Fresh & Healthy

A big pile of bell peppers in all shades, centered on a yellow one.
Weekly farmers’ market at HCLS Miller Branch.

The library isn’t just providing good food for thought through books, movies, and other materials – it also can help you make good choices in staying healthy with cookbooks, nutrition guides, and classes.

The Farmers’ Markets are open again! You can shop for locally grown herbs and flowers, fresh produce, meats, and other food and drink. Operated by Howard County Economic Development Authority, there are several throughout the county, including at HCLS East Columbia Branch on Thursdays from 12-6 pm and HCLS Miller Branch on Wednesdays from 2-6 pm.

Join us in June for a wide variety of classes related to health and wellness:

Fight Stress Before It Gets to You
For adults. Register here.
In our modern lives, our bodies and minds are subject to many stresses. When we support our bodies before we are challenged, we can prevent certain negative health impacts. Nutrition Specialist Courtney Carpenter focuses on diet and lifestyle choices, including supplements.
Thu, Jun 1 at 7 – 8:30 pm
Central Branch

Addressing Menopause Naturally
For adults. Register here.
Menopause can be a challenging time in a woman’s life. Nutrition Specialist Courtney Carpenter discusses menopause, including recent developments in our understanding of hormones. In addition, learn how fine-tuning one’s diet and taking advantage of both foods and natural products can make this transition more manageable.
Thu, Jun 8 at 7 – 8:30 pm
Central Branch

Edible Landscaping with the Community Ecology Institute (CEI)
For adults. Register here.
Are you interested in incorporating edible plants into your existing landscape, but don’t know where to start? Discover plants that you can easily add to a large or small landscape or to containers. Gain a better understanding of edible plants and the knowledge you need to get you started. Feel free to bring photos to the Q & A with staff from the CEI Nourishing Gardens program.
Visit the Freetown Farm display during June in the Miller Branch lobby.
In partnership with the Community Ecology Institute.
Sat, Jun 10 at 10:30 am – 12 pm
Miller Branch

Fry, Fry Baby: Air Fryer Tips and Tricks
For adults. Register here.
Learn how to boost your produce intake, reduce your saturated fat intake, and keep your taste buds happy. Presented by Melanie Berdyck, Giant Food Nutritionist.
Thu, Jun 22 at 2 – 3 pm
Elkridge Branch

National Library Week with President & CEO Tonya Aikens

Architectural rendering of a concept for a new multi-level library on Columbia's Lakefront, placed between the fountain and playground.

By Addison L.

At a press conference on March 30, 2023, County Executive Calvin Ball and Howard County Library System (HCLS) President & CEO Tonya Aikens were joined by Governor Wes Moore to announce the proposed location and design for the new Library at the Kittamaqundi Lakefront. To learn more, you can visit our website for FAQs, watch a newly released video from Dr. Ball, or listen to the library’s latest Hijinx podcast.

In the latest episode of Hijinx, Tonya Aikens and Addison Landers discuss how the Lakefront Library builds a future that belongs to everyone. Tonya addresses how the new library will serve children preparing for kindergarten, teenagers looking for a space to call their own, and lakefront visitors in need of public amenities. The new Library brings the branch up to Maryland minimum standards of 1 square foot per county resident. Tonya believes that libraries are not just about books, but they are for people. Placing the person at the forefront of the library allows for re-imagined inter-generational spaces, like literacy kitchens that promote STEAM concepts and wellness for the community. The podcast addresses architect Thomas Heatherwick’s radically human buildings and how the design will seamlessly merge public education, community space, and nature. Finally, you hear firsthand how the creative change in location includes more housing, state funding, gifted lands, and a home for the new library location in some of the county’s most desirable real estate.

The Top Five Things to Know about the Lakefront Library

1. The new Lakefront Library will be built on important and valuable undeveloped site in Howard County. The lakefront is the community’s heartbeat and gathering place. Placing the new Library there provides more public space and is a tangible representation of commitment to and investment in County residents and visitors. Thomas Heatherwick’s design of the Lakefront Library will complement the dynamic architecture of iconic architect Frank Gehry.   

2. A new, larger Central Library has been a part of the Downtown Columbia Plan since it was unanimously adopted by the County Council in 2010. The current branch is undersized, not only for current residents, but also for the anticipated population growth called for in the Plan. A minor renovation of the building in 2016 addressed structural, end-of-life, interim fixes, and transformed staff space into public space.

3. The Lakefront Library design includes a parking structure with approximately 500 parking spaces, more than double the number on the site today and the first truly public parking lot/garage at the Lakefront (current parking is owned by Whole Foods).

4. This investment in public education for all comes from a variety of sources, including private donors, the State of Maryland, grants, General Obligation (GO) Bonds, and Tax Increment Financing (TIF). TIF revenue generated by the area’s development is intended for the creation of public spaces, transit improvements, parks, and parking. This funding mix requires less County funding than when the library was planned for the Merriweather District.
The Library building: $94M
Site work and public parking: $38.5M
Library park and transportation improvements: $10.3M

5. Learn more about the project and read FAQs, and voice your support through written testimony or at County Council hearings.

National Library Week: 5 Things

What are your 5 Things? Five photos against an orange backdrop: Native American Heritage Celebration, Poject Literacy, Spelling Bee, children's class, and from Evening in the Stacks.

While books are at the center of any library’s collection, libraries are about so much more!  

Can you name 5 Things that the library offers (other than books)?

We’ve been asking this question recently – and it’s fun to see some responses, especially in light of this year’s National Library Week theme: There’s More to the Story. Everyone has a slightly different answer – we’ve been asking our managers, but you might encounter the social media team in a branch sometime soon. You can find some answers in the source magazine and on our website.

Your library card opens a world of possibilities and remains true to our mission of Public Education for All. 5 Things lists have mentioned these and others:

  • classes and events
  • language learning
  • passport services
  • STEAM and Literacy activity kits
  • arts and crafts
  • digital media
  • DIY tools
  • Art and photo prints
  • toys and ukuleles

So, let us know … how do you use the library? What are your favorite 5 Things?

National Library Week and a New Mascot

Colorful poster that reads "There's more to the story" with the More and Story letters made up of items you can borrow or use at a library.

Libraries are full of stories – literally and figuratively. While everyone knows about the stories you can find on our shelves, what about the stories people tell each other when they participate in book discussion groups, children’s classes, panel discussions, author talks, and teen events? Libraries are where we tell our own stories and listen to other people’s stories, where we learn from others and build community.

An instructor at our Savage Branch relayed this story, “(name)’s mom told me how she enjoys when I teach because she gets to learn and practice ASL vocabulary with her daughter. This is important because she has recently been diagnosed as hard-of-hearing, and she may suddenly lose her hearing at any moment. She asked me to help her with a couple of signs, and I was also able to direct her to local organizations, resources, and class opportunities that could help with her ASL journey. We don’t know everyone’s story coming into our classes, but how awesome it is to be the right person at the right time for someone.”

Why do you like coming to the library? What’s your library story?

Look for National Library Week posts over the next five days. We look forward to sharing information with you about the “State of the Library,” the 5 Things campaign, and the exciting possibilities of the new Lakefront Library. As always, Chapter Chats brings you a wide range of reviews, classes and events, and general library news.

Library mascot: Booker is a small brown owl with large eyes, wearing a lime green sweatshirt with the Hi button.

Introducing Booker

Howard County Library System’s story now includes a mascot … Booker! Thank you to everyone who helped choose a name from our survey on social media this year. Booker is a saw-whet owl, a species native to Maryland, who brings wisdom and enthusiasm to the library.

Booker looks forward to going on Summer Reading Adventures with children, ages 0-5 and 6-10, this summer. Look for our new mascot on the upcoming issue of source, too.

For Earth Day: Try It Before You Buy It

Photo of a bee hovering above purple flowers.
The Enchanted Garden at HCLS Miller Branch.

By Jean B.

Earth Day (April 22) challenges us to find new ways to protect and preserve our planet. No doubt you’ve heard the mantra “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” The 3 R’s are all important strategies but REDUCE comes first for a reason: waste prevention is the number one priority to protect the Earth. The less we consume, the fewer things that need to be reused or recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces almost five pounds of waste every day, and a family more than 18 pounds, adding up to almost a ton of garbage annually.

If you want to shrink your footprint and reduce waste, libraries can help. Clearly, by borrowing books instead of buying them, we reduce the number of books in garbage heaps or recycling bins. This Earth Day, lighten your load. Before you buy, TRY IT at the library!

Video games: Don’t gamble on buying a game that may not have staying power. Borrow games from the Library and take them for a test drive before you buy.

Toys: Have your children mastered all the puzzles at home, or outgrown the toys from their last birthday? Surprise them with free toys borrowed from the Library. Play with them for three weeks, then trade them for a whole new bunch!

DIY Tools: Don’t buy something you’ll only use for one project – come to our DIY Center. Whether you need an aerator for your lawn, a pressure washer for your deck, or a special Mickey Mouse cake pan for a birthday, you can borrow it the Elkridge Branch DIY Center.

Artwork: Spice up your home or office walls with artwork borrowed from our Central and Glenwood branches. You can trade it out every six weeks – a waste-free wonder of redecorating!

Building a Better Garden with Less Effort
For adults. Register here.
Establishing a vegetable garden can require a lot of time and money and yield minimal results. Learn how you can establish a productive vegetable plot with less effort than you are currently expending.
Tue, Apr 25 | 7 – 8 pm
Miller Branch

Gardening for the Budget–Minded Kitchen
For adults.
While some veggies are already affordable at the grocery store or farmer’s market and might not be worth the effort to grow (hello onions!), you can easily grow other kitchen staples at home to save money. Find out what they are and discover other money-saving cooking tips.

Wed, Apr 26 | 7 – 8 pm | Savage Branch | Register here.

Thu, Apr 27 | 7 – 8 pm | Online | Register here.

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

The Future Belongs to Everyone: Introducing the New Lakefront Library

Architectural rendering of a concept for a new multi-level library on Columbia's Lakefront, placed between the fountain and playground.

On Thursday, March 30, 2023, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball was joined by Governor Wes Moore and President and CEO of HCLS Tonya Aikens to unveil plans for a reimagined and transformative library in downtown Columbia. The project will be coupled with expanded mixed-income housing opportunities for the growing community.

The 100,000 square-foot structure will foster creativity, learning, and civic engagement. It will be the first, innovative library of its kind in the region. Designs unveiled were created by Heatherwick Studio, an internationally recognized firm. 

We invite your input and ideas to shape Howard County Library System’s next Strategic Plan, which will guide the future of HCLS, including the new Lakefront Library.  

Your voice matters.
Come together with other residents who are passionate about public education and enhancing library facilities, programs, and services. Please take the online survey or attend one of these:

Listening sessions facilitated by Due East Partners.: 

Thank you for helping us thoughtfully plan how we can work together to better address the evolving aspirations of our Howard County community.

Why is the new Lakefront Library needed now?
The existing branch is undersized to serve the current population, is further constrained by the addition of new housing units, and is slated for demolition as part of the Downtown Columbia plan. More information is available on the HCLS website.

  • When was the Central Branch most recently renovated and how much was spent?
    The Central Branch first opened in 1981 and was renovated in 2000–2001. Minor interior alterations were completed in 2016 at a cost of $1.8M. Due to the pending development, renovations were minimal and addressed structural, end-of-life, interim fixes and enhancements to address customer needs (e.g., new paint, new carpet), and transformed space formerly used by administrative staff into public space.
  • How long has this new Lakefront Library been planned?
    Howard County’s Downtown Columbia Plan (adopted in 2010 and updated in 2018) recommended that a new Central branch be built in Columbia’s new Downtown. In 2019, HCLS engaged G4 Architecture, Research, and Planning, Inc. to update its Master Plan, which calls for a new 100,000 SF downtown Columbia Branch to meet the increased number of new residents and visitors and to meet the Maryland State minimum library guidelines of one SF per capita.
  • Why is a 100,000 SF library needed?
    The current Central Branch is not large enough to accommodate existing customers. At completion of the redevelopment plans, downtown Columbia will feature 1.25 million SF of retail space, 4.3 million SF office/conference space, 640 hotel rooms, and 6,244 market-rate and affordable housing units. These new residential units will expand Howard County’s population by a minimum of 15 percent. In addition, the Central Branch serves the entire county through its Project Literacy program, Art Education Collection, Equity Resource Center, Business and Foundation Center, and Health Collection.
  • What is the proposed timeline for this project?
    FY24: Begin design
    FY25: Continue design, and begin permits and pre-construction services
    FY26: Start construction
    FY27: Complete construction
  • What is the cost for the new branch?
    The estimated cost is $143M.
  • What is the cost for additional staffing?
    There is no additional staffing cost. Existing Central Branch staff will be relocated to the Lakefront Library.

Spring at the DIY Center

Eric stands on the bottom rung of a ladder, while Kelly holds a garden rake, with a stone wall behind them. A wheelbarrow full of greenery, a box of  daffodils, and other gardening implements rest in front.

by Kelly M.

Does springtime make you dream of gardening? Whether you’re new to gardening or expanding a well-tended garden patch, your library can help you get your green thumb going.

Start with one of our many books on garden planning to get ideas on layout, environmentally-friendly growing techniques, and tips and tricks to help. Find inspiration at the Enchanted Garden at HCLS Miller Branch. Get advice on your plans in-person by attending one of our classes, where Howard County Master Gardeners share their knowledge and experience.

Then begin to prepare your space for planting. Healthy soil is the foundation of a good garden! Avoid tilling the ground, which breaks up valuable soil structure, by building a raised bed. Raised beds sit on top of the ground, with sidewalls built out of a range of materials such as wood board, hay bales, logs, and more. The bed is then filled with nutritious soil and compost to help your plants grow strong. If you have an in-ground garden bed already, it’s a good idea to get your soil tested to see what nutrients it may need. The DIY Center at HCLS Elkridge Branch has your tool needs covered, with saws, drills, shovels, and wheelbarrows available to borrow for free.

If you have limited space for growing, you can try growing flowers and vegetables in containers that can fit on a deck or balcony. Container gardening not only uses space efficiently, it also allows you to move your plants to catch the most sunlight in the spring and fall while avoiding too much sun in the summer. The raised height means you can garden without bending and kneeling, and gives protection from rabbits and groundhogs. Take a hands-on class on how to build a raised bed or container garden like salad table at the DIY Center, and then borrow the tools for free that you’ll need to construct one at home.

Now you’ll be ready to buy all the beautiful flowers or vegetable plants at your local gardening center! All these classes take place at HCLS Elkridge Branch.

Getting your Garden Ready for Spring
For adults. Register here.
Learn about sustainable gardening with Master Gardeners. Discover tips on spring-time gardening tasks for a range of garden types, including vegetable, perennial, and native plants.
Sat, Mar 11
11 am – 12 pm

Learn to Build a Salad Table
For adults. Register at
Let’s chat about what a salad table is and why you should build one. As a group, we move from plan to table during the demonstration.
Sat, Mar 18
11 am – 12:30 pm

Earth Day: How to Build a Planter
For adults. Register at
Make a stylish patio planter for Earth Day. We introduce materials, building techniques, and the proper use of all the tools you need to complete the project and bring some nature into your space.
Sat, Apr 22
11 am – 12:30 pm

Earth Day: How to Build a Bamboo Trellis
For adults. Register at
Trellises can give plants the space to grow in a garden, and bamboo is an ideal, renewable material. Learn the techniques for building a trellis with bamboo poles and lashing twine.
Sat, Apr 22
1 – 2 pm

Kelly is a DIY Instructor & Research Specialist at the Elkridge Branch. She likes to get her hands in the dirt, try new craft projects, and see how many books she can read at one time.

January is International Creativity Month

The photograph depicts a tray of colorful watercolors next to two paintbrushes and a pile of painted papers, against a background of golden twinkle lights.

by Jean B.

Are you ready to stir up your creative juices, push your comfort zone, and generate some innovation in your life?   

Experts agree: creativity is in all of us. It’s something you can boost and develop at any age. The ways we encourage creativity in children — with open-ended exploration, unstructured time, stories and story-telling, and playful experiences — are strategies available to all of us.   

But where to begin? It may feel risky to commit to an unfamiliar activity and expensive to invest in all the necessary equipment and supplies. Don’t worry – just look to your library! Not only are our buildings filled with books about everything under the sun (including how to be creative), but HCLS also offers instructors, speakers, experiences, tools, facilities, and spaces that alleviate the cost of trying something new.  

You might start by changing your environment. Make your imagination soar by putting a Picasso on your wall or streaming music you’ve never heard before. At our Central and Glenwood branches, you can borrow new, inspiring art every six weeks, then attend art classes at the Elkridge DIY center to create a personal masterpiece. Borrow a ukulele, then join a jam session of the Savage Ukes or use a recording booth at Glenwood to stretch those creative muscles even further. Once you are inspired by the masters, you may find it easier to produce something yourself. 

If your imagination produces more than your home equipment can support, come to HCLS for maker tools and machinery. At Elkridge Branch’s DIY Center you might borrow a sewing and embroidery machine and create beautiful textiles. At Glenwood Branch’s Makerspace, access a 3D printer and laser cutter engraver, or just play around with building toys like LEGOS, K’nex, and planks. If you get inspiration from sharing with others, you can join fellow makers at a Pins and Needle Arts class at Central Branch or Miller Branch, where conversation fuels creativity and learning. 

Young creators can get inspired at the library, too! Borrow some puppets from the HCLS toy collection to retell familiar stories and produce original tales. Visit the Glenwood Branch Builders Barn, where children enter a material-rich space to explore, discover, and create. Check out the children’s and teen’s class schedules to find art, engineering, music, and technology offerings to feed every kind of passion.

Happy Creative New Year! 

Papermaking Lab! 
Monday, January 9, 6 – 7:30 pm          
HCLS Miller Branch
Ages 11-18.
DECLUTTER then CREATE! Shred, blend, and mix to transform those old notebooks and paper into beautiful new papers! (We’ll have recycled paper, too). Experiment by adding seeds for plantable paper or denim scrap. Come back during the Wednesday Wellness class (drop-in, no registration required) on Wednesday, January 11 from 4 – 5 pm to turn your paper into a gratitude journal.

Registration suggested, drop-ins allowed if space permits. Register here.

Get to “Snow” the Laser Cutter Engraver 
Wednesday, January 11, 6 – 8 pm
HCLS Glenwood Branch
Step up your craftiness with the Makerspace! Using the laser cutter engraver, create custom snowflakes. Learn the basics of Adobe Illustrator, then send your project to be cut. Absolute beginners welcome; all materials supplied.

Ages 11 and up welcome; any participant under 18 years of age must have a parent/guardian present. Register here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2 – 4 pm  
HCLS Miller Branch
Ages 11-18.
Spend your early dismissal day creating! Let your creativity soar in an open studio art space. We provide the supplies, you bring the imagination.

Registration preferred, drop-ins allowed if space permits. Register here (registration opens Monday, January 11 at 2 pm).

Goal Setting With Vision Boards 
Wednesday, January 18, 1 – 3 pm  
HCLS Savage Branch
Ages 11-18.
Start 2023 off right with some personal goal setting. We discuss and share different areas we’d like to improve in as well as areas that we are doing well in, then create vision boards. 


Ingenious Inventions! 
Wednesday, January 25, 7 – 7:45 pm 
HCLS Miller Branch
Ages 6-10.
Don’t let history be a mystery – learn about some inventions. Includes stories, activities, and a craft. 

Ticket required. Tickets available at the children’s desk 15 minutes before class.

Slime Cafe
Monday, January 23, 3:30 – 4:15 pm
HCLS Central Branch
Ages 6-10.
Read a yucky story and learn how to combine different ingredients with a basic slime recipe to create your own unique slimes. Materials provided (unscented shampoo, corn starch, and food coloring). Dress for mess. 

Registration required.  Register here (registration opens Monday, January 16 at 3:30 pm).

Made From Scratch Exhibit

Soft pink and beige rays appear behind "Made from Scratch: Creating the Howard County Jewish Community," witht he Jewish Federation logo beneath.

by Joel F.

We can’t move forward without knowing where we have been. This is the essence of why the Jewish Federation of Howard County took on the creation of the Howard County Jewish History Project. By looking back at how the rapid growth of Columbia impacted the evolution of the organized Jewish community in the area, we are better able to chart a path into the future that builds on the work that has been put in by the leaders of the past.

The Jewish Federation is the major instrument of Jewish philanthropy and engagement in Howard County. We are a community-driven organization committed to taking care of the needs of the Jewish people and building a vibrant Jewish future in Howard County, in Israel, and around the world. We are responsible for looking out for the entire Jewish community in the county, not just one demographic segment or one geographic pocket.

The Howard County History Project, “Made From Scratch: Creating the Howard County Jewish Community,” is the type of venture that only a communally-minded organization like ours could take on. We are so grateful to the wonderful historians who worked on this project with us, Deb Weiner and Karen Falk. Assembling this collection of artifacts and anecdotes took over three years, and their process was greatly impacted by the pandemic. Howard County’s Jewish history dates back to the 19th century, but the exhibit starts in the 1950s, when 12 Jewish families settled in the area. It takes viewers through the most important inflection points in the community’s history over the next 50 years then wraps up with an epilogue that gives an overview of what the local Jewish community looks like today.

We are thrilled that the the exhibit’s tour stops next at HCLS Central Branch in the Equity Resource Center from January 4 – February 10. HCLS is one of our most important community partners, and we are always excited to collaborate with them. And if you are wondering when might be a good time to check out the exhibit, maybe try to schedule your visit on January 19, when the Federation and the library partner on an event with local author Diane Tuckman to complement the exhibit.

Photo of a Joel Frankel, a dark haired man with a beard, wearing a blue suit and red tie.

Joel Frankel was appointed the executive director of The Jewish Federation of Howard County on July 1, 2021. He and his family moved from St. Louis, Missouri, where he spent almost 10 years working at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Joel and his wife Leah have two sons. As a family they love exploring everything this area has to offer, especially the tot lots, playgrounds, and all of the amazing trails.

Now Lending Video Games

Xbox video game for FIFA23, with a soccer play in a blue uniform on the front.

As of Tuesday, December 20, Howard County Library System offers video games!

For this pilot project, we have a small selection of games for XBox, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 and 5. Games are rated E, E10+, and T. Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Almost everyone* can borrow games from the collection. 
  • Due to limited supply, you can borrow one item at a time. Since this collection is new and small, we want to give as many customers as possible the opportunity to borrow a video game. 
  • You can keep the game for one week and renew it for another week, if no one else is waiting for it.  
  • You can reserve one game through our catalog at 
  • Overdue fines are $1 per day, with a $10 maximum. 
  • If you don’t return a game within 28 days after it’s due, we’ll charge you the cost to replace it. So please return your game!  

Visit your library, pick up a game case, then take it to the customer service desk to get the game.  

*Games may not be borrowed with these types of library cards: Educators, Homebound, Satellite Collections, DIY, and Temporary Residents.