Banned Books Week (Sep 26 – Oct 2)

The illustration shows two hand clasping a book with the Earth the backdrop, with the text across the hands and book reading, "Books Unite Us." The rest of the text reads, "Banned Books Week. September 26-October 2, 2021. ALA American Library Association. The illustration is in shades of purple, lime green, and orange.

by Jean B.

 “Any time we eliminate or wall off certain narratives, we are not getting a whole picture of the world in which we live…we limit our vocabulary, which complicates how we communicate with one another.”  

– Jason Reynolds, the acclaimed Maryland author named Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week

A library may be held together with walls, but it’s the doors and windows that really matter — doors open for all people and windows that illuminate all perspectives. During Banned Books Week, we celebrate the freedom to read and the commitment by libraries, publishers, teachers, writers, and readers to promote access to materials that the ALA Freedom to Read Statement says, “enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression.” Established in 1982, Banned Books Week responds to efforts across the country to challenge and censor books and focuses attention on how restricting access to information, ideas, and stories harms American cultural and political life.   

In a time when divisions cut across our nation like fault lines, the 2021 Banned Books Week theme reminds us that books can be a force for unity, even – or especially – when they convey a wide variety of views and experiences, including those that are marginal, unconventional, or unpopular. The freedom to read strengthens our ability to communicate with one another.

In a democracy, we trust individuals to learn and decide for themselves.  But to make informed choices, citizens require free access to all viewpoints and all kinds of ideas in the process of self-education. Where can people go for free access to ideas and information? Their public library! As essential institutions of democracy, public libraries implement intentional collection policies to ensure the breadth and inclusivity of materials available to their communities. For Howard County Library System, this translates into a collection that reflects a wide range of voices, including controversial and conflicting ideas.  

As the HCLS Board of Trustees affirms, while, “anyone is free to reject for [themselves] books or other materials of which [they] do not approve, [they] cannot exercise this right to restrict the freedom of others.” The freedom to read strengthens our citizenship. Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) publishes a list of the ten most frequently challenged or banned books across the nation. This snapshot reflects only a small percentage of the challenges that take place in schools and libraries.  The ALA estimates that 82 – 97 percent of requests to remove materials are unreported. As this list illustrates, the challenges come from all directions and perspectives. The freedom to read protects all points of view.

So this year, in honor of Banned Books Week, open the library door and explore our extensive collections.  Look through the windows of stories into all different kinds of lives, familiar and unfamiliar.  Explore HCLS’ Brave Voices, Brave Choices campaign to discover a wide range of experiences in our own community. It’s all free to you, and you are free to choose.

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.

Join us for the 5-Star Showcase!

We are celebrating, and you are invited! 

HCLS is a Five Star Library, as ranked by Library Journal for excellence, because of our services, initiatives, and most importantly – you! Join us this Saturday, October 2 for the 5-Star Showcase at HCLS East Columbia Branch. The FREE event runs from 2 – 5 pm with fun for everyone. You can purchase refreshments from the food trucks, More Than Java Cafe and Dogs on the Curb.

Booths and activities include a 3-D printer demonstration; the Art Collection with cubism, pointillism, and a gallery; and make-your-own cyanotype artwork and pinwheels. Friends & Foundation of HCLS is offering an adult spelling bee – can you spell better than a fifth grader? Kids can also make a bookmark. The Enchanted Garden is visiting with fall planters and leaf rubbings. The folks from the DIY Collection are demonstrating their skills at 2:30 and 3:30 pm. Project Literacy’s booth will have a milk bottle toss, and the Passport office is running a cornhole game. And it’s the LIBRARY … which means you can borrow materials directly from our selectors as well as the new mobile unit.

Brave Voices Brave Choices will be both sharing and collecting stories relevant to racial equity in our county. Come be part of this meaningful work! 

HiTech STEM provides tons of fun with a horse racing game, slime and ooblek, and a one-button race game. They are also running a Ten80 RC Gran Prix, with multiple heats at 2 (NSBE teams), 3 (community cars) and 4 (anyone!) pm.

Whether you want to give the 360° photo booth a spin, get hands-on with HiTech, take in tunes from the live DJ, enjoy a cozy storytime and kids crafts at our new Pop-up Library, or just relax in one of our outdoor lounges and connect with someone new, we can’t wait to see you there.

Many thanks to our sponsors! Friends & Foundation of HCLS and the Howard Hughes Corporation.

Glenwood Children’s Classes Starting Again!

The picture shows five young children from above, at a long table coloring pictures of moose and trees. Each child has a coloring sheet and there are four containers of crayons on the table.
Children enjoying coloring sheets at Glenwood Branch.

By Alastair S.

Classes are coming back to Glenwood Branch! While renovations in the branch are ongoing, we are nevertheless able to bring back classes to our freshly refurbished Pindell Meeting Room. Starting next week, here’s what we have to offer:

Little Learners (3 – 5 years with an adult)  

Mondays; 10:30 – 11 am 

Fun stories, songs, and activities for pre-schoolers that spark curiosity and support learning. 

3..2..Fun (2-3 years with an adult) 

Tuesdays; 10:30  – 11 am 

Develop school readiness skills through stories, songs, and activities. 

Play Partners (infant – 23 months with an adult) 

Wednesdays; 10:30 – 10:50 or 11 am 

Stories, baby games, and musical activities. 

All Together Now (all ages) 

Fridays & Saturdays*; 10:30  – 11 am 

Stories, songs, and activities for children and adults to enjoy together. 

*Note: All Together Now on Saturday will start on Sept 11.

Space is limited to 50 people, and tickets are available 15 minutes before the beginning of class. Come to the front door of the Glenwood Branch and follow the signage to reach the entrance for classes. If you have any questions, call us at 410.313.5577. We’re excited to see you there! 

To keep track of these and other, upcoming classes, please check https://howardcounty.librarycalendar.com

On the Road with the New Pop-Up Library

The new van, decorated with colorful circles and photos of Library events, with its awning extended.
PopUp Library at HCLS East Columbia branch.

HCLS is excited to have a new way to bring books and services into our community. The new mobile unit is primarily designed to bring preschool classes and learning resources to children of families who do not have easy access to the Library’s six branches. Classes and services will primarily be delivered to children, birth through three years of age, and their parents/caregivers from asset limited and income constrained families in communities that have also been directly affected by the pandemic. 

  • The vehicle will be outfitted with a collection of library materials in a variety of formats, including books, activity kits, and toys, as well as Chromebooks and mobile hotspots. 
  • It also functions as a mobile hotspot providing Internet access to the nearby community during each stop. HCLS staff will provide information on library classes and events and about community resources.
  • When not visiting preschools and daycare facilities, the Pop-Up Library will visit festivals, events, and other gatherings throughout Howard County. 
  • Visit hclibrary.org/pop-up to see where the van will be and to request it for your neighborhood. You can find us at Words on the Street at Colorburst Park in Columbia on September 9 & 23.
  • The mobile unit was funded by a Rise to the Challenge Grant from Howard County Government, Friends & Foundation of Howard County Library System, M&T Bank, PNC Foundation, and HoCo Balt Book Club. 

It’s summer: TIME – and we’re (mostly) open!

School’s out and the cicadas are gone – it’s time for summer fun! Howard County Library System is open for browsing and borrowing, using computers and printing, as well as attending Tails & Tales in person, outdoor classes for children. Our hours are Monday & Thursday, 10 am – 8 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm, and we are closed on Sundays. At this time, our study and meeting rooms are not available, but we are otherwise open for business.

A family stands in a local park with a map spread out along a low horizontal tree branch.

We can’t wait to see you again! When you visit your local branch make sure to pickup the brand new July/August issue of source. It’s summer and it’s time for… 

Authors. We are thrilled to host two bestselling authors this summer. Daniel Silva (Wed, July 21 at 7 pm) writes the long-running spy thriller series featuring Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and Israeli spy/assassin. His latest book, The Cellist, explores one of the preeminent threats facing the West today—the corrupting influence of dirty money wielded by Russia. Gail Tsukiyama (Thu, Aug 5 at 7 pm) offers brilliant historical fiction, often centered on lives of women. Her newest book, The Color of Air, examines the threat of volcanic eruption to a Hawaiian community. Register at hclibrary.org > classes & events.

Reading. It’s not too late to join Summer Reading. Anyone can participate, with challenges and prizes for all ages. Check out Jean’s favorite children’s books for summer, listed on page 8. And Relaxing. Which is better the book or the movie? Decide for yourself from the when you read books, then watch movies adapted from the story. How faithful was it? Or, simply borrow some fun family movies to enjoy together. 

Learning. Ready for in-person classes? Join us for outdoor experiences. Prefer to stay virtual? We have online classes and book discussion groups! Pick up one of our NEW literacy activity kits for children or STEM activity kits for teens. 

Adventures. Find tips for new hikers, trail suggestions, and how to make the most of day trips. Play is a form of learning and is especially important for children’s development.

Fresh food. Everything is green and growing! Produce is at its peak, and farmers markets are happening all over the county. Read about simple ways to eat healthy, along with a few recipes and cookbook recommendations (You can also request a bundle bag.). 

Preparing. Summer is always over too soon, but we’re here to help you get ready to go back to school. Kindergarten, Here We Come! is a favorite for parents and kids preparing for their first school milestone. For students entering sixth grade, Middle School Pep Talk features tips about what to expect. 

Being Brave. Share your stories about witnessing or experiencing bias, racism, or discrimination in Howard County – as well as your stories of hope. Your stories may be shared (anonymously) with community leaders, organizations, and groups. The more stories provided, the greater the impact. 

And: We invite everyone to vote (in the Out & About category) for HCLS as the best place in Howard County to visit with kids! VOTE HERE!

Tails and Tales: Summer Reading at HCLS

A green and blue chameleon rests on a red book. The yellow banner reads: Tailes and Tales.

Howard County Library System invites you to participate in Summer Reading 2021: Tails & Tales! It keeps your family motivated to read all summer as you accomplish Missions each week. Summer Reading began June 1, and it runs through August 23.

Track your reading and play fun educational mini-games as you complete missions full of activities. Discover HCLS eResources along the way. Earn ten points to receive a free book! Earn points by either logging your books online or in a paper reading log, and then visit any HCLS branch between August 2 – 31 to pick up your book. Limit one book per reader, while supplies last. 

Choose between two versions: one for birth to age 10 and the other for ages 11-17. More information and book lists available at hclibrary.org/summer.

You can set up accounts at hcls.readsquared.com to track your progress, or you can download and print the paper version (in multiple languages this year). Each Monday, a new Mission is available online. You can enjoy the tasks listed or you can Imagine Your Own 20-minute Reading Activity by reading any way you like: Read or listen to an eBook;  a book you can hold in your hand; a chapter; a comic or graphic novel; or read a poem.

When you reach a total of 10 points, you have officially completed Summer Reading and may visit any HCLS Branch to pick up your book prize. (While supplies last; limit 1 book per reader).  What happens after you earn 10 points? Keep on reading! Continue reading, logging books, and completing mission activities.  

HCLS ADULT SUMMER READING CHALLENGE 2021 

A book lies open in grass with a pair of reading glasses resting on top. The frames are blue and the arms are multi

Give yourself some time to read, relax and learn this summer with our Adult Summer Reading Challenge. We encourage you to read in whatever format you like best: audiobooks, eBooks, graphic novels, and hold-in-your-hands books! As above, you can either track your progress online, or you can download and print a paper version.

Earn two points for each book you log. Earn a total of ten points to be automatically entered into the end of summer prize drawing! Create your own summer reading challenges or use our list of suggestions. Details at hclibrary.org/summer

Welcome Back to the Enchanted Garden

Long shot of raised beds under blue skies and white fluffy clouds.

By Ann H.

It’s time to plan a visit to the Enchanted Garden at the Miller Branch!  We are thrilled to invite visitors back to the garden beginning Saturday, May 8. Come and see what’s growing in our demonstration area, enjoy the blooms of the season, and feel the calming touch of nature.

How much food can we grow in the Enchanted Garden? This year we plan to find out! Our raised beds will be devoted to growing food to donate to the Howard County Food Bank. You’ll find a variety of lettuce, radish, broccoli, and cauliflower happily growing while we thwart the efforts of a nibbling bunny. The strawberries are bursting with blooms, potato shoots are poking up through the soil, and the peas are reaching for their trellis. We have greens galore in an assortment of bib and leaf lettuce.  Plus, we’re busy preparing more beds for summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash.  

Close of young green growing leaves and

A garden bed once devoted to summer annuals will be transformed into an edible landscape. We’re curious about ways to maximize our food yield, provide season-long blooms for the pollinators, and offer beauty to the beholder. Can you picture kale, chard, and basil side-by-side with zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds? By combining annuals and vegetables in one patch, we hope to create a garden that challenges notions about what makes a garden and what is fitting for the front yard.

Look to the left of the front gate to see our newest garden bed. Thanks to the Howard County Garden Club, we have a new pollinator-themed garden filled with wildlife-friendly native plants and cultivars. Our new garden will support pollinators like bees, butterflies, and moths. We hope it will inspire visitors and budding youth gardeners to garden for wildlife.  

Photo of Enchanted Garden Coordinator Ann Hackeling with a trellis. She's wearing a bright pink shirt, a floral scarf, a blue apron, and a straw hat while smiling at the camera.

Our Enchanted Garden is thriving with the help of many volunteers. We have more weeding and clean-up to do, but we think you’ll enjoy seeing what we’ve accomplished so far. There are new garden beds to behold and so many spring vegetables that you’ll work up an appetite. We look forward to seeing you in the garden soon!

The Enchanted Garden will open during library hours Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm; Thursday, 10 am – 8 pm. Masks are not required in the Enchanted Garden. Visitors are expected to maintain social distance.

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.

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.

Happy National Library Week!

A family of four stands together outside, with parents holding children wearing bright yellow shirts.

by John Dove

There are so many reasons that my family loves living in Howard County … the beautiful farm land, wonderful people and accessible county resources – including our world-class Howard County Library System.

We love using the Library. My family all take out books of course, but we engage in many Library programs as well, and love the garden at the Miller Library.

Why does this matter to me? 

This matters to me because we all need to support each other to the best of our abilities. We love our library community! Everyone is always so helpful and accommodating, and they offer so many incredible programs and resources to help us raise our family.

In fact, the Library is so important to my family, and to me personally, that I have chosen to invest my personal time as a member of the Board of the Friends & Foundation of the Howard County Library System, or as we simply refer to it as, “The Friends”.

Friends and Foundation of Howard County Library System is a nonprofit organization that supports HCLS in its mission to deliver high quality education for all ages.

Specifically, we support:

  • Battle of the Books
  • HCLS Spelling Bee
  • HCLS BumbleBee
  • HiTech STEM classes and events
  • Notable Author Events
  • HCLS Project Literary Graduation
  • Rube Goldberg Challenge
  • Summer Reading
  • Children’s Discovery Fair
  • Teen Time
  • Online Homework Assistance
  • Enchanted Garden
  • Family Movie Nights

While our family favorite is the Enchanted Garden, we know the entire county enjoys all of these Library efforts, and then some. That’s why my family supports the Friends, and I invite you to as well.

The Friends & Foundation is hosting a Floral Fundraiser to Kick Off National Library Week. This fall, HCLS will be introducing a new mobile library van, On the Road to Kindergarten, that will bring library collections, services, and programs to all corners of the community, focusing on preparing children from birth to three for kindergarten. The Friends & Foundation of HCLS is holding a floral fundraiser this spring to support it. You can donate and enjoy a thank-you gift(s): 

  • $35 – Hanging Flower Basket
  • $30 – Sobar Drink Kit
  • $30 – Flower Cookie Kit


A portion of your donation goes directly to HCLS to support this fantastic project that will creatively bring education, support, and activities to young minds outside the library’s buildings – it’s a Win, Win, Win! 

Learn more at www.friendshcls.org

There’s something for everyone at the Howard County Library System, and the Friends & Foundation is here to support it. Please join me and my family in both as we celebrate National Library Week!