250 Million Trees

Famous trees

Today being the last Friday in April means that we celebrate National Arbor Day today. The very first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska in 1872 and since that time 250 million trees have been planted all over the country through the Arbor Day Foundation. A day set aside to celebrate the importance of trees in our lives and to promote their planting and care came about through the efforts of J. Sterling Morton, an early Nebraska pioneer and editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper. He often wrote about agriculture and environmentalism and promoted the idea of a day for tree planting. Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture agreed with his proposal and declared the first Arbor Day. Prizes were offered for the largest number of trees planted and over a million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day. Other states soon followed and eventually the day would be celebrated in all 50 states and numerous countries around the world.

Join the celebration today at 1:30 with the MVCC Go Green! Club. They will be planting a magnolia tree on the north side of the pump house in front of Buildings F and T. Then at 2:00 in D116 there will be a talk entitled “Climate Action Plan? What’s That? & Other  Sustainability News.” Also, don’t forget to check out the many books in our collection covering the natural history of trees as well information about different varieties of trees around the country, growing tips, and even a book about famous trees. To find out more about Arbor Day or to add to the next 250 million trees visit the Arbor Day Foundation website.

“Arbor Day…which has already transplanted itself…to every state in the American Union and has even been adopted in foreign lands…is not like other holidays. Each of those reposes on the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future.”  –J. Sterling Morton

Happy Leap Day

Today is a special day that only comes along once every fours years, more or less. The ancient Egyptians were the first to discover that the solar year and the man-made calendar year don’t exactly match. It actually takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to travel around the sun– thus the extra day every four years. The Romans were the ones to designate February 29th as that day. Then in the 16th century, it was determined that this would occur in years divisible by four. But it’s even a little more complicated because the math still wouldn’t come out right. So, we add a further step where no year divisible by 100 can have a leap year, unless it is divisible by 400. This means that 1900 was not a leap year but 2000 was. To find out more about calendar history and to get answers to questions like “How many days in a dinosaur year?” and “Should 2100 be a double leap year?” check out this book from our collection: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar.

Here are some more interesting facts about Leap Day:

  • People born on February 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers”.
  • If you receive a fixed annual salary, you are working for free today.
  • Old Irish tradition says that February 29th is the only day of the year when a woman may propose to a man.
  • Queen Margaret of Scotland is said to have taken this a step further by enacting a law that said that any man that refused a proposal on this day would have to pay his proposer one hundred pounds or give her a silk dress.
  • Greek tradition considers marrying in a Leap Year to be unlucky, especially on Leap Day.
  • The chance of being born on Leap Day is about 1 in 1,461.
  • According to Reuters, there are more than 200,000 leaplings in the United States and more than 5 million worldwide.
  • Leap Years are the only years where January 1st and December 31st are on different days of the week — every other year they’re on the same day.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Pirates of Penzance has a little fun with the idea of being born on February 29th. Poor Frederic the pirate apprentice– his indenture will last until his 21st birthday rather than his 21st year.

And for those of you lucky enough to be born on this special day, you may want to check out this article from Marketwatch.com 9 reasons to celebrate Leap Day on Feb. 29. Here you’ll find great deals from restaurants and other businesses that are only available to leaplings today.

In Honor of Our Presidents


Today, February 12th, is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Coming up soon, on February 22nd, is George Washington’s birthday. Although… there is some dispute about this date stemming from the switch in the 1700s from the Julian-style calendar to the Gregorian, with some placing his birth on February 11th. This coming Monday February 15th, we will celebrate around the country with a day off of work or school and big sales in all the stores on Presidents’ Day.

Why are we relaxing and shopping on this seemingly random date? What about William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan who were also born in February? And what of all the other presidents who happened to have been born in the remaining eleven months of year. Find out more about the interesting history of this holiday, including the fact that Presidents’ Day isn’t even the official name, in this article from Time magazine A Brief History of (What You Think Is) Presidents’ Day.  Even more information can be found about the history of Presidents’s Day in this entry from History.com, including how we came to have our three day weekends and why Veteran’s Day used to always be on a Monday but now is not. For further presidential exploration check out some of these materials from our library.

You May Not Want to Read This

How do you feel about bugs in your house? How many do you think there might be? A group of entomologists recently conducted a research study to find out. They started by combing through 50 homes in the Raleigh, NC area with tweezers and headlamps. They collected samples of all the different types of bugs they could find and then took them back to their lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Center for examination under the microscope. They didn’t set out to count how many individual bugs there were, but rather to identify how many different types were present.
They found a total of 579 different species, with each house having an average of 100 different species as residents. If you’re starting to get the heebie-jeebies, it may help to know that most of bugs were less than a few millimeters long. The most prevalent were book lice which were found in over 98 percent of the homes, dark-winged fungus gnats in 96 percent, and cobweb spiders, carpet beetles, gall midge flies, and ants found in every single home.

If you’re not completely freaked out at this point and want to find out more, you can read the full report from the journal PeerJ Arthropods of the Great Indoors: Characterizing Diversity Inside Urban and Suburban Homes. Then you can learn more about the different species of bugs they found with these books and DVDs from the library.

Being Arab American

arab covers

Tomorrow at 11:00am, the MVCC Library is hosting the event The Arab Experience Through Graphic Novels. One of the novels being featured is Arab in America, which portrays the prejudices experienced by Arabs and Muslims in American society. If you want to explore this topic further you might want to check out some other items from our collection.

How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America looks into the lives of twenty-somethings living in the largest Arab-American community in the US, with everything from government surveillance to workplace discrimination being part of their lives.

Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America tells the story of one Muslim American family–“a story of the struggles of assimilation and acceptance in a climate of confusion and prejudice.”

From Veils to Thongs: An Arab Chick’s Survival Guide to Balancing One’s Ethnic Identity in America takes a lighthearted look at being Syrian-American and trying to straddle two very different cultures with two very different views on women.

Homeland Insecurity: the Arab American and Muslim American Experience after 9/11 is an ethnographic study of the post 9/11 Chicago area. Through more than a hundred interviews and five in-depth oral histories, we get a candid look into the lives and experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans. We learn of their experiences with government scrutiny and public mistrust, but also of their experiences of increased social and civic engagement.

In All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim we hear first-hand from Muslim American men from all walks of life. We hear about their lives and about what it means to be both Muslim and American.

In I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim 40 women under the age of 40, who are both Muslim and American, share their individual stories about womanhood as a Muslim and what their lives are like being Muslim in America.

In the DVD Arab American Comedy Tour: Featuring America’s Most Wanted Comedians!, three comedians, Maysoon Zayid, Ahmed Ahmed, and Dean Obeidallah find the humor in the stereotypes that are often experienced in this country and “at all major airports” when you are Arab American.

Ellis Island

old ellis

Immigration is one the topics that we’re focusing on as part of our One Book, One College discussion this year. No treatment of the history of immigration in this country would be complete without a look at Ellis Island. Between 1892 and 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the United States through this station in New York Harbor.

Ellis video pics

Two DVDs from our collection will bring Ellis Island history to life for you. The first is Remembering Ellis Island. This takes us through the history of the immigration station to its becoming a national museum. We see what the immigrants experienced while on the island, waiting for their chance to start a new life in a new land.

Forgotten Ellis Island tells the story of the hospital on Ellis Island where tens of thousands of immigrants spent time inside its walls, hoping to be cured and therefore not deported. In the three decades of its existence, “where the germs of the world converged,” the hospital saw the birth of 350 babies and the death of ten times that many immigrants.

If you want to explore this topic even further, these books from our collection can tell you even more about the interesting history of the island. For further exploration, you can also visit the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation website. Here you will find extensive history, many photographs, oral histories, a searchable passenger database, and much more.


Mexican Chicago

Mexican Chicago Books

This coming Thursday, Sept. 17th, the MVCC Library and the Green Hills Public Library are partnering to present the program Mexican Chicago: A History in Pictures. The presentation will take place at 7pm at the Green Hills Public Library on 103rd St. in Palos Hills. Through photographs, storyteller Rita Jirasek will shares stories of the lives and experiences of Mexicans in Chicago.

If the presentation inspires you to enjoy more resources with this special focus, a few books from our collection are great ways to explore this topic further. The first is Barrio: Photographs from Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village. This is a collection of photographs and journal entries by photographer Paul D’Amato that capture life, both public and private, in these Mexican communities in Chicago.  You can also view more of this artist’s work at his website.

Another interesting book is Pots of Promise: Mexicans and Pottery at Hull-House, 1920-40. This is a photograph and essay collection that brings us the story of Mexican artisans in Chicago as well as the history of the Hull-House. From the forward, “If only these pots could talk…the pots speak volumes about Hull-House, its Mexican neighborhood, and transnational material culture.”

Bringing Aztlan to Mexican Chicago is another book that portrays the Mexican experience in Chicago. This is the autobiography of Jóse Gamaliel González, a Mexico born artist, who came to call Chicago home. Illustrations and recollections depict his community advocacy and struggle to bring arts programming to Chicago.

Also, don’t forget that next Tuesday the 15th, Jose Angel N., the author of this year’s One Book, One College selection Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant will be at the library to discuss his book and his life.

One Book, One College, Three New DVDs

The library has just added three new highly acclaimed DVDs that complement our One Book, One College selection this year. These films depict the lives of Latin Americans struggling to reach the United States in search of a better life for themselves and for their families.

Previously appearing at numerous film festivals and now appearing on our library shelves is The Other Side of Immigration. This films takes us into rural Mexican towns where half the population has left to work in the United States. Through interviews with the townspeople, we see why so many leave their homes to find work in the US, as well as what happens to the families and communities that are left behind.

Winner of Best Documentary at several film festivals, El Inmigrante/The Immigrant tells the true story of the life and death Eusebio De Haro, a Mexican immigrant who was shot and killed during one of his border crossing attempts. This film that has been described as graphic, disturbing, poignant, and gripping examines varied group perspectives including the De Haro family, residents of the community in Texas where Eusebio was shot, vigilante border militias, and other migrants trying to make the crossing.

Another film festival favorite, and winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, is De Nadie. Here we meet migrants from Central and South America and learn of their dangerous journey through Mexico as the determined travelers try to reach the United States. We see the risks they are taking with their money, their health, and their lives as they face intimidation from oftentimes corrupt Mexican authorities.

Official State Pie

Pumpkin pie is poised to join an illustrious list that includes things like popcorn, the painted turtle, square dancing and the Tully Monster. The Illinois House just overwhelmingly passed a measure to declare that pumpkin pie be the official state pie of Illinois. The Senate begins consideration of the measure today. This designation celebrates Illinois’ status as the top producer of processed pumpkin. Around 500 million pounds of pumpkin are harvested annually in the state. Ninety percent of the pumpkins in the US are grown within a 90 mile radius of Peoria, IL and the nearby town of Morton is home to Libby’s pumpkin processing plant, which cans more than 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin.

It might be time to start learning our pumpkin facts in anticipation of this event. An interesting book in our collection is Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. pumpkin

The University of Illinois Extension has a wealth of information on all things pumpkin including recipes, history, growing pumpkins, festivals and more. Here are just a few pumpkin facts to get us started.

Pumpkins originated in Central America.

Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.

Pumpkin flowers are edible.

Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.

The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.

In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.

And…it’s almost time to start preparing to bake your own Illinois official state pumpkin pie. Planting season is late May.

Chicago in Film

Did you know that before there was Hollywood, Chicago was the place for movie making? Chicago has a long history as an important place in the film industry. Movie making began in Chicago in 1896, with two of the world’s first film studios headquartered in Chicago. William Selig’s Polyscope studio, at Irving Park Road and Western Avenue, was the world’s largest. Chicago’s innovative filmmakers developed some of the earliest movie cameras and projectors. The weekly serial was also born here.

Some of the original buildings remain. At Claremont and Byron you can spot this building’s doorway that still bears the Selig symbol.

A few miles away at St. Augustine College, you can find this former entrance to Essanay Film Manufacturing, the most important of Chicago’s silent film studios.


The major studios eventually left Chicago for sunnier climates, but today the area still enjoys a vibrant business as setting and location for many movie productions. It is not uncommon to be able to see scenes from your everyday life on the big screen. You can also borrow many of these movies from the MVCC Library for your smaller screen viewing. This list from our collection includes movies that are important to Chicagoland because they were either filmed in the Chicago area or are stories/histories about Chicago. Here are some highlights from our collection.






If you want to find out more about Chicago’s film industry there are a few really great resources you might want to consult. From the Chicago Historical Society, The Encyclopedia of Chicago covers the history of movie production and movie going in Chicago and highlights the importance Chicago has played over time. The Chicago Film Office oversees filming in Chicago. Their site includes links to casting call information, film festivals, a listing by year of movies that were filmed in the city, and a listing of what is filming right now around the city. For an extensive listing of movie (and television) people, including actors, writers, and directors from Chicagoland you can visit the IMDb website. Lastly, for a guide to 100 years of movies and locations (and quite a few anecdotes), as well the history of the industry in Chicago, check out the book Hollywood on Lake Michigan from our collection.