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.

Free Music Lessons with ArtistWorks

Three ukuleles, set alternating top to bottom, in three finishes - dark, blond, and maple.

By JP Landolt

Trying new things can be costly. For instance, learning a new instrument has a considerable price tag after you add up the purchases for the instrument, books, and lessons. Then, there’s that thing that sometimes happens. You know, when you’ve spent all this money and realize you’re just not that into it? Yikes!

Well, the quintessential “try before you buy” scenario can be found at our library. That is, if you’d like to learn to play the ukulele. Yes, you can borrow a ukulele kit, chord and song books, and even get ukulele lessons through ArtistWorks for FREE.

What if you’re not interested in ukuleles? The library can still help offset your costs through offering materials in our collection and through interlibrary loan, and ArtistWorks. Private music lessons in Howard County range from $35-$80 per hour (depending on the instrument and the instructor’s expertise). ArtistWorks can help you discern your desire to learn a new instrument before making a large financial investment.

ArtistWorks is a database comprised of Grammy Award-winning musicians and renowned teachers providing guided instruction for an assortment of instruments. These online music lessons offer step-by-step professional instruction at your pace. Each course include videos, documents (e.g. sheet music, lyrics, chords), and music tracks when appropriate. There are 35 active lessons spanning percussion, winds, horns, strings, and vocals. ArtistWorks occasionally updates their offerings. They’ve provided lessons on watercolors and oil painting in the past and have recently added scratching records and music theory. Truly an assortment of artistry is available for you to peruse and use.

If you’re interested in exploring ArtistWorks you will need an HCLS library card and PIN number to access this resource via hclibrary.org. Once you’ve accessed ArtistWorks, you’ll need to register, creating a username and password, to access the lessons. I wish you great joy as you take on the adventure of learning a new instrument (or more)! May your strings never snap, your reeds never splinter, and your voice carry a tune!
Good luck!

JP has worked for HCLS since 2006. She loves learning new things and playing disc golf, albeit as a novice.

Bon Appetit

The DVD cover for the movie with Meryl Streep as Julia Child at the top in a green kitchen and Amy Adams licking her finger and holding a fork at the bottom.

By Peter N.

2020 was a difficult year, and we all know it. In difficult times, we often turn to things that bring us comfort such as books, music, movies, or food, and oftentimes our favorites are the ones we turn to many times over and never get tired of. What brings me comfort? The movie Julie & Julia. This 2009 film is based on Julie Powell’s 2005 book and intertwines the story of Julia Child as she grows into a chef extraordinaire with the life of government worker Julie Powell as she cooks her way through all of the recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This is a favorite film of mine for many reasons: Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Stanley Tucci, comedy, and last but not least…FOOD. Seriously, I could watch this movie once a week for forever.

As a child we didn’t have cable so I had to rely on watching whatever our TV antenna was able to pick up and most often it was PBS. I remember seeing Julia Child and Jacques Pépin cook dish after dish, and they (along with many other PBS cooking shows) are one of the reasons I became the foodie I am today.

But back to Julie & Julia: as I mentioned before, there are many reasons why I love this movie, but what I didn’t mention was that it has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. It’s…relaxing, for lack of a better term. When I turn on this movie, it is often just in the background as I cook, clean, or when I just want to free my mind of all the clutter. Don’t believe me? Well, check it out – it is available to stream and download from Freegal through Howard County Library System. All you’ll need is your library card number and PIN. It’s that easy!

Meryl Streep shines as Julia Child accompanied by Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul. Their onscreen chemistry makes you believe in love and triumph through hard work and determination, and I love every single scene with them. Amy Adams, however, is no slouch, and her portrayal of Julie Powell perfectly conveys how arduous the task was to cook more than 500 of Julia Child’s recipes, all while enjoying most of it, despite a few burnouts and tantrums along the way. When she describes her childhood memory of the magic of Julia’s bœuf bourguignon I am sorely tempted to make the recipe myself (but would end up eating by myself thanks to my vegetarian partner).

I leave you with a quote from Julia Child:

People who love to eat are always the best people.

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch where he is one of the nerdiest people you could meet.

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. 

Happy Holidays!

Snowy background with a white felt snowman wearing light blue scarf, mittens,. and hat.

Howard County Library System wishes you all the best during the holiday season. Thank you for reading our new blog, which we began in May. We hope you’ve enjoyed the reviews and maybe discovered a new electronic resource or two.

We published nearly 95 posts this year; here were some of the most-read posts of 2020:


Bypass the News Paywall
Jessica listed the many newspapers that HCLS subscribes to … so you don’t have to!

Review of Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Kim reviewed a quirky movie that defies easy classification, but delights nonetheless.

Bundle Bags
Cherise explained the new service that HCLS began recently. Fill out the form and receive a bag of books, movies, and more!

Happy New Year! Hope you continue to enjoy Chapter Chats!

Looking for Something New to Read?

Woman in silhouette against green sunny background, look at a book in her hands.
Contactless Pickup at HCLS Glenwood Branch.

By Eliana H.

Do you sometimes wonder what to read next? But now it’s even more difficult because our buildings aren’t open for browsing the stacks? Sometimes I take calls from customers with just those sorts of questions. I and other library staff are always happy to help our community find a good book, but I will admit that it’s not always easy to find the right book. Thankfully, we have NoveList, a tool that can help us answer those “what should I read” questions.

NoveList icon with a person reading a book while sitting in a tree with a orange background.

The great part is YOU can access that tool also! On our Research Tools page, click Book Recommendations, then NoveList, and you’ll find yourself on a Remote Authentication page where you need to enter your library card barcode and PIN (if you’re not sure what these are, visit My Account and use the links below the boxes to have your information emailed to you).

Now, you are inside the treasure trove that is NoveList. Choose from highlighted themes and styles, browse genres by age range, or check out a Recommended Reads List. If you have something specific that you want to match, enter it in the search bar and explore title or author read-alikes.  Maybe you have read all of the books Louise Penny has written, but you’re looking for something that has a similar feel to the Inspector Gamache mysteries. If you enter her name in the search bar, you can choose Title Read-alikes, Author Read-alikes, or Series Read-alikes below any of the books from that series that come up in your results list. Considering any of the “Read-alike” options shows you a list with a brief explanation of what the two items have in common. 

While you’re in NoveList, preview some of the “Recommended Reads Lists” in the left-hand panel. These are fixtures, but staff at NoveList update them periodically. For instance, right now there’s a “Reading During Pandemic” category. Each of the categories has several sub-categories before you get to the actual list. For instance, if you click on “Reading During Pandemic,” you will see “Quarantine Reads: Cozy and Gentle Stories,” “Quarantine Reads: Fast-paced Thrillers,” “Quarantine Reads: Heartwarming Reads,” and “Quarantine Reads: Pandemic Apocalypse Fiction.” You will obviously see very different options across those categories!

Screenshot from within NoveList.

One thing to note is the “Check Availability” button that appears at the bottom of the listing for a title. Unfortunately, HCLS does not own every title listed in NoveList. You can use “Check Availability” to see if we do own it, though, and how many copies are on the shelf. The listing within NoveList only includes print and ebook formats, but you can search in our catalog to see audiobook (including eAudio) options. If you find a listing you want to read that says “Not owned by this library,” you can always take a look in Interlibrary Loan or suggest we add the title to our collection via the purchase suggestion option on our website.

I hope you take the time to explore NoveList and find some great titles to enjoy. Feel free to leave some of your own recommendations for fellow readers in the comments!

Eliana is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Books in the Public Domain: Free with Project Gutenberg

The photograph shows the spines of a row of antique books, including classics like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Man in the Iron Mask.
Old Books” by Moi of Ra is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Becky W.

I suspect many of you have heard the term “public domain” thrown out here and there – as have I – but what does it really mean? When I ask myself this question, my thinking runs along the lines of “free, up for grabs, no questions asked, right?” Well, yes… but there is a catch. 

When a work is placed in the public domain, it is broadly defined as being free of protection from intellectual property rights including copyright, trademark, and patents. But how does work end up in the public domain? There are three main ways. First, the work was never protected by copyright law to begin with. Second, the owner places the work in the public domain before the copyright has expired. Third, the copyright has expired, either due to the terms of the copyright or the owner failing to follow copyright renewal rules. Once a work is placed in the public domain it is, in a general sense, free to be used without restriction. As with any legal perspective, there are exceptions. I am not a copyright expert, and, let’s be honest, have already spent all of the mental bandwidth I can muster for this topic, so I can’t give you all the legality behind those exceptions. If, however, copyright law is your jam, there is a great resource from Cornell University that takes a detailed look at copyright and the public domain. 

So why, as readers and lovers of knowledge, do we care about this? Well, the public domain covers a lot of creative works, but one material abundant in the public domain is books. I know what you’re thinking: “free books, great, yes, sign me up,” and you’re absolutely right. The public domain offers us free access to thousands of books and writings. But remember, I said there was a catch. When a book is placed in the public domain, it allows for people to do any number of things with that book, including selling it. Books in the public domain are not always free; in fact, if you look up a public domain title online, it will most definitely have a listed price. Luckily for us, this is not always the case. There are some great people out their dedicating their time to digitizing these books and building them a home on the internet so everyone can have access to them. 

Now, and I know I made you wait for this, how do you access these books? Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg is a volunteer-run website and organization that digitizes and distributes works in the public domain at no cost. Books found on Project Gutenberg can be downloaded in multiple file formats, including PDF and EPub, so you can read them on any device or eReader. If you don’t have a tablet or eReader, you also have the option to read on their website. 

And that’s it! Time to go explore the public domain. There really are too many books to name: everything from classic novels to unpublished fiction. So, if you are overwhelmed and need a place to start, here are some of my recommendations. 

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
  1. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 
  1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum 
  1. The Odyssey by Homer 
  1. Grimms’ Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm

Information on the public domain and copyright in this post was pulled from Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright and Fair Use Center.

Becky is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS East Columbia Branch who enjoys art and everything science.

Your Favorite Actors Read Your Favorite Stories

Big capital S and O combine in front of words Storyline Online, over the silhouettes of rooftops.

By Jessica L.

What do Viola Davis, Sean Astin, Allison Janney, and Rami Malek have in common? They like to read books to children! Storyline Online, an award-winning children’s online literacy program, recruits a wide selection of actors to read children’s books for Grades K-4. While similar to the after school television program Reading Rainbow, positive differences come from the stories being available 24/7 and how you can see the reader enjoying the story, too.

You may sort stories by author, title, reader, and (my favorite) run time. Stories range 5-21 minutes, which is helpful when that request of, “Five more minutes, please?!” arises. After you choose your story, you’ll be asked which video player you prefer (SchoolTube, YouTube, or Vimeo) which is saved as your preference. What’s more, you can share what you’re learning via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Storyline Online has an app, a blog, and an array of social media platforms they use to inform folks when new books are available. 

You can certainly use this entertaining, supplementary educational resource while learning from home. Each story includes curriculum-driven learning activities created by accredited elementary educators. Parents and teachers alike will find the site easy to navigate and user friendly. It may even provide an opportunity for you to allow your children independent screen time. This is distance learning gold!  

More than 60 books are active on the site, with more on the way. Storyline Online is currently featuring books which celebrate Black stories and Black voices. I recently chose “Rent Party Jazz” by William Miller, read by Viola Davis, geared to Grades 2-3 and 11 minutes long. I evaluated the activities for parents and teachers and found them to be well-written, excellent tools for their respective target audiences. 

Storyline Online is a fantastic way to experience your favorite actors’ storytelling on-demand while learning from home. I’m personally hoping Keanu Reeves will read my favorite children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco. I’m just not sure how many more times I can @storylineonline. Believe me: you’re never too old to enjoy a good read-aloud! You can find it along with HCLS’ other eContent for Kids.

JP has worked for HCLS since 2006. She enjoys bonfires and spins a mean dreidel.

Empower Your College and Career Planning with the Testing & Education Reference Center

A Black man and a woman wearing a headscarf sit in front of a computer, discussing what they see on the screen. Text reads: You're up to the test.

By Kim M.

Taking standardized tests, choosing the right college, and planning for a career can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when so much is uncertain. You can control your preparation and research, though, ensuring the best possible outcome. Preparing thoroughly helps to eliminate anxiety and build confidence in your test performance and decision making. Testing & Education Reference Center from Gale is an incredible online tool that’s rich in content, offering standardized test and entrance exam preparation, in-depth undergraduate and graduate program research, tuition and scholarship assistance, and valuable career information. It helps everyone from students to seasoned professionals embark on new paths. 

Testing & Education Reference Center provides the information, tools, and materials needed to achieve all your career and education goals, including: 

  • Intuitive School Searching 
    Easily search for private secondary schoolsvocational/technical schools, boarding schools, military schools, special needs schools, or accredited colleges and universities to find the perfect fit. Quick results deliver information on school location, tuition, academics, admission requirements, campus life, among other aspects.  
  • College Funding Tools 
    Financial aid tools, such as the Undergraduate Scholarship Search, Financial Aid Award Analyzer, College Savings Calculator, and Tuition Cost Finder provide data to help you plan, budget, and identify resources. 
  • Career Development  
    Access rich career development tools including a Career Assessment, the Resume Builder, and the Virtual Careers Library to help in every part of the career planning process. Map your career interests and aptitudes to job categories and industries that fit your personality. Delve into a list of occupations suited to your interests and learn about the skills involved, salaries, and more. 

    Get job search guidance, as well as resume, interviewing and networking advice for your career stage, whether you’re just starting out, looking to change careers, or transitioning from the military. 

    Prepare and study for professional certification exams, such as accounting, cosmetology, firefighter, postal worker, real estate, and more.

Testing & Education Reference Center is available for free courtesy of Howard County Library System. Watch this quick video to get an overview of how it works, and then click here to log in with your library card number and PIN. Please note that you must create an account with your email address and a password, which is necessary to save resumes, career assessment scores, and practice test progress. 

No matter your academic or professional goals, Testing & Education Reference Center can help you reach them, and HCLS is cheering you on every step of the way!

Kim M. works in the Materials Management Department at the Administrative Branch. She’s currently reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

Longest Table Tips for ‘Impossible Conversations’

Screen shot from a Zoom meeting, with Daryl Davis gesturing toward the screen.
The Longest Table 2020

By Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

Are you heading into some holiday conversations you already dread? Or wishing you could talk to someone about a position they hold that you deeply disagree with, but feel unsure how to do it? 

When you think about someone who voted differently than you in the last election, are you wondering, “can I even talk to them?”

Last month, Howard County Library System held The Longest (Virtual) Table with Daryl Davis, an exceptional man with a lot to say about having hard conversations. Davis is an internationally celebrated blues musician who has also led more than 200 KKK members to leave the organization through personal relationships and dialogue. He is motivated, as a Black man, by the question: “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?”

Davis is the author of Klan-destine Relationships, the topic of a movie Accidental Courtesy, and an excellent podcast interviewee (see “The Silver Dollar Lounge” from 2014 and “How to Argue” from 2017).

At the Longest Table, Davis shared parts of his amazing story, reflections on recent events, and ideas on how to talk someone out of hate. His experiences can help us see that people – even those holding extremely problematic positions – are capable of change. His ideas can help us connect with people whose beliefs feel impossibly different than our own.

So what does Daryl Davis suggest? Here are some of his top points, paraphrased:

  • Remember we all want the same five things.
    People want to be loved, to be respected, to be heard, to be treated fairly, and they want the same things for their families that you want for yours.
  • Give respect and get respect.
    Ask questions. Listen. “While you are actively seeking information from someone else, you are passively teaching them about yourself at the same time.” On social media, find a positive way to respond. The way you listen and respond will help people listen and respond to you.
  • Plant seeds as you engage in a long game.
    Give someone something to think about that troubles their world view. Then, engage again: “You must come back and water the seed – that’s the key.”
  • Lower their walls and keep them down.
    If you listen respectfully first, they will feel the need to listen to you next. “Defend yourself but don’t attack them,” and “keep your emotions in check.”

Davis’s approach demands intensive time and skill as well as self-control, and it may not be one we can all use all the time. His focus is not everyone’s: some people think it is more important to change policies and systems than to convert individual racists. However, we can all honor and appreciate that he has dedicated decades of his life to “putting a dent in racism,” along with his courage and selflessness in following this path. 

Like good music, Davis’ messages resonate well and widely. How could your ‘impossible conversations’ change by remembering shared humanity, showing respect, and teaching others with the example of how you live? Watch/listen to Daryl Davis in his own words today!

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