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! 

Namaste, Howard County

A group of people in winter coats and masks stand in front of a white pop-up tent, from which hangs a red banner that read Indian Cultural Association.

by Rohini G.

I volunteer with the food pantry run by the Indian Cultural Association (ICA) and I’d like to share a little bit of what I see in the parking lot at HCLS Miller Branch. Just the other day while we were unloading boxes, a lady walked up to me. She had come to pick up books at the library and was curious about the long line of cars. When I told her about the boxes of food – milk, eggs, meat, fresh produce, that ICA was prepping to deliver, she quickly got into the line. After about five minutes she beckoned me to her car, and her mother, or mother-in-law, and her young son were with her. She asked how much she’d have to pay for the food, and I told her – it’s free. She looked away and mumbled something that I didn’t quite understand. I said, “Excuse me?” She looked up and said that her family hadn’t had a proper meal in three days. That look of desperation in her eyes is imprinted on my brain. 

That is why cars start lining up hours in advance of the start time even in bitter cold. When the food distribution starts, the cars flow through non-stop and all four loading stations are constantly busy. The folks in that line represent a wide diversity – from older couples to families with kids in car seats. In that parking lot we see all the shades of skin color – both in the cars collecting food as well as among the volunteers loading the boxes into the cars. More than 350 volunteers help ICA distribute the food. The way ICA is bringing the community together gives me a lot of hope for our future.  

The Indian Cultural Association’s mission is to introduce and enhance the vibrant culture and heritage of India through various programs. A fledgling organization, it was incorporated in 2018 by Sanjay and Niti Srivastava. ICA has been working to help put food on the table of families in our community and alleviate hunger among so many affected by the pandemic. Niti shares some surprising statistics, “Nearly 28% of Howard Countians are food insecure, meaning they are not certain about where their next meal will come from or they will be making a choice between paying essential bills or buying food for their families. 1 in 4 children and 1 in 6 adults are food insecure. You will be surprised to learn that these are 2018 figures”.  

Inspired by the core philosophy of Seva, or selfless service to those in need, ICA has distributed more than 1,600,000 pounds to date (and counting) of food to more than 100,000 hungry families. ICA has distributed more food to Howard County residents than the Howard Food Bank during the pandemic.  

The food pantry by The Indian Cultural Association. 

Working in tandem with community organizations, Howard County Library System has been tirelessly engaged in supporting and assisting our customers and our community through this troubling year. These efforts have included lending Chromebooks and hotspots to enhance digital learning as well as supporting food pantries to address food insecurity among Howard County households. One of our most valuable partners in this effort at mitigating hunger has been The Indian Cultural Association (ICA) of Howard County. 

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.

National Library Week 2021: State of Howard County Library System

Colorful banner with letters in bright boxes reads: Welcome to your library. National Library Week:: April 4-10, 2021

By Tonya Aikens, President & CEO of Howard County Library System

It’s National Library Week, a time to celebrate libraries! This year’s theme, Welcome to Your Library, is especially fitting as we welcome customers back inside our branches for limited in-person service for the first time since closing last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

While our doors were closed, our libraries were indeed open. Our team pivoted quickly and effectively to assist customers, develop and teach virtual classes, lead virtual book discussion groups, present renowned authors and speakers, coordinate virtual events, make more eBooks and eAudiobooks available, create a COVID portal with community resources, and work on a phased reopening plan – all while adapting to life in a pandemic.  

We created new opportunities to connect and engage – changing the Longest Table from a physical to a virtual table, converting the HiTech Carnival to a carnival-in-a-bag experience, transforming Evening in the Stacks into a virtual trip to Italy, adapting the Battle of the Books academic competition to an online space, creating Bundle Bags for people who missed being able to browse the shelves, launching a new blog, adding STEM Activity Kits to our collection, and lending Chromebooks and hotspots to help address the digital divide for those without devices or internet access.  

While dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also addressing the pandemic of racial injustice by integrating equity practices into our internal and external work, launching a Racial Equity Alliance, and supporting community building. Watch for news in coming weeks on our website and social media channels.  

Underlying all our work is a commitment to education for everyone in our community. We look forward to launching the On the Road to Kindergarten mobile unit later this summer, enabling us to bring our preschool classes and learning resources to children of families who do not have access to our six branches. By making these classes and services fully accessible, children can take their first steps to become ready for kindergarten. 

It’s clear that at Howard County Library System, we offer endless opportunities to transform lives, whether you visit our branches in person or virtually. 

We are grateful for our supporters and donors, especially the Friends & Foundation of HCLS, and our customers. Our staff is excited to welcome you back to your library! 

HCLS Reopening with Limited Capacity on April 5

A woman, with a ponytail and glasses and wearing a light brown corduroy coat, reaches for a book off a library shelf.

One year ago HCLS closed for what we thought would be two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a much longer closure, HCLS pivoted – teaching classes virtually, making more eContent (e.g., eBooks, eAudiobooks, movies, online classes) available, and working with partners to address the growing and serious needs of our community. The library’s executive team began preparing for a phased reopening, seeking guidance from public health experts and industry leaders. At all times, the health, safety, and well-being of staff and customers remained the top priority. 

We’re excited to welcome you back! 

Beginning Monday, April 5, HCLS will open for limited in-person services. Passport services will resume at the East Columbia Branch. Contactless pickup and Bundle Bags will continue to be available at all branches. Watch for details about how to sign up for 45-minute appointments in the coming weeks. 

As we prepare to move to Phase 4 of our reopening plan, please know that the return to our branches will not be a return to a pre-pandemic environment. We will continue to follow guidance from public health experts to prioritize the health and safety of our staff and customers. 

Starting April 5, you can make a 45-minute appointment to: 

  • Access public computers 
  • Browse the shelves 
  • Check out items using self-checkout machines or our new Meescan app  
  • Print, copy, scan, and fax 
  • Ask staff for in-person assistance finding materials or other resources 
  • Apply for a passport (East Columbia Branch only) 

Quarantining of Items 

Effective Monday, March 22, HCLS will no longer quarantine materials. This decision was made in consultation with local health officials based on the current data. There are no known transmission of COVID-19 through contaminated books or other library materials in any library.  

As understanding of the COVID-19 virus evolves, scientists and experts now know that materials can be safely handled without quarantine. National and local health officials continue to emphasize the importance of frequent, thorough 20-second hand washing. Data shows that hand washing is effective at reducing transmission of COVID-19. 

Thank you!

Thank you for your support and flexibility during this unprecedented time. Your comments, which are posted on our website, have been greatly appreciated by our staff. 

Thank you for your ongoing support and for taking good care of yourselves and others. We look forward to seeing you soon! 

Exciting Changes at Glenwood!

A Glenwood Branch staff member walks across the cafe carrying contactless pickup bags.
Contactless Pickup at HCLS Glenwood Branch.

Renovations are coming to Glenwood! We are excited to announce that the Glenwood Branch will be undergoing renovations starting Monday, March 15. The building will be updated to better meet the needs of the community and continue to be a Western Howard County destination. Included in the renovation are new classroom spaces, a new café area, a passport office, an outdoor space, and much more.   

The Glenwood Branch will continue to offer contactless pickup throughout the duration of the renovation with limited hours. Effective Monday, March 15, the new contactless pickup hours will be:  

  • Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 2-6   
  • Thursday: 2-8  

The pickup location for holds and bundle bags will be in the Glenwood meeting room. Please look for signs directing customers to this new location. Staff will be available at Glenwood during the above hours to answer phones and manage contactless pickup.  

The Glenwood staff is looking forward to the updates the renovation will bring to the branch and are excited to share the changes with the community once the renovations are complete and HCLS buildings are open to customers.   

While the Glenwood Branch is open for limited service, our staff are available through our AskHCLS service, via phone, email, or chat. Please follow the link to view service hours and contact information. A listing of HCLS branches is available here.  

In addition to contactless pickup of holds, our bundle bag service is available at all branches! If you miss browsing the stacks, let our research specialists share their extensive reader’s advisory skills and make selections for you to enjoy. Topics change regularly and you can request up to five bundle bags at a time; selections range in age from children to teens to adults.  

Racial Equity: Collecting Stories in our Community

Two hands joined by hooking thumbs. The hand on the left is White and has the word "Learn" on the palm. The hand on the right is Black and says "Act."

By Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

With respect to racism, tell us about a time in the last six months you had an experience and thought “things have got to change.”

All of us have a story to tell, and we’d like to hear yours!  

HCLS wants to provide community engagement and education that advances equity and connects people to opportunities to make a difference. 

We invite you to join us at one of two virtual gatherings to hear and share stories related to racial equity. Please bring your experiences and insights, listening ears, and an open mind and heart.  

We are excited that through this event, you will have two options to make your story part of something bigger: You can share your story with the library’s new collection of stories about local racial experiences. You also can share your stories and experiences with the County Council’s Racial Equity Task Force.

The Task Force is developing recommendations for the County Council about legislations that can advance equity. Stories shared with them will be official testimony for the Task Force to consider as it does its work.

These events are previews of additional story gathering efforts the library will launch this spring.  

Thursday, Feb 18  |  7 pm  |  Register 
Saturday, Feb 20  |  1 pm  |  Register 

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

Winter Gardening Ideas

By Ann H.

The photograph depicts a walled winter garden with a path and a greenhouse, with morning sunlight glistening across the frost on the plants.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

To every thing there is a season. This is especially true for gardeners. Winter may bring a drop in temperatures and light, but surely not idleness for the devoted gardener. Winter is the season to prepare, ponder, and plan!

Prepare your tools for the next season by inspecting them for cleanliness and sharpness. Garden tools get dirty from use and pose risks to your plants by spreading disease. Rust accumulates from moist conditions and sharp edges dull with use. I start by removing any dirt with a stiff wire brush. Then, I use steel wool to rub off any rust. Next, I apply rubbing alcohol with a rag to disinfect. Lastly, I apply a light coat of oil to the metal parts to prevent rust and to keep moving parts working smoothly. I prefer to use a plant-based oil such as linseed oil. Tools used for pruning and cutting should be inspected for sharpness. A dull tool increases the possibility of injury to you and your plants. A few hardware stores in our local community offer tool sharpening services at reasonable prices.

Winter invites pondering the possibilities of spring. My mood soars when I look through seed catalogs and garden books. We can transform any location with a few seeds or humble seedlings. I’ve switched to online seed catalogs and tend to favor local companies such as Meyer Seed Company of Baltimore, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (VA), and Burpee Seeds and Plants (PA). When searching for hard to find or heirloom seed varieties I turn to Seed Savers Exchange, Hudson Valley Seed Company, and Renee’s Garden Seeds. Or, cut down on shipping altogether and head to Clarks Ace Hardware or Southern States Home and Garden Service. They expect their seed selections to arrive by the beginning of February. If you’re starting seeds indoors this winter, be sure to check out the University of MD Extension – Home and Garden Information website for a short tutorial.

Garden-themed books keep my creative juices flowing. Lately, I’ve been pondering ways to grow more food in the Enchanted Garden and still provide plenty of habitat for pollinators. Edible landscaping has been around for decades, but is gaining attention as many people look for ways to grow their own food as well as flowers. Author and gardener Rosalind Creasy has written two trusted books to give you all the detail you need to get started growing a combination of flowers, vegetables, and herbs: Edible Landscaping and The Edible Herb Garden (also available as a ebook through CloudLibrary). Niki Jabbour explains how to garden in any setting and for any level gardener. Check out Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden. Each decision I make about gardening I examine through an “earth stewardship” lens. Reading Doug Tallamy’s latest book, Nature’s Best Hope (also available as an ebook through OverDrive/Libby), reminds me to create a garden that enriches the soil, provides for wildlife, and supports all life.

A photograph of Enchanted Garden Coordinator Ann's gardening plan. This includes a diagram of the garden, with splashes of color in reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, and greys to represent plants and flowers; listed are sunflower, cosmos, and zinnias. Underneath the garden diagram it reads "Front Bed 2020 - Planted May 20 Sunflower - seed savers: Evening Sun. Cosmos - Burpee: Sensation Mixed Colors - not many blooms. Zinnia - Renee's Garden: State Fair Gold Medal (SF). Zinnia - Renee's Garden: Cut & Come Again (CCA)."
A flower garden plan from Enchanted Garden Coordinator Ann.

Planning is part of the fun of gardening.  I enjoy sketching my garden plans to use as a guide and to save from year to year (with notes) as a reminder of what worked and what didn’t turn out as expected. Give me graph paper and color pencils on a cold winter afternoon and I am a happy gardener! If you prefer using online planning tools, try the GrowVeg online planner, which offers a free seven-day trial.  In addition to tailoring your plan to your space and location, the planner allows you to find companion plants and provides start and harvest dates. You can learn more with their helpful overview video.

How do you prepare for a new garden season during winter? What inspires and sustains you when our gardens rest in the cold?

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.

HCLS designated a Five Star Library

Map of the US with state shaded in various tones of red, with five large red and blue stars on top.

Howard County Library System (HCLS) has again been designated a 2020 Five Star Library by Library Journal for delivering excellence in public education for all ages. HCLS consistently earns the highest five-star ranking attained by fewer than one percent of public libraries in the U.S. and remains the only library system in Maryland to do so.

HCLS President and CEO Tonya Aikens said, “Everyone in Howard County can be proud of this honor. Our talented team is passionate about providing extraordinary customer service, engaging classes and activities, and a high-quality collection for our community of voracious readers and lifelong learners. And even during this pandemic, we continue to explore new ways to develop innovative ideas and bring more services to benefit our customers.”

The LJ Index rates U.S. public libraries based on selected per capita output measures: overall borrowing, borrowing of electronic materials (eContent), library visits, class and event attendance, and public internet computer use, wifi sessions, and (new this year) electronic information. The last item measures usage of online content, such as online research tools (databases).

HCLS per capita numbers (based on a population of 331,414) are as follows: overall borrowing (19.88), visits (6.08), eContent borrowing (3.16), class and event attendance (1.21), and public Internet computer users (1.92), and wifi sessions (.83).

The 2020 scores and ratings are based on FY 18 data from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Public Library Survey.