Learn Basic Computer Skills with Northstar Learning

The internet is everywhere, allowing you to work, play, and complete daily life tasks wherever there is WiFi. This is especially helpful in the age of physical distancing and mask-wearing.

For those with WiFi access, barriers may still exist. Some community members experience frustration with email and online forms, and concerns about internet safety, leaving them feeling increasingly isolated from social connections and workforce opportunities.

Do you have a friend or family member that could use a little help? VITAL's Northstar Online Learning teaches the basic computer skills needed to communicate using computers. Its free, self-paced courses offer step-by-step instruction, practice, and review for:

  • Basic Computer Skills
  • Internet Basics
  • Using Email
  • Microsoft Word

You can get started or learn more by calling 812-349-3173. You can also email vital [at] mcpl.info or sign up here. Our friendly VITAL staff will get you set up to learn new skills and track your progress!

More advanced users can find additional training resources at Indiana University’s IT Training or Lynda.com.

Celebrate Lunar New Year!

IU Asian Culture Center Presents: How to Make Dumplings!

What is Lunar New Year?

In Western countries, we celebrate the New Year on January 1, but in many Asian countries the traditional new year follows the cycles of the moon so they celebrate what we call "Lunar New Year" (sometimes also called "Chinese New Year") and it usually occurs in late January to early February.

For people following the Lunar calendar, years are tracked by animals. For example, this year is the Year of the Ox. There are 12 animals of the Lunar calendar that always appear in this order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. This means that the next Year of the Ox won’t be until 2033!


How do people celebrate Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in many cultures so people celebrate it in a variety of ways (and over 3–4 days)! People travel back home to be with their families and connect with relatives and friends. They decorate with red lanterns and other red decorations in and around their homes.  Adults give children red envelopes filled with gifts of money. They eat wonderful food like jiaozi (dumplings), oranges, candied fruits, and fish. On the evening of Lunar New Year, families and neighborhoods shoot off festive firework displays!

Are you interested in making some delicious food to celebrate Lunar New Year? Take a look at this video which shows how to make dumplings. You can also download the recipe for the dumplings!


Library Virtual Lunar New Year Celebrations

Join our staff and friends from the IU Asian Culture Center for a story explaining the legend of the zodiac, a demonstration of how to make a Chinese paper lantern, and information about the different ways Lunar New Year is celebrated. We'll also share recorded performances of members of the TianTian Chinese School Advanced Class singing and performing a traditional dance. Age 3 & up. Please register with a valid, non-school email address to receive the Zoom program link.

Also, beginning February 2, you can pick up a free Take and Make Kit full of Lunar New Year information, coloring pages, and crafts at the Main Library, Ellettsville Branch Library, and on the Bookmobile while supplies last!


Do you want to learn even more about Lunar New Year?

Take a look at Hoopla and search for “Chinese New Year". There you will find a variety of ebooks and eaudiobooks all about Lunar New Year! You can also listen to “The Legendary Chinese New Year Hits” (1955) to hear some of the sounds of traditional Chinese music.

If you’re curious about why the animals in the Lunar zodiac follow the order they do, check out The Great Race: A Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Christopher Corr from our Library!

Want more material suggestions? Fill out this form to get a personalized recommendation!


There’s something special about the doodles Drew and her art club pals create - they come to life! The art club crew usually draft friendly characters, though Drew’s doodles are known to get into trouble, like the time they stole a hat out of a painting in the museum. But that was nothing compared to real trouble her newest doodle, Levi, created in Doodleville! With her monster on the loose destroying all of her friends’ creations, Drew feels hopeless. How will Drew ever be able to stop Levi from destroying everything in sight and hold onto her friendships!

With such an imaginative story and a wonderfully racially diverse group whose members display a variety of gender presentations, there's a lot to love about this book. It is the perfect read for fans of Chad Sell’s The Cardboard Kingdom, or Kirsten Gudsnuk’s Making Friends. Recommended ages 8+

Staff Picks: The Stand

Reviewed by Bill Koester, Materials Handler.

The Stand by Stephen King is available as an eBook through CloudLibrary and Overdrive.

Civil Discourse

Arguably Stephen King’s opus, The Stand is a great read in any time. Recent events, however, have made it an especially fitting tome for these times, and not just because it’s a long one (over 1000 pages) that can help pass the hours most of us are spending stuck at home.

The novel tells the story of a plague, developed as a bioweapon by the U.S. government, which accidentally gets released and devastates the world. The pages and pages describing the breakdown of society, and the military’s increasingly brutal attempts the quell the panic, are horrifying an captivating at the same time.

One chapter—depicting the course of one evening as protagonist Nick Andros works the night shift manning a small-town sheriff’s office—feels especially prescient. At the start of the chapter, and Nick’s shift, everything seems like a normal summer day, aside from the fact that a cold (or so it seems) is going around. By the end of it, Nick finds the town inexplicably desolate, until the exhausted local doctor informs him that the sickness has decimated the population overnight, including people we saw alive just pages ago.

Though the real-world situation wasn’t quite so dire, this section has the same sudden gut punch feeling as the fateful Wednesday March 11 of this year. The day began seeming pretty normal, then ended with the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic, public figures and celebrities announcing they caught the virus, and college and professional sports shutting down. Fortunately, other events described in the prose don’t feel quite so resonant to what’s happening in our world (at least not yet).

The plague is only about a third of the book, though. The rest is about what happens after the world crumbles, as survivors across the United States are divinely drawn to two communities out West. The good to Boulder, Colorado drawn by the 108-year-old Mother Abigail, and the evil to Las Vegas under the spell of the mysterious dark man Randall Flagg.

The story has elements of horror, action-adventure, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, epic fantasy, and even the biblical. There are also long portions of the text devoted to the character drama, an element of King’s work that seldom gets its due praise. The scribe certainly takes his time in some of the middle section, but the effect is nearly every character seems fleshed out and vital, not tertiary.

Reading The Stand in the middle of a real pandemic, an unexpected theme seems to stick out: community.

Sure, the novel thrills and terrifies as the best King fiction does, but the characters who make it through rebuild. Instead of reverting to brutal survivalists like most post-apocalyptic fiction, they come together, work together, work through their disagreements through civil discourse, watch out for each other, and create a thriving society in the ashes of the old one.

For a story and author so dark and macabre, the ending strikes a reasonably hopeful tone. 

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.


Staff Picks: Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed

Movie cover art with Shirley Chisholm's face

Reviewed by Craig J. Clark, Senior Materials Handler

Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed directed by Shola Lynch is available to stream on Kanopy.


In light of how swiftly the recent election cycle knocked out every woman and/or person of color campaigning to be the Democratic nominee for president, it’s instructive to watch this 2004 documentary about the first Black woman to make a serious run at the office. That would be Shirley Chisholm, who served New York in the House of Representatives from 1969 to 1983 and threw her hat into the ring in 1972, making her one of 13 Democrats vying for the privilege of losing to Richard Nixon. Her platform: universal healthcare, full employment, decent housing, racial equality, equal rights for women, and an end to the Vietnam War. That most of these policies are still considered radical today is sobering, as is seeing how Chisholm and her campaign are routinely marginalized by the media. In the face of all that adversity, though – including pushback from the Democratic establishment, which was eager to get everybody to rally around one of their candidates, and the Black Caucus, which declined to throw their weight behind her – she kept her grassroots campaign going right up to the convention, just to prove she could go the distance. In the closing moments of the film, Chisholm says she doesn’t want to be remembered because she was the first Black woman in Congress or the first one to run for president. “I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the 20th century,” she says. Mission accomplished, ma’am.

In addition to the film, Chisholm is the subject of two recent biographies: 2014’s Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change by Barbara Winslow, which is aimed at adults, and Shirley Chisholm by Laurie Calkhoven, a brand new “Ready-to-Read” book for juveniles. Her campaign is also covered in the 2016 book The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency by Ellen Fitzpatrick.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.

Staff Picks: We Were Eight Years In Power : an American Tragedy

Reviewed by Bill Koester, Materials Handler

We Were Eight Years In Power : an American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates is also available in eBook, audiobook, and large print formats.

IntegrityIn response to the ongoing protests against police brutality and the ensuing discussions about race in America, there has been a recent trend of book recommendations for white Americans to better understand the experience of Black America. As a white reader myself, some of the most eye-opening work has been that of Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Coates has moved more into fiction recently—he finished an acclaimed stint with Marvel comics and published his first novel The Water Dancer within the past year—but his most known work, the work which brought him to prominence, were his articles for The Atlantic. We Were Eight Years in Power compiles eight of his most acclaimed articles published during the Obama Administration, along with his personal commentary on events of the era and afterwards.

In these articles, Coates highlights how the United States of America is, by design, not inclusive for Black Americans. “Why Do So Few Blacks Study The Civil War?” describes how the Lost Cause myth centers the white experience of the war, and has long been used to absolve White America of the sins of slavery and racism. In “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” he lays out how, by design, crime and sentencing policy have disproportionately harmed and imprisoned African-Americans. And in his masterpiece, the highly acclaimed “The Case for Reparations,” he details how decades of discriminatory policies specifically targeting African-Americans have denied them the American Dream.

Several of the works are profiles of Barack Obama, and one of Michelle. Through these, Coates explores not so much the President’s policies as what he means as a symbol, one onto which Black America pinned so much. And also, the visceral hatred he received from White America and his political opposition. Coates not only posits that there’s no question that white backlash led to the election of the current President, but highlights how whiteness is so ingrained in this country that even left-leaning politicians and intellectuals still deny that racial animus was a factor.

The book can be a heavy, dispiriting read, to say the least (the fact that it’s broken into article-sized chunks helps readers who may need to take a break). Indeed, for those who have looked on in horror at the last four years, reading arouses nearly every negative emotion. It is worth it, however, both for the essentialness of the subject matter and for Coates’ language, at once both verbose and rhythmically beautiful.

In spite of what’s in most of We Were Eight Years In Power, the epilogue finds Coates trying to find a bit of hope, or at least use the current state of things as fuel to fight for a better America. Whether or not the reader feels as determined, the work paints an astounding picture of just how much work remains to be done for this country to be truly equal.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.

Staff Picks: Flat: Reclaiming My Body From Breast Cancer

Reviewed by Sarah K., Materials Handler

Flat: Reclaiming My Body From Breast Cancer by Catherine Guthrie is also available as an Overdrive eBook.


Catherine Guthrie was in her thirties, living in Bloomington, Indiana when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had written extensively about cancer in her work as a health journalist, but quickly learned how different the landscape looks when you are the patient.

Guthrie shares her experience navigating the healthcare system as a queer woman, which highlights the gender normative nature of breast cancer care in the United States. Notably, many medical providers assume that having breasts is essential to feeling both “whole” and feminine for women. Where does that leave individuals who want to make a different choice? Where does it leave people outside of the gender binary? Guthrie thoughtfully explores those questions and how breast cancer treatment needs to change to become inclusive of all identities. 

After much contemplation, Guthrie opts to “go flat” after her mastectomy, forgoing reconstruction. While this choice is becoming more common, it has not always been presented as an option for patients. In interviews with others in the breast cancer community, she describes the spectrum of responses people received to their decision to go flat--ranging from supportive to dismissive or baffled. In the end, what patients want is what anyone would want: for their choice--whatever it may be--to be both accepted and respected.

Flat is a moving memoir that pulls no punches as it details Guthrie’s experience with breast cancer. It is an essential read for anyone wanting to take a critical look at breast cancer care in this country and learn more about the often undiscussed choice to go flat.

*A warning to readers undergoing cancer treatment, there are significant errors made during the course of her treatment, which may be distressing to read.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.

Staff Picks: Between the Lines

Cover art illustration of movie characters

Reviewed by Craig J. C., Senior Materials Handler

Between the Lines, directed by Joan Micklin Silver is available to stream on Kanopy.


The second feature from trailblazing independent filmmaker Joan Micklin Silver (following the immigrant drama Hester Street, which scored an Oscar nomination for lead actress Carol Kane), Between the Lines dramatizes the inner workings of a Boston alt-weekly on the verge of being bought by a media conglomerate whose plans for the paper mean things will no longer be business as usual. Not that “business as usual” is so hot since its days of counterculture rabble-rousing are long past. "We really shook things up, you know,” says chief investigative reporter Harry (John Heard), who ruefully adds they “didn't change anything.” Nowadays, Harry can barely work up the enthusiasm for a puff piece about a stripper (played by Marilu Henner in her screen debut), so he’s right to wonder whether he has it in him to resist the buyout and the easy paycheck that could go along with it. Meanwhile, his on-again off-again photographer girlfriend Abbie (Lindsay Crouse) weighs her own options, the paper's resident rock columnist Max (Jeff Goldblum, who ably steals the film out from under his co-stars) can barely afford his hedonistic lifestyle, and so on down the line (or between them). Each, in their own way, has to decide whether to stand by their principles or if they still have principles to stand by in the first place.

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.

Celebrating Diverse Voices

Everyone has a Story

A Note from the Director

Our community is passionate about our Library. You see us as a catalyst for growth and well-being, envisioning the Library as a public space that invites and embraces community support. Our 2021–23 strategic plan centers around diversity, inclusion, and respect. In support of this, we plan to facilitate discussions and provide resources that enrich our community.

Traditionally, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day on at the Library. Each year we invite you and our local partners to join us in honoring the tremendous life and accomplishments of Dr. King. It is also an opportunity to address racial inequities and become a more compassionate and inclusive community.

While we can’t gather in person this year, we hope you’ll join us virtually on MLK Day and beyond as we expand our focus on diversity. 


“Everyone Has a Story” Reading Challenge

We’ll start with “Everyone Has a Story”, our new all-ages reading challenge! Running January 15–February 28, the game challenges you to discover stories told by and about different people, dive into what it means to be antiracist, and learn about authors and people seeking to eliminate social injustices. Learn more and register for the challenge.


MLK Day Special Event with Wonderlab

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Activities

Join WonderLab educators and our librarians on MLK Day for Science Storytime! We’ll share the book Martin’s Big Words then learn how light interacts with transparent, translucent, reflective, and opaque objects by exploring stained glass windows, which are beautifully illustrated in the book. Then, librarians will read the picture book Happy in Our Skin, looking at our own skin and, using Venn diagrams, the groups we are in. These activities are designed for people ages 3–6, but all are welcome. Please register on the WonderLab website to attend.

For children ages 6–12, learn how to conduct at-home chemistry experiments at MLK Day Special Event with WonderLab: Science Explorations! Use your own materials or pick up a Free Safe at Home Chemistry Kits at the library or WonderLab as supplies last. Each kit includes materials for writing secret messages and growing crystals, and an introduction to four notable Black chemists. Kits are not necessary to attend the program and all are welcome. Please register with WonderLab to attend.

You can also pick up a MLK Jr. Day Take and Make Kids Activity Kit! In each grab-and-go kit you’ll find a peace dove craft, themed coloring and other activities, tips for talking about race, and more. These are available at the Main Library, Ellettsville Branch Library, and on the Bookmobile beginning January 14. Learn more about our Take and Make activity kits and programs.


Black History Month Bingo

Black History Month Bingo

Now through February 28, children ages 5–12 can play Black History Month bingo! The game facilitates discussions on race, features acts of kindness, and offers opportunities to learn about Black visionaries, leaders, and artists. When you complete five in a row (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), you’ll earn a prize! Download your game board or pick up a paper copy at the Main Library and Ellettsville Branch.


Monroe County Field Notes

Monroe County Field Notes

As we address systemic racism and the role that we all play in it today, we can also work to diversify our county’s history. Monroe County Field Notes is a virtual dig to uncover stories about 19th-century landmarks and people, from 1816–1876. With Field Notes, we’ll make it easy for you to showcase local history, piecing together stories and facts––and maybe even solving the mystery of Monroe County’s connections in the Underground Railroad. Watch this video to learn more, then join the dig at fieldnotes.mcpl.info!


Advancing Racial Equity

Celebrate Diverse Stories

We strive to provide resources and information to help individuals seek knowledge which can lead to greater understanding and compassion. We recently received two grants in support of this mission.

Our Advancing Racial Equity Collection was made possible through a grant from Indiana Humanities with funds from Lilly Endowment Inc. The collection’s goal is to help our community think, read, and talk about racial injustice and systemic racism. It contains juvenile book club kits and juvenile storytime kits featuring books to help children understand experiences different from their own.

Building on the Advancing Racial Equity Collection, a second recent grant from The Wahl Family Charitable Trust will be used to purchase 100 ebooks, eaudiobooks, and physical books for all ages focusing on titles that promote diversity, inclusiveness, and antiracism. 

Birdie and Me

Jack and her gender fluid brother, Birdie, are siblings who have to move in with their stoic and no-nonsense uncle after their eccentric uncle proves that he is not a good caretaker after their mother's sudden death. The constant upheaval, new scenery, school, and bullying in their new life throw them through a loop. Through grieving, confronting bullies, and confronting comfort zones -- Birdie, Jack, and both their uncles learn to love and accept each other for who they are. Together, the family creates a new sense of home together. 

The overarching themes of discovering yourself and your place in the world as well as family and support aren't exactly new, but the author, Nuanez, handles them with a gentle and empathetic hand, making Jack and Birdie come to life. It also features an absolutely fantastic representation of a gender fluid child that you won't soon forget! Fans of authors such as Kate Dicamillo, Ann M. Martin and Dan Gemeinhart will find something of great value in this novel.