If you have already broken those New Year's resolutions, you have another chance.  
This Friday, January 31st, marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year. There are twelve animals and five elements in the Chinese zodiac and 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse,
sometimes called the Green Horse.  For each of the animals, there are certain qualities, which are passed to the persons born under that sign.  Those born in horse years are said to be cheerful, enthusiastic, and enjoy making new friends. To find out what your zodiac animal is, take a look at this chart:

Celebrations for the Chinese New Year include dragon and lion dances, fireworks, the giving of red envelopes, and sweet treats, culminating in a lantern festival. The Lunar New Year will be celebrated at Gregory Heights and Midland Libraries with various cultural performances.  Holgate Library will be hosting Tales from the Year of the Horse. The library will also have a table at the Oregon Convention Center, Saturday February 1, for the Chinese New Year Cultural Fair. If you're there, stop by and say hello!


Every once in a while I come across a book that makes me feel as though the years I spent before reading it were half lived. Here are three books that were published long before I was born that opened my eyes up a little wider this year.

Dandelion Wine cover

Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is sweet, brave, and precious. I use all three adjectives in the fullest sense of their meanings, and feel as though if anyone less honest and skilled than Bradbury had written this it would be treacle. In his hands, it's the magic and fear of childhood distilled.

In the 1935 noir novel about the era's dance marathons, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? what should be a pleasure becomes a horrific ordeal. Both a peek into a world that existed briefly and a point on a continuum of exploitation extending from Roman gladiators to Honey Boo Boo.


When I picked up Eugénie Grandet I expected exuberance and humor.

Instead I found something beautifully constrained and subtle. Balzac wrote with uncharacteristic somberness to tell the story of a girl whose life is stunted by her greedy father. This was only the second Balzac novel that I have read, and it revealed the scope of La Comédie humaine.

When you work on a research project about historical India, you may want to add a map. You can judge a good map by how well it tells information. Here is a checklist of what makes a good historical map:

  • Does it have a title or legend?
  • Is the scale OK so that you can see all the points of interest?
  • Does it have the name of the map creator, source and date?

Here's a map of India from 1700-1792.

Map of India 1700-1792

Historical India Maps

The University of Texas at Austin has a great site of online maps, including a map of India, 1700-1792 from The Historical Atlas and a map of India, 1760 from The Public Schools Historical Atlas.

There are maps from the 1800s, including this map of India, 1882 from A Dictionary Practical, Theoretical, and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation.

Here's a map of British India, 1860.

Present Day Maps

The CIA - Central Intelligence Agency -- has great regional and world maps. Check out this map of India.

Interested in learning more? Ask a librarian!

Recently I was digging around for something to satisfy me in the same way that Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel series does and I dragged up the Small Change Series by Jo Walton. I am deep into book two, and I love it.

Book One, Farthing, is a Christie/Sayers-style country house mystery, the stakes increased enormously by the fact that this 1949 England has made peace with Hitler and the murder in question may push the country decidedly into fascism. The book is deceptively modest -- "oh, I'm just a mystery with a funny bit of alternate history, don't mind me" it whispers -- but manages to pull off a riveting whodunit, a chilling 'it really could have happened', and a lovely portrait of how brave everyday people can be.

Book Two, Ha'Penny, replaces the 'whodunit' with an effort to assassinate Hitler. But this isn't just a fantasy of derring-do in the face of evil. People who dream of a free England ally with Stalinists in order to accomplish their ends, good people are killed by other good people in the effort to do What Must Be Done. In other words, Walton acknowledges that the world is complicated while keeping the pages flying by.

The third and final book is Half a Crown, & I almost can't bear how much I want everything to be OK by the end of this reality-that-wasn't.

Welcome to our new blogger Azalea, who says this about herself: I have been a Multnomah County Library fanatic since moving to Portland in 2006 from San Diego, California. I love cookbooks, the author Elena Ferrante, books with kitty pictures, and that moment when I pick up a brand new or overwhelmingly popular item from the holds shelf.
Adobo Road Cookbook bookjacket
Like lots of Asian-American kids growing up, sometimes I got tired of eating rice at home and loved novelties like hamburgers and pizza. It was only when I moved away for college that I found myself missing comfort foods like arroz caldo, pancit palabok, and chicken barbecue. I missed those garlicky, savory, sour, and sweet flavors that exist somewhere near, but are not quite Chinese or Thai food. 
Years of making disappointing or unremarkable Filipino food ended the day I picked up The Adobo Road Cookbook by Marvin Gapultos. I found recipes that looked like they were just for me: Filipino spaghetti, homemade longanisa (breakfast sausage), a cocktail with calamansi juice, and more. So far, I'm most proud of becoming an expert at making some amazing lumpiang shanghai, which are egg rolls.
Browsing the new cookbooks page and discovering Adobo Road brought me closer to my culture and improved my culinary abilities. If you enjoy the complex flavors in Thai cuisine, want to explore a new food, or earn some bragging rights through cooking, check out Adobo Road.


Billy Wilder, director of such diverse and wonderful films that to begin to list them is to agonize over your exclusions, had a sign in his office that said “What would Lubitsch do?”

Ernst Lubistch made movies that sparkled, with wit and sophistication that has not been matched since. Trouble in Paradise

Lubitsch’s 1932 film Trouble in Paradise was released before the Production Code acquired the power to prevent ‘immoral’ movies from being shown. Crime pays. People who are not married have a great deal of fun together. The screening of such delights was considered dangerous. Trouble in Paradise was unavailable for years, and never released on VHS.

Sometimes it seems to me that the Production Code changed our view of the past, that this board of censors determined not only the morality of what was on American screens, but also the way that we would see their times. The past becomes a foreign country where good was good, bad was bad, and human beings were somehow not so human.

I’ve made a list of Effervescent Pre-Code Movies in our catalog. For me these movies break down the barrier between us and the past, showing that our great-grandparents had desires and foibles that were just like our own. And that they were very funny and had great gams.

"Music is the poetry of the air." 
--Jean Paul Richter

If poetry lifts up your spirits, chances are really good that you are also uber fond of music. Legendary songwriters like Tupac and Bob Dylan are poets at heart. Writing a poem is already quite a task, but coming up with words that fit a particular melody is an entirely different journey.

Do you feel that there is an inner songwriter in your that is just aching to explode out of you? Our library collection can certainly aid you in creating musican content. Who knows? Maybe this is your songwriting year!


I want a book that will suck me in, make my brain spin, and not let me go until the very last page. Thank goodness there's been a surplus of books lately where the authors have written books that do exactly that.

book jacket of We Are All Completely beside OurselvesOne book is Karen Fowler’s We Are All Completely beside Ourselves. I’m rather mad that many reviews (and even Multnomah County Library’s catalog) describes with too much detail what this book is about. The best thing to do is just check it out and dive right in. It’s beautifully written, haunting, heartbreaking. At its core, this is the story of a family and the loss they experience. And after you read it, please don’t reveal the secret at its center so other readers can feel the surprise!

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver is another twisty book that I couldn’t put down. Lionel Shriver has written quite a few novels that take on big issues. In her latest book, book jacket of Big Brothershe takes on obesity. As an American woman, I’ve struggled with body image and weight issues since I was a young adult so I found this book really interesting. The main characters are a sister and her obese brother. She decides to devote a year of her life to help slim him down. And boy does he. Or does he? Shriver’s book is a commentary on the epidemic of obesity and the ties of family. How can we help our family and at what cost? After I read the last section of this book, I had to meditate a while on everything that I had read in the previous parts. It made my head hurt just a little. But in a good way.

book jacket of The Shining GirlsAnd speaking of heads hurting, a must read for anyone who wants a twisty, turvy book who isn’t put off by quite a bit of gruesomeness, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is your book. Harper Curtis is a serial killer, a repulsive, horrible, yucky killer. He’s exactly what murderers should be like. He’s not the gentlemanly, charming, oh-so-relate-able serial killer that has become the norm in pop culture today. He finds a key to a house that allows him to travel back and forth across time to find his victims and then escape into another time. And then one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and begins to hunt him back with the help of ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez. This story will make a fantastic tv series (Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company have bought the television rights). And after you read it, please let me know what you think happens at the end. It made my brain spin.


Welcome to our new blogger, Patrick, who says this about himself: "I work at the Holgate Library where I answer questions all day. When I'm not doing that (and if you don't believe me, check with my coworkers who have given up hope of engaging me in lunchroom conversations) I'm probably reading or playing games. I read lots of comics and graphic novels, but also enjoy dystopian fiction, rousing adventure tales, classic sci-fi and fantasy, Dickens, good writing about science, and the occasional bit of warm and fuzzy pop philosophy."

I like 'thoughtful'. Thoughtful and reflective and true, all things that bring about a calm philosophical life. (I'm also a fan of whimsical, dystopian and heroic but those will be other entries.)

It turns out that I have been finding many of those thoughtful moments via MCL's zine collection, particularly the works of John Porcellino. I discovered them randomly in the form of an issue of King-Cat Comics & Stories that passed in front of my face, and there was something about the simplicity of the line art that made me want to open it. What I found was a little handmade collection of comics and... well, 'essays' sounds boring, but 'stories' doesn't sound true enough. 'Reflections' seems to fit. John talks about his beloved cat Maisie, his sweetie Misun, sunrises, moving, music, and all sorts of things that occur to him. He's someone who struggles to find meaning in life, and he frequently questions things he has previously held true. What I like best are the little vignettes like 'Football Weather' from King-Cat #66 where all the neighborhood kids decide to help him with his lawn and then a football game ensues. It's not about leaves or football, though... it's about things like community, and appreciating life, and What Is Important to You.

If you enjoy King-Cat, there are hardbound collections, or you might also like his other work, including  the short and sweet Three Poems about Fog, or a hardcover graphic novel called Thoreau at Walden. As is usual for me, a thing aimed at younger readers can actually be pretty universal.

And if you want another good autobiographical zine with less philosophy but equal self-discovery and more sass in it, try Jesse Reklaw's Ten Thousand Things to Do. where he describes his lifestyle of "inking, drinking, and anxious thinking".

Library Borrowers Make the Best Volunteers

by Mindy Moreland

Picture of Karen Hein

In the summer of 1971, Karen Hein was visiting the Rockwood Library when a sign on the wall caught her eye and changed the course of her life. “Library Borrowers Make the Best Employees,” the poster read. Karen, an avid lover of libraries, thought that this was well worth investigating. Soon after, she was hired on as a clerk at Rockwood (where, she recalls, she earned the princely sum of $1.95 per hour), and so began a 34-year career with Multnomah County Library.  

As she moved up the responsibility ladder,  from branch to branch, Karen served countless patrons and bore witness to the library’s transition into the digital age. She remembers composing seemingly endless lists of children’s books on a typewriter at Central, tells of the delight of a colleague upon successfully transferring files to a (truly floppy) disk for the first time, and remembers overseeing Gresham’s first public internet computers. Today she appreciates the ease with which holds can be processed thanks to RFID, and is exploring the world of digital audiobooks on her iPad.


"It's a very comfortable place for me to be. I feel at home."Karen retired as a supervisor from the Gresham branch in October 2005, but that was only one more turning point in her journey with the library, rather than the story’s end. She presently volunteers as a Branch Assistant, and continues to enjoy watching the library grow and change around her.

Although the Gresham branch is Karen’s neighborhood library, she makes a weekly journey to Central, where she spent the lion’s share of her career, to process holds and catch up with former colleagues. Coming to Central lets her take regular advantage of downtown Portland’s shops, movie theaters, and restaurants. A window table at Jake’s Grill is a favorite for a leisurely lunch, though she still mourns the passing of the august Georgian Room at Meier and Frank’s.  

Karen even speaks of the Central building itself like an old friend, fondly recalling hot summer days in the early 1990s before the building underwent renovation, when she could open the Popular Library’s tree-shaded windows to let in a cool breeze. And after so many years together, it seems only natural to drop in weekly to catch up. Karen says that while she understands that many people might find it a bit strange to volunteer at their former place of employment, she’s pleased to have the opportunity to stay involved with a place and an institution she enjoys.

“I like the atmosphere,” Karen says with a smile. “It’s a very comfortable place for me to be. I feel at home.” It seems that Library Borrowers do indeed make the Best Employees … and the Best Volunteers, too.

A Few Facts About Karen

Home library: Gresham Library

Currently reading: The Well-Read Cat by Michèle Sacquin

Most influential book: Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

Favorite book from childhood: Any horse stories by Marguerite Henry

Favorite section of the library: Periodicals

E-reader or paper book? Paper book

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries on audiobook

Favorite place to read: In bed

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Is there anything as sweet as discovering a new author?

I found one this month, Maureen McHugh, and I have Jo Walton to thank for it.
In her blog post revisiting the 1993 Hugo Awards she mentioned one of the nominees, China Mountain Zhang, with an adamant "It's wonderful" that intrigued me.
I grabbed it. I loved it.
The time is the near future -- after a Second Great Depression, China dominates the world. The US has gone through it's own Cultural Revolution -- a 'Cleansing Wind' -- and has settled down into Socialism. But economics and ideology are not the focus, they are only the background of the characters' lives.
The main character is Zhang Zhong Shan. He pretends to be things that he is not: 100% Chinese (he is half Hispanic), straight (he is gay). At the beginning he is not honest with himself, he does not know what he wants, and he is hard to like. But with the finest shown-not-told writing, McHugh brings him from being to a boy to being a mensch. I grew to love him, to be excited for him as he learned new things and began to be capable of making the world better. And as I learned to love him I gained understanding of why he had been the person he was: ashamed, torn, young.

In short, "It's wonderful."

I'll admit I do not have the world's classiest taste in movies.  I adore the summer blockbuster season (even if I frugally wait for the really really bad ones to hit DVD and wait for my hold to come in).  If like me you think winter means slow talky movies with a depressing minimum of explosions, I have a couple of books to suggest that you might like.

Steelheart coverSteelheart by Brandon Sanderson is set in a world where people suddenly turned up with superhero like powers.  Only nobody who has developed the powers is heroic; instead everyone who developed the powers seize what power and slaves that they can without regard for the lives of others.  Most have given up hope and have submitted to the rule of their new masters.  David was a child of six in Chicago when the Epics came to be.  At eight, he watched his father murdered by Steelheart whom everyone thinks is invulnerable to any physical harm. At eighteen, David wants revenge and he has spent the last decade gathering every scrap of information that he can find on the Epics and any weakness they might have. David saw Steelheart bleed once when his father died and he'll see Steelheart bleed again if it's the last thing he does.  

The one type of action movie I have no real interest in is a zombie movie, although Warm Bodies was cute.  I have no interest in seeing World War Z even on DVD.Darwin Elevator cover With that dislike in mind when I read the summary for The Darwin Elevator by Jason M Hough, I was almost ready to ignore this debut novel.  "The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures"...  Okay.  I'm not the target audience for this title.  But the Library Journal review compared it to Joss Whedon's Firefly... Hmm, perhaps I'm being overhasty I thought!  So, with cheery disregard for my husband's free time I hand him this novel and tell him that this book should be his next choice! (The poor trusting soul...)  In short order he had it finished and comes back to me saying "This was fun!  You'll love it!  When can I have book two?" So I read it and found it everything I love about a good action movie.  The plot runs along so quickly you'll have finished before you know it. Fortunately books two and three are already out and waiting for you because the publisher realized it had a hit on its hands and put this debut trilogy out in a three month window to build the author's readership.  Every time a publisher has done this I've loved the series, so I should have realized that this series would be worth reading too!

P.S. I do occasionally watch classy movies! I especially enjoy historical movies and movies based on classics of literature, and I've got The Great Gatsby and Lincoln checked out as I write this. 

How much did I know about James Garfield before reading Candice Millard's most recent book, Destiny of the Republic ? Almost nothing. He was just a trivia answer to me, one of our four assassinated presidents. But here's the thing: Garfield didn't die from the assassin's bullet. He died from massive infection eighty days after the shooting, almost certainly caused by hisBook cover, Destiny of the Republic doctors.

Luckily for Garfield, the wound caused by his shooter was not mortal, though that would have been merciful. Unfortunately, the U.S. medical profession, for the most part, did not believe that there were such things as microorganisms. In 1881 doctors in America believed in the "old stink" of surgery, and were proud of it.

The infection that raged through Garfield's body was introduced within moments of the shooting by the unwashed hands and instruments of the doctors who battled to attend to him, determined that they would be the one to find the bullet. Their poking and prodding would continue daily, and it makes for cringe-worthy reading. Garfield lingered for months, getting weaker, always in excruciating pain, suffering in the heat of a humid D.C. summer, in a White House in disrepair where rats were a constant problem.  When he finally succumbed and the autopsy was done, the doctors knew immediately what the cause of death was. The bullet was not where they had insisted it had to be, but on the other side of the body, "safely encysted." However, infection was everywhere. The doctor's words were "Gentlemen...we made a mistake." Profound septic poisoning was the cause of death.

The story of Garfield's life and death by Candice Millard is a stunning read, and gets an "un-put-downable" rating from me. Two remarkable ironies: had Garfield been an average Joe in America in 1881, he would've likely survived the shooting without a doctor's care, and simply walked around with a bullet in his body, like tens of thousands of his fellow Civil War veterans. Second, had the shooting happened just a few years later, it would have been easily survivable, even with a doctor's care.

[Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Medicine, Madness and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard won the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, and was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 2011]

While the Better Business Bureau recommends donors avoid any charity spending less than 65 percent of their money on their charitable mission, a small but persistent group of charities continue to spend most of their money on fundraising and administration. A groundbreaking new law passed in Oregon in 2013, one aimed at protecting donors from charities that spend too little on their charitable programs and services. House Bill 2060 eliminates the state income tax deduction for donors who give money to charities that fail to spend at least 30 percent of their donations on their charitable mission. For charities that spend more than 70 percent of donations on management and fundraising, Oregonians who donate to them cannot not take state income-tax deductions on those gifts.

The Nonprofit Association of Oregon has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions for nonprofit organizations regarding the new law and The Oregon Attorney General's office compiles an annual list of the 20 Worst Charities that are registered to do business in Oregon. To find out how much of your donation will go to a charity’s actual purpose, search the Oregon Department of Justice's database of registered charities.

Multnomah County Library subscribes to Guidestar, a database available at the Central Library that provides information on programs and finances of charities and nonprofits. Need help finding information on your favorite charity? Librarians are happy to help!


Two women at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel operating tickers and stock exchange boards, December 11, 1918.Tracking down a historic stock price can be really easy... except when it’s really hard. And it is a common question that we get during tax season.

Here is an example of an easy stock price search.

1. A stock price is needed for a company for a particular date. (Let’s say Nike on February 13, 2009.)
2. You go to a website with financial information (like Yahoo! Finance or Wall St. Journal’s MarketWatch), search for the company name or ticker symbol, and voila! You have the closing price for that day. (Keep in mind that the closing price may or may not already be adjusted.)

But this only works if the company is still in business and hasn’t changed names, hasn’t been involved in a merger or acquisition, and is still trading on the stock exchange under the same ticker symbol. If any of those situations have occurred, the historic price that you need might not be available online.

Take, for example, Macy’s, which went public in 1922 under the name R.H. Macy, and which for many years traded under the symbol MZ. You won’t easily find historic stock prices from before 1992 for this company on Yahoo! Finance or in other online databases because on that year Macy’s merged with Federated Department Stores. (Thanks to New York Public Library for this example!)

Steps for trickier stock price searches.

So how does someone get a historic stock price from before 1992 for Macy’s, or for any other company whose historic prices aren’t online? There are two steps: first, researching the company history to find out any information about different names, ticker symbols, and listings on stock exchanges; and second, looking in a newspaper or newspaper database for the date that you need. The library can help you with both of these steps.

Step 1: Research the company history.

This step can require a little detective work. It is where you figure out the name and ticker symbol of the company or security at the time of the historic price and the stock exchange which it was trading on. Here are several sources that the library offers for learning about a company’s history (you may need to look at more than one of them in order to get a full sense of a company’s history):

  • Capital Changes Reporter: Lists capital changes (such as mergers and splits) for companies, by date, and includes information about stock exchanges and ticker symbols that the company traded under. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library, or online through the CCH Intelliconnect database.
  • International Directory of Company Histories: Provides detailed corporate histories for many companies, both U.S. and international. There are currently 149 volumes. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • Mergent Intellect: Available through the library website. A database with lots of information about companies, including company histories.
  • Directory of Obsolete Securities: Lists and gives brief info for companies and banks whose original identities have been lost to events like changes in name, acquisitions, mergers, or bankruptcy. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • EDGAR: This is not a library resource, but it is freely available online through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and we can help you if you have trouble using it! It contains many documents that public companies are required to submit to the SEC, including company reports.

Step 2: Look up the historic price in a newspaper or other source from that historic date.

Once you have done some research about the company whose historic stock price you are looking for (and hopefully learned their name, ticker symbol, and the stock exchange they were traded on at the time of the historic price), you are ready to find the stock price in a newspaper or other source from that time. Note that you’ll want to look at a newspaper or publication for the day immediately after the date for which you need the historic price, since the price would not have been published until the next day’s paper. Here are two sources for this, both of which are available electronically through the library website:

  • New York Times Historical (1851-2009): Contains scans of articles from the New York Times, including stock prices. Choose “Advanced Search,” enter the date that you are looking for in the “Publication Date” section, and choose “Stock quote” from the “Document Type” menu. Leave the other search boxes blank, and do your search. You will retrieve a list of articles containing stock prices - to find the major stock exchanges, choose the articles with the most page numbers, then look in them for the company whose stock price you need.
  • The Historical Oregonian (1861-1987): This database will be most useful for stock prices of companies from the Pacific Northwest. Enter the date you are looking for in the “Custom Date Range” box, and then do a search for a word like NYSE or NASDAQ which would appear on the page with stock prices.

In addition to these electronic databases for the New York Times and the Oregonian, the library also has a number of useful resources available in print and on microfilm at Central Library:

So there you have the basic steps for finding historic stock prices. It can indeed be a little bit of a research project sometimes. But don’t despair! Librarians are happy to talk to you about your particular stock price need, and to help you find the information you are looking for. Just get in touch with us using one of the methods on our Contact a librarian webpage. Happy stock price searching!

I have been waiting a decade to find many comics about contemporary women. Comics have changed - they just aren't about muscle bound men and scantily clad muscle bound women. Now there are cBook Jacket of Calling Dr. Lauraomics about science, memoirs, history, and health. There's a little bit for everyone.  Recently, we were asked for comics about contemporary women.  With that in mind I have developed a reading list.  I wanted to find women's voices in our comics culture.  Finally and Ahhhhhh!





Math in basketball, special effects and music? Why, yes! Discover algebra uses in the real world so you don't have to ask, "Why do I need to know this?" Back in high school, I regularly asked my Algebra teacher that question. Maybe you've asked this same question to your teacher. Luckily, there are a number of great Web sites that explain real world math in action. Get the Math does just that. In reality TV challenge style, teams of teens must solve a real world math problem presented to them by rising stars in their fields. 

Get the Math website screen shot.

Musical duo DobleFlo share how they use math to create hip-hop music. Fashion designer and winner of season two of Project Runway, Chloe Doe, illustrates how math helps her design drawings to become fashion reality. And did you know math is the secret behind a perfect free thow? Basketball star, Elton Brand, shows his challenge team how. In addition to these challenges, the six teams work to properly price guacemole on a restaurant menu, create the perfect special effect explosion and build a popular online video game. 

Screen shot of CyberChase website.

This online pre-algebra companion to PBS Kids' Cyberchase show explains real world uses of algebra with fun, animated and live action videos.  How does the super sleuth CyberSquad foil the Hacker trying to take over Cyberspace? Using math, of course!

But how does Algebra help me right now? I'm a librarian, not a fashion designer or a dubious hacker. Snowboarding! Did you know it uses real world algebra? Last winter I took my first snowboarding lessons and learned to link my turns (yay!) Now, this year, I plan to move off the bunny hill and onto longer runs, but I'm nervous of going too fast down the slopes. How fast am I going down a run? I watched this snowboarding on slopes video to figure this out:


Recently Livemocha discontinued its service to libraries. The site lives on at but we no longer are able to offer free access to the higher-level lessons.

Are you looking for a new online resource for your intermediate or advanced language learning? 

You may want to look again at Mango, which you can access through our site with your library card. While many languages only have ‘Basic’ courses — introductions to common words and phrases — more and more include ‘Complete’ courses, with in-depth and comprehensive language and grammar exercises. Click on a languages to find out what is available. Yes, the popular languages of French and Spanish include the Complete option, but so do the not-so-widely studied languages of Farsi and Norwegian, so it is always worth checking your language of interest! There is also a Mango app that you can find in iTunes and Google Play. The app is convenient and fun, but does not offer the full range of Mango’s offerings.

Open Culture - Learn 46 languages

Many web sites include impressively advanced and helpful language learning resources. For a high-quality list of sites and podcasts by language, check out Open Culture’s Learn 46 Languages Online for Free.’ 

Looking for more, or for a language that is not listed there? Ask us, we can help!

Greek and Roman history are subjects that continue to captivate our interests. A large part of this has to do with how much they influence our daily lives in literature, architecture, recreation, government, philosophy, and much, much more.

Even though there are remnants in today’s life, in comparison, life is very different than it used to be. Hour-long baths, arranged marriages, and having your father manage all your business until you are 25-years-old, are just some of the things that were customary then.  Would you be ready for public speaking or to lead an army when you turn 17 like this young adult living in Rome in 73 A.D.?

Life was exciting living in the Roman Empire with gladiators, chariot races, and exotic bath houses. It was a time that gave us great leaders such as Augustus, Nero, Julius Caesar, and Claudius. If you were a Roman leader, who would you most resemble?

There are some similarities to what life was like in Greece and Rome, but still, things were varied. Life could be very different even in places as close as Athens and Sparta. Depending on where you were born, and whether you were a boy or a girl, you could have a very different experience from those youth close by. Play this game from The British Museum that allows you compare the lives of both men and women from these two Greek cities, and learn more about daily life in ancient Greece. Be sure to take the Greek “house challenge” to see where you would find men and women hanging out, and doing what, under the same roof.

When I was on a tour in Germany about ten years ago, we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking Nuremberg. While I was admiring the red roofs and the medieval architecture, I was surprised to learn that many of the buildings we were looking at had been bombed during World War II, but had been rebuilt to match the pre-war structures. In The Aftermath, a new historical novel by Rhidian Brook, Colonel Lewis Morgan is in charge of rebuilding Hamburg, a city that was heavily bombed during WWII. The British government has requisitioned a beautiful home for him in an unscathed area of the city and has informed the current owner, Stefan Lubert, that he and his daughter must move out. Lubert, an architect before the war, is now working at a menial job while he waits to be cleared as a "good German", one who was not heavily involved with the Nazis.  While Colonel Lewis is awaiting his wife and son's arrival in Germany, he decides that Lubert should stay and share the house with his family. His wife is NOT happy with that decision. Their older son was killed by a German bomb while playing in a house in Wales, and she is not ready to forgive the Germans or her husband, whom she partially blames, for that tragedy.  I was fascinated by Rhidian's stories of people in immediate post-war Germany, both the Germans and the British, and was touched by the humanity and forgiveness that shines through the characters. This novel, based on the post-war experiences of the author's grandfather, will stay with me for a long time.

For another historical novel featuring strange bedfellows, check out Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  Based on the life of the last woman executed for a crime in Iceland, Kent tells the story of Agnes who, along with two others, is accused of murdering a man.  Because there are no suitable prisons in Iceland in the early 1800s, she is sent to live with a family on a remote farm until the time of her execution.  The waiting period of several months gives the characters a chance to adjust to each other and move from anger and resentment to acceptance.  Burial Rites is a quieter, more slow-moving book than The Aftermath, but is similarly compelling.  Both novels made me want to delve into other historical events that I know little about (and there are many)!