What I Read on My Summer Vacation 

You see feet in flip flops (with pink toenails) under a dress hem. Between the feet is a smashed small birthday cake with

by Christie L.

I’m a speed reader. When I told my family that I read four books on a recent getaway, they teased me about whether I remembered any details. One was an advanced reader copy and not widely available for a couple of months. While I may not have encyclopedic recall, I can tell you enough about the other three to entice you to check them out for yourself. 

The first was by one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris. His latest book, Happy-Go-Lucky, (also as an e-book and an e-audiobook) chronicles his adventures in London, New York, North Carolina, and other locations. He begins with a story about going with his sister Lisa to a shooting range in North Carolina where he learns how to shoot a gun while pondering what types of people own them. From there, he jumps to a story about his father. Sedaris spends a considerable amount of the book talking about his father’s declining health and their complicated relationship. He shares deeply personal stories about his father and his sisters – the funny, awkward, and sometimes uncomfortable interactions, including painful questions about whether their dad sexually assaulted their sister Tina. Sprinkled throughout these recollections are other unrelated stories about a speech he thinks about giving to college graduates, the falling-apart house he and his partner Hugh purchase and fix up in France, travels to Eastern Europe, and life in NYC during the pandemic and protests following George Floyd’s murder. As with all of his previous works, one never knows what the next page holds – it may be laugh-out-loud funny, awkward, or thought-provoking. But it will never be boring. 

Next was Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters by Annie Choi. She often made me laugh while also giving me some insight into life as the child of Korean immigrants. Choi relates stories about her mother’s obsession with her daughter’s grades so she can go to an Ivy League school, her mother’s collection of knick-knacks, trips to Korea to see extended family, dating non-Koreans, going to Korean school, saving her stuffed animal collection, and defending her vegetarian diet. When she wrote about her mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, I could relate. It doesn’t matter who you are – it’s incredibly hard to live across the country from your parents when they struggle with health issues. Choi’s witty and touching memoir transcends cultures and gives us a glimpse into her world – and ours.

A wide horizon of a rural setting at sunset with a viviid red sky. Two figures are walking on the grass.

Finally, I finished the week with God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney, a book I discovered from a Texas fiction list curated by Texas Monthly. As a native Texan who’s also a pastor’s daughter, I was interested in this story that follows two sisters whose father is a pastor and who are expected to be above reproach at all times. But that’s where the similarity ends. Before he retired, my dad served Lutheran congregations in rural Texas, living in parsonages (houses provided by the church) and ministering to folks in our small community. In this story, Luke Nolan is the pastor of an evangelical megachurch who has a secret that could end his career. (Side note: career vs. calling is a philosophical discussion for another time.)

When his daughters find out, they question not only their father but also their faith. Without giving anything away, the book explores double-standards, patriarchy, relationships between sisters and between children and parents, and how faith guides and impacts lives. It’s a fascinating coming-of-age story about two sisters who come to terms with what they really believe and how they will decide to live their lives.

Christie is the Director of Communication and Partnerships for Howard County Library System. She loves walking through the network of pathways in Columbia, sitting on the beach, and cheering for the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Aggies football team.

Informed Citizens are Engaged Voters

A green background that says, Because informed citizens are engaged voters." From the American Library

by Christie L.

The most important right we have as Americans is the right to vote. From the Howard County Board of Elections to the U.S. Congress, you have a voice. Everyone can vote for some of the local races, such as Board of Education. But with so many choices on the ballot, where to begin? 

For Federal seats, step away from the echo chambers of social media and check the facts at FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocate for voters that helps to, “monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.” You can also visit Politifact, a fact-checking website with a rigorous and transparent process used to scrutinize claims independently by political officials, candidates, campaigns, and media. 

For state races, visit Vote411.org for a personalized ballot based on your address. Click a candidate icon to find more information about the candidate. To weigh two candidates, click the “compare” button. 

For Howard County races, use the resources from the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. Read the 2022 Primary Voters Guide and/or watch the Primary Candidates Forum.  

County Executive: Fast forward to 2 minutes, 50 seconds. 

Howard County Council: 

  • District 1: Fast forward to 20 minutes 
  • District 2: No attendees 
  • District 3: Fast forward to 34 minutes 
  • District 4: Fast forward to 40 minutes 
  • District 5: Fast forward to 59 minutes 

State’s Attorney: Fast forward to 1 hour, 5 minutes 

Clerk of Circuit Court: Fast forward to 1 hour, 11 minutes 

Register of Wills: Fast forward to 1 hour, 14 minutes 

Sheriff: Fast forward to 1 hour, 17 minutes 

Judge of Orphan’s Court: Fast forward to 1 hour, 23 minutes 

Board of Education: Fast forward to 1 hour, 36 minutes 

MD House of Delegates: 

  • District 13: Fast forward to 2 hours, 20 minutes 
  • District 12A: Fast forward to 2 hours, 57 minutes 
  • District 9B: Fast forward to 3 hours 
  • District 9A: Fast forward to 3 hours, 8 minutes 

MD Senate: 

  • District 13: No attendees 
  • District 12: Fast forward to 3 hours, 37 minutes 
  • District 9: Fast forward to 3 hours, 52 minutes 

Judge of Circuit Court: Fast forward to 3 hours, 56 minutes 

Now that you’re ready to cast your vote, visit the State Board of Elections or Howard County Board of Elections to find your polling place and get answers to frequently asked questions. Or, enter the address where you are registered to vote to find your polling place: https://gettothepolls.com 

Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm on Tuesday, July 19.

And once you vote, learn more about voting history with this curated list of books and films in our collection.  

Whether you vote by mail, by drop box, or in person, educate yourself about the candidates and issues and VOTE!  

Christie Lassen is the Director of Communication and Partnerships for Howard County Library System. She loves walking through the network of pathways in Columbia, sitting on the beach, and cheering for the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Aggies football team.

National Library Week 2022: State of Howard County Library System

National Library Week logo: Connect With Your Library. Connect is a white mouse with cord on a blue background. A black and white image of a plug on a deep yellow goes with "with your, and "library" is on red with an illustration of two hands getting ready to clasp.

by Tonya Aikens, President & CEO, Howard County Library System

It’s National Library Week! First observed in 1958, National Library Week is a time to celebrate our nation’s libraries, library staff, and promote library use and support. This year’s theme, Connect With Your Library, promotes libraries as places to connect – to technology, to learning, and, most importantly, to each other.  

We invite you to connect with us and your neighbors when you attend a class or event, participate in a book discussion group, visit an exhibit, get a passport, study or conduct research, browse the collection, or simply stop by for a visit.  

Get inspired and collaborate with others in our new makerspace at the Glenwood Branch, dream up projects with the team at our DIY Center in Elkridge, and gain new perspectives when you borrow books from our new equity collection at the Central Branch or read Brave Stories from fellow Howard Countians on our website.  

At Howard County Library System, we are focused on making connections with and between members of our community. We launched our new mobile unit last summer, bringing classes and materials to preschoolers and their families in communities less able to come to our branches.  

We reopened the renovated Glenwood Branch in December, and families are now spending hours in our new Builders Barn and interactive play spaces. After school, teens flock to the cozy booths, play games, and record raps in the recording booth at our makerspace. 

Over the past year, we also embarked on an equity journey. We formed a Racial Equity Alliance, comprising 20 people representing a broad cross-section of the community, which guides and partners with us in our racial equity work. We launched our Brave Voices, Brave Choices initiative which hosted racial equity training for more than 400 community members, collected more than 600 stories of racism, bias, and discrimination, and convened circles of people seeking to make sense of what they learned and discuss how we should move forward as a community. 

In response to requests for a physical space where people can come together to learn more about one another, to learn more about people different than them – whether that’s a different race or culture or belief or gender identity – we created an Equity Resource Center at our Central Branch. This new Center includes space to gather, for exhibits, and for a new 9,000-plus title equity collection.  

Libraries serve the entire community and provide opportunities to connect and bring people together across conversation…to hear, listen and understand our differences, to learn how we can make meaning of them, and how we can find and increase common ground. 

When we create connections, the fabric of our community is stronger. Libraries are unique places where all people, regardless of background or means, are welcome. Whether you connect with us online or in person, we hope to see you soon.