Our staff members are "Spreading the JCPL Story" by contributing bi-weekly columns in the Daily Journal. 

Working to improve your work-from-home experience

Erin Cataldi / Adult and Teen Services Librarian, Clark Pleasant Branch
February 2, 2021

Since March of last year, the work landscape has changed drastically.

Millions of Americans have started to work remotely and that comes with a new set of challenges. While getting to work at home with our pets, beloved coffeemaker and family can be fun (or a nightmare) — home “offices” don’t have many of the amenities that workers have come to rely on.

According to the U.S. Census, only 85% of Johnson County residents have access to broadband internet at home. Of those with internet access, many don’t have printers, scanners and faxing capabilities. Granted not every home office requires those, but many do. What’s a person to do?

Go to the public library of course. At Johnson County Public Library, residents can scan and fax papers and get documents notarized for no charge. Don’t have reliable internet at home? Check out one of our more than 30 hotspots with your library card. You can also utilize free Wi-Fi in any of the library branches by coming in or using your device in the parking lot, even after hours.

If you haven’t thought about utilizing your library in a while, think again.

Yes, we have books, music, movies, newspapers, games and more, but we also offer many services — digital and in-person — that can assist you while you work remotely. Struggling with understanding software, accounting, marketing or other business ventures? Check out our online classes through Gale Courses or Lynda.com.

Except for making copies and print jobs — at 10 cents a page — everything is available at no charge. You can email us your documents ahead of time, bring them on a thumb drive, or use one of our public PCs to print out what you need. We try to make it as easy as possible for you to get what you need. From tax forms to legal documents to finance and investing books, our librarians can help you find exactly what you need.

And for those who are looking for a job, don’t forget that you can utilize the library to search for jobs, create resumes (which we can help with), apply for benefits or use our digital resources to learn a new skill to beef up your resume.

We even have the WorkKeys Assessment available for anyone to take. The assessment measures a range of hard and soft skills relevant to any occupation, at any level, and across industries. Many employers in Indiana are on the lookout for potential hires who have taken the assessment, so come in and take it today.

Don’t spend your hard-earned money on improving your work-from-home environment when our mission is to strengthen our community by connecting people, resources and experiences. We do that daily. You are invited to stop by any of our four branches or visit PageAfterPage.org to learn more about how to optimize your remote work environment.

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A Library PSA: Live your musical dreams

Moth Meuser / Children's Services Librarian, Clark Pleasant Branch
January 20, 2021

For many, including myself, this past year had me on the lookout for new hobbies and indoor activities. I dipped my toe into quite a few pastime puddles and made it back alive to report my favorite (and ongoing) excursion: ukulele!

Before I rattle on about ukulele, let me level with you: I am a JCPL librarian. I have known about these resources since they arrived brand spanking new. And it still took me years to give ukulele a go. So, if I can pluck up (pun intended) the courage to try a new instrument, I know anyone can. It is delightful and it is 100% worth annoying your family to practice chords over and over (not that I’m speaking from experience).

Ukulele is a fun instrument, and it is not too difficult to pick up. It weighs less than 2 pounds!

Young or old, musical beginner or not, a couple of lessons and a couple of chords is all it takes to dive in and play full songs. And because I work at the library, I can assure you we have some great resources for learning music, especially ukulele.

First, the library has ukuleles available for checkout. Each one comes with a tuner and a case, so you are travel-ready. That is the big one. No need to commit to buying the instrument yet. You can give it a trial run, at no charge.

Second, the library offers online access to ArtistWorks. You can log on with a library card and find music lessons for ukulele, voice, guitar, harmonica, piano, and percussion. To list just a few. ArtistWorks has video lessons to guide you through beginner and intermediate practice. If you’re brand new, like I was, you can learn the best way to hold and strum the ukulele right away, so you don’t learn it wrong and give yourself bad habits or undue muscle strain.

Lastly, we have a large selection of music books you can check out to make practice extra fun. For example, you can check out books to learn classical, pop and country songs on ukulele. Ukulele Beatles songs? Yep! Whether you are looking to try ukulele, pick up the old banjo or keyboard collecting dust in the closet, or loosen up your pipes, there’s something to get you started at the library.

Consider this a glowing review of the ukulele and ArtistWorks from a certified librarian. You can catch me at the Clark Pleasant branch using my newfound skills in our storytimes for little ones. What you probably won’t see is me playing at home, learning new songs, and belting folk tunes to my heart’s content. But that’s why I’m writing this now, so you can hear why you should try some of this out. It’s free! You have nothing to lose! And if you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear about it--feel free to shout it from the rooftops (or just send the library an email, that works too).

Happy playing!

You can see Moth playing the ukulele at this link: http://bit.ly/JCPL_twinkle

Changing with the times

Davin Kolderup / Branch Manager, Clark Pleasant Branch
January 6, 2021

The many unexpected events of 2020 presented all of us with unforeseen challenges, both here in Johnson County and around the world.

If you have children in your life, you know that they have faced even more unique obstacles as they continue to learn, play and grow into happy, healthy young people. Kids are amazingly resilient, but they need a strong and dedicated support system now more than ever. Here at Johnson County Public Library, we are committed to supporting you and the children in your life, as we all continue to navigate uncharted territory.

The library had to make significant changes to its service model in March, to comply with the orders of state and local health officials, and to follow the best practices of our professional organizations. The Indiana Library Federation and the American Library Association have been providing JCPL and other area libraries with expert guidance on safely providing materials and services to our patrons.

We’re not back to normal yet, but the library is open for business at our normal hours for “Grab and Go” browsing — short visits of 60 minutes or less so you can check out items, use our printers or say hello to your favorite librarian. And if you’d prefer not to come in at this time, we’ll be happy to bring out your materials via our curbside JCPL-to-Go service.

Before, during and after our reopening, we had to rethink how we can safely provide library services. Luckily, librarians are experts at changing with the times. Over the last 30 years, we’ve been pioneers in providing internet access to the public, teaching computers and technology to learners of all ages, and providing online copies of books, movies, music and more. Librarians embrace change and have continued to do so this year.

Many kids in Johnson County are learning online this year, either entirely from home or in a hybrid model. If your learners need a change of scenery, we’ve ensured that our wi-fi signal extends far beyond our branch buildings. All of our outdoor lawn areas now feature picnic tables with power outlets so you can spend as much time as you need within range of a free, superfast Internet connection.

The wide range of fun and educational children’s programming we offer are one of our best-loved services. Although we haven’t yet resumed in-person programming in the branch, we are offering a full slate of online children’s programming via Zoom, so your child can interact with their favorite children’s librarian. Favorite series like Tot Art and Kids Cooking will continue virtually, and you can enjoy a preschool storytime at 10:30 a.m. every Monday-Thursday and Saturday. Select programs like our popular STEAM Workshop and Yoga Storytime are happening outdoors at JCPL branches.

You can enjoy a great story and fun outdoor activities anytime, at our JCPL StoryWalks. Located at parks around Johnson County including Independence Park in Greenwood, Windisch Park in Bargersville, Country Gate Park in New Whiteland, the Franklin Urban Forest and the Trafalgar Branch Library, Storywalks feature popular picture books on signposts along a scenic walking trail. You and your children can read the story and enjoy fun, literacy-friendly activities designed by librarians at each stop.

Maybe you’re homeschooling this year, or just want to supplement your kids’ learning with a variety of well-chosen books and other items. Our children’s librarians are standing by to help you select the perfect titles, whatever your little learner’s reading level or area of interest. You can fill out a simple form and we’ll put together a customized collection of library items for you to check out in the branch or via curbside pickup.

We will always believe in the power of a good book, but the library has so much more to offer to learners of all ages in our Library of Things collection, including family birdwatching kits, sewing machines, and STEAM kits, featuring fun interactive science activities for the whole family to enjoy. We’ve even got cake pans and cookie cutters for your next family baking day.

JCPL is honored to serve readers, learners, families and everyone else in the Johnson County community. Visit our website at pageafterpage.org to learn about everything described here and much more. We hope to see you at the library, online or in person, this winter.

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You are your child’s first, best teacher

Andrea Kaucher / Children's Services Librarian, Franklin Branch
December 23, 2020

As one of JCPL’s children’s librarians, I often present storytimes, which are a combination of books, songs and rhymes geared toward children from birth to age five. Sometimes, it may look like I’m just having fun (and yes, that’s true), but hidden behind the silly voices, sometimes squeaky singing, and always awkward dancing, I’m helping your child develop important early literacy skills. And you can too.

It’s actually pretty simple. If you READ, WRITE, SING, TALK, and PLAY with your child every day, you are preparing them to read independently. Thanks to the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read initiative, these activities are known among librarians as “The Five Practices,” and I incorporate each one into the storytimes that I present. Let’s look at how you can easily add The Five Practices into your daily life.

READ: Read to your child. You can snuggle up together with a book (great for building fond memories and early literacy skills), but you can also point out words and read them to your child wherever you are. Read the toothpaste tube, the “Caution Automatic Door” sign, that cookie recipe, etc., because reading this type of text aloud helps your child learn that words are all around them and that they share important information.

WRITE: Give your child crayons and let them scribble away. Reading and writing skills develop together. If your baby is too young for crayons, you can still recite fingerplays like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or sing songs like “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” together. When your child moves their fingers independently of each other, they improve their fine motor skills, which will help them pick up those crayons when they’re a little older.

SING: Sing along to your favorite songs. When you sing, you naturally break words into distinct syllables — which helps your child hear the smaller parts of words. Remember that you can also make up your own songs to familiar tunes. And don’t worry if you squeak a little on the high notes. Your child doesn’t care.

TALK: Talk through your daily activities, feelings and ideas with your child. When you give them these words, you increase their vocabulary and help them make sense of the world around them. This background knowledge will be key in helping them understand what they are reading later.

PLAY: Playing pretend is a great way to help your child form symbolic thinking. When your child pretends that a cardboard tube is a telescope or a sword or a magic wand, they learn that one object can stand for another — which helps them understand that letters written on the page can stand for the spoken word.

Another simple way to incorporate The Five Practices into your daily life is to join the JCPL children’s librarians in our Zoom Into Storytime sessions. We offer these storytimes at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays. We also offer a monthly evening session at two of our branches. Please register for your preferred day(s) and time(s) on our website, www.pageafterpage.org, to receive the Zoom link. And be sure to pick up a storytime kit (complete with rhythm sticks, scarf, shaker egg and bubbles) from your closest JCPL branch so that your child can tap, wave, shake and dance along with your friendly Children’s Librarian.

Most of all, please know that parents and caregivers are a child’s first and best teacher, and your JCPL children’s librarians are here to support you in your efforts to develop early literacy skills in fun and creative ways. So READ, TALK, WRITE, SING and PLAY together every day.

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Library Releases Holiday Book Gift Guide 

Liz Storm / Adult Services Librarian, Franklin Branch

December 9, 2020

The 2020 holiday season may look different than most, but one way to tell friends and family near and far that you’re thinking of them is to give them a book they will love. If you’re looking for suggestions, Johnson County Public Library has released their annual Holiday Book Gift Guide, featuring recommended reads for all age groups and interests.

For the budding readers in your life, librarian Darcy recommends "The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh" by Supriya Kelkar, about a boy who loves wearing colorful outfits until his family moves somewhere new, and he begins wearing white every day because he wants to disappear. School-aged readers looking for a laugh may enjoy "Stand Up, Yumi Chung!" by Jessica Kim, in which a case of mistaken identity gives eleven-year-old Yumi a spot in a kids’ comedy camp. For kids who like comics, Assistant Director Sarah recommends "When Stars are Scattered" by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, the true story of Omar and his younger brother growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya. Sarah says, “Although the subject matter is difficult, the graphic novel format makes Omar’s story accessible to a younger audience. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, this book is a window into a world far away. And while many of Omar’s circumstances in a refugee camp are different than what we experience, his deep love of family and education shows that some things are universal.”

For teen readers, librarian Erin recommends "Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America", edited by Maggie Stiefvater. Erin says, “I devoured this collection of stories about small towns, back roads, first love, show pigs, college, and teen drama. The stories, poems, and comics take place all over the US in small rural communities and help challenge the way that many Americans view them.”

For the friend or relative who’s always watching cooking shows, Library Director Lisa recommends "Everything Chocolate: A Decadent Collection of Morning Pastries, Nostalgic Sweets, and Showstopping Desserts" by America’s Test Kitchen. Lisa says the book, “[Has] well-researched recipes and wonderful photography. It will have you dreaming that you’re competing in Chocolate Week at the Great British Baking Show!”

Librarian Todd recommends Brian Greene’s "Until the End of Time" for the armchair physicist or philosopher, a book that “takes the reader on a tour through the history of the universe and its likely future, while, along the way, discussing the rise of complex life, consciousness, culture and humanity’s search for meaning and purpose. It is a lot to pack into a single volume, but the author is so engaging that the reader won’t want to put the book down.”

Your friend who is always binge watching the latest horror series will love Home "Before Dark" by Riley Sager. Librarian Erin says, “This horror novel had definite Haunting of Hill House vibes. I couldn’t put it down. It was compulsively readable, creepy, and super intriguing!”

Those who like historical fiction or intergenerational stories with family secrets may like Britt Bennett’s "The Vanishing Half". I loved this story that follows the lives of twin sisters Desiree and Stella and their daughters after Stella abandons her family for a life where she can “pass” as white. A fascinating look at colorism and the impact of trauma on a family.

For more recommendations, see JCPL’s full Holiday Book Gift Guide online at PageAfterPage.org/Book_Gift_Guide, or ask for a copy at any JCPL branch. For that tough-to-please friend (or for yourself!), you can also fill out a Find Your Next Book form at PageAfterPage.org/Find-Your-Next-Book for more personalized recommendations.

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