National Library Week: Battle of the Books

Lighted sign with a yellow star and a sweeping directional arrow which reads "Battle of the Books."
Howard County Library System and the Howard County Public School System are excited to bring you the 2023 Battle of the Books at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

National Library Week is drawing to a close for this year, but there’s still so much to celebrate. Tonight, more than 300 teams of fifth graders compete in Battle of the Books at Merriweather Post Pavilion (rain or shine)!

These are the titles that students have read and become experts about:

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer by Lamar Giles

The Science of Breakable Things by Tai Keller

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Simon B. Rhymin’ by Dwayne Reed

Science Comics, Wild Weather: Storms, Meteorology, and Climate by M. K. Reed

Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

Stargazing by Jen Wang

Battle of the Books is an energetic competition between fifth graders who form teams and then “battle” to win through quizzes based on 12 books. They must know the books, inside and out. Last year, I served as a Battle of the Books judge, and I was overwhelmed by the energy! The kids’ enthusiasm for this event can’t be overstated, and it’s something special to witness. This year, a record number of teams registered, and I know it’s going to be another amazing event.

I am lucky enough to have a mother who passed on her love of reading to me and my sister. The library was a sacred place for me when I was growing up. I would often borrow 10 or more books at a time. Fast forward to today: if you walk into my house right now, you’ll find stacks of books in almost every room. Planting the seeds early in my life led to lifelong curiosity and a thirst for learning. For me, reading is an exploration and an adventure I go on almost every single day. It’s an honor for me to serve on the Friends Board. Join me and support Battle of the Books by becoming a Friend of the Library. You’ll be making a difference that lasts a lifetime.

Wendy Slaughter, Friends & Foundation of HCLS Board Member

If you’d like to join the Friends and support the Library, you can give a donation right now and receive a beautiful basket of flowers as a thank you. Friends supports Battle of the Books by purchasing sets of books for all teams.

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.

National Library Week: Connect with Our Library!

National Library Week logo: Connect With Your Library. Connect is a white mouse with cord on a blue background. A black and white image of a plug on a deep yellow goes with "with your, and "library" is on red with an illustration of two hands getting ready to clasp.

Those of us who write for Chapter Chats want to connect with you, and want you to connect with the library. Most of the time, we’re going to share with you something new and different to read or watch. We enjoyed those titles so much that we want you to experience them, too. Check out recent popular reviews of the The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman or A Song of Wraith and Ruins by Roseanne Brown. If you’re an audiobook listener, we have you covered as well.

But the library has so much more to offer than books, and we want you to know about those things, too. Here’s a brief list of some blog posts that look at the other ways we’d like to connect with you:

Have you had a chance to visit Central Branch and tour the Undesign the Redline exhibit? It’s only here a little bit longer. Christie Lassen talks all about it in this Interview.

Have you been to Glenwood Branch recently? There’s so much that’s new for you! Visit the Makerspace and see the wonderful new play stations.

Our most liked blog post since Chapter Chats began about two years ago lets you know how to use the library’s subscription services to avoid news paywalls.

Do you like to craft? Or maybe bake? The DIY Center at Elkridge Branch may be able to help. The staff there can also help you with tools to get your yard cleaned up after winter and ready for spring fun.

And, now that it’s actually spring and random snow flurries have finally ended, take a drive to Ellicott City to visit the Enchanted Garden at HCLS Miller Branch.

One of our teen volunteers who frequents the Savage Branch (and writes for the blog) recently discovered that we lend toys. She is entirely on board with this idea.

We are even bringing the library to you with our PopUp Library van, which visits neighborhoods and community events.

So, take this as a reminder and an invitation to stop by frequently and see what’s going on in the blog – and at the Library. We love our library and connecting with you in all the ways we can imagine.

National Library Week: Reach Out!

County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball and HCLS President & CEO Tonya Aikens, with other officials, cut the ribbon for the new mobile library van, whichis decorated in bright colors with many photos.

by Katie DiSalvo-Thronson, Community Engagement and Partnership Manager

I believe outreach is for everybody, and it’s a first step towards many good things. Why not do some outreach today, and consider reaching out to the library?  

Wait, what?  

I’m Katie DiSalvo-Thronson, and I’ve got about 20 years of community engagement experience from girl scout cookie sales, to working for a community school in the Dominican Republic, to community organizing. I’ve seen the power of outreach and steps that can follow, again and again.  

Today is also Library Outreach Day. It’s also National Library Week, and this year’s theme is Connect With the Library. In honor of all that, I want to share some inspiration!  

I view “outreach” as simply reaching out. It can be as easy as a hello at the mailbox. It is extending a welcome to someone new and inviting them to start being in a relationship with you.  

Reaching out helps us live in friendlier, more connected communities. Connecting to people outside of our familiar circles helps us gain new understanding of the world. New relationships and new knowledge mean new possibilities.  Reaching out also gives us a chance to share who we are with others. 

It’s a step outside of the familiar and predictable. It’s a small, brave thing to do that makes the world a better place. 

StoryWalk station two dislays the cover and first page of Janey Monarch Seed. The black metal frame stands in lush greenery.

What is library outreach? Library outreach gives us a chance to share about the library  – and we have beautiful spaces, incredible books and other resources, and tremendous free classes and events! Reaching out with that is phenomenal! We are committed to bringing as much as we can to the community. Did you know that we also have a new mobile unit, that provides books, children’s classes, and community engagement all over the county? 

Library outreach also gives us a chance to listen and hear you! Did you know that we’ve recently talked to people at a flea market, a rock climbing event, and Howard Community College? That we connect with local civic, business, and cultural groups every day? Did you know that we’d like to connect to and hear from your community group? (we really would!) 

Three Native American dancers in traditional costume danicng at the Native American Heritage Celebration held at the East Columbia Branch Library in the fall.

But then what? 

After we’ve reached out and gotten to know each other, that’s when the magic can happen. 

  • A Native American Heritage Month event with Ani Begay Auld, a local artist and activist, and the Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity.
  • Presentations about library resources followed by a craft class with the Howard County Family Child Care Association.
  • Library-based food distributions by the Indian Cultural Association.
  • Presenting related Library books at an education session with Community Advocates of Rainbow Youth about how to support trans/non-binary youth.
  • A collaboration on story walks in the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area with local environmentalists and Howard County Recreation and Parks.
  • The NAACP’s young men’s group meeting in the Library’s new Equity Resource Center.
  • A great author event on the history of Muslim cooking with the Muslim Family Center. 
  • A new project lending chromebooks and providing remote English Language Conversation Classes to parents at Deep Run Elementary School.
  • Local heroes featured on the Library podcast.

These are just a few of the ways we are collaborating with community members.  

Bring your dreams here. Help your Library System provide the educational opportunities, community connections, culture, and joy that matter to you. Reach out to us, and let’s work on it together.  

I mean it. Reach out to us! Talk to your favorite branch staffer or email me at

And try saying hi to someone new today. Odds are it’ll make you smile. 

National Library Week 2022: State of Howard County Library System

National Library Week logo: Connect With Your Library. Connect is a white mouse with cord on a blue background. A black and white image of a plug on a deep yellow goes with "with your, and "library" is on red with an illustration of two hands getting ready to clasp.

by Tonya Aikens, President & CEO, Howard County Library System

It’s National Library Week! First observed in 1958, National Library Week is a time to celebrate our nation’s libraries, library staff, and promote library use and support. This year’s theme, Connect With Your Library, promotes libraries as places to connect – to technology, to learning, and, most importantly, to each other.  

We invite you to connect with us and your neighbors when you attend a class or event, participate in a book discussion group, visit an exhibit, get a passport, study or conduct research, browse the collection, or simply stop by for a visit.  

Get inspired and collaborate with others in our new makerspace at the Glenwood Branch, dream up projects with the team at our DIY Center in Elkridge, and gain new perspectives when you borrow books from our new equity collection at the Central Branch or read Brave Stories from fellow Howard Countians on our website.  

At Howard County Library System, we are focused on making connections with and between members of our community. We launched our new mobile unit last summer, bringing classes and materials to preschoolers and their families in communities less able to come to our branches.  

We reopened the renovated Glenwood Branch in December, and families are now spending hours in our new Builders Barn and interactive play spaces. After school, teens flock to the cozy booths, play games, and record raps in the recording booth at our makerspace. 

Over the past year, we also embarked on an equity journey. We formed a Racial Equity Alliance, comprising 20 people representing a broad cross-section of the community, which guides and partners with us in our racial equity work. We launched our Brave Voices, Brave Choices initiative which hosted racial equity training for more than 400 community members, collected more than 600 stories of racism, bias, and discrimination, and convened circles of people seeking to make sense of what they learned and discuss how we should move forward as a community. 

In response to requests for a physical space where people can come together to learn more about one another, to learn more about people different than them – whether that’s a different race or culture or belief or gender identity – we created an Equity Resource Center at our Central Branch. This new Center includes space to gather, for exhibits, and for a new 9,000-plus title equity collection.  

Libraries serve the entire community and provide opportunities to connect and bring people together across conversation…to hear, listen and understand our differences, to learn how we can make meaning of them, and how we can find and increase common ground. 

When we create connections, the fabric of our community is stronger. Libraries are unique places where all people, regardless of background or means, are welcome. Whether you connect with us online or in person, we hope to see you soon. 

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!