Let’s Grow Potatoes!

The photograph depicts two hands in the sunlight holding two small seed potatoes with eyes on them.
Enchanted Garden Coordinator Ann holds two seed potatoes.

By Ann H.

Three cheers for the arrival of spring! I am ready to embrace a new season full of hope and fresh, local vegetables. Cool nights, sunshiny days, and plenty of rain signal the right time to plant cool-season crops. First on my list this year are potatoes!

Potatoes are a great family garden project. They come in an assortment of colors, they are easy to grow and as much fun as a treasure hunt to harvest. Sunshine and timing are the first considerations for growing potatoes. You must have a spot that receives six or more hours of sunshine a day. Potatoes should be started from now until early May. Don’t delay! You’ll have little success once the temperatures rise in summer.

Growing potatoes in a container is a good solution for those of us who want to grow food, but are short on space or new to gardening. Containers could be 5 gallon or larger buckets, grow bags, or a large fabric or strong plastic bag that drains. The larger the container the more potatoes you’ll grow. This year I’m experimenting with growing potatoes in a burlap sack. Our friends at Orinoco Coffee Roasters donated some burlap coffee sacks to the Enchanted Garden. They are selling burlap sacks to raise money for the Howard County Food Bank.

Potato plants start with seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are really tubers with eyes or buds. Those buds are the start of new potato plants. Give them soil, water, and the right conditions and you’ll be harvesting potatoes in three to four months. You can purchase seed potatoes locally where you would buy seeds, or you can order them online. Don’t be tempted to try grocery store variety potatoes. Most of those have been inoculated to prevent root growth. You might see eyes on grocery store potatoes, but rarely roots.

Potatoes are filled with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. You can prepare them mashed, roasted, fried, or in other creative ways. You can add them to salads, top them with almost anything for a main course, or turn them into latkes. Potatoes store well and feed many. Don’t you want to grow potatoes? To try this project at home, check out my video tutorial that explains all the steps.

Burlap bags: https://www.orinococoffeeandtea.com/product/green-bean-burlap-bag/

For additional information and inspiration, please check out these HCLS resources:

Adult collection:

The Complete Book of Potatoes: What Every Grower and Gardener Needs to Know by Hielke De Jong

Children’s collection:

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison (also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive)

Ann joined the Miller HCLS staff as the Enchanted Garden Coordinator and Instructor in 2012. When not gardening you’ll find her reading, cooking, and exploring trails in the Patapsco River Valley with her husband and dog.

Introducing… Reads of Acceptance!

Horizontal rainbow stripes with an inset of triangle of white,

by Ash and Angie

C.S. Lewis once said that we read to know we are not alone, which is why many of us look to literature as a source of comfort. Years ago at the library, Angie helped a teen find young adult novels on coming out. The teen quietly said thank you, and afterwards, Angie could not help but notice that she went over to a woman whom she called “mom.” As she showed her the books, the woman hugged her and told her it was going to be okay.

One of the most rewarding opportunities while working in a library is being able to connect customers with reading materials that can make a profound impact in their lives. This holds especially true when dealing with potentially sensitive subject matter such as LGBTQ+ issues, which often come with fear of judgment. In Teri Gross’s All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists, she interviews Ann Bannon, one of the first writers of lesbian pulp fiction. In answer to Gross’s question about what it was like to be gay in the 1950s or to write lesbian fiction, Bannon responds:

The big thing was ‘Thank God, I’m not the only one.’
That’s how isolated people were then.
But also that it’s okay to open up a little bit. It can be healthy. It can be a warm, generous, wonderful way to spend your life.
It is scary to walk up to a drugstore counter with your arms full of lesbian paperbacks and survive the stare from the clerk,
pull yourself together, buy them, and walk out with your head held high.

Having your voice heard and knowing there are others out there, both through the books you read and the people you meet and sometimes befriend, can go a long, long way to helping you survive in a world not always friendly to LGBTQ+ people. No matter your age, your background, your outness or your in-ness, you can find comfort in the universality of knowing “you’re not the only one.” That is one reason, among many, it can be so good to find a sense of community.

Howard County Library System’s new LGBTQ+ book club, Reads of Acceptance, holds its first meeting on Monday, April 19 at 7 pm. This monthly book club aims at fostering social support, personal growth, and intergenerational learning for LGBTQ+ adults and our allies. Reads of Acceptance will encourage education, reflection, and respect for LGBTQ+ identities by hosting group discussions that connect literature with our lived experiences.

Pale blue color with the title at the bottom shows a man in a blue suit falling. He is busy writing and papers surround him.

At Reads of Acceptance’s first meeting, we will discuss the Pulitzer Prize-winning Less by Andrew Sean Greer (also available in eBook and eAudiobook format). Funny yet also sad, the novel follows writer Arthur Less while he travels the world on a literary tour to try and get over the loss of the man he loves. Turning 50, Less finds himself struggling with life, including his career as a writer not going where he had hoped it would. Even so, he could handle being a bad writer, but being considered “a bad gay”?

That is so much harder to grapple with. It also speaks to a constant fear for queer people: that your community will reject you on top of everything else. (Source: https://ew.com/books/2018/07/24/less-summer-breakout-essay/) Greer’s writing speaks to an experience so many of us, queer or not, can relate to in a way that says, “Yes, I have been there.”

Relating to media in a manner that resonates with and reassures one’s identity is part of what makes seeing ourselves reflected in art and literature so affirming and powerful. Being able to relate to real-life people can be even more so. Both older and younger people in the LGBTQ+ community have often suffered in silence or experienced ostracism, looking for safe outlets to share their feelings, thoughts, and what they have been through. Reads of Acceptance can be one of those safe outlets. We hope to see you there! Register here.

For a special preview of Reads of Acceptance and an opportunity to meet Ash and Angie, join Book Corner on Friday April 16th @ 11am. Register here.

Angie is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch of HCLS.

Ash is an Online Instructor & Research Specialist, also at Central Branch. Their favorite reads often involve magic, nature, queer and trans joy, coming of age, cultural traditions, romance, and cute illustrations.

Author event with Kekla Magoon

Photo of author Kekla Magoon, who has a wide smile, rectangular glasses, and short hair with lots of curls. She's wearing a deep V-neck in a black and white print, pictured with a green yard behind her.

One of this year’s Battle of the Books titles is The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon. The author is visiting virtually on April 14 for a 30-minute live Q&A! You may type your questions in advance within registration or hold them for the event.

The Season of Styx Malone tells the funny, poignant story about one amazing summer in small-town Indiana, when Caleb and Bobby Gene make friends with the slightly older, way cooler Styx Malone. Let’s be clear: Styx Malone is definitely too cool for school! He knows things… like about elevator trading, where you can essentially make something out of nothing. These boys are going to make a bag of fireworks (obtained by temporarily trading their baby sister) into a green moped. All these brothers want is to see the big city of Indianapolis, but their (maybe overly) protective father wants them to stay close to home in Sutton. The desire for adventure wars against the need for safety throughout the family’s interactions.

The boys follow foster child Styx into one “interesting” choice after another, hoping to achieve their dream of having independent mobility via the green moped, affectionately nicknamed Grasshopper. When things take a turn for the worse, everyone has to reconsider what a happy ending will look like. As Caleb and Bobby Gene lobby for adopting Styx, it turns out that adults can sometimes make good things happen. It’s a delightful book full of good humor from the point of view of three bored friends longing for more from summer than watering holes and doing chores (Mom was not happy about the baby sister trading).

Kekla Magoon is the author of many novels and nonfiction books for young readers, including The Season of Styx MaloneThe Rock and the RiverHow It Went Down, and the Robyn Hoodlum Adventure series

She has received the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the John Steptoe New Talent Award, three Coretta Scott King Honors, the Walter Award Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and been longlisted for the National Book Award. 

Kekla conducts school and library visits nationwide and serves on the Writers’ Council for the National Writing Project. She holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she now serves as faculty. Visit her online at keklamagoon.com.

Cover art has an illustration of a Black teenager in a slightly off-center ball cap, adjusting his mirrored sunglasses. In the glasses, you can see two other Black kids. The title of the book appear in script on the orange hat.

The book is also available as an ebook, on CD, and as an eAudiobook.

At Noon: Poetry Moments

The photograph depicts poet laureate Joy Harjo wearing a bright red shirt and blue jeans, with her tattooed hand across her knee and a turquoise bracelet on her wrist.
Photograph of poet laureate Joy Harjo by Paul Abdoo

by Susan Thornton Hobby and Rohini Gupta

Have lunch with the poets during National Poetry Month.

I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me: they are about questions.” — Lucille Clifton

Lots of people think they need to know what a poem means. Sometimes professors and experts dissect a poem so much that a poem dies before we allow it to live. But what if a poem was written not to answer questions, but to ask them?

Lucille Clifton, a National Book Award-winning poet, wrote from her home office in a townhouse in Columbia for decades until her death in 2010. And she never stopped asking questions with her poetry.

Sometimes, when we talk about poetry, people’s eyes glaze over. Occasionally (or more often) poetry just seems impenetrable. But it doesn’t have to be. Clifton’s poetry is accessible, understood at a first reading, with meaning that grows deeper with a second or third reading, prompting those questions that bring readers to her poetry over and over again.

Once we’ve hooked you with Clifton’s work, we have plenty of other ideas of where to start with poetry. Perhaps with Amanda Gorman’s performances at President Joe Biden’s inauguration and at the Super Bowl, more people are intrigued about poetry, but don’t really know where to go for good poetry beyond inspirational quotes on Instagram. We’ve got your poetry questions covered.

Soon after the Howard County Library’s Central Branch opened in 1981, Clifton read her poetry with three other amazing poets, William Stafford, Roland Flint, and current Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri. HoCoPoLitSo (Howard County Poetry and Literature Society) brought those poets and library customers together forty years ago, and we’re still collaborating today. Across those decades, we have together sponsored movies about Gwendolyn Brooks and Seamus Heaney, organized readings by poets such as Josephine Jacobsen and Stanley Kunitz, judged student poetry contests, and even staged a play about poet Emily Dickinson, “The Belle of Amherst.”

Since National Library Week (April 4-10) coincides with National Poetry Month in April, HoCoPoLitSo and Howard County Library System thought it would be the perfect time to launch a new program. Every Tuesday in April, HoCoPoLitSo and the library collaborate to bring you a lunchtime buffet of poetry, virtually.

Join HoCoPoLitSo and Howard County Library System for their newest program, a lunch break of poetry every Tuesday in April. At Noon: Poetry Moments. Register here.

When the pandemic closed everyone’s doors, HoCoPoLitSo created a new video series, both to reach out to people at home who were hungry for the arts, and to amplify the voices of Black poets who have visited HoCoPoLitSo audiences since 1974. With the help of Howard Community College’s Arts Collective, and director Sue Kramer, we produced the Poetry Moment series. Local actors Chania Hudson, Shawn Sebastian Naar, and Sarah Luckadoo offer introductions, then famous poets like Clifton and Kunitz and Heaney and Brooks read their work, with selections extracted from archival video. Ellen Conroy Kennedy, the late founding director and heart and soul of HoCoPoLitSo, started this archive in 1986 when she began documenting the poetry and literature programs she was producing. The Writing Life resulted, with more than 100 full interviews with authors carried on HoCoPoLitSo’s YouTube page.

In April, every Tuesday at noon, we’ll gather virtually to talk poetry. We’ve grouped the poems by theme for each week, and will talk a little about poetry, then watch the videos together and discuss.

Here’s our poetry hit parade:

April 6: We’ll talk about grief, something many people are dealing with this year. Poems we’ll be discussing include “Elegy” by Linda Pastan, “My Deepest Condiments” by Taylor Mali, and “The Long Boat” by Stanley Kunitz.

April 13: History is this week’s theme, and we’ll talk about Sterling Allen Brown’s “Southern Road,” read by poet Toi Derricotte, “In the Tradition” by Amiri Baraka, and “Requiem” by Anna Akhmatova, read by poet Carolyn Forché.

April 20: Many contemporary poets turn to their families as sources for poetry. The poems we’ll read this week are “good times” by Lucille Clifton, “The Pomegranate” by Eavan Boland, and “A Final Thing” by Li-Young Lee.

April 27: Our last week is centered on pep talks in poetry, verse to lift us up and give us strength. We’ll discuss “The Solstice” by W. S. Merwin, “For Every One” by Jason Reynolds, and “I Give You Back” by Joy Harjo.

HoCoPoLitSo and the HCLS are happy to collaborate in bringing poetry to all who ask questions, to any who believe, like we do, that words can change the world.

If we hook you on poetry, consider tuning in to the April 29 Blackbird Poetry Festival, featuring Ilya Kaminsky and sponsored by Howard Community College and HoCoPoLitSo.

Register for the HCLS lunch poetry programs At Noon: Poetry Moments.

Susan Thornton Hobby is a proud library volunteer and HoCoPoLitSo board member and consultant, and with the library’s support, she coordinated this April poetry feast. Rohini Gupta is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS.

All things LEGO!

The photograph depicts a jumbled, colorful pile of Lego blocks and figurines.
Image by Iris Hamelmann from Pixabay.

Did you know that there are more than 100 LEGO pieces per person on the planet? The word Lego comes from an abbreviation of the Danish words leg and godt, which mean play well. Lego was founded in 1932, and since then their “play well” philosophy continues to inspire citizens the world over. This universal building block connects generations and bridges language barriers – anyone can build Lego. Here are just a few resources from HCLS to inspire Lego fans of all ages – whether you’re an AFOL (adult fan of Lego), TFOL (teen fan of Lego), or KFOL (kid fan of Lego), here are some finds to get you in the mood to build!

A Lego Brickumentary is a fun and fact-filled foray into the fandom that is Lego. In a documentary that the whole family can watch together, animated Lego scenes are interspersed with interviews and awe-inspiring Lego builds. It explores the history and evolution of the world’s second biggest toy company and how it has become a catalyst for innovation. I was inspired through the artists, master builders, designers, architects, and therapists that have utilized this simple building brick to transform ideas and imagination into reality. This film runs 1 hour and 35 minutes, is rated G, and is available on DVD from HCLS.

Beautiful Lego is a full color portfolio of Lego artworks from 77 different contributors and a compendium of so many fantastical designs – from minimalism to monsters. This gorgeous book boasts more than 200 pages of inspiration. I loved the incredibly detailed model of an imaginary extraterrestrial city – the same one featured on the cover art. The book features unusual usage of different types of bricks in creating textures, expressions, and models of everyday objects. For fans of art, fans of Lego, and fans of both.

100 Ways to Rebuild the World is a children’s book full of ideas of how to encourage kindness, positivity, community, and responsibility. It features fun bright Lego illustrations and issues challenges to inspire kids to care about themselves, others, and the planet. My favorite challenges were “Start a chain of creativity” and “Step into their shoes.” It is a great resource for parents who are looking for ways to help their children connect with the community and the world around them.

The collage includes the Lego creations participants in the Lego Engineering Challenge class, including elephants, a dump truck, an arrow, windmills, and other vehicles.
A collage of the creative work of participants in the Lego Engineering Challenge class.

Lego Engineering Challenge is a biweekly prerecorded class produced by Ms. Julie. She issues four unique challenges in every class – encouraging children in grades K-8 to use their imagination and problem solving skills to complete fun tasks. After each session, Ms Julie compiles participants’ submissions and shares them to encourage budding engineers and artists. Pictured are just a few submissions from past classes. It is always fun to see so many creative solutions to the same challenge. Find the next class by clicking here, then register to receive a link to the next session.

Brick by Brick: How Lego Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry is an eAudiobook available on Cloud Library. It explores the business management and innovation practices of the Lego Group through anecdotes and case studies. This book was written to be an inspiration for business owners as a model of how innovation practices evolved at the Lego Group, and how the company used their 2003 brush with bankruptcy to realign, reconnect, and reemerge as a leader in the toy industry.

Inspired to create your own Lego masterpieces? Share them with the world through the Lego Ideas website. This is one of the Lego Group’s most successful innovations. A crowd-sourced idea generator, it began in 2008 as Lego Cuusoo (Cuusoo means “imagination” or “wish” in Japanese, and it still available as an archive here). On the Lego Ideas website, you can submit your own proposals for new Lego sets, vote on global submissions, and participate in activities and contests with other Lego lovers.

Kimberly J is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch. She enjoys reading, photography, creating, crafting, and baking.

Women’s History Month: Classes and More

Against a teal background, three hands of varied skin tones rise up, holding quotation bubbles that read Women's History Month.

by Kristen B.

Do you know when Women’s History Month began? I didn’t until I started writing this post and realized I knew very little about the annual commemoration. It began in 1981 with Women’s History Week; then in 1987, Congress passed legislation designating March as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, presidents have issued proclamations and celebrated the contributions of certain historical figures during this time. That’s all within my lifetime! Maybe I’m more “historical” (read old) than I like to think.

HCLS has a couple of classes on the topic, along with always-available free online tools. For example, the Liberty Magazine Archives (1924-1950), listed under magazines and newspapers, includes valuable insight into everyday life in the United States during the Depression Era and World War II. American women sought advice about writing to servicemen, using their husbands’ names, and being drafted. Greta Garbo even wrote a guest piece in 1932 called “Why I Will Not Marry.” You can use a variety of other historical databases to research biographies and certain historical events, like the Seneca Falls Convention. You can also always chat with an HCLS staff member to find books and other resources on a specific topic.

On March 16, author and jewelry historian Elyse Zorn Karlin discusses how the suffragettes, and those who supported them, used jewelry and other accessories to express their politics. Register for “Making a Statement: Jewelry and Other Adornments of the Suffragist Movement” to participate via Zoom.

There are certain women with whom I have always been fascinated. Growing up in Maryland, Harriet Tubman was always part of our local history and I can’t remember not knowing about her. I was always intrigued by her story of courage in escaping slavery, but also her determination to bring others to freedom. The recent movie, Harriet, knocked my socks off, and I plan to watch it again soon.

Dr. Richard Bell joins us on March 23 to talk about the two Harriets: Beecher Stowe and Tubman. Many people, including President Abraham Lincoln, believed that Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped precipitate the Civil War. Lincoln may just as well have been talking about Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. When asked about why he chose these two historical figures, Dr. Bell replied, “I consider Harriet Tubman a truly great American, a woman who fought for freedom against the toughest possible odds on the Underground Railroad. Harriet Beecher Stowe is less well-known today than Tubman, but back before the Civil War it was the other way around. Too often we forget the central roles that American women played in driving the United States towards the reckoning of the Civil War.” Register to participate via Zoom. Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland and the author of Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home.

Join us for any and all of these opportunities! I hope you celebrate the women in your life along with all the women who have contributed in every way throughout history. If you’d like to read more on the subject, here are several lists: adult fiction, adult nonfiction, and books for children and teens.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.

What is Home? asks Brandon Hobson

The book cover depicts a woodsy scene in grays and blues, with a lone figure inverted on a path in the center, framed by three interlocking triangles in pink, green, and gold.

by Rohini G.

Brandon Hobson, author of The Removed, believes that good fiction starts with a question. 

“The big question here was how do we grieve, and how do we heal. But I’m also interested in the question of what is home?” Examining these questions is the starting place for his writing, Hobson says in an interview with Zibby Owens.  

In The Removed, Hobson hauntingly weaves together two strands. First is the story of personal loss experienced by the Echota family; second, the devastating loss experienced by the Cherokee Nation – the traumatic heritage of the Trail of Tears, the forced removal by the U.S. government from 1830 to 1850 of an estimated 100,000 indigenous people (including Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole, among other nations) from their homes. 

After fifteen years, the Echotas are still struggling to come to terms with the death of their son, Ray-Ray, who was killed in a police shooting at the mall. Maria tries to keep the flame of remembrance alive for her son, as she deals with her husband Ernest’s struggle with Alzheimers, son Edgar’s meth use, and daughter Sonja’s detachment. As the family’s annual bonfire approaches – an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death – Maria takes in a foster child, Wyatt. Buoyant and quirky, Wyatt is a born storyteller, spinning gripping tales about snakes and birds and an underworld, called the Darkening Land. 

While reading this book, I was enthralled with the way Hobson shifted perspective with each character and got into the skin of that person, especially Tsala, a Cherokee spirit who tells a story of his own murder for refusing to be removed. Written in a lyrical, minimalistic style, The Removed is a a powerful story, a profound yet quick read, available in book format and also as an eaudiobook and ebook from Libby/OverDrive. 

Hear author Brandon Hobson in person on Wednesday, March 10. For information, click here.

The book cover depicts a stylized eagle in black silhouette with outstretched wings against an orange background, with a single feather fallen to the ground beneath.

Hobson is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, with a PhD in English and seven years’ experience as a social worker for disadvantaged youth. His previous book, Where the Dead Sit Talking (also available as an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive) was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction and winner of the Reading the West Book Award. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University and teaches in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

A RECOMMENDED BOOK FROM

USA Today * O, the Oprah Magazine * Entertainment Weekly * Harper’s Bazaar * Buzzfeed * Washington Post * Elle * Parade * San Francisco Chronicle * Good Housekeeping * Vulture * Refinery29 * AARP * Kirkus * PopSugar * Alma * Woman’s Day * Chicago Review of Books * The Millions * Biblio Lifestyle * Library Journal * Publishers Weekly * LitHub 

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

Racial Equity: Collecting Stories in our Community

Two hands joined by hooking thumbs. The hand on the left is White and has the word "Learn" on the palm. The hand on the right is Black and says "Act."

By Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

With respect to racism, tell us about a time in the last six months you had an experience and thought “things have got to change.”

All of us have a story to tell, and we’d like to hear yours!  

HCLS wants to provide community engagement and education that advances equity and connects people to opportunities to make a difference. 

We invite you to join us at one of two virtual gatherings to hear and share stories related to racial equity. Please bring your experiences and insights, listening ears, and an open mind and heart.  

We are excited that through this event, you will have two options to make your story part of something bigger: You can share your story with the library’s new collection of stories about local racial experiences. You also can share your stories and experiences with the County Council’s Racial Equity Task Force.

The Task Force is developing recommendations for the County Council about legislations that can advance equity. Stories shared with them will be official testimony for the Task Force to consider as it does its work.

These events are previews of additional story gathering efforts the library will launch this spring.  

Thursday, Feb 18  |  7 pm  |  Register 
Saturday, Feb 20  |  1 pm  |  Register 

Katie is the Community Education and Engagement Manager for HCLS. She loves people, the big questions, the woods, and chocolate.

Evening in the Stacks: Serata Virtuale

Logo for Evening in the Stacks with an outline of Italy and scripted font that reads Serata Virtuale

by Kristen B.

I love to travel (the past year has been rough, folks). I will go just about anywhere and enjoy a new location, different foods, and all the sights there are to see. Ask me for my list of favorites, and inevitably Florence, Italy will be in the top three. It’s a small, lovely, walkable city stuffed full of Renaissance art and history and overflowing with delicious food. What’s not to love? I am extremely excited to have Italy as the theme for our annual fundraiser.

This year’s Evening in the Stacks on February 27, while virtual, is going to be the party not to miss with three great authors presenting. A tour company based in Tuscany offers an online mini-vacation with truffle hunting, a pasta-making demonstration, and a virtual wine tasting. You can enjoy a taste of Italy with a delivered meal from a local caterer. Explore our various price points for meals, wine, swag, and books! Hope to see you at our Serata Virtuale!

The orange "day by day" cover features photos of Florence, Siena, and the Tuscan countryside along with a partial map of the city of Florence.

I don’t like to plan trips in too much detail because sometimes you miss serendipitous occasions and lucky finds. Leaving a day to wander where the mood strikes always ends up as my favorite day of any vacation. You do need some clues about where to start, and Frommer’s travel guides can set your feet on good paths no matter where you go. Pauline Frommer is one of the three authors attending Evening in the Stacks! She is the co-president of Frommer Media LLC with her father, Arthur Frommer, founder of the Frommer’s guidebooks and Frommers.com. Pauline is also an award-winning writer and editor, and has authored six best-selling travel guides, as well as countless magazine and web articles.

Two sisters walk hand-in-hand through a field with mountains in the background and a blue sky above. Line illustrations of olives decorate the corners.

If you can’t travel in person, you can still read books that transport you to someplace new. If you want to travel to Calabria, Italy (back in time, too), you can dive into The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames. Juliet will also be joining the party this year! Her novel draws heavily from her family’s experiences. Beginning just before World War I, the book details the overwhelming poverty of the mountainous region of Calabria, but the people shine despite their circumstances. I chuckled at some of the scenes of church and family, while being taken aback at the casual brutality of women’s lives in the early twentieth century. Stella Fortuna (which means lucky star) survives many mishaps (7 or 8 of them depending how you count) to have a sprawling, riotous family in Connecticut. It’s a story of the joys and heartaches of family, and it offers an honest look at Italian immigration experiences. Stella and her sister Concetta are strong, vital women who ruled and loved their family fiercely.

Another strong Italian-American woman, Chi Chi Donatelli is the main character of Tony’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. Adriana is also coming to Evening in the Stacks! Cheech, as her family and friends call her, was born and raised on the Jersey Shore. She wants more than the expected life, continuing all the local traditions. Chi Chi can sing, and she dreams of fronting a big band while traveling the country. Tony Arma, stage name for Saverio Armandonada, lives the dream after leaving his job at a Detroit auto plant. They meet via mutual friends (or maybe it was cousins) at a wedding and again later when Chi Chi goes up to the big city to audition for a singer/songwriter position with the band Tony fronts. As it turns out, they are better friends than (eventually) spouses – sometimes dreams change and sometimes they don’t. Chi Chi Donatelli is my kind of gal, though – strong, ambitious, and no-nonsense, but with a huge heart. Personally, I think that Chi Chi and Stella Fortuna could have been friends. Both women wanted more from life than what their gender prescribed for them.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS and to be part of the team planning Evening in the Stacks. She likes to spend winter reading, baking, and waiting for baseball to return.

Tools & Tips for Job Seekers

Ad for Gale: Peterson's Test and Career Prep shows a young Black woman engaged

By Cherise T.

Rely on hclibrary.org as your job seeker support system. Our excellent databases and classes can assist in your job search and career development, including Peterson’s Test and Career PrepYou may be familiar with the Testing & Education Reference Center and have used its tools or maybe read about its resources. Renamed “Peterson’s,” this database has so much to offer on your job search journey. 

Looking for a job is a full-time pursuit, so you will be thrilled to know that 24-hour access to Peterson’s requires only your library card (Do you need one?). Once logged in, select the “Explore Careers” tile and dig in to all the available and FREE information. Click on “Get Started,” then explore “Find a Career” or “Career Advice” or “Create a Resume.

The “Find a Career” section is especially useful, with a series of aptitude assessments that lead to recommended career paths. Complete all four – Interests, Values, Personality, and Workplace Preferences – to discover the most complete view of how your interests and skills mesh with different career paths. Once an assessment is completed, Peterson’s links to the job aggregator site Indeed.com with relevant current job posts. 

Peterson’s will direct you to Career Matches by subject, including education; finance; health science; IT and computer science; human services; science, engineering, and mathematics; government, military, and public administration; business management and administration; marketing and sales; law and public safety; arts, media, and communication; agriculture, food, and natural resources; hospitality and tourism; transportation, distribution, and logistics; manufacturing and manual operations; and architecture and construction. Using the assessment results, Peterson’s calculates an individualized job fit. 

Career Advice” includes a virtual career library of online instruction. Access this area for advice on changing careers, transitioning out of the military, acing an interview, and negotiating a salary. You can use modules for constructing a resume, pursuing an effective job search, and writing a strong cover letter. 

Under the “Create a Resume” tile, you can find nine sample resume templates that you can save to your device or in your Peterson’s account. You can choose to import your resume or even to publish your resume publicly via a Peterson-generated URL address. Check out the cover letter formatting assistant as well. 

Remember to explore our class calendar. We post new classes on a regular basis. Upcoming events include Mastering the Elevator Pitch and Interview on Wednesday, January 27 and Networking or Not Working on Tuesday, February 9 and Thursday, February 11. Networking and Not Working provides a total of four hours of in-depth job search skills personalized to attendees’ needs. HCLS also provides drop-in online help in filling out job applications. Twice a month, you may register for a small group session to answer job application questions and address job search concerns. 

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.