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.

Wintery Tales for Winter Reading Challenge

By Kristen B.

Sometimes, as the days get dark and cold, I prefer to read books that reflect the world around me. I’m not as drawn to these sorts of books in the summer, those are the marvelous, warm days of beach-y reads. HCLS has kicked off its Winter Reading challenge, which asks you to track what you read online. All ages can participate. Here are a couple of recent favorites with a fairy tale flavor that make the best use of their snowy settings to get you started.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

A dark haired woman dressed in black pours coins from one hand to the other, and they change from silver to gold. Side images include a bag of coin, a man's face, and more coins falling. The title and author appear below the images.

Set in a Baltic look-alike world called Lithvas, this fantasy novel loosely retells Rumplestiltskin through the points of view of three strong but very different women: the daughter of a village money lender, her indentured servant, and a landowner’s daughter who becomes tsarina. Miryem has a much better head for business than her father and begins to require repayment of local loans so her own family doesn’t starve and freeze. This is how she ends up with an indentured servant, Wanda, who wants a better life for herself and her brothers. Irina, the reluctant princess, discovers that all is not as it seems at the highest levels of society, with the tsar secretly possessed by a fire demon. She discovers that she can escape into a strange winter world via old magic and jewelry made of Staryk silver. She also realizes that she’s much better at politics than her husband.

Miryem’s ability to make money seemingly from nothing brings her to the attention of the Staryk – the immortal fairy creatures who live and thrive in a world of winter. The Staryk’s highly rigid, structured culture comes as a shock and mystery to Miriam when she marries their ruler. Her growing enlightenment brings together all the many threads of this story, which weave an enchanting tale filled with mountains of snow and ice, demons and magical jewels, tsars and servants, and most of all the power of names and of family. I loved each woman separately, as they discover their own talents and try to carve a place to thrive in a world ruled by men who use them but only rarely see them.

Also available in ebook and eaudiobook.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

A cabin shines golden light into a snowy forest, as a figure makes its way toward the open door.

Continuing in the Slavic traditions: The first book in a trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale repositions the traditional Russian Vasya the Brave tales for our heroine Vasilisa. The youngest daughter of a local boyar (landowner), she grows up idolizing and working alongside her older brothers after her mother dies. When her father goes to Moscow to find a young wife, Vasya’s world changes as her step-mother brings new rules to the house (mostly about wayward girl children) and a new faith, Christianity. Vasya lives very much attached to the old ways and the local spirits of the hearth and the woods. She befriends the spirit of death (or maybe winter), Morozko, and his magical horse as she battles an ancient evil bear/trickster spirit. As the two worldviews come into increasing conflict, neither the pagan traditions or the newer church are portrayed as completely good or evil. There’s a good bit of grey area for the characters to explore and reconcile as Vasya struggles to find a way to stay true to herself and save her family. The storytelling is masterful and the language beautiful, and you root for this wild, willful but somehow lost little girl to find her way home. The story continues in The Girl in the Tower and finishes spectacularly in The Winter of the Witch.

Also available in ebook and eaudiobook.

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Snowflakes fall in front of a girl  with long brown hair dressed in white. She is holding a small angry blue man with a red beard brandishing a sword.

Last but by no means least: The third book in a YA series about young witch Tiffany Aching, Wintersmith is among my favorite installments of the sprawling Discworld universe. Discworld (the creation of genius satirist and prolific storyteller Terry Pratchett) really deserves its own blog post in the future. Please explore as you have time and interest, but you don’t necessarily have to read the first two Tiffany Aching books (The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky) to enjoy this one.

Tiffany Aching decides to become a witch because she is definitely not a princess and can’t be a woodcutter. Besides, witches get things done. In Wintersmith, as she becomes the firmly established apprentice to Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany accidentally draws the attention of the Wintersmith. The godling mistakes her for the never met but greatly desired spirit of summer, and he proceeds to court Tiffany with romantic notions like personalized snowflakes wearing her face. Pratchett’s turn of phrase often makes me snort with humor, then sit back and admire his way with words. Whether describing no-nonsense older witches or the joys of making good cheese, all of his master craftsmanship shines in this book. It takes Tiffany and her friends some doing, and some dancing, to make everything come right in the end of this lovely wintery caper about finding balance and maintaining boundaries (or maybe it’s maintaining balance and finding boundaries).

One last note: Tiffany’s accomplices on her adventures are the Nac Mac Feegle (see book cover above), who are bright blue, fierce, miniature, larcenous creatures with broad Scots accents (think combative Smurfs with major attitudes) that are simply the best thing ever. Given the Feegles’ dialect, the Tiffany Aching books are also terrific to read aloud or listen to.

Also available in ebook and eaudiobook.

I hope you enjoy one or all of these, or maybe have some of your own seasonal stories to enjoy. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to spend winter reading, baking, and waiting for baseball to return.

Community Engagement for Equity

A woman with long dark hair holds a sign that reads, "Listen. Respond positively. Be courageous! Show Compassion!"
Smiling woman holding a motivational message from the Longest Table event.

by Katie DiSalvo-Thronson

Learn about what’s local!

This fall we designed and launched a new series of programs to educate customers about local diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and connect participants to organizations taking action on those topics.

Why? Our mission to provide high-quality education for all must include education about our own community! As local news coverage has decreased, it is especially imperative to create conversations and presentations where our shared experience as Howard County residents is discussed and analyzed. We hope you come learn with us, and that our programming helps you contribute to our community.

Look forward to events on the county council’s Racial Equity Taskforce and more.

Learn about your neighbors!

In strategic planning events held with over 500 residents in 2019 and early 2020, HCLS staff heard loud and clear that people are interested in ways to learn about each other. People said they want opportunities to bridge what can feel like racial, cultural, and political divides in the country and build more community. At the excellent 2020 virtual Longest Table, participants voiced this request again.

Howard County is asking HCLS to make spaces for people to connect with and learn from each other. Look ahead to more programming in 2021 with small group discussion, especially on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics.

Additionally, HCLS will be launching a story collection effort on racial equity issues. We have two goals. First, we hope to build community – that sharing and listening to stories will increase our understanding of each other, provide recognition of diverse experiences, and spur new relationships. Second, we seek impact. We will use our stories to understand local diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts more precisely. We will publicly share stories and community-led analysis of these stories to help inform local decision-making. We can’t wait to start this process with you.

Stay tuned at hclibrary.org and through HiLights, our weekly email newsletter.

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

A Community Memorial for the Covid-19 Pandemic

A black silhouette of a bare tree sits on a blue background, with red letter that read "Remembrance Trees" and a white ribbon with a message on it.

HCLS and InLACE, the Initiative for Latin American Community Engagement, are partnering to offer Remembrance Trees, a community memorial for the Covid-19 pandemic from Dec 9 – 21, and Remembering Together, a virtual event on Monday, Dec 21, 6 – 7 pm. These efforts look to honor those loved ones who have passed and those who are struggling near and far due to the Covid-19 pandemic — and to help us remember that while we might be distanced, we’re deeply connected and can support each other.

Patricia Silva of InLACE approached the library and asked if HCLS wanted to collaborate on this important, meaningful idea during what will be a challenging holiday season for many.  HCLS’s Katie DiSalvo-Thronson spoke with her about the inspiration and hopes for these projects. For more information about Remembrance Trees and Remembering Together, visit hclibrary.org/remembrance.

How did you get the idea for this effort?

I first was thinking about this because so many people were dying and how much despair they must have felt and how lonely people have been. When you hear that the families couldn’t say their goodbyes, that bonds were lost… We need to honor them.

I haven’t lost anyone, but when I hear people talking about their friends, sons and daughters being sick or dying that makes me sad and makes me want to reach out with information or emotional support and it makes me want to honor those lives. 

Our losses are not reflected only in death, but people losing their jobs, not being able to have food in the house, or facing mental health difficulties. This pandemic affects your hope. What I want to honor also encompasses people who are living with those struggles and uncertainty.

What do you want to remember during this memorial and event?

I think that every life counts and no one should endure this alone. Solidarity.

For you, what does “community” mean in this moment?

Well, it’s a tricky one, because community is something that is immediate around you – but when you become a citizen of the world the notion of community just gets bigger, broader. I live in Howard County, but what happens in my native country of Brazil also affects me.

The other day I was walking through my neighborhood and I saw a lawn sign that said “together and apart.” I think that the same time that social distance makes us physically distant from each other, it could give us a sense of connectivity. We can support each other in ways that are less physical and concrete because what we do and don’t do impacts other people’s lives. If we do social distance, that will impact the curve and fewer people will get sick. The beauty of it in my view is that applies to everything. If we reach out to family and friends to support them, that can save lives, that can help someone. We are in this together. That’s true!

Who should participate in this memorial and event?

Oh my gosh! This is open to everyone who wants to express their solidarity, and in any sense grieve and mourn and remember.

Patricia Silva is InLACE’s Co-Founder and President and a community advocate.

Holiday Mitten Trees

Lots of hats, mittens, and gloves form the shape of a heart.

by Kristen B.

I am constantly amazed by our community. If an opportunity to give is presented, the response is often overwhelming. We take good care of each other, and it makes me proud to live and work in Howard County. Every year, generous people donate almost 1,000 pieces of cold weather gear via the Library. I know you will receive many requests for donations … it’s that time of year … but maybe in 2020 we need to do just a little bit extra.

Once again, we are asking for donations of new child-sized mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves. You can purchase them, or we accept handmade items. Even though we are still constrained to contactless pickup, our lobbies are open and boxes are in place to accept donations at any of our six branches throughout December. Donations will be given to the Community Action Council of Howard County for Head Start children and families.

If you are interested in a book that celebrates giving: One of my favorite books that I read to my kids when they were small, and that I still regularly gift to young relatives, is The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau. This colorful, lively tale explains the joy of giving, even more than receiving. The richly detailed illustrations provide examples of different quilting patterns. There’s so much to enjoy!

A parade proceeds along the bottom of the cover, with a soldier, a bear, dancing cats, among other figures. A rainbow of a quilt spills across the top, and the title sits in a blue box, bordered in red in the center of it all.

Thank you for all you do for our community!

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to spend winter reading, baking, and waiting for baseball to return.

By Cherise T.

Do you miss browsing our library shelves? Settling into a cozy chair to explore a stack of books and deciding which to check out and take home? Filling your bag with books by new authors, DVDs for that sitcom your daughter thought you’d love, CDs by a band you’ve been hearing on the radio? If so, Howard County Library System’s Bundle Bags will bring you joy, information, and entertainment. Especially with the colder weather setting in, a bag of library materials prepared just for you will brighten the day. Think about snuggling under a blanket with a new book, immersing in a compelling period drama, laughing at a romantic comedy or dancing to energizing music. Whether you want to challenge yourself and learn to knit in time for holiday gift giving or bake a great pie using recipes from a gorgeous cookbook, there’s a Bundle Bag for you. 

Save time assisting your student with a homework assignment by requesting a Bundle Bag. Just imagine, a bag filled with books about trucks, colors, and shapes. Or maybe your child is ready to add chapter books to his reading journey. Our library staff is skilled in selecting children’s and teen books ranging from educational to inspirational, from sports to fantasy to classics. The next time a family member complains of running out of things to read or watch, be reassured that help is on the way. 

Destress throughout your daily activities with some holiday music. We’ve got a Bundle Bag for that. Always wanted to try a romance novel? We’ve got a Bundle Bag for that. Relax into an audiobook about your favorite movie star or escape with a thrilling mystery. Explore true crime accounts. Check out a British television series. With a bag filled with materials, you may just find your next favorite book or movie.  

Easily complete the form for a Bundle Bag on our website. There are five age categories ranging from infant to adult. Request books or CDs/DVDs, or both. For each category requested, a library research staff member selects six items. Choose up to five categories for a total of 30 items. After selecting the bundle contents, complete the form by entering a pickup date and time as early as the second library business day and up to two weeks from the date of form submission. Bags may be picked up at any of our six branches. With one trip to the library for contactless pickup, bring home everything from board books for your grandson to Oscar-winning films for you.  

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. 

Bundle Up

Milkweed for Monarchs

A bright orange and black monarch butterfly sits on purp
A monarch butterfly flexes its wings in the Enchanted Garden at HCLS Miller Branch.

by Ann H.

Now is a great time to harvest and plant milkweed to support the dwindling monarch population. Milkweed is the host plant of the monarch butterfly. It is where monarch butterflies lay their eggs, and when the eggs hatch the tiny monarch larvae (caterpillars) start chomping away on their one and only food – milkweed leaves. Monarchs cannot complete their life cycle without milkweed. Common milkweed, Swamp milkweed, and Butterfly Weed are all native to Maryland and suitable for the butterflies as they journey through our state. The Enchanted Garden showcases vivid orange Butterfly Weed and, especially this year, an abundance of Common Milkweed. The latter one spreads easily. During the garden closure it found its way to our compost bins, the pathways, and between the rocks lining our stream!

Milkweed seeds are easy and fun to harvest. In the fall, fat pods dry on the plants and burst open to reveal hundreds of seeds in a single pod. Each seed is attached to silky fluff also called coma. That silky fluff allows the seed to float through the air with the hope of landing in fertile soil. You can pull the seeds from the fluff or put an open seed pod in a bag with some pennies for weight, close the bag and shake. The seeds will come loose from the fluff.

Collect and plant seeds now so the seeds get the winter chill or cold stratification they need to germinate in the spring. If you want to wait, put them in a bag in the freezer for a month and they’ll be ready for planting come spring.

Would you like to plant some milkweed? I am happy to share the many common milkweed pods I harvested from the Enchanted Garden. I’ll place a container of pods in front of the Enchanted Garden Gate on days I’m in the garden (see times below) and for as long as the supply lasts. Bring a small bag and take a couple pods home. Every seed planted has the potential to support our monarchs!

WHEN:
Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday
October 19, 20, 21 & 26, 27, 28
9:30 am – 12:30 pm

You can find additional information about Monarchs in our HCLS collection.

For Adults

The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly by Kylie Baumle

Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Co-evolution by Anurag Agrawal

For Children

Monarch Butterflies by Josh Gregory

Monarch Butterflies Matter by Cecilia Pinto McCarthy

Ann is a Master Gardener and the Enchanted Garden Coordinator at the HCLS Miller Branch, where she has worked for eight years. You can find her smiling in the garden and sharing her passion for plants, nature, and our community.

Libby Lends to Listeners! More eAudiobooks available via RBdigital

Deep red background sets off text in white for an ad for Libby app by OverDrive, which features a tablet and a phone displaying various book covers.

by Kim M.

Do you listen to eAudiobooks via RBdigital? Do you know Libby? If not, it’s definitely time to download the app to your phone and/or eReader! It’s the easy access point for eBooks and eAudiobooks, and it just got better.

All of the RBdigital eAudiobooks are available via the Libby app (as of 9/24/20) and the OverDrive website since OverDrive, North America’s largest provider of public library eBooks, has acquired RBdigital. The RBdigital mobile app will eventually be retired, but the good news is that you will continue to be able to browse, borrow, and enjoy all the same great eAudiobook titles.

For now, this change only affects RBdigital eAudiobooks and classic literature in eBook format. Digital magazines remain available via RBdigital. As OverDrive works on integrating RBdigital eMagazines, you can continue to access eMagazines in the RBdigital app. 

If you are a current RBdigital user, these frequently asked questions may help explain the move:

Why are RBdigital audiobooks moving to OverDrive?
OverDrive has acquired RBdigital, and is working to integrate the two services. You will be able to access all titles through the OverDrive website, the classic OverDrive app, and the Libby app. When this transfer is complete, audiobooks will no longer be available on the RBdigital platform and app.

What happens if I have a title(s) currently checked out on RBdigital?
Current checkouts will be available through the remainder of their lending period in the RBdigital app. Your current checkouts will not be moved to OverDrive. This will allow you to finish your title without disruption or risk of losing your place in the audiobook. 

What happens to my checkout history and wish lists from RBdigital?
Checkout history and wish lists will not be moved to OverDrive. You can export your Transaction History from the RBdigital website on a desktop computer:  

  • After logging into the RBdigital website, open the menu in the top left of the screen and select “My Account.”  
  • Then click “Profiles” and underneath your personal information, you will see the option to “Export My Transaction History.” 
  • Clicking this button will automatically download a CSV file to your computer with your information.

New to eBooks and eAudiobooks?
Howard County Library System is proud to offer a wide selection of digital titles for you to access through Libby, the one-tap reading app powered by OverDrive. For those who have not yet tried the Libby app, all you need to get started is your library card number. Download the free Libby app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. The Libby app is easy to use and will guide you through the setup process and get you connected to our library in just a few minutes. You can find in-app support, or watch this brief video tutorial to get started.

Happy reading!

Kim M. works in the Materials Management Department at the Administrative Branch. When not keeping up-to-date on library technology, she is volunteering to get out the vote.