I Was Better Last Night 

A black and white photo of Harvey Fierstein from below, as he looks down into the camera whild having his hands against one side of his face.

by Cherise T.

Harvey Fierstein, I beg to differ with your memoir title, I Was Better Last Night. Although I’ve never had the privilege of experiencing one of your shows two nights in a row, every time I have seen you, the performance has been remarkably bodacious and sincere, distinctive and familiar. You immerse the audience in worlds we’ve never seen before, drawing us in even deeper with elements resonating from our own lives. How could you have been even better? 

I Was Better Last Night opens a treasure trove of stories for theater lovers. Did you know that Disney thought Newsies could never be a hit musical? That the original producers of 1983’s La Cage aux Folles vehemently nixed the gay couple’s kiss? That beloved actress Estelle Getty of The Golden Girls first found fame at age 59 in Torch Song Trilogy, starring in a role written just for her? Brimming with mostly loving, but occasionally scathing, Broadway backstage tales, Fierstein’s memoir exposes the details of show creation. We learn his insights into what worked and what didn’t and how the cast and creative crew contribute to the final product. We hear juicy tales of relationships gained and broken, Tonys won and lost, musicals with multiple revivals and singular flops. 

As an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and proudly out gay icon, Fierstein has a lifetime of stories to tell, and the book truly spans his whole life. The memoir maintains a captivating balance between the personal and the professional. Some of the most poignant chapters in the book explore his evolving sexual identity and the context in which he places his own growth as a queer man within the current social environment. He spares few details when writing about New York City’s bathhouses and the HIV/AIDs epidemic. 

Fierstein has won many awards and garnered extensive fame for his contributions to Mrs. Doubtfire, Hairspray, Fiddler on the Roof, La Cage Aux Folles, and Torch Song Trilogy, to name a few. It’s fascinating to learn how he credits his becoming a successful performer and writer to character, lucky timing, supportive mentors, and determination. In another life, he would now be a retired public school art teacher. 

The book is available in print and electronic formats. Consider the audiobook version, if you enjoy Fierstein’s distinctive gravel-filled Brooklyn accent as much as I do. Describing the creation of the musical Kinky Boots, for example, he does a spot-on impersonation of Cyndi Lauper, the first solo woman to win a Tony for best original musical score. Offering lyrics he’s sung and lines he’s written, Fierstein is a compelling author-narrator, adding an additional layer of insight into his creative life. His self-deprecating sense of humor really shines. For the wonderful photographs, check out the print version as well. 

And the title? Yes, Fierstein seems to have the ego we associate with stars. There’s no doubt he believes in himself and the strength of his work, but like the final principle of Lola’s six–step program in Kinky Boots, “You change the world when you change your mind.” He describes times he could have done better, admits missteps, and encourages everyone to open their minds and hearts. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Eating in Season

The picture depicts four recipes: bread, a dish with green vegetables and red cabbage. another dish with sliced beef, carrots, and potatoes, and a fourth dish with red grapes and sprigs of herbs on a white pie with a slice cut out of it.

by Cherise T.

End of summer blues? Turn to the colorful fruits and vegetables of autumn for a mood lift. Filled with nutrients, seasonal produce offers a culinary treat.

The Complete Autumn and Winter Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen includes side dishes, main courses, and desserts filled with the flavors of fall. An entire chapter is devoted to pumpkin, a low-calorie, vitamin-dense treat. The antioxidant beta-carotene in pumpkin lends it that beautiful orange color and blocks the free radicals that cause cells to age. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A which is essential for healthy eyes, skin, and bones. Try the slow-cooker creamy pumpkin-chai soup for a treat on a chilly day.

The picture shows a woman in a blue denim shirt holding a cleaver with her arms crossed, as she looks down at a wooden kitchen counter full of vegetables, including radishes, carrots, leeks, greens, potatoes, and onions.

Winter squash, another rich source of beta-carotene, can be fun to prepare with the guidance of Cara Mangini’s The Vegetable Butcher. Squash is low in carbohydrates, for those monitoring sugar intake, and high in potassium, for those following a heart-healthy diet. Recipes include kale and spelt berry salad. Lutein gives kale its dark green color and helps protect the eye from developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Cranberries are high in vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system and helps shorten the duration of cold symptoms.

The cover shows a man with a walking stick, dressed in a gray cap and black cape, roasting vegetables over an outdoor fire while others hang on a circular wire frame behind him.

As temperatures drop, the grill is a wonderful way to prepare vegetables. In Green Fire: Extraordinary Ways to Grill Fruits and Vegetables from the Master of Live-Fire Cooking, Francis Mallman shares his unique Patagonian recipes. Prepare his salt-baked beets for a dish rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Diets high in fiber have been associated with fewer digestive issues and lower colon cancer risk. Betalains, responsible for the purple-red color of beets, reduce inflammation and cell damage. Beets are also high in folate (vitamin B9), which has been linked to lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.

The cover depicts a cake or tart of two layers, on a white cake stand and covered with raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. A pie server sits next to it on a wooden table, and in the background are a pint container of additional berries and a blue glazed ceramic picture filled with greens and pink rose blossoms.

In Naturally Sweet Baking: Healthier Recipes for a Guilt-Free Treat, recipes include fall fruits such as pears as alternative sweeteners. High in fiber, pears have some sugar but do not have the high glycemic index that contributes to diabetes risk. The vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants in pears add to their health benefits. Authors Carolin Strothe and Sebastian Keitel include a seasonal calendar as part of their guidance in baking without artificial coloring or processed sugar. Explore the baking collection at Elkridge’s DIY Education Center to find specialty cake pans available for checkout.

The Howard County Farmers Market continues on Wednesdays from 2 – 6 pm in the Miller Branch parking area.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

In Conversation: Pierre Jean Gonzalez

The photograph depicts actor Pierre Jean Gonzalez in his starring role as Alexander Hamilton, wearing a white shirt, pants, vest, and cravat, with a brown overcoat with gold buttons. His head is turned to the side and he is gazing into the distance.
Photo credit: @ Joan Marcus

By Cherise T.

Fans of Hamilton know the impressive acting, singing, and dancing skills required to bring to life the musical’s complex characters. Hamilton showcases multiple musical genres, innovative choreography, and insightful portrayals of historical figures responsible for the founding of the United States. We are excited to share highlights from our conversation with one of the show’s remarkable stars whose work impacts the artistic content we will see in the future.

The photograph is of Hamilton star Pierre Jean Gonzalez, wearing a black shirt and facing the camera.
Photo credit: @ Ambe J. Photography

Growing up in the Bronx, Pierre Jean Gonzalez never saw himself represented in the television shows he watched. Today, he is starring in the national touring company of Hamilton, and is the co-founder of DominiRican Productions, whose “mission is to see People of Color on both sides of the camera.” The creation of the production company was part of his “pandemic journey” to “address issues of representation.” He feels grateful that “because of Hamilton, I’m able to use my status to help others.” 

What’s it like playing Alexander Hamilton? “Challenging” and “amazing.”

Is BIPOC casting in musical theater important and why? To summarize, it has changed Pierre’s life as well as the lives of other creative people and audience members.

How are opportunities for underrepresented and marginalized communities created? Case study: DominiRican Productions.

We examined these issues and took audience questions at our September 20 event at HCLS Central Branch. The evening featured a screening of DominiRican’s award-winning experimental short, release, directed by Pierre, featuring a poem and performance by Cedric Lieba Jr., the cofounder of DominiRican Productions, and Pierre’s fiancé. Explore their inspirational projects at https://dominiricanproductions.com.

The photograph depicts Pierre Jean Gonzalez looking at books from the HCLS Central Branch equity collection with instructor and research specialist Ash Baker.
Instructor and Research Specialist Ash B. highlights the HCLS Central Branch Equity Resource Collection for Pierre Jean Gonzalez.

The focus of Pierre’s biography surrounds his advocacy for Latinx and LGBTQ+ opportunities on stage, on screen, and behind the camera. He and Cedric used the pandemic’s constraint on their acting careers as a chance to construct a unique artistic venture highlighting original voices and fresh talent to viewers. Inspired in part by the musical heritage, humanity, and diverse casting of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work in Hamilton, Pierre builds and supports projects that might otherwise never be produced. His dedication to inclusion and community is clear, and we were all motivated by his empowering message of kindness and empathy in art. Pierre shared his personal coming out story as well as guidance for all of us to live our truth, share our stories, and lift up those around us.

Pierre Jean Gonzalez is on the stage at HCLS Central Branch, speaking into a microphone in front of an audience.
Pierre Jean Gonzalez in conversation with Cherise Tasker, Instructor and Research Specialist, at HCLS Central Branch.

Howard County Library System was excited to host this talk with Hamilton star Pierre Jean Gonzalez. Although registration for this event filled almost immediately, please watch our Classes & Events page for daily updates on future presentations and interactive sessions: https://howardcounty.librarycalendar.com.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

The ERC Belongs to You and Me

by Cherise T.

On your next journey to the Central Branch, promise you will climb to the top floor and venture beyond the computers to the Equity Resource Center, established in 2021. The ERC is a place for community events and a treasure trove of classic and cutting-edge books, audiobooks, movies, television series, and music. A collection of materials you’ve always wanted to read, watch, and discuss. 

Book shelves at the Equity Resource Center, with art to borrow resting on top. Photo also shows swirled-patterned carpet and wood.

Recently, I had the opportunity to shift the positioning of ERC materials. I was up to my elbows and down on my knees handling the books, CDs, and DVDs. This is a librarian’s paradise, being among new copies of books I’ve read and can barely wait to read. I wanted to open almost every book and peruse the first pages. This was a physical task, however; the goal was moving and organizing, not intellectualizing. Just as when I’m shelving materials or directing a customer to a topic area, my job at that moment is not to indulge my interests but to engage others’ curiosity. It’s rough, though, staying focused in the ERC when I’m surrounded by all the intriguing titles, many that have been past favorites, shelves of those that I’ve heard others rave about, and new publications that I’m excited to discover. 

Honestly, I’m continually surprised by the ERC. The diversity of voices and perspectives in the works seems impossible. While the classic titles attest to the reality that marginalized communities with strong voices have always existed, the scope and depth of contemporary publications feels like hope. Publishers are expanding their willingness to broadcast unique perspectives, and exploring these materials in one place collapses time, as if we have always been privileged to share in each other’s experiences and dreams. 

Undesign the Redline

The ERC fills me with gratitude. I am thankful to be alive at a time when I can work and live in a place where the library system offers such wonders to all who choose to enter the doors. I am thankful when I realize how many of the DVDs are multi-award-winning, popular films and that so many of the books are past and current best sellers. These works offer engagement, information, and entertainment to those whose experiences are worlds apart from the authors’. They provide a shared experience for those who want to feel they are not alone. The creators of these artistic riches are of different races and classes. They come from many countries, practice a spectrum of religions, view the world from differently-abled perspectives, and live with distinctive gender identity and sexual orientation. The materials challenge stereotypes, open our minds, provoke strong opinions. 

Visual characteristics that are plain for all to see do not define who we are or how we should be treated. We wouldn’t want to, nor should we have to, wear signs identifying the people we are or are not. No person or artist owes us their story. Nevertheless, history and narrative have been abundantly gifted to us in the ERC, presenting opportunities to read, watch, listen, and learn. The fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, exist to be soaked up, broaden world views, and spread inclusive perspectives. 

Times may seem grim with two steps back for every one step forward. Sometimes I despair for the health of our children, our planet, and our marginalized communities. The ERC, though, attests to the fact that despite the pain in the world, forward strides have been accomplished. The sanctuary of the ERC may be in the back of the top floor of the Central Branch, but it is not distant. It is accessible and evolving as we speak.  

Welcome to the library, the community gathering place you know, and the oasis of ideas and opportunities beyond what you’ve imagined. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

The Solidarity Dividend

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee: A cover full of color blocks resolves as a diving board into swimming pool with a white boy jumping off the end and a black girl climbing the ladder.

“I’m a white male, and I am prejudiced.” In August 2016 on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, public policy expert Heather McGhee, answered the challenge presented by Garry, a caller from North Carolina. He asked, ”What can I do to change, you know, to be a better American?” The video went viral due to McGhee’s reasoned, compassionate response. Thanking the caller for being honest while acknowledging we all have prejudices, McGhee proceeded to offer advice including, “In order to be a demos that is united across lines of race and class and gender and age, we have to foster relationships. We have to get to know who one another actually is.” When McGhee’s book, The Sum of Us, was published, I was curious to learn more from her. After reading it, I especially appreciate McGhee’s insight into how the mentality of “us and them” was built and how we can break it down. 

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together describes how all ethnic and class groups suffer when racism influences government policy. McGhee researched the roots of economic disparity in the United States and explored causes and solutions from a perspective of unity rather than division. She argues that many problems with wage distribution, education, health care, housing, and environmental policy arise from the concept of a zero-sum game. When citizens perceive one racial group’s gain as another group’s loss, we cannot work for a common good. She documents how everyone loses out when racial hierarchy guides legislation. When public pools are filled with cement to circumvent enforcement of desegregation legislation, all the kids whose parents can’t afford private pools can’t go swimming. Using the concept of the public pool as a central metaphor, McGhee deconstructs how the US reached today’s level of political division and how American society can move forward, allowing all races, ethnicities, and classes to thrive. 

Of course, the idea of “what helps you, hurts me,“ goes beyond kids not being able to cool down in a pool in the summertime. The Sum of Us carefully traces trade union busting, healthcare access gaps, rising costs of public colleges, and the sub-prime mortgage crisis back to racial profiling. The resulting wage stagnation, benefit cuts, student debt, and foreclosures affected all racial groups.  

McGhee’s empathy raises The Sum of Us to a higher level than some other books I’ve read on similar topics. For example, as a self-proclaimed data nerd, she clearly explains the economics of the 2007-2010 financial crisis but then goes beyond the numbers to show, “what was risky wasn’t the borrower; it was the loan.” I gained understanding not only of the economics of the crisis, but the societal toll. Although predatory loan practices were initially targeted at low-income Blacks, later, the loans were pitched to everyone, regardless of their credit status. Many borrowers were eligible for prime mortgages but were manipulated to accept sub-prime mortgages because of the financial bonanza for the lender. McGhee presents this as yet another situation where racism eventually hurt everyone. 

McGhee has coined the phrase “Solidarity Dividend” for the benefits arising from communities collaborating across the racial divide. From minimum wage increases to investment in affordable housing development to improvement in air and water quality, the Solidarity Dividend boosts the economy while enhancing quality of life. “Getting white support to address those different levels of need, and to acknowledge the racism that caused these differences, is never easy – particularly when the zero-sum mental model turns every concession into a threat of loss,” McGhee writes. The Sum of Us demands to be read both for the well-researched documentation of the past and the message for our future.  

By the way, Heather and Garry, a disabled Navy veteran, built a friendship. Garry continues to work on understanding racism and realigning his own thinking. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Film Femme Phenoms

An Oscar award statuette.

by Cherise T.

The Oscars. The Super Bowl for film lovers and stargazers. Since the 94th Academy Awards and Women’s History Month converge this year, let’s highlight Oscar-winning women. The accomplishments of women in the film industry grow each year as crews’ diversity increases and acting roles encompass a broadened range of realistic characters.

Front and center for many a bibliophile is screenwriting. In 2021 with Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell (also known as Camilla in The Crown) became the first woman in 13 years to win for Best Original Screenplay. Fennell also produced and directed. Then travel back to 2007 when Diablo Cody won for Juno. To date, nine women have won in this category, but only five as solo writers; the other three being Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation; Jane Campion, The Piano; and Callie Khouri, Thelma & Louise.

For Best Director, 2021 also brought an Oscar to a woman, Chloé Zhao, for Nomadland (also a book). Only one other woman has won in this category, Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker. Only seven women in total have even been nominated.

Best Costume Design boasts many female winners. Edith Head was nominated 35 times and won eight. For total Oscar nominations and victories, she is surpassed only by Walt Disney. Her winning films are The Heiress, Samson and Delilah, All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Facts of Life (not available), and The Sting. For more recent winners in 2018 and 2019, check out the work of Ruth E. Carter in Black Panther and Jacqueline Durran in Little Women.

Best Supporting Actress has been won more than once by only two women: Dianne Wiest for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets over Broadway (not available) and Shelley Winters for The Diary of Anne Frank and A Patch of Blue (available through interlibrary loan). Last year’s winner was the first for a Korean actress, Youn Yuh-jung, in Minari.

Now for the star power that is Best Actress. Katherine Hepburn was nominated 12 times and won a record-setting four: Morning Glory (available through interlibrary loan), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond. Meryl Streep has been nominated a record-setting 17 times for Best Actress, winning twice for Sophie’s Choice (available with an HCLS library card on Kanopy) and The Iron Lady, and nominated four times for Best Supporting Actress, winning for Kramer vs. Kramer. Frances McDormand became a triple champion in 2021 for Nomadland. She also won for Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

If you’re a fan of the Academy Awards, enjoy, and be sure to check out these and other noteworthy Oscar winners in the HCLS catalog.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

Home is Where the Library Is: The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

A woman dressed in a bright yellow dress walks while reading through a grand lobby with well-lit doors and windows behind her.

by Cherise T.

I have a favorite photo of my kids where my son is wearing his baseball cap backwards and my daughter is wearing a poncho as a skirt. Today, my son’s visors often still point in reverse and my daughter never misses the opportunity to transform an article of clothing into something original and extraordinary. 

Where, you ask, was this photo taken? In front of the New York Public Library, the revered Fifth Avenue building guarded by two marble lions. A library with an eight-room apartment on the mezzanine.

Having never read a novel by the popular historical fiction author Fiona Davis, I was attracted to the plotline of The Lions of Fifth Avenue, not only because of my love for libraries but because I have entertained the fantasy of enjoying unlimited access to stacks and stacks of books. Deep, dark stacks with first editions and handwritten notes by famous authors. One of my favorite books in the HCLS collection is The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems because I can sink into Dickinson’s creative process and believe, for phrases at a time, that I am sharing a word journey into an otherwise fathomless mind. 

Told through the dual lenses of 1993 and 1913-18, The Lions of Fifth Avenue reads both as historical fiction and mystery. The plot weaves the interconnected stories of a family with a deep multigenerational connection to the New York Public Library. In 1993, Sadie Donovan strives for an ever more significant leadership role as an NYPL librarian and curator. In 1913, Sadie’s grandmother, Laura Lyons, aspires to be a journalist in a society where women’s professional opportunities were limited. Whereas Sadie works at the NYPL, Laura actually lives there in the apartment reserved for the family of the superintendent of the NYPL, who happens to be Laura’s husband, Jack. Laura and Jack live in the apartment with their children, Henry and Pearl. Both Sadie and Laura walk up the same steps and pass the same stone lions, and they face parallel hurdles in their careers and their romantic relationships. They share devotion to family and an insatiable attraction to investigation and knowledge. And Sadie and Laura contend with the theft of treasured library materials, setting them up as witnesses and suspects. 

Although the protagonists of the novel are fictional, the framework has historical roots. At one time, NYPL superintendents resided in the library, and the first superintendent who lived in the Fifth Avenue building raised children there. True as well is the unfortunate fact that rare books have been stolen from the library over the years. Fascinated by NY’s architectural landmarks, Davis writes novels revolving around different city buildings including the Barbizon Hotel, Dakota apartments, Chelsea Holtel, and Grand Central Terminal. Her writing has a real feel for New York City, and the plot twists in The Lions of Fifth Avenue make it a page turner. Climb the stairs between the lions, settle in to live in a library for a bit, and see if you can solve a few mysteries. 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

The cover has the author and title in black and white lettering against a sea green background.

by Cherise T.

When a novel is set in the reader’s hometown, appreciation for the story and characters extends beyond the book’s contents. When a novel is set somewhere new to the reader, that place is no longer foreign and unknowable. Literature expands memories, builds connections, creates new journeys, and fosters empathy.

Books by veterans, about veterans, and regarding veterans’ friends and families offer diverse perspectives of consequential events and everyday perseverance. Veterans can, perhaps, find shared experiences. For non-veterans, there are bridges to understanding. Ben Fountain’s depiction of experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is unforgettable. To some, an NFL halftime show featuring Destiny’s Child would be entertaining but to this story’s young Iraq War Army soldiers, it’s terrifying.

The cover depicts two soldiers, weapons drawn, seemingly patrolling a desert area with mottled orange sands and sky and a yellow sun at the horizon.

In his debut novel, The Yellow Birds, Iraq War veteran Kevin Powers takes on the burdens veterans face when they return home. Private John Bartle struggles to understand his own behavior in Iraq, as well as his debts and responsibilities to superiors and fellow soldiers. Veterans may relate to Bartle’s emotional efforts to move forward with his life beyond the battlefield. Readers who have never been in the military become immersed in Bartle’s psychological conflicts. He feels surrounded by death as he fights to survive both in Iraq and back home in Virginia.

The cover depicts a white cloud against a deep turquoise sky, with a field rising to a hill in the foreground and just the upper floor and chimney of a house depicted behind the hill, with the United States flag flying in front.

Short story collections offer multiple viewpoints of war in one volume. Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When the Men are Gone focuses primarily on the family left behind, particularly military spouses in Fort Hood, Texas. The stress on these characters exceeds loneliness. Their attempts to cope with deployments are seen in actions as seemingly mundane as a shopping trip to the PX or as drastic as abandoning one’s spouse.

The cover depicts a soldier in fatigues, cap and boots with his duffel bag on the ground beside him, in what appears to be an airport or other waystation with a concrete floor and white tiled walls.

National Book Award winner Redeployment by Marine veteran Phil Klay deftly presents the outlooks of men who entered the military from varied backgrounds. The stories are heavy but often humorous as Klay addresses the absurdities inherent in active duty as well as in the abrupt return to civilian life as a veteran. Often disturbing, the situations encompass violence and PTSD but also forgiveness and compassion.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

Thinking BIG for Small Business: Class and Resources

Neon sign with a bright blue oval encircling the word OPEN in red.

by Cherise T.

The #1 Riskiest Scam According to Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland

Wednesday, Sep 22

11 am – 12 pm; online

Employment scams were already the riskiest scam in both 2018 and 2019, according to Better Business Bureau’s Risk Index report. During 2020, the growth of this dangerous breeding ground skyrocketed, largely due to the influx in work-from-home scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An estimated 14 million people are exposed to employment scams with more than $2 billion lost per year, not counting time or emotional losses. Join BBB to learn why you’re more vulnerable than you think, how to spot the red flags, and tips for saying no to employment scams while you’re on your job search.

Registration required at hclibrary.org > classes & events. Check regularly for more business-related classes and presentations.

Presented in partnership with Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Maryland, bbb.org.

Small Business Resources at HCLS

The how, when, and where of work evolves over a lifetime. Priorities involved with earning a living change depending on whether the employee is a student, parent, family caretaker, or senior. Some careers accommodate a work-from-home model; others require laborers on the front lines. An employee may want to operate within a traditional organization or a small startup. Some have the entrepreneurial spirit to make the rules and create their own dream vocations.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has affected how people work and refocused their goals. HCLS supports the education and provides the resources sought by job seekers at all stages of their careers. Recent events have inspired bad actors, so HCLS is offering an employment scam class in conjunction with the Better Business Bureau, as well as on-demand classes on its YouTube channel. Select the Resume and Career Skills playlist for information on resume building, cover letter writing, social media presence, apprenticeships, certifications, interviewing, and salary negotiation.

Every September, the U.S. Small Business Administration celebrates National Small Business Week. Explore the tools to prepare, launch, manage, build, and protect a small business on HCLS’ Small Business Resource portal.

Online resources are available 24/7

Looking for advice for creating contracts? Visit Gale LegalForms.

Confused about licensing and permits? Maryland OneStop Portal link has answers.

Need funding to start a business? Explore a multitude of organizations and agencies.

Visit or call our branches for one-on-one assistance with job applications and small business research.

eResources for Small Business Owners

Get FREE tools to write a business plan, launch your business, grow it, manage it, and protect it. From researching the market to selecting a name to obtaining permits, funding, hiring, networking, and more, all that you need is available with an HCLS card and an Internet connection!

AtoZ Database: Research companies nationwide and find employer contact information.

LearningExpress Career Preparation Center for job-related exam training and employment search skills.

Peterson’s Test and Career Prep includes both test prep and job skill assessments in addition to a resume builder.

Gale Courses & LinkedIn Learning offer training for employers, employees, and business owners. Refresh and expand your computer skills with lessons and video tutorials.

As always, our instructors and research specialists are just a library visit or phone call away! Please contact us or visit your local branch if you have questions about classes and events, online learning, or research databases that can help you with your small business needs.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

Two Big Books

A line drawing in yellow depicts an old-fashioned square microphone and a bed. Black lettering says, "Gmorning, Gnight! Little pepe talks for me & you"

By Cherise T.

What fits in your pocket, can be read in short bursts, and explodes with wisdom and inspiration? Gmorning, Gnight!: little pep talks for me & you and Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change. These can be challenging times for mustering emotional strength and sustaining a prolonged attention span. In terms of meeting these challenges, both are big books. 

Fans of Hamilton may recognize the author of Gmorning, Gnight, Lin-Manuel Miranda. With more than three million followers on Twitter, Miranda inspired many fans with his brief awakening and bedtime messages. He joined forces with illustrator Johnny Sun to publish this volume of spirit-raising tweets. Miranda wisdom includes, “Gmorning! No exact recipe for today. Gather all available ingredients and whip yourself up something delicious,” and “Gnight. Don’t wait until low power mode. Close your eyes. Close all unnecessary apps. Recharge.” A theater person with universal appeal, Miranda and his notes are irresistible. “Good night. You are perfectly cast in your life. And with so little rehearsal too! It’s a joy to watch. Thank you.” This title is available at HCLS also as a print book in Spanish, as an eBook in Libby/Overdrive and as an eAudiobook narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. 

A salmony-pink cover has simple black types and grey lines

Keep Moving grew out of a series of social media posts by the poet Maggie Smith. Smith was struggling with personal and professional self-doubt during the collapse of her marriage and subsequent divorce. She thought readers might find her journey significant to their own lives. “Keep moving” was her daily admonition and cheer to herself, and because her messages resonated, the number of her Instagram and Twitter followers grew exponentially, hence the idea to create a book.  It is available through HCLS in hardcover and in Overdrive as both an eBook and an eAudiobook read by the author.  

Smith gained international attention with her poem, “Good Bones.” Written in 2015, the poem was not published until the week of the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016. Readers connected deeply with the poem in the aftermath of that tragic event. Because of how widely it was shared, “Good Bones” was often referred to as the poem of 2016, and it was later published in a book of the same name. The poem’s popularity surges again during times of crisis, such as the current pandemic. It begins: 

Life is short, though I keep this from my children. 
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine 
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways, 
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways 
I’ll keep from my children. 

The short notes and essays in Keep Moving reverberate with sorrow, joy, empathy, and fortitude. The author conveys that she’s with the reader struggling to start her day and she’s not going to leave that person behind. Together, Smith and her readers will find a way to persevere and grow. “Trust that everything will be okay, but that doesn’t mean that everything will be restored. Start making yourself at home in your life as it is. Look around and look ahead. KEEP MOVING.” 

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.