CC, SDH, and Other DVD Accessibility Features

We regularly have patrons looking for DVDs and Blu-rays with closed captioning or subtitles, and while it should be clearly indicated on the case, it isn’t always so easy to tell exactly which service is available. Looking them up in our library catalogue is another way to tell. It should list the features in the note and subject sections. See the screenshot below as an example:

While closed captioning and subtitles are similar, there are differences in intended purpose as well as features. In looking further into it, we have learned a few things that we’d like to share.

Closed Captioning versus Subtitles

Closed Captioning (CC)

Closed captioning (CC) was developed to help ensure accessibility for individuals that are deaf or hard of hearing. Closed captions involve transcriptions of dialog – the conversion of audio into text form in the exact wording that the original speaker used. They also communicate other audio such as sound effects, speaker IDs, and non-speech elements. “Closed captions should account for any sound that is not visually apparent but is integral to the plot. For example, the sound of keys jangling should be included in closed captions if it is important to the plot development – like in the case where a person is standing behind a locked door.” source



Intended for viewers who can hear but do not speak/understand the language used in a video, subtitles are translations – an interpretation to convey meaning, not exact wording – of video dialogue into other languages so that audiences all over the world can watch videos, movies, and more in their native language (or language of choice). They communicate spoken content only, not non-speech elements such as sound effects, and are synchronized to media files so that they play at the same time as the spoken word.


Now that we have touched on the differences between CC and subtitles, let’s look at a couple of other accessibility options…

Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH, SDHH) are written for viewers who may not be able to hear the audio and combine the information of both captions and subtitles. SDH contains information about background sounds and speaker changes, along with a translation of the script.

How is it different from closed captioning?
– The biggest difference is that the two are encoded differently and closed captioning is not supported by High Definition Media Interface (HDMI), while regular subtitles and SDH are. Therefore, SDH can be found on many more types of media such as streaming internet videos and Blu-ray DVDs.
– There is also a difference in appearance. Traditionally, closed captions have been formatted as white text on a black background that can be positioned anywhere on the screen. In contrast, SDH is usually text overlaid directly on the video and is found on the bottom third of the screen and can vary in color.

Remember we just said that closed captions are not supported by HDMI? If you are trying to access this feature on a DVD that says it has “CC” but can’t seem to make it work, this is why – the signal is in an older format which is incompatible with today’s technology. SDH has been replacing closed captioning on newer DVDs due to the easier access. If you don’t see the “CC” symbol, look for the SDH abbreviation.

Descriptive Audio

Descriptive audio enables individuals who are blind or have low vision to hear a spoken narration of a movie’s key visual elements including actions, settings, facial expressions, costumes, and scene details & changes. Descriptive audio supplements the regular audio track of a program and is usually added during existing pauses in dialogue.

Here is a short example from Lion King that will give you a clear sense of what this service offers.

This feature goes by many labels including English descriptive audio (the most common), English described audio, audio described English, video description, described video… you get the point.

The Audio Descriptive Project is a very thorough online resource about this service and maintains a list of DVDs with audio description.

source Text shown to demonstrate the audio narration.

We hope you have found this information helpful. Please do let us know if you have any questions.

Staff Picks 2021, Part IV

This is the final installment of staff picks from 2021. We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into some of our favorite reads, listens, and watches from last year.

Linda’s Top Picks:

Best Laid Plans by Gwen Florio
The protagonist is a woman in her 50s suddenly confronted with her husband’s infidelity. Her life changes in an instant, and she just reacts without thinking. Nora jumps in their brand new truck and luxury RV and just takes off. She has never driven anything so huge and so powerful before. After an exhausting overnight drive she finds herself in a campground in Wyoming, next to a vibrant young couple who befriends her instantly. But how friendly are they really? When the husband disappears, apparently eaten by a bear, the real mystery begins and Nora realizes she is in way over her head. With her husband, Joe, on her heels and a nasty sheriff on her back, she experiences a life more a nightmare than the dream come true she had anticipated. Did a bear really eat Brad? Should she go back to Joe? What does she want out of life now? Most importantly, how can she escape going to prison for a murder she didn’t commit?
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
This mystery takes place in and around a retirement village in England. The Thursday Mystery Club is a group of seniors who met every Thursday to discuss unsolved crimes. Then a murder occurs right in their neighborhood. The four friends decide to put their skills to good use to solve the murder. The mystery is solid, the characters real, and somewhat humorous. The book also gives insights into the thoughts and feelings of those being put ‘out to pasture’. Anyone over retirement age will identify with these characters, and anyone who has older parents or grandparents will get a glimpse of their lives.
Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
This mystery is set in 1920s India. Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s only female lawyer, works for her father because India has not yet recognized women to the Bar. On the death of a wealthy mill owner, Perveen is sent to confer with his three widows, in order to assure that they each receive their rightful inheritance. However, the male guardian placed over them is murdered, and Purveen becomes determined to find the truth and make sure the women receive the best outcome for their future. Expertly winding two narratives together, the author takes us along with Perveen on her investigation, while telling us her story and revealing why she cares about these women so much. In the process, we get a clear picture of Colonialism and traditional Indian life in that time, as well as what life was like for the women of India.
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
This is the second book in the Thursday Murder Club series. (See above) It picks up within days of the first one ending and continues the story of the seniors living in a retirement community in the British countryside. It delves more into the background of Elizabeth, who was a former M16 agent. All the main characters continue, and knowing them already, makes the book even more delightful. The Thursday Club members find themselves embroiled in cases with local police and they work their magic on current M16 agents. Their antics are amusing and poignant, as they prove once again that age is not an accurate indicator of capability. There is a twist at the end that you may not see coming.

Monique’s Top Picks:

Ted Lasso, Apple TV series
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Hamnet : A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Staff Picks 2021, Part III

This is the next to last installation of staff favorites from last year and in this roundup we share top picks from Mariah, Cyndi, and Dale.

Mariah’s Top Picks:

How to Change Your Mind : what the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence by Michael Pollan
Wink : surviving middle school with one eye open by Rob Harrell
The House That Wasn’t There by Elana K. Arnold
Midnight Mass, Netflix series

Ted Lasso, Apple TV series

Dale’s Top Picks:

Once & Future created by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora (graphic novel)
Silver Coin by Michael Walsh et al. (graphic novel)
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, streaming on Paramount Plus
Squid Game, Netflix series
The Silent Sea, Netflix series

Cyndi’s Top Picks:

Teen Fiction:

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep by Allan Wolf:
Wolf’s skill as an author places the reader into the middle of the blizzard. The descriptions of frigid temperatures and lack food drove me to reading this book under a blanket, with a steaming cup of tea.
Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer:
This fantasy has everything, strong character development, court intrigue, rebellions, betrayals, and romance. It was a great escape read.
Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach: This book gave me a lot to think about. The labels and pressures from society verses the internal narrative of who we are and what we expect of ourselves.

Teen Graphic Novels:

SPY×FAMILY 1 by Tatsuya Endo: This manga is a quirky, dark, action, comedy.
The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard: This is a collection of five creepy short stories.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang: Not a big fan of basketball, but this autobiographical story was a pleasure to read.

Adult Non-Fiction:

Olive, Mabel and Me: Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs by Andrew Cotter:
I must admit I am NOT a fan of social media, but I am a fan of dogs. I somehow stumbled across a video of Olive and Mable, adeptly narrated by Cotter, and I was hooked. This book and the various videos on YouTube will bring a smile to the face of anyone who has ever loved a dog.

Later this week, for the final installation of Staff Picks, we’ll learn the 2021 favorites of Linda and Monique.

Staff Picks 2021, Part II

We are back to share more of our staff picks from 2021. In this round we hear from Julie, Emily, and Jen.

Julie’s Top Picks

Who needed some happy endings…

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
The Roommate by Rosie Danan
Today Tonight Tomorrow by
Rachel Lynn Solomon
One of Those Days by
Yehuda & Maya Devir

Emily’s Top Picks




Dark Downeast: If you’re interested in local true crime, this series narrates different crimes throughout the Downeast area.

Your Own Backyard: This podcast helped to re-open the case which occurred in 1996 of Cal Poly student, Kristin Smart’s, disappearance.

Jen’s Top Picks


The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles read by Edoardo Ballerini, Marin Ireland, and Dion Graham: I was hesitant about reading this book because I absolutely adore Towles’ previous work A Gentleman in Moscow. I should not have worried. It is an adventure to follow along with Emmett, his brother Billy, and the rest of the crew as they navigate relationships new and old and the voice actors bring the character’s personalities to life in a way that adds to their exploits. Towles’ prose is still as delightful, insightful, and stretching as A Gentleman in Moscow.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles read by Grover Gardner: This book has been on my “To Read” list for quite some time. A movie has been made of the book starring Tom Hanks, but I told myself I could not watch the movie until I had read the book. I wish I had read it sooner. Set in the west after the Civil War, this is the tale of a widower who travels from town to town spreading the news of the world. As he prepares to leave one place for another, he is tasked with returning a recently freed Kiowa captive to her family. Not only is it a good story with a mix of adventure, danger, kindness, evil, and love, but it also delves into the complexities of family.
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman read by Lesley Manville: Fun. That’s the first word that pops into my head when I think of this book. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just a bit of fluff. It is smart, too. The cast of characters are well developed and you know you just want to hang out with them or, better yet, be like them. In a retirement village four friends create a club in which they discuss unsolved crimes, but luckily for them, a real murder takes place in their little town and they set about to find the murderer. If this isn’t already in development for Masterpiece Mystery, you know it should be!
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker read by George Newbern: To say this is a story of a man who returns home after 30 years in prison, is to just touch the tip of the iceberg. The young girl and her younger brother who are greatly impacted by the turn of events are real, damaged, complex, and a joy. I was certainly intrigued by the who-dun-it aspect of the story, but I fell in love with the girl and her brother.
The River by Peter Heller read by Mark Deakins: This is another author that had been on my “To Read” list for a while. Two experienced outdoorsman who are also best friends decide to take a canoe trip in the wilds of northern Canada. On this trip, they experience dangers from nature and man, and whether they make it out alive is up in the air until the very end. This is a peak into a friendship between men who have experienced their own love and loss and wondering how the friendship will fare when it is tested by fire.

Staff Picks 2021, Part 1

It is just about time to say a proper goodbye to 2021 and that means it’s time to reflect on some of our favorite reads (or listens or watches). Have we read something out of our genre comfort zones? Have we been exploring particular interests? Were we in need some feel-good stories? Let’s find out by taking a look at our staff’s favorite picks from the past year. We’ll begin with Lindsay, Emma, and Tami…

Lindsay’s Top Picks:

Aniara (movie)
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica
The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
The Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian
Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
Six: The Musical (Soundtrack)
Girls5eva (Soundtrack)
Heathers: The Musical (World Premiere Cast Recording soundtrack)
The Anatomy of Desire: A Novel by L. R. Dorn (Audio Book)

Emma’s Top Picks:

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Tami’s Top Picks:

Three Sisters by Heather Morris
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
Before We Were Yours – By Lisa Wingate

Next time we’ll share top picks from Julie, Emily, and Jen. In the meantime, if you have some favorites from 2021 that you’d like to share, drop them in the comment box below.

Word of the Month – August 2021

Our word for August, sagacity, means incisive wisdom or sharp discernment; the quality of having or showing understanding and the ability to make good judgments (source); the quality of being wise and farsighted (source).

One famous example of its usage comes from Mary Shelley in Frankenstein: “I had sagacity enough to discover that the unnatural hideousness of my person was the chief object of horror with those who had formerly beheld me.”

Another comes from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: “With the sad and innocent sagacity of childhood, Cosette measured the abyss which separated her from that doll.”

Some sources say that the first recorded use of sagacity comes from the 15th century and others state that in the 17th and 18th centuries, sagacity was used to refer to an animal’s acute sense of smell. For example, Merriam-Webster states, “Sagacious entered the English language around the beginning of the 17th century and, for some decades, referred to perceptiveness of sight, taste, and especially, smell. One of the first authors to use the word, Edward Topsell, wrote in 1607 of bees searching for something with “a most sagacious smelling-sence.”

While the word is used differently today, you could say that if you have sagacity you are able to sniff out good ideas from the bad.

Genres You May Have Read but Not Heard Of

A search on genres of literature will get you a multitude of responses: what the main genres are, how many main genres there are, whether or not there are sub-genres or only categories of main genres. The perspective of the TPL librarians? Genres and various sub-genres can be very helpful in identifying your interests and finding your next read (but do not feel limited by them).

Whatever your opinion on the matter may be, here are 6 sub-genres you may have read but haven’t heard of…

Cli-fi: Cli-fi stands for climate fiction and is literature that deals with the effects of climate change on human society. It has been growing in popularity, especially among high school and college-age readers, and there are many colleges now offering cli-fi courses. There’s a good selection to choose from here.

Bildungsroman: These are coming of age stories – bildungsroman (German) is a compound of the words bildungs, meaning “building or formation”, and roman meaning “a novel”. (source) Chances are you have read at least a few of these novels. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, and The Alchemist are some examples.

Mannerpunk: A cousin of steampunk, mannerpunk is a subgenre of fantasy literature that takes place within an elaborate social structure and resembles a comedy of manners. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Stardust
by Neil Gaiman are two examples that might be familiar to you.

Grimoires: Though perhaps not exactly a literary (sub)genre, grimoires—manuals of magic or witchcraft— has had a recent resurgence can be found on the shelves of many a witch, sorcerer, or amateur spell caster. (source) We have several in our collection.

Epistolary: An epistolary novel is a story told exclusively through fictionalized letters, emails, newspaper articles, and other primary sources. The form experienced a popularity surge in the mid-1700s, and it has since structured some of the most beloved books in the English language, such as Dracula and The Color Purple.

Verse Novel: Fiction novels are usually written in prose (verbal or written language that follows the natural flow of speech). Verse novels tell a story, with the character development and narrative structure of novels, but in the form of long poetry. It does not have to rhyme but it does often have a cadence and/or use other poetic devices. You’ll find some examples here.

There you have it – some familiar titles that fall under some less familiar categories. Do you have a favorite genre or sub-genre? Let us know in the comments.

Word of the Month – July 2021

This month’s word is one every lover of stories – whether in book, movie, or play form – might like to know. It is a word borrowed from French, derived from Latin, and literally means “untie the knot” – referring to the narrative entanglements an author has woven through the stages of plot development. (source)

Denouement is the part of a narrative in which the various strands of the plot come together, usually taking place just after the climax and before the conclusion. In mystery novels, however, the climax and denouement might occur simultaneously. In most of the other forms of literature, it is merely the end of the story.

Although it may seem like a denouement is the same as a resolution, the two literary terms are actually different. A resolution is the part of the story where a character solves a main problem or resolves a conflict, often part of the climax. The denouement is what happens at the very end of the story when any remaining secrets, questions, or loose threads get linked together and wrapped up.

Word of the Month – June 2021

There are books that while reading one may come across an unfamiliar word or two. Then there are books that require tucking in a sheet of paper to keep a list. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was one such book for me when I first read it so many years ago. Among the words on my running list, one in particular became a new favorite that really should be used at every opportunity – susurrus.

Susurrus is a noun meaning a low and soft whispering, murmuring or rustling sound. The pronunciation of the word itself seems to invoke its meaning. Most commonly you’ll read a mention of a susurrus of leaves or the susurrus of the ocean. Here are some examples taken from published works:

  • “There was a whispering noise that began then to run through the hall, a low susurrus that caused Shadow, in his dream, to experience a chilling and inexplicable fear.” –Neil Gaiman, American Gods.
  • “The chant of their vespers, mingling its notes with the soft susurrus and sighs of the branches.” — Longfellow, Evangeline.
  • “They heard the Green Fork before they saw it, an endless susurrus, like the growl of some great beast.” — George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords.

Will “susurrus” find its way into your vocabulary? What unfamiliar words have you come across in a recent read? Let us know in the comments. Perhaps it’ll be included in a future Word of the Month post.

CareerCenter at TPL

Are you familiar with CareerCenter of Maine? Maine CareerCenters provide a variety of employment and training services at no charge for Maine workers and businesses. Whether you are looking to improve your job qualifications, explore a different profession, find a new career or start a new business, the CareerCenter can help.

Now, you can schedule appointments here at the Topsham Public Library! We provide a laptop, reliable internet connection, a private space, and the tech support you need to speak a CareerCenter representative from the Southern Midcoast center in Brunswick.

Do you have questions about whether or not these services are for you? We answer some common questions below:

Do I need to be a Topsham resident or TPL patron? No, not necessarily. Several libraries in Maine are piloting this program. Email or call us for more info.
Are these services free to me? Yes! Career Centers are available all over the state so you can find a convenient location.
Does my income matter? Nope, not at all.
Are your services confidential? Absolutely. Public libraries pride themselves on providing no fee for service, confidential support and this is no different.
I feel like I could use some career help but I’m a little embarrassed/nervous to call. We understand. Asking for help isn’t always easy and making the phone call can be the hardest step. Our partner from the Career Center is very kind and willing to help and will put you at ease. There is no obligation to continue if it’s not for you!
I haven’t identified my exact needs. Should I still make an appointment? Yes. Don’t worry if you are not sure what specific services you are looking for. Wendy can help you talk it through! This can be a conversation that helps add new career ideas or brings to light some relevant options that you may not know about yet.

The CareerCenter can also help you if:

  • You’re a recent high school graduate and looking for jobs/internship in a specific field.
  • You have a business idea and would like help fine-tuning it. Or, if you’d like help narrowing down your ideas for a home-based business.
  • You have been out of the work force for a while and are looking for help with your resume.
  • You have an interview coming up and would like to practice either your interview skills or using technology for virtual interviews.
  • You are self-employed and are looking for marketing resources or help identifying useful online platforms.

Give us a call today to get started.