HiJinx at the ALA Conference

by Addison and Simone

The co-hosts of HCLS’ podcast, HiJinx, recall attending the annual American Library Association Conference in June. They had a great time, and hope you enjoy the podcast episode from the convention floor.

Three HCLS staff members in a photo with the Eiffel Tower behind them, says "Greetings from ALA 2022."

FROM ADDISON

I was at the ALA Conference to gather soundbites for the podcast. Coming from a career in the private sector, I could only pull from my recent experience at a smaller conference. I was concerned with capturing enough exciting material to appeal to our podcast’s audience. Nonetheless, I arrived, stepped on the escalator, and descended to the exhibit floor. I glanced out in astonishment. The conference floor was expansive, large enough to fit more commercial airplanes than one could count on their fingers.

ALA provides public, academic, government, and special libraries with programming, tools, and services. The 2022 annual convention was attended by 7,738 librarians, along with 5,431 exhibitors, publishers, and authors. My concern about filling a podcast episode became replaced with where to begin and what to cut.

We began our interviews, and as I’ve become accustomed to in the industry, people were friendly and willing to share their stories. This made the experience feel like we were catching up with old friends and not pointing a recorder at strangers. Before I knew it, it was nearing the end of the exhibit and time to go home to produce the podcast.

When listening to the episode, you will hear author interviews and publishers’ discussions, as well as learn about valuable vendors and services. In addition, you will get a glimpse at the inner working of the library world, one that I am excited to be a part of.

FROM SIMONE

This June when I had the opportunity to go to the ALA Conference, our team was in the company of other library professionals and literary enthusiasts. The event featured guest speakers and authors, exhibits, and vendors.  

As first-timers, it was not easy to imagine the enormity of this conference. By the time we reached the vicinity of the convention center (while circling for good parking in the city on a busy Sunday), the sidewalks were bustling with attendees from all around the country. Buses rolled by wrapped in branding from related literary and tech companies, as increased crossing guards and security manned the busy intersections. So, we were in the right place – check! After making our way to the building, through COVID-19 screening, and check-in, it was time to hit the exhibit floor with our roving podcast.

We were in search of what’s now, new, and next in libraries. Since we met up at the Mango Languages booth – and posed in “Paris” at their green screen photo-op – it was only fitting to begin our interviews right there. HCLS customers have access to this convenient (and highest-rated) language-learning app.  

Next up was a spirited chat with another Library vendor, Hoopla, a media streaming platform and probably one of HCLS’ biggest cheerleaders. We continued to wade through the sea of booths and conduct interviews with an array of vendors, authors, publishers, and a couple of staff members we bumped into along the way.  

To hear directly from these dedicated individuals and organizations who help us bring high-quality education and services to the community, tune into Episode 48 of the HiJinx Podcast and explore the Library’s website for access to each resource.

Happy listening!  

Computer Basics: Online and In Person

Introducing NorthStar

Build your digital skills and fluency with NorthStar, available for free at Howard County Library System.

Northstar: Digital Literacy Assessment logo, which includes a diamond with blue points on three sides, a yellow point at the top and a black N inside a white square.

NorthStar uses an assessment quiz to help you identify the areas where your skills are strong, as well as areas that need improvement. This easy-to-use resource can help bolster digital expertise for anyone who wants to learn fundamental skills or refresh and update existing skills.

NorthStar points you towards the classes on the platform that will help you with those skills. The classes cover everything from the basics (e.g., identify a mouse, power button, USB port) to more advanced skills like navigating Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, Google Docs, Job Search Skills, and even participating in Telehealth appointments.

A few things to know about NorthStar:

  • No HCLS library card is required to register a learner account on NorthStar.
  • You receive unique recommendations for classes based on their initial assessment.
  • These are self-directed online classes that can be taken from any location, so you can take classes at any library branch, from home, from work, or anywhere and on your own schedule.

If you need a computer or internet to access NorthStar, come to any HCLS branch. You can also borrow a Chromebook (a type of laptop) and a wi-fi hotspot (which provides internet access) from the library and take them home with you. For more information on how to borrow a Chromebook and wi-fi hotspot, visit hclibrary.org/chromebooks or call your local branch.

Get started with NorthStar by visiting bit.ly/hclsnorthstar and creating a Learner Account. You will need an email address to get started.

If you would like some in-person help with digital skills, register for one of our computer clinics (listed below). Find the full schedule here: bit.ly/hclscomputers

Computer Skills Open Lab
If you’re looking to improve your computer skills, visit our computer skills open lab. Boost your technical knowledge by getting hands-on assistance with topics such as:

  • Basic computer skills
  • Using the internet
  • Setting up an email account
  • Creating and saving documents

We work with you at your skill level and provide information and guidance to develop the skills you are seeking or resolve the problem you are facing. Use our PC laptops and earbuds, or bring your own laptop and headphones. Bring your questions!

Tue, Jul 5 at 1 – 3 pm | East Columbia

Thu, Jul 21 at 10:30 am – 12:30 pm | Elkridge

Tue, Aug 2 at 10 am – 12 pm | East Columbia

Thu, Aug 18 at 10:30 am – 12:30 pm | Elkridge

Register for for any of these session at bit.ly/hclscomputers or call 410.313.7700.

Computer Basics
Wed, Jul 13 at 6:30 – 8:30 pm | Central Branch
Mon, Jul 25 at 2 – 4 pm | Savage Branch
Wed, Aug 10 at 6:30 – 8:30 pm | Central Branch
Mon Aug 22 at 2 – 4 pm | Savage Branch

New to using computers? This class introduces some basic computer terminology and takes you through practice activities, such as opening and saving files and folders, searching the internet, and creating an email account using Gmail. Use our PC laptops and earbuds, or bring your own laptop and headphones.

June is African American Music Appreciation Month

Collage of black and white photos of musicians and color blocks in red, green, blue, and yellow with "Summer of Soul" overlaid.

by Jean B.

Count Basie. Billie Holliday. Duke Ellington. I am an enthusiastic jazz fan, and I appreciate that sliver of African American music all year long, not just in June. But the musical expression of Black experience and artistry certainly isn’t limited to jazz or any other single genre. Gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, hip hop, rap, classical, rock and roll, techno, musicals – African American Music Appreciation Month provides a great opportunity to acknowledge and explore the tremendous breadth of African American musicians, composers, styles, and music entrepreneurs. Established in 1979 as National Black Music Month, it has been proclaimed by every U.S. President from Jimmy Carter to Joe Biden. So for this 43rd annual celebration, use HCLS as a portal to enjoy more of what you already like or discover something entirely new.

Expand Your Playlist
If you’re looking for new tunes, HCLS offers thousands of CDs across all genres to borrow. Using your library card and PIN, you also can stream music from Freegal. Not only can you search for favorite artists or songs, but you can find already curated Black Music Month playlists – like the one created by the Central Arkansas Library System with ten hours of music, ranging from Jimi Hendrix, to Sister Rosetta Tharpe; from Kendrick Lamar to Miles Davis. That’s a lot to appreciate!

Experience Live Concerts
Do you want to imagine you’re there, in concert? Documentary DVDs can bring the live concert experience right into your home. Check out Questlove’s Oscar-winning documentary, Summer of Soul, about the epic 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that features performances by artists like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, and more. Or watch Eminem, Nas, and other hip-hop artists perform on Something From Nothing: the Art of Rap. From our Kanopy service, stream films like Rejoice and Shout: Gospel Music and African-American Christianity, which features legends of gospel like The Staple Singers and The Dixie Hummingbirds, to trace the 200-year evolution and contribution of gospel music in American pop culture.

The cover of I'm Possible: A Story of Survival, a Tuba, and the Small Miracle of a Big Dream features the outline illustration of a red figure playing a black tuba, framed by text.

Explore the Lives of African American Creators
If you’re curious about the life experiences that produced the music you hear, check out some great nonfiction. Be blown away by the memoir of Baltimore native Richard Antoine White, whose dream of classical tuba performance took him from a homeless childhood to a prestigious symphony orchestra career, an extraordinary story he tells in I’m Possible: A Story of Survival, A Tuba, and the Small Miracle of a Big Dream. Or be swept up in the incredible combination of poetry, art, biography, and music history in Jazz A-B-Z: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits, where Wynton Marsalis writes wordplay jazz. I love his ode to Ellington, “a most elegant man” who sought “to educate, to elevate, to urge the earthbound ear and heart alike to soar,” just like the resources at HCLS!

Jean B. is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch and loves reading books for all ages when she isn’t enjoying the outdoors.

Help with Your Hobbies

A yellow cover features a photo of a bright scarlet tanager, with its black wings. The title is in dark red lettering above the photograph.

by Emily B.

May is Older Americans Month and is the perfect time to start a new hobby with a little help from HCLS! Check out these great resources you can access for free with your library card.

Looking to get artsy? We’ve got some great DVD series to help you start. Craftsy offers hands-on lessons in creative mediums such as knitting, watercolors, crochet, and sewing. Interested in painting? Follow along with Bob Ross as he guides you every step of the way toward creating your own masterpiece in his art video series.

Interested in building a family tree and learning about your family’s history? Check out, via our online research tools, Ancestry Library Edition (only available in library branches), HeritageQuest, and MyHeritage Library Edition for access to billions of records from all around the world – including census records, immigration records, and beyond!

Budding photographers can head over to LinkedIn Learning for comprehensive video tutorials on topics like mobile photography, taking portraits, photo composition, photo editing, and more! Simply login with your library card and pin number to begin.

Take a hike! Check out Hike Maryland: A Guide to the Scenic Trails of the Free State for some scenic walks to take as the weather warms. See any birds on your hike? Check out Birds of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. to learn more about the birds you encounter.

Expand your linguistic horizons and study a new language. For those who prefer to learn in quick, fun, daily lessons, Mango is a great option. Just download the free mobile app, select the language you want to learn, and start learning! For more immersive learning, Rosetta Stone offers structured lessons in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

A white cover features white flat soup spoons, each filled with a different color spice.

Hoping to introduce some new recipes into your repertoire? Check out the Great Courses’ Everyday Gourmet DVD series. With courses on outdoor cooking, Mediterranean cooking, and cooking with vegetables, there’s something for every palate!

Emily is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.

Voulez-vous voir un film ce soir?

The image says "How to use Mango Premiere: film-based language learning," with the Mango logo, an "M" comprised of multicolored squares and triangles in patterns red, blue, yellow, green, black, and white.

By Holly L.

Are you interested in learning French, or another language, but find traditional tutorials tedious?  

Consider Mango Premiere, an online language learning system that offers instruction through film for select languages. While enjoying a movie you can familiarize yourself with your chosen language by studying the dialogue while also focusing on grammar, vocabulary, phrases, and culture.

Customize your learning experience by viewing the film in “Movie mode,” in which you can view the movie with your choice of subtitles (English, the language you are learning, or both at the same time).

The still photograph from the film Around a Small Mountain is labeled "Scene Introduction" and depicts a man and woman standing next to a small convertible on a sunny street. The captions read, in French, "L'homme revient, et Kate l'invite á son spectacle de cirque ce soir-là gratuitement." This is followed by the English translation: "The man returns, and Kate invites him to her circus show that evening for free."s

Choose “Engage mode” for an in-depth scene exploration. In this mode, you begin with a Scene Introduction, an overview of what to expect in the coming scene. Next, you have the option of scrolling through Words You May Encounter and Cultural Notes. After viewing the scene you may click on to a Followup, a detailed breakdown of the scene with grammar and cultural notes. The subtitles are enhanced by phonetic pop-ups and Mango’s semantic color mapping, which demonstrates connections between the learner’s target and native language.

The illustration shows two translations from English to French: "I speak French very well" is translated to "Je, parle très bien français," and "Oh, good morning" is translated to "Tiens, bonjour." Each word is in a different color with a block underneath indicating Mango’s semantic color mapping, which demonstrates connections between the learner’s target and native language.
A visualization of Mango’s semantic color mapping.

While exploring the features of Mango Premiere, I watched Around a Small Mountain (or 36 vues du Pic Saint Loup), a 2009 French drama by director Jacques Rivette (one of the founders of the French New Wave) featuring Jane Birkin and Sergio Castellitto. With a cast of characters whose lives revolve around a travelling circus, the film is very dialogue-driven and I felt that the Engage Mode features helped me achieve a more nuanced understanding of the story.

There are more than 70 languages you can learn on Mango, with movies currently available for the following languages: 

English (for Spanish speakers) 

French 

Spanish (Latin America) 

Italian 

Chinese (Mandarin) 

German 

Hopefully Mango will expand its Premiere services to include films in more languages. I for one may be more motivated to brush up on my Korean language skills if I can do so while watching a fun K-drama

Access Mango and Mango Premiere for free with your HCLS library card.

Holly is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting, preferably with a strong cup of tea and Downton Abbey in the queue.

National Library Week: Connect with Our Library!

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.

Those of us who write for Chapter Chats want to connect with you, and want you to connect with the library. Most of the time, we’re going to share with you something new and different to read or watch. We enjoyed those titles so much that we want you to experience them, too. Check out recent popular reviews of the The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman or A Song of Wraith and Ruins by Roseanne Brown. If you’re an audiobook listener, we have you covered as well.

But the library has so much more to offer than books, and we want you to know about those things, too. Here’s a brief list of some blog posts that look at the other ways we’d like to connect with you:

Have you had a chance to visit Central Branch and tour the Undesign the Redline exhibit? It’s only here a little bit longer. Christie Lassen talks all about it in this Interview.

Have you been to Glenwood Branch recently? There’s so much that’s new for you! Visit the Makerspace and see the wonderful new play stations.

Our most liked blog post since Chapter Chats began about two years ago lets you know how to use the library’s subscription services to avoid news paywalls.

Do you like to craft? Or maybe bake? The DIY Center at Elkridge Branch may be able to help. The staff there can also help you with tools to get your yard cleaned up after winter and ready for spring fun.

And, now that it’s actually spring and random snow flurries have finally ended, take a drive to Ellicott City to visit the Enchanted Garden at HCLS Miller Branch.

One of our teen volunteers who frequents the Savage Branch (and writes for the blog) recently discovered that we lend toys. She is entirely on board with this idea.

We are even bringing the library to you with our PopUp Library van, which visits neighborhoods and community events.

So, take this as a reminder and an invitation to stop by frequently and see what’s going on in the blog – and at the Library. We love our library and connecting with you in all the ways we can imagine.

Free Practice Driving Tests for Cars, Motorcycles & CDL

Open two-lane road with double yellow line leading into the distance of snow-topped mountains. Bright sky with white clouds take up the top two thirds of photo.

Driving-Tests.org, in partnership with Howard County Library System, offers free practice tests for those looking to obtain driving licenses or permits for cars, motorcycles, and commercial vehicles in Maryland. According to users, the practice test questions are very similar to the actual questions you may find on the MD MVA official exams. Essentially, if you’ve studied the appropriate handbooks cover-to-cover and aced all the practice tests, you should feel pretty confident going into your scheduled exam.

This resource provides you with the necessary handbooks to read online or download. Plus, audio versions of the cars and motorcycles handbooks are available if you’d prefer to listen. According to the application, they advertise an industry-leading 95.2 percent success rate and being “73 percent more effective than the driver’s manual alone, based on a nationwide survey.”

The practice tests for drivers’ licenses and permits touts nearly 500 questions, which are categorized into order of difficulty: easy, hard, and hardest. There is also an exam simulator which mimics the MVA exam. The questions are pulled from an extensive database which promises new questions each time you practice. The motorcycle section is arranged similarly with 312 questions that are randomized on the exam simulator. Each test reminds takers of their allowed number of mistakes in order to pass.

The CDL section offers eight general knowledge tests, a marathon general knowledge test of all 417 questions, plus an exam simulator pulling 50 questions at random. Specialized tests for HazMat, School Bus, Passenger Vehicles, Air Brakes, Double/Triple Trailers, Tankers, and Combination Vehicles are also included. Pre-Trip inspection videos and testing are also at the ready.

These tests can help a range of users: teenagers getting their learner’s permit, parents assisting aforementioned teens, adults who’ve moved or are planning to move to another state, newcomers to the US, test-takers with only a few days left before their exam, and those who prefer to prepare on their own instead of paying for and/or attending driving school. Whatever your situation, this database of free practice tests at hclibrary.org is your best resource for preparing for your licensure.

JP has worked for HCLS since 2006. She loves playing with her new orange tabby kittens, Mando & Momo.

Game Time!

A purple background with bright blue patterns reads "Debate & Diplomacy in History".

by Deb B.

Game Time!

Prepare to explore an immersive, intellectually stimulating game of friendship and betrayal, with spies and imposters, alliances and rivals. Will you witness a campaign of persuasion, or one of war and pestilence? Hoarded resources or shared technology? How is trade conducted? Who are the players on the board?

No, I am not referring to a game of Among Us or a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to complete the 2021 National History Day project, Debate and Diplomacy in History: Failures, Successes, Consequences.

Tumble down primary and secondary source rabbit holes following an historical topic. Analyze immediate and long term impacts, its connection to the annual theme, and create a structured presentation model showcasing extensive research and conclusions in a national competition for grades, glory, and potential monetary awards! Sports have nothing on this competition.

Parents, we are here to help. It is not cheating for students to get research assistance. Students, tap your teachers and parents and the local, free, natural habitat for history and research nerds eager to help search for buried sources – the Howard County Library System.

Attend an in-person or virtual class, such as NHD Topic Development (also online), Maximize Your Research (online), and a Thesis Workshop (online). These classes are not exclusive to NHD students. We welcome parents and teachers and all teens interested in upgrading their critical thinking skills.

Schedule an NHD appointment at one of our branches.

Our classes, databases, and collection resources are also not cheats.

Play the game. Win!

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. 

Take a trip with National Geographic

An underwater shot of a raft of penguins with the National Geographic text and yellow frame setting off the image.

by Holly L.

As local Covid rates drop and vaccination numbers rise, some of you are embarking on long-anticipated journeys. Whether day-tripping down to the shore or jet-setting to a distant locale, the act of travel brings a sense of relief to many who are longing to break out of their quarantine bubbles and go – somewhere, anywhere!

For others of you the time for travel hasn’t yet arrived. Finances, health, or other constraints may limit your current trip planning to a run to the grocery store or a drive across town to check on a friend. Tropical oases may beckon, but for now you just need to let that call go to voicemail.

Wanderlust – a desire to travel or roam – is something we all feel, these post(?)-pandemic days more keenly than ever. Whether you are an actual or an armchair traveler this summer, let us broaden your horizons with a terrific eResource. National Geographic has partnered with Gale to deliver a virtual steamer trunk full of high-quality digital content that brings the world to your door. Your library card is your all-access pass to the National Geographic Virtual Library (search under Magazines & Newspapers), an extensive database that includes the National Geographic Magazine digital archive from 1888 to the present (new issues are added after a minimum 45-day embargo period), National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World, and National Geographic Kids

Since its launch in October 1888, National Geographic Magazine has been regarded for its in-depth reporting, innovative storytelling, and splendid photography. Complete digital issues of National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, and National Geographic History are available for browsing, with audio options and search functions available. Citation tools are built in, making this database a great resource for historical, social, and scientific research.

National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World connects you with even more content, including full-text books on travel, science & technology, history, the environment, animals, photography, and peoples & cultures. Also included are cross-searchable videos, full-color maps, charts, graphs, and a wealth of National Geographic’s iconic photographs and digital images.

There is plenty to engage young students with National Geographic Kids. This database includes the complete archive of National Geographic Kids Magazine from 2009 to the present, as well as books, videos, and images galore. With an intuitive, visual interface, National Geographic Kids offers age-appropriate content that supports Common Core standards. Subject indexing and easy search features empower young explorers to embark on exciting learning adventures.

Expired passport? No problem. We can help with that, too, at the East Columbia Branch. Or, use your HCLS library card to book a virtual trip this summer via the National Geographic Virtual Library.

Holly is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting and appreciates an audiobook with a good narrator.