Howard libraries to seal time capsule for future readers

"They'll recite a pledge to return on Oct. 27, 2040 to open the time capsule..."

As the Howard County Library System reaches its 75th anniversary, book lovers are uniting Saturday at the Miller Branch library in Ellicott City to establish their history for the future, or at least the next 75 years.

According to library system president and CEO Valerie Gross, 118 middle school students will be inducted as the first generation guardians of Chapters-of-Our-Lives time capsules.

The guardians will answer three questions: What are the three ways you spend most of your time? What are the three most popular current trends? What are three things you like most about Howard County Library System?

Then, Gross said, the guardians must answer the same three questions as though it is the year 2040.

"They'll recite a pledge to return on Oct. 27, 2040 to open the time capsule, reseal it and then induct the next generation of guardians in the year 2040," Gross said. "They'll also fill the second of three containers. … Then, in 2065, the third capsule is filled. Then, in 2090, all three are opened. We're setting into motion a 75-year plan."

Each time capsule has a diameter of 16 inches, she said, standing 31 inches high with 11 inches of open space inside. In addition to the students' questions and answers, other time capsule items include a 3D printer giveaway, an audio book and a library system scrapbook, as well as programs from the library's 2015 events.

Wilde Lake Middle School seventh-grader Alexander Wood, 12, said his love of the library is what made him want to become a guardian.

"It's a big part of my life because I love reading, so I get lots of books," Wood said. "I also like the idea of the time capsule. It sounds cool."

Usually, Wood said, he finds himself reading multiple books at a time, ranging from mystery to fantasy novels. While electronic books, or eBooks, are popping up more frequently, Wood said there's nothing better than an old-fashioned paperback.

"With paper books, my eyes don't get tired," he said. "There's also something that I just can't explain about it. I guess I like flipping the pages."

In 25 years, Wood is certain he will continue reading in his spare time, while also working as an inventor with his friend.

"I want to make something that will change the world," Wood said. "I don't want it to be something like a new version of a toothbrush. You see commercials for things like that on the TV all the time. I want to make something bigger."

Bonnie Branch Middle School eighth-grader and guardian Devina Mathur, 13, said she expects classes and jobs will be run by robots in 2040.

"[The library] will still have books and it will still be cool," Mathur said. "There will be lots of kids activities, meeting places and clubs."

In 25 years, Mathur sees herself as a mechanical engineer, possibly designing prosthetic limbs. In the meantime, she's excited to be one of the role models for future generations of the time capsule guardians.

"I like the idea of opening the time capsule after 25 years and seeing how the world has changed since then," she said.

Saturday's events will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Following the induction ceremony, the community can sign the time capsule, go on the monarch butterfly scavenger hunt and visit the HiTech showroom's technology petting zoo with 3D printing demonstrations and NAO robot, Zeus. Grammy-award winning musician and author Barry Louis Polisar will also perform.

"It'll be a little bit of a reunion show I think because — based on what I can see from social media — there seems to be a lot of people saying they're going to come and requesting their favorite songs from years ago as well as recent fans," Polisar said.

Having performed all over the country since 1975, Polisar said his own history will fit perfectly into the ceremony because his career began with the Howard County Library System.

"[At the University of Maryland], a student teacher saw me with my guitar and asked me if I would perform at her school in Howard County," he said. "I did that program and the Howard County Library heard about it and asked me if I would come and do a program for them."

Polisar later went on to write books, poems and songs for adults and children. One song, "All I Want Is You," is featured in the opening credits of the film, "Juno."

"Having the time capsule and playing it forward is very fun; to be able to do a little bit of looking back and looking forward and being right there where you are," Polisar said.

To Gross, these treasures are meant to be found; people will just have to know where to look. In this case, their destination is the library's Central Branch in Columbia, where a circular bench will hold the three capsules with a plaque to tell their story.

"We wanted something a little bit more tangible that could be live and always visible [and] to connect the past with the present," Gross said. "We have 3 million people who walk through our branches every year and a good segment of that goes to our Central Branch, so we will have many people from the community come and experience this."

When the final ceremony is held on Oct. 21, 2090, Gross said she hopes the Howard County Library System will continue its three-pillar mission of self-directed education; research assistance and instruction; and instructive and enlightening experiences.

"We can potentially have three generations of guardians at the conclusion of this whole orchestrated plan to celebrate our past, take a look at the present and look to the future of the Howard County Library System."

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