May 24th, 2011

Summer Reading, Take Me Away…

CB052871There are so many places in this big wide world I would like to see and things I’d like to do…and almost as many things to limit my opportunities—limited vacation time, money, skills, not to mention the “get up and go” required.  Travel and opportunity has never been so easily accessible to the masses, but for many, it still exists more as a dream than reality.

For me, the beauty of the library is the way it can extend one’s view of the horizon and also allow one to dive into the depths of the human soul.  Check out the right book, magazine, or movie, and you can be magically transported to other places, other times, even to “other lives.”  This year’s summer reading theme, “One World, Many Stories” celebrates the universal while recognizing the uniqueness of the individual.

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world.

Now, this is not to instigate a debate over the merits of one over another.  Rather, it is an invitation to embrace the world you imagine.  For many of us, summer promises freedom….from school, work (well, maybe a week or two), heavy clothes, heating bills, shoes and socks, etc.  Let the library’s summer reading program guide you to a place where you are free to dream, learn, explore, and experience new and uncharted territory.  Summer vacationers of all ages can embark on voyages of their dreams and the only ticket required is a library card; the only passport needed—imagination.

Between June 1 and August 1, the library offers reading incentive programs for all, from babies to babushkas.  Adults can explore Novel Destinations; teens—You are Here; and One World, Many Stories for young children.

Don’t fret if you’re missing out on the African safari this summer or won’t be going walkabout in the land down under.  The library staff, with support from The  Friends of the Library, have arranged to bring the sights, sounds, and flavors of the world to you.  From the mountains to the prairies, Didgeridoos to shaker eggs, and French crepes to tacos—widen your world at your library.

Visit your neighborhood branch or look online for a calendar or events, or click here to register for summer reading.

What’s the voyage our your dreams this summer? Leave us a comment and we’ll suggest a few items from our collection that can get you started on your journey!

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February 14th, 2011

The History of Valentine’s Day

vdayToday is Valentine’s Day, the day many of us will spend with our special someone, or as it has come to be known, our valentine. Restaurants, florists and Hallmark love this day, but how did it come to be? Well, the exact history of the holiday is shrouded in mystery and scholars can only theorize how it truly came about.

To make things a little more difficult, the Catholic Church recognizes three St Valentine’s, and all three have muddled histories. One was a priest in Rome, another was a bishop in Terni, and of the third almost nothing is known other than he was martyred in Africa. This confusion may be the reason that the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine’s Day from their official feast day calendar.

The most recognized legend for this lovers’ day began in Rome around 270 CE. The Emperor Claudius inherited an empire that had grown too large and faced crisis on all sides, and so naturally he needed more and more soldiers. He thought married soldiers became too emotionally attached to their family and that marriage as a whole made men weak, so he issued an edict effectively outlawing marriage. Valentine disagreed with the decree and continued joining couples in the sacrament of matrimony secretly. It didn’t remain secret very long and he was jailed. After healing one of his jailor’s daughters of blindness, he was executed for not converting to the Roman gods. Legend holds that before his death he left a note for the daughter signed “from your Valentine.” Over two hundred years later, Pope Gelasius proclaimed February 14th as the feast day to honor St. Valentine, Christianizing the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.

Much of this story is said to be embellished. The only verifiable items in the story that I can substantiate from more than one source is that he was a priest, he was executed for his beliefs, and his feast day is (was) February 14th; the rest is lost to history.

Many medieval scholars believe that the day became associated with romantic love in the 14th century. The French and English thought birds mated on or around February 14th and Chaucer penned “The Parliament of Fowls.” This too is just conjecture though.

Whatever its history, Valentine’s Day is now a huge commercial success. Hand-made valentines were exchanged in America in the early 1700s, and began to be mass-produced in the 1840s. According to the Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion valentine cards will be sold this year.

This week’s Trivia Question: What three countries have banned Valentine’s Day?

Keep asking questions! Phone us at 410-996-5600 ext. 481, e-mail us at, log on to Maryland AskUsNow on our website, or come into any CCPL branch library. See our website at for more information.

The “People Are Asking” column appears in the Cecil Whig each Tuesday and features interesting questions from our patrons with researched answers from our staff.

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