iPads.
Richard McElroy: Yeah. They had communicators that were like cell phones. They had replicators where they would just create food or other objects that they needed out of these replicators, which are very similar to a 3-D printers that are currently available in the Montgomery County Public Libraries.
Beth Chandler: Library, yes. Although we do not make candy with them, but I – now make candy with some 3-D printers.
Richard McElroy: Oh, wow.
Beth Chandler: So we’re getting into Tea, Earl Gray, Hot.
Richard McElroy: Exactly. Also with the holodecks where this virtual reality rooms that you could go into and create any kind of reality you wanted. Now, we’re progressing with virtual reality which is coming soon to Montgomery County Public Library near you.
Julie Dina: One thing for sure, you do love your Montgomery County Public Library.
Beth Chandler: It is very good with that. And an interesting thing is that “Star Trek” was not the primary creation of just one person, but it has been written by a dozens of screen writers and multiple directors and producers have had their hand in, so it seems that crowd sourcing a science fiction story. You know, maybe said to help make it more accurate.
David Payne: That is interesting. So what are some of the science fiction books that contained characters of color or of the LGBTQ community?
Beth Chandler: Just to name a few, there is Nnedi Okorafor who is American who grew up in Nigeria. She has written several stories about – not just African-Americans, but primarily Africans. Several other writers Nalo Hopkinson is one, Ada Palmer, who I’d mentioned before has written a lot about characters both of various colors. Three-hundred years from now, most of us are going to be highly into racial, according to her. Very few people who are, you know, purely, you know, one ethnicity or another. And actually, one of our MoComCon guests last year and this year, Don Sakers, is a local author, has been writing for years about characters of color and characters in the LGBTQ community.
David Payne: So diversity very much of the heart of sci-fi.
Richard McElroy: Yeah.
Julie Dina: So what exactly would be the weirdest science fiction book you’ve ever come across, weirdest ever?
Beth Chandler: I will say it was more of a novella, but I would say one of the weirdest stories I’ve read by one of the strangest authors I’ve read, but I love him dearly is –.
Julie Dina: But he is weird?
Beth Chandler: Oh, yes. I -- to further out the better, I mean, I never did drugs because I said all I have to do is go pick up a Theodore Sturgeon novel, you know, as a teenager, or collection of short stories. And he wrote one story called The, and next few words are in brackets, [Widget], The [Wadget] and Boff. And it is about two aliens who are observing earth and making a small change to see if it can effect the larger change in the world, which is something more than one science fiction or author has done.
But this one is so bizarre by the way it puts everything from the alien’s perspective. Ordinary things like somebody trying to ask someone else for a date and meal times in children are seen through the view point of these aliens. So I would say that is one of the strangest stories by one of the strangest science fiction authors.
Richard McElroy: Unfortunately I don’t have anything to notch that.
Beth Chandler: Okay.
Julie Dina: Well, we do have, and I’m sure you both know that our MoComCon last year was very successful. We had tons of people come from the county and from the neighboring counties. Would you please explain to our listeners what exactly MoComCon is?
Beth Chandler: MoComCon stands for Montgomery County Comic Con, but like many conventions in the, you know, science fiction fantasy, comics, et cetera, you know, phantom, it is a convention that ties in a lot more than comics brings in, as I said science fiction and fantasy stories, movies, TV shows, and pretty much various kinds of nerdity including, you know, hot technology. And that is what you’ll be seeing in January at MoComCon.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
David Payne: So are you coming to MoComCon dress as a sci-fi character?
Richard McElroy: Well, indeed I am as I am an employee of the – well, I work at the Silver Spring Library. And fortunately for my co-workers my dream will come true for all of them because I will be there dressed as Spock, so they will get to have Spock as a co-worker for a day.
Beth Chandler: Oh, excellent. Delighted to hear Spock will be working with us. I’m on the actual MoComCon committee, so I won’t be able to dress up. I’ll be wearing one of our colorful and exciting MoComCon t-shirts. But I hope to wear a couple of buttons, almost certainly one of my buttons that says, “Prepare for the future, read science fiction.”
David Payne: Well, finally it is our tradition here on Library Matters to ask all guests to tell us about the book that you have enjoyed recently. What have you both enjoyed reading recently?
Richard McElroy: So this isn’t science fiction work. I haven’t read a science fiction book in a little while, but I recently read “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth which is a fabulous book. I highly recommend. It takes place in the recent past, so it is a recent historical fiction, novel you could say.
Beth Chandler: A book I read recently that I really enjoyed is actually a fantasy novel. And like many science fictions fans, I also read fantasy. It is the first in Philip Pullman’s new series, “The Book of Dust.” The title is “La Belle Sauvage.” And I thoroughly enjoyed going back into the same world as the previous series he’d written in the same universe about Lyra and a world where each human has their own demon which is a part of, you know, their own selves. And he writes a marvelous story taking place 10 years before the previous series. And just like in a good science fiction book, he has a wonderfully realized alternate oxford at alternate earth that you just dive right into. You can almost feel like, you know, you’re sailing along with the main character in his little boat.
Julie Dina: Well, thank you so very much Beth and Richard for all the wonderful information you’ve given us which relates to sci-fi.
Keep the conversations going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple podcast. We’ll love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
[Audio Ends] [0:26:59]
Recording Date: November 8, 2017
Hosts: Julia Dina and David Payne
Episode Summary: Science fiction fans Beth Chandler, a librarian in our Collection Management division, and Richard McElroy, a Library Desk Assistant at our Silver Spring branch, talk about science fiction: what it is, how it has changed, and what it means.
Guests: Librarian Beth Chandler and Library Desk Assistant Richard McElroy
Featured MCPL Resource: Readers' Café, a virtual meeting place for books and reader. Visit Readers Cafe to find book reviews, recommended reading, book clubs, and more.
What Our Guests Are Currently Reading:
Beth Chandler: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Richard McElroy: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Authors, Books, Movies, Television Shows, and Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
2001: a Space Odyssey: A film based on Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Sentinel" about the crew of a spaceship bound for Jupiter along with a self aware computer, HAL, who begins to malfunction.
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Doctor Who: The time and space traveling adventures of a long lived Timelord and his Terran companions.
Firefly: A science fiction television series about the adventures of the crew of Serenity, who make their living on the fringe of society.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
"The Last Question" (short story) by Isaac Asimov
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Don Sakers: A Maryland science fiction writer and book reviewer for Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. He is a frequent guest speaker at science fiction conventions. He will be a workshop presenter at MoComCon.
Star Trek: A long standing science fiction world that has spawned numerous television shows, movies, and countless books.
Star Trek: the Animated Series: A cartoon version of the original Star Trek television series, produced for 2 episodes during the 1970s.
Star Wars: Science fiction fantasy tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Twilight Zone: A genre mixing science fiction, horror, thriller television show begun in 1959 that often concluded with an unexpected twist.
Other Items of Interest: