Celebrating Lincoln

As the 2012 commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War draws to a close, it seems fitting to pay tribute to the life of Abraham Lincoln, the most notable figure from that time. Steven Spielberg’s new film Lincoln, released nationwide on Nov. 9, took its inspiration from the final weeks of the war in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  The book itself focuses on Lincoln’s mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and victory in the Civil War. One of the most poignant photographs of Lincoln was taken by Alexander Gardner during the time period portrayed in the film.  Gardner had been a member of a team of photographers hired to make a visual record of the war.  A poster-size rendering of this photograph, which was taken a mere two months before Lincoln’s assassination, hangs in the entrance to our library director’s office.  [The poster was provided as part of the Picturing America series of artwork awarded to classrooms and libraries across the United States by the National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Library Association, many others of which also grace the walls of the library.]  It reveals a haggard 55-year-old president, weary and worried from his struggle to preserve the Union.  The online library catalog lists more than 270 titles written about this great man.  A few of the more recent ones are fictionalized such as “The Lincoln Conspiracy” by Timothy L. O’Brien, “The Lincoln Letter” by William Martin, and even an alternate history by Stephen Carter “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln”.

On an ancillary note, you might also consider checking out local author Mary Trindal’s book Mary Surratt: An American Tragedy about the boarding house owner who was convicted of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln and became the first women executed by the United States Government.  The library also has a copy for checkout of Robert Redford’s film The Conspirator on the same topic.

But by all means, if you haven’t already read it, put Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin on your “must read” list.  Though Goodwin can’t help but cover some familiar territory from many biographers before her, her perspective offers fresh insights into Lincoln’s leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation, something necessary for any great leader.

What is a Teen Advisory Group, Anyway?

As any parent or caregiver knows, adolescence is an especially important (and sometimes challenging) time of life.  The years between 12 and 18 bear witness to enormous physical, emotional and intellectual changes.  Given the impact these changes can have on future development and progress, it is crucial to engage teens in activities that encourage independent thinking while providing a sense of structure and guidance.

The Teen Advisory Group (TAG) at the County Library is just such an activity.  At its core, TAG is intended to give teens a means of shaping library services, allowing them to generate program ideas and make suggestions for book purchases.  Over the 13 months of its existence, the group formed at the County Library has become much more.  Of course, our monthly meetings provide opportunities for teens to practice their leadership and decision-making skills, but our group also has become an important social outlet.  We tend to spend as much time sharing pizza and playing video games as we do focusing on library matters, but having fun has lessons to be learned as well—not least, how to interact with others in respectful and appropriate ways.

We are always on the lookout for new members and new perspectives!  Our next TAG meeting is on Friday, November 30 at 4:30 pm, and no registration is required to join us.  For more information, please give David a call at 984-8200.

Election Day is Coming Soon!

It’s election season, and voting day is just around the corner. By now, you probably have an opinion about the Presidential candidates, but do you know who else is on the ballot? How about where to vote? Here’s a quick guide to find out some of the finer details before you head out to cast your ballot:

Virginia State Board of Elections
If you live in Virginia, the State Board of Elections is a one-stop shop for just about everything you need to know except which candidate you should pick. Non-partisan, and authoritative, their website answers:

  • Am I registered?
  • Where do I vote?
  • What’s on the Ballot?
  • What ID should I bring

And, of course, much more. If you live in Virginia and have any questions about election day, this should be your first stop.

Can I Vote?
If you live in another state – or need to help a family member who does – your next visit should be CanIVote.org. This non-partisan site is maintained by the National Association for the Secretaries of State and serves as a comprehensive resource for questions about voting.

Internet Public Library – Election and Voting
Curated by librarians (who else?) the Internet Public Library Election Guide has information about both partisan, non-partisan and mainstream media resources to satisfy all but the most rabid election-mania.

Visit your local Library
If you still want more information, just stop by and see us. We can answer just about any question you might have. Except, of course, exactly which candidate should get your vote!

ARSL Conference Celebrates Libraries

What a joy to recently attend my first Association for Rural & Small Libraries Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. With the theme of “Celebrate Libraries!”, the tone was set for a learning and sharing experience for nearly 400 who attended, including 215 “newbies” like me. Also of note, several state libraries awarded grants to library staff to cover registration and travel expenses. This was a celebration in itself for grant recipients, many of whom felt that the value of their library work was reconfirmed by this state level financial support.

The general consensus of participants regarding the value of the conference was overwhelmingly positive. No complaints heard; how refreshing! First-timers resolved to attend the 2013 in Iowa because what they gleaned this year was so hands on and focused; many remarked that they could utilize session content immediately upon returning home. Many ARSL “veteran” attendees stated that they try to participate every year, when possible.

In addition to four top-notch keynote speakers, including Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Service, the scheduling by ARSL planners allowed me to attend eight workshops. A college professor presented tips during “Celebrate a Successful Family Literacy Event”. “Surviving (and Thriving) During Challenging Times” reminded us to continue to focus on our individual community’s needs, then look at what we can stop, so we can plan to start new programs or services. The “DIY After School Programs (for K-5th)” presenter handed us a terrific list of book titles, craft ideas, and other resources to use with this age group. A Louisiana speaker showed awesome photos during his “Razzle Dazzle em: the Glitz, Glam and Gusto of Material Displays”. “Signature Events for Small Libraries” highlighted ways to raise funds and make friends. The remainder of the workshops were also helpful.

Coming Soon…………


………the movie of your choice. You asked and we listened. Beginning November 5th, you will be able to place a hold request on that movie or television series you have been dying to see.

To browse the DVD collection or search for a sought after title, visit the library’s online catalog from home. You may browse the DVD collection by genre or search for a specific title. Click on the request button next to the desired item. You will need to authenticate you account by entering you library card number and password. Don’t know your password? Contact the library at 984-8200 to have it reset.

You may choose up to six items at a time  to place on hold; these items may be any combination of print or audio books, nooks, music CDs and DVDs. Please note: we continue to ask that you limit the number of new items placed on hold and checked out to 3 to allow everyone a fair chance to access new items. You will be able to pick up and return requested materials at the branch of your choice.

Thanks for your patience as we attempt to add more convenience to you. You only have to provide the popcorn and sodas. And now…….enjoy the show.

Preserving Local History

A few months ago, the Shenandoah County Library became the official repository for an 80-year archive of the Northern Virginia Daily. As part of that process, we contacted the Library of Virginia to see if the paper archives at the newspaper offices might be of interest to them as part of their Virginia Newspaper Project.

We are happy to report that the Library of Virginia staff was very interested in preserving these papers, and have arranged with the publisher of the Northern Virginia Daily to have them microfilmed and digitized as an important historical record for future generations.

At a recent statewide meeting, I had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved in the project and see first-hand the efforts being made to restore and preserve these papers. Errol Somay, head of the project, was especially thrilled at finding this large collection of pre-1923 newspapers. “We really thought we had identified all the large collections in the state…and because they were all published before 1923 they are out of copyright and we can post them free on the project’s website.”

Take a look at some pictures of this work being done at the Library of Virginia. Once the microfilming is complete, the Northern Virginia Daily will receive a copy and we expect to add this to the deposit collection in Edinburg.

A page from the Woodstock Times featuring a political cartoon, local features and advertisements from the early 1900s.
A member of the preservation staff works to restore a sheet of newsprint from the archive. All preservation work is non-destructive, and reversible to maintain the integrity of the historical document.
Henry Morse (front) and Errol Somay show a tour group a six-month run of the Middletown Weekly, most likely a one-of-a-kind collection found in the archives of the Northern Virginia Daily.

Need a Library Card? There’s an App(lication) for That!

So far this month we have issued 550 new library cards! Are you one of our newest members? If not, we have made it easier than ever for you to get a library card. If you live, work, own property, or go to school in Shenandoah County a new library card is just a few clicks away.

Just visit our online registration form from any computer with internet access and register your information. After that stop by any of our six locations to pick up your card.

If you are 18 or older all you need is a driver’s license with your current local address. If you don’t have that handy, bring in:

  • Proof that you live, work, or own property in the county
  • A valid photo ID

If you are under 18, come in with a parent or guardian who has a library card and they can get one for you. Or, have your parent or guardian fill out and sign a student registration form. Return that form the library and we will mail your card to your home address.

Getting a library card has never been easier, so what are you waiting for? And don’t worry, even though September is national library card month, we’ll still give you one if you come in during the other 11 months of the year. We hope you’ll join the club soon!

Americans celebrate the origin of two United States documents of democracy and freedom in September

In the month of September, we recognize milestones of both the U.S. Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation.  On September 17, 1787—225 years ago—the Constitutional Convention delegates met in Philadelphia, PA, to adopt the final version of the United States Constitution.

The National Archives, where the document is on permanent display, has created a special home page in honor of Constitution Day.  You may also want to watch an “Inside the Vaults” YouTube video with Trevor Plante, Chief of Reference at the National Archives, to get a glimpse of the final printed copy of the Constitution and also of  a few of his favorite related, but rarely-displayed, documents such as:

• The original text of the “Virginia Plan,” Edmund Randolph’s proposal for a national government that included three co-equal branches: “supreme legislative, judiciary and executive”;
• A printed copy of the Constitution with George Washington’s handwritten annotations;
• The state of Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the Constitution — unlike the four-page version of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, the entire text is on one enormous sheet of parchment so it could be more easily transported.

On September 22, 1862—150 years ago—Abraham Lincoln wrote his Proclamation of Emancipation which he said was to be enacted the first day of January 1863.  The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “shall be then, thence forward, and forever free.”

The Archives notes that although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators.  By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

In his September 7 article about the Proclamation Washington Post, reporter Philip Kennicott  noted: “today it seems strange that we celebrate the proclamation at all, except as a precursor to the far more sweeping and triumphant accomplishment of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which two years later banned slavery everywhere in the country, without qualifications or geographical exceptions. And yet this document of war remains a sacred document of democracy, testament to the messiness rather than the ideals of governing. “

Why We Do, What We Do, at Preschool Storytime

During our “P is for Pancake” Preschool Storytime this week, we focused not only on letter recognition but also included an array of other components to benefit the 2- to 5-year-olds who gather each Tuesday or Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. at County Library.

Researchers claim that at birth our brains are 25 percent developed; upon entering kindergarten, the development reaches 90 percent. Thus, we take seriously our mission to provide quality enrichment experiences as well as fun for our preschoolers.

We begin with our “Hello & How Are You” song, which sets a light tone and promotes socialization and caring for one another as we share that, “I’m fine, I’m fine, and I hope that you are too.” Storybooks presented differ in level, ranging from simplistic to mind-stretchers. Attendees learn one or more words in infant, baby or American sign language.

Child development experts encourage educators to liberally utilize repetition and rhyme, so we repeat fingerplays and action rhymes numerous times, which also builds self-esteem when young children are able to comfortably and successfully participate.

Our closing song, “If You’re Happy & You Know It”, teaches sequencing, as we at first individually clap our hands, stomp our feet, or shout hooray; then we link the three actions as we “do all three”.

During craft time, cutting out a pancake shape, picking up and gluing tiny yellow construction paper squares of “butter” to the pancake, and painting brown “syrup” on the pancake hones fine motor skills. Children express pride in their completed projects and take home something to reinforce the storytime content and encourage further discussion at home.

Now that summer vacations are a pleasant memory, plan to join us next week!

Find Something to Read

It won’t be long before the cooler weather of fall is here, and with more time spent indoors, you may find yourself looking for good books to read. If so, the Shenandoah County Library can help.

In addition to the recommendations that are always available from its staff and volunteers, the library provides access to two online resources that can help you locate that next great read.


The newest addition to the library’s growing list of databases, eSequels performs one specific task extremely well: tracking novels that form part of a series. This easy-to-use site allows you to search by author, title, character, location or setting, and subject.

With eSequels, you can find a series that suits your interests—Amish romances, for instance, or Scandinavian mysteries—and determine the order in which books should be read to maintain story continuity.

Alternately, if you have an individual title you suspect to be part of a series, you can find out which novels come before and after it. With information even on forthcoming titles, eSequels is a great resource for organizing your reading. Give the database a try by clicking here.


Long a part of the library’s online resources, NoveList continues to be a reader’s best friend. Here, in addition to information on what comes next in a particular series, you’ll find genre-based reading lists for all ages and guides that can be used in book clubs.

So, if you’d like to find historical romances that are directed to teens, NoveList will provide not only a list of recommended titles but also plot summaries and indicators of reading-levels. Likewise, if you’re interested in leading a discussion of a novel, you’ll find concise background material and focused questions that will help you manage a group meeting.

Perhaps the best feature of NoveList is its “Author Read-alike” option. Simply type in the name of a favorite novel, click the “Author Read-alike” link, and choose a new favorite from a list of similar titles.

To begin exploring the database, click here. If you’re browsing from home, please use your library card number to log in.