Category Archives: Hot Topics

The Symbols of Ireland

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations
In Moscow, Russia, 2012
by Кирилл Сергеев – wikimedia

This Irish feast has taken on a life of its own in countries around the world. On March 17, we are inundated with cartoons, clothing, even cards, embellished with images of the day: shamrocks, harps, elaborate crosses. Familiar as they may be now, what do they really have to do with St. Patrick’s Day?

Symbols provide a glimpse into the psyche of an artist – or an entire culture. Sometimes, patterns and figures evolve to express an idea. Other times, the meaning follows the motif. (For example, when previously pagan symbols take on Christian significance.) Just like language, a culture’s symbolism serves both as a time capsule and an evolving conveyance of modern ideals. Today, we’ll take a look at some common symbols associated with Ireland, and discover the meanings they carry.


St. Patrick
with a shamrock

Shamrocks and Four-Leaf Clovers

When you think “St. Patrick’s Day,” do you visualize a lucky four-leaf clover, or is it a shamrock? With its three leaves, the seamróg, or shamrock, is the true symbol of Ireland’s patron saint. Legend has it that Patrick used the plant to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity to pre-Christian Ireland. So, while you might want to wear a rare four-leaf clover to represent the “luck of the Irish,” only the tri-lobed seamróg represents St Patrick himself.

Of course, pre-Christian Irish art indicates that the island’s inhabitants already had a concept of “three-in-oneness.” But it’s still a nice legend, and a great example of how we can find new significance in existing symbolism.


Spirals and Knotwork

Trinity knot


One ancient motif resembling the Trinity is the triskelion. Three arms spiral out from the center, with rotational symmetry. Spirals feature heavily in ancient Irish art, but there’s no way of knowing what the earliest artists wished to convey. Perhaps the spiral represented the course of heavenly bodies through the night sky.

detail from the Book of Kells

The triquetra, also known as a Trinity knot, is another indigenous emblem that found a Christian meaning. Its three distinct wings form an unbroken, never-ending whole. In one variation, a circle winds through the wings, further unifying the design. The triquetra is the simplest element of Celtic knotwork. Elaborate examples can be found in the famous illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells, and on decorative crosses in churchyards up and down Ireland.


The Celtic Cross

A beautiful design that looks as striking on a tattooed arm as on a headstone in a cemetery, the Celtic cross is composed of a traditional Christian cross with a circle around the intersecting lines. The stem and arms of the cross are often decorated with elaborate knotwork.

Legend attributes this cross to St. Patrick himself. According to the story, Patrick stamped the cross over a circle representing the pagan sun god, emphasizing the spiritual importance of the cross by associating it with the life-giving powers of the sun.


A golden Claddagh ring by Royalcladdagh – wikimedia

Claddagh Rings

A heart for love, a crown for loyalty, and two hands for friendship: these are the elements present in every Claddagh ring. They originated in the small fishing village of Claddagh in Galway, possibly earlier than 1700, and are now popular as wedding rings the world over. The hand on which the ring is worn, and whether it’s worn facing inward or out, can communicate the romantic status of the wearer to one in the know.


The Irish Tricolor

Ireland’s flag has three vertical bars, of green, white, and orange. The green represents the sovereign Republic of Ireland, traditionally a Catholic nation. The orange represents Northern Ireland, which is thought of as a Protestant land, and has been part of the United Kingdom since 1921. And the white field in between? Referring to the strife between his divided countrymen, Irish nationalist Thomas Francis Meagher explained, “The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between Orange and Green and I trust that beneath its folds the hands of Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood.”

It’s a concept that’s still relevant, as governments discuss what the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will look like in a post-Brexit UK.


The Maid of Erin

Guinness by swissbhoy – Flickr

The Harp

As a nation of poets, storytellers, musicians, and bards, Ireland has long been represented by a harp. Before the tricolor flag, a banner commonly used was a golden harp (sometimes with a winged woman, the Maid of Erin, carved into it) in the center of a green field.

The Irish government wanted to trademark the harp symbol – but Guinness, hallowed creator of Ireland’s most famous stout, had gotten to it first, back in 1876. That means you’ll always see Guinness’s harp facing one way, and the government’s harp facing the other.



Speaking of Guinness, why does alcohol feature so heavily in modern St Patrick’s Day celebrations? It has to do with the calendar. No matter when Easter falls, the Lenten fast is already underway by the time March 17 rolls around. Until the 1970s, pubs in Ireland were closed – by law – on the day. The festivities were quiet indeed.

Dog and men gathered in Patrick Sullivan’s Bar, c. 1963

But somewhere along the line, Irish-American Catholics wanted to celebrate their honorary patron saint while still remaining pious, and so the restrictions on food and alcohol came to be lifted for the day. Try to fit 40 days’ worth of revelry into 24 hours, and excess is the natural result! This Americanized aspect of the holiday made its way back to Ireland in the 1990s, largely as an effort to promote tourism.

If you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in this way, you’ll need a ready toast. Raise your glass and say “Sláinte!” (pronounced something like “SLAWN-chə” to drink the health of your party.

Thanks for joining me on this cultural expedition! I hope you’ll enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations all the more, having these few fragments of knowledge. Slán go fóill! (Bye for now!)

Vintage St. Patrick’s Day postcard with the motto “Erin go bragh,”or “Ireland forever”



Be an Online Ninja Part 1: Stealth

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Being a ninja is synonymous with stealth. This lesson is all about online stealth.

In the last year or two, internet privacy has been in the news. Sites from credit report companies to the emails of our presidential candidates have been hit with online attacks. Our local governments and schools are regularly accosted for personal information. What can we do to protect ourselves? The average person is not going to receive the same volume of scrutiny from hackers as, for example, a candidate for senate, but you still want to make sure that you are protecting yourself as much as you can.  Browsing the internet in the most private manner possible is a good start. Now I’m not talking about taking your laptop into the broom closet, I’m specifically referring to the way you surf the net.

Virus protection and firewalls

This may seem like a basic bit of information, but you’d be amazed at how many people need to hear it. ALWAYS use your virus check software. NEVER turn off your firewall. Antivirus software keeps incoming cyber-attacks from disrupting your computers functioning. Without it you could be giving people access to anything from your browser history to your credit card information and even every key stroke you make. It is the active defense system for your computer. The firewall is the passive defense. Just as a real firewall keeps blazes from reaching parts of a building and burning through property, a computer firewall keeps people on the outside from getting into your info and burning through your bank account.

Your Browser’s Privacy Feature

Almost every browser out there, for mobile or desktop devices, has a privacy feature. It may be called something else, but if you look you should be able to find it fairly easily. While this is not the same as going online incognito, it does offer a certain amount of protection. Here are the basics for the most common browsers:

  • Internet Explorer: Here you’re looking for the In Private Browsing feature. It’s under the tools menu in the   drop downs on the menu bar, or you can access it by hitting Control + Shift + p. InPrivate Browsing keeps your computer from storing information like cookies, temporary Internet files, and history.
  • Firefox: In Firefox You can access the private browsing mode by clicking the hamburger button and then choosing the private icon that resembles a carnival mask. You can also use the same hot key combination as internet explorer. The Major difference with the Firefox protection is that it keeps sites from trying to track where you’ve been.
  • Chrome: From the more menu click new incognito window. Chrome refers to their privacy mode as incognito mode. It opens in a separate window so there is no mistake about whether it is on or not. Incognito mode does not save your browser history of cookies, but what you did can still be tracked by your network provider, be that your ISP, work or school.
  • Safari: When you open a new private browsing window from the file menu in the pull down bar of Safari, you are getting a fairly similar private browsing experience to the Chrome user. This hides your history from the people who use your computer but not from the provider of your internet service.

TOR Browsers and VPNs

For true internet privacy you need to be using a Virtual Private network (VPN), the TOR browser, or both. VPNs are a special private network used while on a public network. It allows communication from one source to another in a secure private manner. While private browsing features keep your computer from picking up information about what you do online, the TOR browser keeps everyone else from seeing it. This gives you the freedom to be online without leaving your IP footprints everywhere you go. Even using these in tandem, however, is not foolproof. Always make sure that you give out as little personal information as possible when going online.

The Throw Away Email

One final tool is the throw away email. This is an email you can set up with a company like gmail that allows you to create an email that does not have any of your actual personal information attached to it. With an email like this you can still sign up for those contests and newsletters that may pique your interests but might be a tool for spammers to get your information. The important part is making sure that when you set up the email you are using a service that does not ask for name, address or phone number. There are even services that will set you up with a temporary email, such as guerrilla mail.

The internet can make your everyday life great deal easier, but it can also make it easier for spammers and scammers to make your life miserable as well. Protect yourself according to your needs and never give them more information that you want them to have. Remember, the first weapon of the internet ninja is stealth.



Authors to Explore During Black History Month

By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

The modern United States of America has the great honor of being home to myriad cultural groups. The inventions, discoveries, perspectives, and creativity of minority groups impact our nation the whole year through, and it’s personally edifying to reflect on the abundance of important ideas that come to us from so many different cultures. That’s why, during Black History Month each February, we take the time to officially celebrate, enjoy, and learn about the innumerable contributions that black men and women have made to American culture.

Naturally, Black authors write in every genre: from science-fiction to romance, from graphic novels to poetry. Although readers see the value in reading works from all facets of culture, they may not have come across some of these writers before. Today, we’ll take a winding journey through various genres, highlighting Black authors along the way.

Let’s start in the world of comic books and graphic novels. The timeless duo of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson has been reimagined in a comic book series written by Karl Bollers. Set in Harlem, New York, with African-American leads, Watson and Holmes treats the traditional sidekick as the leading man. While keeping elements of the classic story intact – Watson is a war veteran; Holmes specializes in usual cases – Bollers comes up with new dangers and adventures for the pair in a modern, urban setting.

Other writers to check out in this medium include Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks), Brandon Thomas (The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury), Brian Parker (You Can Rely on Platypi), David Gorden (Quincredible), Kyle Baker (Nat Turner), Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack, Jr (Best Shot in the West), and Ta-Nehisi Coates (Marvel’s Black Panther).

Speaking of Coates, who first made his name in journalism, his 2015 non-fiction book, Between the World and Me, is considered a must-read. It takes the form of “a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States” (

Such a personal publication leads us to the genre of autobiography and memoir, which is a great way to get inside the heads of people with different experiences and perspectives. Much-loved television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes shares her journey from fear and detachment to self-acceptance and empowerment in Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. Another television personality with an entertaining memoir is Issa Rae, with The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl. In Black Man in a White Coat, Damon Tweedy, MD, explores the relationship between race and the medical world.  Elizabeth Alexander writes about family, creativity, and loss in The Light of the World. Other well-known authors in this genre include Frederick Douglass (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), Solomon Northup (Twelve Years a Slave), Barack Obama (Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance), and Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

Angelou is also beloved for her poetry, one example being “Still I Rise.” Merely scratching the surface of her fellow renowned Black poets, we find Rita Dove (“Exit”), Gwendolyn Brooks (“We Real Cool”), Langston Hughes (“Harlem”), Nikki Giovanni (“Walking down Park”), Jean Toomer (“Blue Meridian”), Lucille Clifton (“won’t you celebrate with me”), Tyehimba Jess (“Hagar in the Wilderness”), Melvin Dixon (“Heartbeats”), and Robert Hayden (“Middle Passage”).

Switching gears, let’s talk cookbooks: another great way to appreciate culture. No matter your tastes or skill level, you’re sure to find new recipes to add to your rotation with these selections. Edna Lewis’ classic The Taste of Country Cooking weaves stories with delicious recipes to create seasonal menus. Formerly an integral part of Paula Deen’s staff at Lady & Sons, Dora Charles has published her own cookbook, full of unexpected tips for maximum flavor, called A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen. The Church Ladies’ Divine Desserts, by Brenda Rhodes Miller, gives you all the recipes you need for crowd-pleasing desserts, as well as wisdom and laughter from “the Church Ladies.” And celebrity chef Marvin Woods brings you “125 recipes for coastal Southern cooking with innovative style” in The New Low-Country Cooking.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a list some modern writers of fiction, along with a title selected from their work.

  1. LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Jam on the Vine
  2. Paul Beatty, The Sellout (satire)
  3. Chesya Burke, Let’s Play White (short stories)
  4. Octavia E. Butler, the Xenogenesis trilogy (sci-fi)
  5. Ernessa T. Carter, 32 Candles (humorous)
  6. Tananarive Due, Ghost Summer (short stories)
  7. Piper Huguley, the Home to Milford College series (inspirational romance)
  8. N. K. Jemisin, the Inheritance trilogy (fantasy)
  9. Beverly Jenkins, prolific author of historical and contemporary romance
  10. Sadeqa Johnson, Second House from the Corner
  11. Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom (horror)
  12. Terry McMillan, Waiting to Exhale
  13. Rebel Miller, the Kira’s Story series (futuristic romance)
  14. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
  15. Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (mystery)
  16. Z. Z. Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (short stories)
  17. Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Balm
  18. Delores Phillips, The Darkest Child
  19. Darryl Pinckney, High Cotton
  20. John Ridley, Everybody Smokes in Hell (noir)
  21. Alice Walker, The Color Purple
  22. Colson Whitehead, Zone One (zombie thriller)
  23. Jacqueline Woodson, Miracle’s Boys (young adult)

Of course, these authors are relevant all year long, not just during Black History Month. So, if many of these names are new to you, why not choose a few and add their works your reading list this year? And don’t forget, if we don’t have one of these titles in our catalogue, we can always submit an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) request to other libraries throughout the country.

Here are links to lists and reviews I found helpful (and interesting) in creating this blog post, where you can discover even more great writers. Happy Black History Month! Read the rest of this entry

Sequels, and Trilogies, and Series, Oh My!

by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department

Few pleasures compare to delving into a series of novels by an author you love. Writing a fiction series gives an author a chance to really flesh out a cast of characters, and to embellish a setting with such fine details that it becomes almost real. What a delight, to spend your rainy weekends or long road trips in these places that feel like a second home!

There’s a flip-side to this pleasure. It’s the frustration of picking up a promising novel, only to realize you have no idea what half the characters are talking about, or even who they are – and the author seems to think you should. That’s what happens when you pick up the sixth book in a series without realizing it.

Sometimes, the book’s cover art does not make clear that the book you’re about to read is part of a series. Other times, the “other titles in this series” list at the front of the book is incomplete, or even out of order. Why would publishers do this to us? Who shall be the savior of the sequel-seeker?

I can answer that second question for you. One of the resources you have access to, as a card-holding member of the Williamson County Public Library, is a database called eSequels promises to keep current, accurate records of thousands of fiction series. Note: the collection seems to focus on general fiction, so most Young Adult series will not be included.

To access this amazing resource for free, click here. You need to be directed there from the WCPL website, so I’ll describe how to find it by searching our website, too. Starting at, type eSequels into the gray search bar on the top right corner of the screen. Hit enter, or click the magnifying glass icon, to search. On the page that comes up, click Databases by Title, then click the shortcut to E-F (or just scroll down until you find it). Find the eSequels link, click on it, and use your library card number to log in where it says “Patron Barcode.” Once you get to in this way, bookmark the page so you don’t have to go through these steps every time.

Search Features on eSequels

Upon logging in to eSequels, you land on a page with links to various search features. As you will see, with multiple ways to search and browse, is the resource you never knew you needed – but won’t be able to live without!

If you’ve heard your friends talking about a particular author, but can’t remember which book comes first in the series, Search by Author to figure out where to start. By default, authors are listed alphabetically by their last names. You can choose to list them by first name instead.

 Search by Book Title brings up a list of every book in eSequels’ database. Let’s say you want to dive into author Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic worlds of sci-fi or fantasy. You know she has written a book called The Dispossessed, but you aren’t sure where it falls in the chronology. Finding The Dispossessed in Search by Book Title will bring up all the books in Le Guin’s Hainish series, and you will learn that the first book in that series is called Planet of Exile.

I find it interesting to Search by Character, because the database lists not just the main characters, but some important supporting characters, as well. So, if you want to start reading books featuring Sherlock Holmes, you will find that he’s not only a character in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original series, but that several authors over the years have used him as a character in their series, as well! You can also search for characters like Winston Churchill, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Oscar Wilde, all of whom appear in some capacity or another in the database. Just keep in mind that the characters are listed alphabetically by first name, not last.

Next, you can Search by Location. Whether you’re fascinated by Tampa or Tuscany, this is a great way to discover a series that takes place somewhere you’d like to spend a lot of time in.

 Search by Subject – really, it’s browsing – is a great way to find a new series to explore. Say you want to read a series on Celtic mythology, but you don’t know where to begin. The Celtic mythology page on eSequels lists 24 different authors who have written Celtic mythology series. Clicking on any of those author links will bring up a summary of each book, and tell you the correct reading order of the series.

Lastly, you can Search by Keyword. This can help you if all other searches have failed. Searching this way takes a little longer, the website warns; but you can enter up to two keywords or terms. The search will only return results that contain all the terms you enter. I tested this function by entering the terms “Prince Edward Island” and “orphan.” The search took me right to the page for L. M. Montgomery’s beloved Anne of Green Gables series.

Now that you know about these cool features, I hope you’re excited to start browsing on your own. But if you’d like some guidance on popular and classic series, keep reading to find a few random selections. When the series description appears in quotation marks, I have taken it from

Emily of New Moon series by L. M. Montgomery (classic, all-ages)

This is one of my personal favorite series. Like Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon takes place on Montgomery’s native Prince Edward Island in Canada, with an intelligent, passionate heroine who grows from childhood to adulthood. But, as wonderful as Anne Shirley is, Emily Starr is a more three-dimensional character. The stories are deeper, more introspective, and more realistic, which makes sense when one considers that Montgomery identified more strongly with aspiring writer Emily than with Anne. The author explored some of her real emotions and experiences through the character of Emily Starr. Emily’s adventures are sometimes dark, sometimes joyous, sometimes funny – and sometimes all three – but they are always beautiful.

Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams (sci-fi, humor, action)

“Dirk Gently is a “holistic” private eye, brilliant but rather seedy, who uses his psychic powers to find lost cats or to save the human race. Like the [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] series, the “holistic” detective series is a blend of science fiction, humor, and action, entertainingly presenting some mind-boggling ideas.”

Jack Reacher series by Lee Child (action, thriller)

“Jack Reacher is the linchpin of a series of thrillers which are regarded by some critics as the best going today. Jack is a tall, 250-pound, taciturn, ex-U.S. Military Police Major, who can kill with his bare hands. He is a Robin Hood type with his share of problems, which he doesn’t brood about, being basically a rather cheerful fellow. These very exciting, action-filled novels, which take Reacher all around the U.S., are character-driven more than plot-driven with a protagonist who is basically likeable despite his lethal potential.”

Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander (mystery, historical)

“Lady Emily Ashton is an unconventional Victorian widow. After her husband of six months, Philip, Viscount Ashton, big game hunter and classical antiques collector, dies on an African hunting expedition, she uncovers a number of Philip’s secrets, which lead her to the first of her adventures. Eventually Emily acquires a new husband, debonair British intelligence agent Colin Hargreaves, with whom she shares a series of romantic, suspenseful adventures in places as far afield as Constantinople.”

Myth series by Robert Asprin (fantasy, humor)

“Next to Thieves’ World, Asprin is best known for his fantasy series, Myth, which he started as a satire on what he regarded as the overblown and pretentious heroic fantasy series of the 1970s. … Although the series started as satire, it acquired a regular cast of characters, … and became more farcical than satirical. “Myth” has remained extremely popular, especially with young adult readers and fans of humorous fantasy novels laced with puns.”

The Mitford Years series by Jan Karon (cozy, Christian-themed)

“The series set in the fictional North Carolina mountain town of Mitford … has been a publishing phenomenon. Readers have really taken to their hearts Episcopal priest Father Tim Kavanaugh and his neighbors. Mitford, unlike many fictional hamlets, has no violence or illicit sex. Its characters are slightly eccentric but nice, mainly concerned with their relationship with God and Jesus. The main storyline concerns Father Tim’s realization of his loneliness, his adoption of a stray dog, and his relationship with [his neighbors].”

Pendergast series by Douglas Preston (supernatural thriller, mystery)

“The Pendergast books are a series of wild adventures which feature more than a dollop of horror and SF elements. Interesting villains, such as Pendergast’s brilliant but evil brother, Diogenes, populate the novels. Serial killers abound, along with mad scientists, and feisty women.”

Lost in translation? Not anymore! Learn a new language with Powerspeak!

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Departmentpowerspeak-languages

We all have our own reasons to learn a new language: traveling and exploring new worlds, connecting with loved ones (or strangers) at home and in faraway places, exercising the untapped power of our brain, being able to watch foreign films without those pesky subtitles, and the list goes on. For some, learning a new language is not a luxury but a necessity for survival and connection in a new country. If your goal is fluency or simply mastering a sentence in Japanese for fun, Powerspeak Languages is a proven and powerful way to gain quick language proficiency.

What is it?

Powerspeak Languages is an online program that offers fluency through immersion. Rather than rote memorization or the dreaded flash card, Powerspeak uses pictures, audio, video, and interactive lessons and games for a deeper, more culturally authentic learning experience. Their aim is to transform you into a global citizen who truly understands the language in a cultural context.

Languages include: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. English as a second language (ESL) is also available for Spanish and Mandarin speakers.


Other neat features:

Powerspeak allows you to choose how far you want to take your learning experience. You can begin with the regular activities and, if you want to take it to the next level, choose the More Practice feature to review what you’ve learned. The Dig Deeper feature helps you go above and beyond for maximum language proficiency.

Powerspeak combines both written material and audio samples to improve your reading and listening/speaking comprehension. For those of us who are visual learners, they also include photos of things like food, transportation, and places you’d actually encounter within the country.


Ok, that’s awesome. But is it free?

Of course! One of the barriers for all second language learners is the expense of classes and study materials. But through the library’s website, you can create your own online profile entirely for free! You can even create your own profile to keep track of your progress as you master your new language.


Why am I still reading this? I’ve got language learning to do!

And here’s how:

  1. Go to our Library’s homepage:
  2. To the left of the screen, click on eLibrary Digital and then Databases by Title
  3. Click on O – P and select Powerspeak Languages
  4. Your log-in will be your Williamson County Library card number
  5. Create an account and make sure to log in every time you use Powerspeak so it will keep track of your progress. (Click the “Returning User? Log in!” button on the top right hand of the home screen to log in after you’ve made your profile).

As always, please call 615-595-1243 with any questions.

2018 New Year Reading Challenge

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Last year they asked me to make up a list for the New Year Reading Challenge. Apparently I did a good enough job that they’ve asked me to do it again. Last year I talked about all the benefits of reading. How it can help with empathy, stress, high blood pressure, and even reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These are all great and laudable reasons to read, but the main thing that I’d like to work on this year is fostering a love to read. According to a Gallup poll, between 1978 and 2014 the percentage of people in the United States that hadn’t picked up a book in a year or more close to tripled from 8% to 23% [i](and they even counted the audiobook listeners as readers). That it has tripled is bad enough, that it is nearing a full quarter of the population is startling.

The average number of books read per capita was 12 in 2015, but the voracious readers inflated that number a bit and the most common given response to a survey of readers when asked for the number of books they’d read in the last year was four[ii].  Four?… Four! How in the world am I supposed to make a book challenge list to attract the average person when they only read a book a season?

I realized that this blog is usually read by readers. We word hungry book people that push the average up to twelve books a year. This year I thought I’d make it both a little easier and a little harder. There are two less books this year, but the suggestions are more specific. If you can read two books a month, regardless of the themes below, great! But if you like to push yourself, try to keep up with the challenge and if you need help finding a book ask your local librarians for help. We’ve always got suggestions.


  1. It’s a new year, read something new. Pick a book that was published in the last 2 months.
  2. Renew your spirit for the New Year, read something that inspires you.


  1. It’s African American History Month. Read a book by an African American author.
  2. Read a book with a romantic theme or subplot, It doesn’t have to be a romance novel, just a little love will do.


  1. Award Season is wrapping up. Read a book that has won an award. [1]
  2. For Women’s History Month, read a book by a female author or with a female main character.


  1. Read a collection of poetry for national poetry month.
  2. Spring has arrived, read an article in a periodical about nature


  1. Free Comic Book Day is May 6th. Read a graphic novel, comic book or manga.
  2. Teacher Appreciation week is in May. Read a book that is required reading for school. [2]


  1. Get a book recommendation from a dad.
  2. Read a book about the outdoors, whether it’s a story, travel guide or field guide.


  1. July 4th celebrates independence, be free to read a book of your choice.
  2. Find a beach read, something fun and enjoyable, regardless of whether you are going to the beach.


  1. It’s hot in the south in august. Read something form a southern writer.
  2. Go back to school by reading a book you loved or were supposed to read in high school or college.


  1. Harvest time brings to mind great food, find a book about food or cooking that you might enjoy.
  2. Read a book that has been banned in September to celebrate Banned Books Week 9/29-10/6/18


  1. Read a book about something that scares you. It doesn’t have to be H.P. Lovecraft, just that you challenge your fears.
  2. Halloween means treats and sweets. Try a little brain candy. Read a book just for its entertainment value.


  1. Election season is close at hand. Read about the issues and the candidates.
  2. Find a book about someone, somewhere or something less fortunate to help you be thankful for what you have.


  1. Find a book that takes place in winter to match the weather outside.
  2. Add Jolabokaflod to your holiday calendar. Give books as gifts on December 24th and spend some time reading one.[iii]

Career Transitions

By Stephen McClain, Reference Department


Looking for a new job can be either a frustrating experience or an exciting change. Many patrons use the library computers to access job applications or search for a new career. The reference staff is available to help those who are searching for jobs, but there are also many online resources that can answer simple questions and help with the application process. The Career Transitions website is a useful and powerful resource in helping to find a new career. To visit this website, go to, move the mouse over eLibrary (on the left side of the page) and a drop down menu will appear. Click on Databases by Title and then select C-D. From there, click on Career Transitions, which is at the top. Here you can create an account that will save all of your information, but before doing that, it might be best to click on Take a tour of Career Transitions at the top right of the page.

Taking the tour will walk you through the processes of searching for jobs, writing a resume, writing a cover letter, tips and advice on interviewing, and also includes a simulated interview. If you are looking to start a new career and not sure what to look for, the next section provides an area to assess your career interests. After determining your interests and expertise, you can browse career paths and get an idea of what type of salary to expect with your particular experience and training.

Following this section, the tour continues with an area on discovering a new career. In this section, you can assess your career interests by taking a short survey. After deciding your areas of interest, you may browse career paths, salary and growth rates based on your selections or you can match your work experience to a new career.

career transitionsFinally, there is an area to search for schools and programs within a specific geographic area. Simply type in a job or career title (such as Electrician), select the distance you wish to search with your zip code or state and click the green Search button. If there are any schools, programs or courses within the area that you selected, this should produce a list of those results.

  • Many new job seekers, or those returning to the work force, have questions regarding resumes. On the Home page, click on Write a Resume. Here, you can write a professional resume by simply filling in data about yourself and your work experience. Before beginning to create a resume, it may be helpful to gather all of the necessary data, such as name and contact information regarding previous employers, education, and references. Start with your contact info. Type in your personal data and click save. If everything is correct, click the green “Go to next Section” button. Follow the steps and if at any time that you may have a question, click on “What Can I Do Here?” at the top right of the page. This area may answer many common questions regarding building a resume. There are also many helpful articles linked on this page in reference to writing a cover letter, uploading your resume to the web, and information on professional portfolios.
  • 14110060693_e2e54aef56_bMany job seekers ask whether or not they need a cover letter when applying for a job. If the job application does not specifically ask for a cover letter, odds are it is not a requirement. However, including a cover letter can only help your chances of being considered for the position. Click on “Write A Cover Letter” (next to “Write A Resume”). The process is very similar to that of writing a resume using the Career Transitions website. There is also a link to samples of cover letters if you need some help or ideas.
  • The Interview Simulation tab is a great way to prepare for the experience of an actual job interview. Clicking on this tab will first give you an overview of the simulation. Once beginning, users will choose a profile based on the individual’s personal level of experience. Then you will learn about the fictitious “company,” the open position and your profile. Based on this information, you will be asked questions regarding the job opening and your experience. You can choose whether to listen to audio or read the questions. After the questions are presented, three possible responses are given. You, as the interviewee, are to choose the best and most appropriate response. After responding to all of the questions, the simulation interviewer decides whether or not to conduct a second interview and feedback is offered regarding your responses.

With these simple tools on the Career Transitions website, you can create professional resumes, cover letters, gain valuable interview experience and will soon be on your way to an exciting new career. Visit to get started.

Guest Post: Have a Healthy Christmas!

8760623100_c7f6553d6b_bBy Patsy Watkins MPS, CFCS

Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, UT/TSU Extension, Williamson County

Every family has traditional holiday foods. Instead of using the holidays as an excuse for high-fat, high calorie feasting, use these 5 easy tips to remake your holiday favorites with good health in mind.

Holiday Tip #1: Control Portions

Set the holiday table with dinner plates 9 inches or so in diameter. No one will notice a decrease in portion sizes when you use smaller plates and glasses. Cut cake into 18 servings, make 4 dozen smaller cookies instead of 3 dozen larger ones, and use 4-ounce glasses for your favorite sparkling punch.

Holiday Tip #2: Double Up on Vegetables

Serve vitamin-packed, lower carbohydrate vegetables like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli in large bowls. Put higher calorie mashed potatoes and winter squashes in smaller bowls and use a smaller serving spoon. Your family will unknowingly serve themselves smaller portions. Instead of meatballs and cheese logs, feature vegetable appetizers like marinated mushrooms, tomato bruschetta, roasted asparagus, etc.

Holiday Tip #3: Give Healthful Gifts

Give homemade gifts that are made with healthful ingredients. Bake breads that feature whole grains, send a basket of fresh fruit instead of a box of candy, or tie a bow around a bag of nuts instead of cookies.

Holiday Tip #4: Lighten Up

Lighten up favorite recipes. Use fat-free evaporated skim milk instead of cream in custard pies and sauces, boost flavor in casseroles with spices instead of butter or salt, and bake foods instead of frying them. No one will notice the changes!

Holiday Tip #5: Make Fruit the Star

Give colorful fruit a starring role. Serve fresh berries for a holiday breakfast, include fresh fruit such as pineapple, mango, kiwi, and red grapes on bamboo skewers for a holiday buffet. Offer dates and grapes instead of cheese and crackers, etc.

Oh No The Library is Closed! What to Do?

By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department

Holidays afford us time to relax, enjoy shows, catch up with friends, and share some of our favorite cuisine with special folks in our life.   Funny thing, after those times of good cheer and catching up, one common post-festivity urge reported is the desire to stop into the library to simply browse around.   Unfortunately, for many of these holiday moments, the library is officially closed.     But please know, the back door is open. By this we mean the cyber door to all the library’s electronic offerings.   Even on those “closed” holidays, the library still has some wonderful things available.

Here are just a few suggestions…


Simply access the library’s main page and explore the eLibrary Digital and our helpful websites.  You can:

And there is a lot of online fun for children as well:

Online Fun Suggestions!

  • Read digital picture books with our TumbleBooks Call us now for the id and password.
  • Listen to an e-audiobook for teens and children via OneClick. All you need is your lilbrary card!
  • Borrow an ebook via READS for Kids. Use the cute interface for young readers that lets them borrow chapter books and more.
  • Explore new subjects in Kids Infobits with articles and reference books for young people.
  • Play games and more in TEL4U.
  • Learning can be fun for young ones with World Book Online. Try the Early World of Learning or one of the boxes labeled ‘Kids’.

So just remember, even though we are closed, the back (cyber) door is always open.

Get Christmas Inspirations At the Library

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

It’s that festive time of year when you start planning parties, decorating your home, and picking out and wrapping the perfect gifts. If you’re looking for great ideas for holiday entertaining, crafts, decorating, homemade gifts, and recipes, the Williamson County Public Library is a great place to start. The main branch in Franklin and our branches in Bethesda, College Grove, Fairview, Leiper’s Fork, and Nolensville all have books, magazines, electronic resources, and even classes and programs to help make your holiday season jolly!



Browse through our Decorative Arts section (call number 745.59412) to find books on hand-crafted gifts, contemporary and vintage Christmas crafts, holiday decorating, and traditions. You’ll see everything from crafting with children to “green” Christmas decorating.


Holiday Décor

Make your home warm and inviting for the holidays with these Christmas home décor books, also found at call number 745.59412. Get DIY ideas and tips from top decorators on everything from trimming the perfect tree to creating an elegant centerpiece to crafting wreaths and garlands to using candles to set just the right mood. Happy browsing!



Want to host the perfect Christmas gathering? Check out these books on holiday entertaining found primarily at call number 642.4, with a few more in 745.59412. These books combine tips on cooking, decorating and entertaining – everything you need for a fabulous party.



Food, Glorious Food! WCPL has holiday cookbooks galore. From traditional comfort foods to decadent desserts to healthier holiday fare, you’ll find it at call number 641.5686. Below are just a few sample titles. Happy cooking…and eating!



In addition to books, WCPL also offers a variety of periodicals featuring great holiday tips. Decorating Digest Craft & Home Projects (PER DEC) has a holiday projects edition each fall. Cooking Light (PER COO) and Bon Appétit (PER BON) focus on holiday recipes in their December issues. We carry several “lifestyle” magazines that go all out in their holiday editions. Southern Living (PER SOU), County Living (PER COU), Real Simple (PER REA), Family Circle (PER FAM), Good Housekeeping (PER GOO), Better Homes & Gardens (PER BET), House Beautiful (PER HOU), Redbook (PER RED), O, The Oprah Magazine (PER O) and more titles all feature recipes, entertaining, decorating, and crafts in their December or winter issues. At the Main Branch in Franklin, the periodicals are on the second floor near the reference section.


Eager to check out some of our holiday books and magazines but can’t make it to the library? We have digital magazines and eBooks that you can access at home or on the go. Through Tennessee READS-OverDrive you can download eBooks on your computer, eReader, smart phone, or tablet. Tennessee READS offers a huge selection of current titles on Christmas decorating, cooking and entertaining. Stop by the Reference Desk at the Main Branch in Franklin for hands-on assistance setting up your READS-OverDrive account. Instructions for downloading electronic titles are also available at for the OverDrive app and for Kindle eReaders.



WCPL also offers digital magazines that you can read on your computer, smart phone, or tablet. Zinio, the Library’s digital magazine collection, has recently merged with RBdigital. Instructions for downloading digital magazines using the RBdigital software and app will be on our website soon.


WCPL offers fun holiday classes and programs. In our “Holiday Newsletter Class” you can learn to create your own holiday newsletter using Microsoft Publisher. You can also take our “Picmonkey Christmas Cards” class to learn how to turn your personal digital photos into holiday cards using the Picmonkey software program.

In our “Crafty Adult” series of programs at the Main branch in Franklin, you can learn to make crafts for all occasions. At the next program on Tuesday, December 5, you’ll be able to create your choice of two 3D Christmas card designs. To sign up for the program, call 615-595-1243, ext. 1 or register online at 3D Holiday Cards.


If the Library’s resources haven’t satisfied your pursuit of holiday perfection, give Pinterest a whirl. Log in to Pinterest and just search for Christmas crafts, decorating, cooking, and entertaining. You’ll find more creative ideas than you can shake a glue gun at.

Don’t Overdo It!

All of our holiday resources should really put you in the Christmas spirit. But don’t go overboard! Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating The Holidays Without Breaking the Bank by Mary Hunt (322.02402 HUN) can help you enjoy your holiday without stressing over your budget.


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