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.

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.