Press Release for Overdrive Launch

Beginning on Monday, May 2, the Pittsylvania County Public Library system will expand its services to include eBooks as well as downloadable audiobooks, music, and video. Patrons of all branches of the Pittsylvania County Public Library system, along with five other area library systems, will be able to download from their library’s website. The new service, which is called OverDrive, allows library card holders to check out and download the digital media anytime.
Users will be able to browse the library’s website, check out with a valid library card, and download to their computer or many common mobile devices including iPad®, iPod®, iPhone®, Sony® Reader™, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and those working on the Android or BlackBerry platform. A complete list can be accessed at Amazon Kindles will soon work with the service as well. Some of the audio titles offered can also be burned to CD. Titles will automatically expire from the device at the end of the lending period.

According to Diane S. Adkins, Director of the Pittsylvania County Public Library system, library users are very interested in downloadable media: “Especially since the beginning of the year, we have been asked repeatedly for this service. We were happy to be able to say that we would soon be providing it. The fact that we are working with five other libraries has made it possible.”

The new service is provided through the Virginia Piedmont Library Consortium. Consortium members include the public libraries of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, Lynchburg and Pittsylvania. The Consortium is sharing in the cost of the service, making it affordable for the member libraries.

For more information, email the library at The service will be available beginning on May 2 to all patrons of Pittsylvania County libraries who have a valid library card in good standing, and a PIN. The library’s website is

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Held on the Homefront

What do you know about German POWs held in the United States during World War II?
If you are like me, your answer would be “Not much.” In fact, I knew almost nothing about it until we were contacted by the Traces Museum of St. Paul, Minnesota, to see if we would be interested in hosting a traveling exhibit on the topic.
That exhibit will be here for one day only on April 14th. It is housed in a bus that has been converted into a mobile museum, complete with seating for presentations.
The Traces staff call this particular exhibit “Held on the Homefront.” When I started discussing the possibility of having it here, I found that plenty of people interested in history, and particularly Pittsylvania County history, knew about those POWs. You see, there was a camp in Sandy Level and some folks who were young then still remember seeing the POWs working in the fields of their family farms.
Glenn Giles mentioned to me that Herman Melton had a chapter in his book Southside Virginia: Echoing Through History, that mentioned this camp, so I looked it up. According to Melton, most of the German POWs were sailors who had been on U-boats. They were used to alleviate a shortage of labor, and many found themselves working in agriculture. By the end of the war, there were 17,000 POWs in Virginia alone, and 168 of them were in Sandy Level, housed in what had been a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. From what I have been told, the camp is still visible today because one of the old barracks is still standing.
My dad is a World War II vet, so I casually asked him if he remembered anything like this in Ohio. He definitely did. He said that in Ohio the POWs also worked in agriculture, primarily in picking tomatoes, and that there were plenty of people who did not want them around and were frightened to have them in the community.
The fear of these prisoners was probably a normal reaction, but it is the mission of Traces to gather, preserve and present stories of people who encountered each other during World War II with the hope that we might now rise above the fears that demean us all. It is certainly a lesson that is pertinent to our own time in history.
If you want to learn more about these POWs and their life in the United States, come to the newly renovated Chatham Train Depot on Thursday, April 14, any time from 10 am until 4 pm and meet Irving Kellman, the Traces docent, and see the exhibits depicting this era in our shared history.

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Locally grown

I come from a line of farmers. In itself, that’s not so remarkable. In 1920, farmers accounted for 27% of the labor force in the US, so there’s a good chance that you come from from a line of farmers, too.  Having a farm heritage, however, is not nearly the work that being a true farmer is.
I have a love for gardens, but I know where that comes from, and it’s not the farm side of the family.  It is specifically from my maternal grandfather. He was a mechanic with his own car repair business. and no slouch at it, either. I grew up thinking that anything I broke, grandpa could fix. As I grew older I discovered that was not quite true, but that’s another story.  Grandpa worked hard in his garage and I believe he enjoyed it, but his true passion was his garden.
It was my grandpa that first interested me in organic gardening.

He was a disciple of J.I. Rodale long before the establishment of the Rodale Press publishing conglomerate. He hand-sold Adele Davis’s Eat Right to Keep Fit to acquaintances far and near with the evangelistic fervor of the born-again.

Grandpa taught me the fun of looking through the Burpee’s seed catalog, the wonders of sweet corn delivered straight from stalk to boiling water to the plate, slathered in butter.  He instructed me in correct composting.  Gardening was in my blood, and by the time I got to college and my friends were talking about the wonders of healthy food made from scratch , I was scratching my head, wondering why they didn’t know this stuff already.

We have fallen so far.

I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, a masterful work in which she chronicles her family’s year of eating locally, eating the produce they grew themselves, or buying only what was grown within 100 miles of their farm, for a whole year. Kingsolver makes you feel the sun-soaked warmth of that first red tomato in her hands, see the zucchini dirigibles piled on her counters in July. It takes me back to the smells of that lush garden in tiny Martin, Ohio, and those splendid days with grandpa.

As a culture, we are raising children who have no idea where their carrots come from, other than from Food Lion. They have never seen a lettuce patch struggling up through the cold dirt and into the brisk spring air. Of all the things we have lost in our mad rush toward the supposed efficiency of factory farming, maybe the most tragic loss of all is this—that of a sense of wonder a child has when they eat a green pea straight out of the pod, standing in the middle of their family’s own garden.

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Overdriving your books

So what, you ask, is Overdrive?

Overdrive, simply put, is a digital distributer of eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital content.   The company has worked with digital content since the 80s, but started their download service for libraries in 2002.  They have half a million titles in digital format, and they work with thousands of libraries, “providing the infrastructure for managing, protecting, and distributing digital content.” [1]

In my last post I talked about my new Nook, an e-reader device from Barnes and Noble.  I also shared that I have bought some books for it.

What??  A librarian buying books?  Yes.  But I don’t want to buy everything I read, and that’s where Overdrive comes in.

Digital content is our future, and it is clearly imperative for libraries to find their way into this model.  As Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library, said, “As young people become used to reading virtually everything online, that is going to propel a change in terms of readership of e-books rather than readership of physical books.”[2] In fact, many observers would contend that we have reached the tipping point[3]for print books.

It’s not really difficult to come up with the advantages of digital books.  For one thing, there is little physical boundary.  If you have a library card, a computer or e-reader, and Internet access, then you can download a book.  That means you will be able to access content—books, audiobooks, and music—through, for example, the library’s webpage—in much the same way that you can access magazine articles from our webpage by clicking on Find It Virginia.

Another advantage to libraries is a bit more pedestrian—it takes no real estate to shelve a digital book.  We can store lots of content without the traditional model of a book with physical pages and shelves to rest them on.  In fact, we don’t even have to do any physical shelving of a digital book—you check it out, you return it, and the technology “puts it back on the shelf,”  thus saving staff time [and, potentially, salaries] as well.

You can probably think of some of the disadvantages, too.  If you can’t, then I’ll be happy to supply some.

Here’s the bottom line for me, though—say “library” and what’s the first word that comes to your mind?  For most people, it’s books.  Books are our brand, as I have talked about before.  If people expect books in libraries, and the way those books are formatted is no longer between two pieces of buckram, but in e-Ink on a digital e-reader, then it’s important for libraries to find a way to supply books in that format.  So–

Coming soon to a library near you: digital books.

At the end of 2010 we joined a consortium of libraries north of us who were banding together to start offering eBooks and downloadable audiobooks, as well as downloadable music and video to our patrons.  We have signed a contract with Overdrive.  Though our first collections will not be huge due to the high costs associated with this format, we hope you will find this to be an exciting new addition to our services.  Look for Overdrive to debut in Pittsylvania County in late March.[4]

When we’re set to go, I’ll let you know.



[3] (Gladwell, 2000)

[4] A caveat.  I alluded to this in my earlier post.  Kindles will not work with Overdrive.  Amazon has made the decision not to allow library patrons to access content through the library.  In other words, you can buy books from Amazon, but they won’t let you borrow them through your library so you can load them on your Kindle.

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The Nook and I

Back in the summer, I had a brilliant idea for a birthday gift for my daughter. She’s a busy woman, a professional with a very active three year old son, a husband with a demanding career, and is on the road a lot with some national board and fellowship responsibilities. She loves to read, but it’s hard to lug extra weight around, either in a briefcase or onto public transportation.

Enter the Nook.

When Amazon released the first of their e-book devices, the Kindle, I turned to a colleague and said, “This is the first one of these things that makes me nervous about the future of libraries.” For the first time, someone had released an e-reader with wireless capabilities. That, to me, is a game changer. Want a book? Just get out the Kindle and download it in less than a minute from the Amazon website. Want to read the New York Times every morning? Order your subscription for the Kindle and there it is, waiting for you to consume with that first cup of coffee. No cables to connect, nothing to recycle.

But the first Kindles were pricey, and though they looked attractive and had their devotees, I didn’t think they were for me. I like the feel of paper—not e-Ink paper, but the real deal.

Then I bought one of these things for my daughter.

I opted for the Nook rather than the Kindle, primarily because of two things. First, my sister-in-law works for Barnes and Noble. Help your family when you can, people. Secondly, the Nook will work with Overdrive, the primary e-book technological solution used in libraries today. The Kindle does not play well with others.

My daughter loves libraries. I love libraries. The Nook made sense.

That Nook is in Miami with her right now, a thin little device that can carry thousands of books and other texts so that she can actually get her luggage on board under the weight limit. She loves it.

So why was I surprised when she returned the favor, getting me a Nook for Christmas? Though I think of myself as pretty much on top of technology, I was not exactly sure this was a device I wanted. For one thing, I’m a tightwad. I can get my books from the library; why would I pay? [See my post “Cool Cats and Web Tools” to note that I have a house full of books that I have paid for. Never mind. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds]. Though I note with fascination the things smartphones can do, I still carry a phone that is one small notch above a Jitterbug. Yes, I bought a netbook with Linux as soon as Dell had one on the market, but I usually use my full-sized laptop. [It’s all about the eyesight after 60]. So though I was grateful for the wonderful gift, I had to wonder whether it was really going to be right for me.

It’s right for me.

I downloaded the free book they offered one Friday [tightwad, I tell you!] and read all 281 free pages of it, even though it was not the world’s best literature. I discovered that it was in fact easy to read on a Nook. It fits my hands nicely, the pages look like a paper book, and turning the pages involves one slight motion of my thumb. The display is not backlit, it does not flicker even slightly, and my eyes do not feel as if they need to be removed and washed after I read an hour.

But the deal closer for me was this. I was starting to read the second of the Stieg Larsson books, The Girl Who Played with Fire, as an audiobook. I heard about ten minutes on audio and decided that I wanted to read it the regular way. The library’s copies were all checked out, and then I remembered my Nook. The best moment of all? That came when I discovered it was on sale for $5.

Sixty seconds later, I was reading.

Next time:  more about Overdrive

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The Known World and Our World

The library sponsors two book discussion groups; the newest one is focused this first year on the theme “Good Jobs, Good Work.”  When several of us were working on the list of books, the only one that made it onto the list with which I was unfamiliar was The Known World by Edward P. Jones.  I came to it with a reluctance I cannot explain, but I learned quite quickly in reading it that it is a masterpiece.

Jones writes about something that happened in Virginia which has received little scrutiny:  the phenomenon of free African Americans who owned slaves.   The book is set in the largest county in Virginia in the 1840s, a fictional place called Manchester County.

This is not the typical story of slavery in America [if in fact a typical story exists].  Everyone in the narrative is a mix of good and bad qualities.  No one is a complete villain or saint.  In short, the characters are human—all too human.  For me, the importance of the relationships in the narrative is what drives the novel and what makes it interesting to me.

Jones shows that the issues that pile up around power and its use against our fellow human beings are colorblind.  In slavery, we see those issues writ large.  There are people striving to be free, and people who are in the business of denying them that freedom.  There are people who believe slavery to be an evil, and yet who are caught in its web so fully that they seem incapable of extricating themselves.

Why would such a book be in a discussion list for “Good Jobs, Good Work”? For one thing, we need to realize as we talk about ways our community can survive and thrive, that we dare not exclude anyone from the discussion.  In a community brought low by economic reality, it will take all of us and all of our ideas to extricate ourselves.  Rather than being worried about our own stature and power and safety, we need to remember that as a community we are only as strong as our weakest members.

We need everyone, and we will survive or fail together.

Last time I wrote, I mentioned lists of favorite books of 2010.  If you would like to see a list compiled from the librarians who post on the PUBLIB listserv, go here:

Next time, I’ll tell you about my experiences with my new Nook ebook reader.

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Books of 2010

Would you be surprised to know that librarians compile lists of their favorite books each year?  Believe it or not, we do.  When I read the lists, I am struck by a couple of thoughts.  First, there seems to be a little posturing going on if you read things meant for the eyes of other librarians.  Librarians trying to impress other librarians with their erudition–It’s not pretty.

But I am also struck by the diversity in the profession.    We are book sluts, we’ll read just about anything and everything, and we have opinions, too.  Some books are light and fun, and others on these lists are heavy tomes—for example, Prince of Networks:  Bruno Latour and Metaphysics by Graham Harman was one person’s pick.   [See my comment above about posturing].

So, what would I recommend?  My number one favorite audiobook this year was The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read by four different actors who do a superb job of voicing the African American characters.  The performance was exceptional, and the story entirely worthy of the talent employed to read it.

I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson on audiobook, another gripping book.  Going in, I did not think this was my style, and there are extremely graphic sections that are difficult, but the story keeps the listener engaged.   I look forward to reading the next in the trilogy.  Larsson died in 2004 of a heart attack when he was only 50 years old, so this series ends too quickly.

I read Jan Karon’s latest Father Tim book, In the Company of Others.  I like to read Karon when life seems particularly crazy.  This book was set in Ireland and had a bit of a mystery woven in.  Karon proclaimed it her favorite of her own books, and I enjoyed it.

Some of you may know that I have more than a passing interest in theology.  I decided to read Stanley Hauerwas’s autobiographical Hannah’s Child recently—just named one of the top ten theological books of the year by Publishers Weekly–and it was the type of book that you continue to think about for weeks afterward.  Compelling and thought-provoking , honest, and impossible to put down.

I could go on, of course, but enough about me.  Here is a list of recommended books I have culled from other librarians.

Columbine by Dave Cullen

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Tiger:  A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalierr

Alice I have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace

Read My Pins by Madeleine Albright

The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

There are many more recommendations from my fellow librarians than I can list here.  Now how about you?  What would YOU recommend as a great book from 2010?

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Driving Ms. Diane

As some of you know, I spend quite a bit of time in my car. For one thing, I have a fairly long drive to work—it takes about forty minutes. Not bad in major metro areas, but for here it seems long., though that is mitigated by the beauty of the road I take. I also seem to have a significant list of professional meetings each year that require my attendance. So my car and I know each other very well.
One of the things that makes all this traveling easier is heated seats.  Some day I’ll write an ode to this modern invention.  Another is audiobooks. I have listened to audios since the “books on tape” days.People think librarians read every book in the library. Though that’s impossible, I have certainly doubled what I can read with this method. I usually distinguish for my friends, “I read that one with my ears, not my eyes.” I think it makes a difference.
For one thing, I have found that I can’t read anything and everything this way. I was on a committee for the Virginia Library Association some years ago that required me to drive to Charlottesville frequently. I decided to read Anna Karenina with my ears on these long trips. I struggled mightily, but the reader’s voice tended to put me to sleep, and that was not a good thing.
Reader’s voices are extremely important in audiobooks, and so are the readers’ accents. I am driven to distraction by books by Southern authors, read by someone “not from around here” who attempts to imitate a Southern accent. It’s usually a disaster. What’s up with that? Do the producers of audios think native Southerners incapable of reading aloud?
On the other hand, readers can have just the right touch with a book—for example, the great John McDonough does a masterful job reading the Mitford books of Jan Karon. He even sings the hymns that are quoted therein. When the company switched to another reader for the Father Tim novels, I actually complained to the rep that visits me here at the library. What were they thinking? I heard Jan Karon herself laud John McDonough. Was he just busy? Too expensive? She didn’t know. John McDonough is Father Tim. I am reading the new series with my eyes. It’s too distracting otherwise to listen to this new imposter. [Sorry, Scott Sowers, I am sure you are a lovely man].
Mysteries are usually good. The tug of the narrative arc usually keeps me engaged, and therefore awake. In fact, I have been so engrossed in the occasional mystery that I realize I have no idea where on Route 57 I am en route to the library. That’s probably not a good thing either, but here’s hoping the powers that be do not get wind of the “driving distracted” phenomenon that can be created by the audiobook.  Beware, however, of the mystery with an important Southern character, read by a Yankee.   See complaint above.

Exhibit 1--Southern character, Yankee reader

In another category entirely are the books read by their authors. These are just puzzling sometimes. How can someone who authored a work have no idea how to read it? Are they surprised that the text seems somewhat familiar?
Happily, the book I am reading now, though read by its author, suffers nothing in the translation. It’s I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron. You may know her by her work in films; she’s the screenwriter of When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, Julie and Julia, and Sleepless in Seattle. Ms. Ephron’s droll delivery belies the humor in this book; I started it on the way to work and within ten minutes was laughing out loud at her essay on memory loss. Don’t ask me to tell you more about it, though; I can’t remember.

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Who’s Your Giant?

Sometimes when I am on vacation I take time to reassess priorities in my life. Part of that process for me is thinking about how I got where I am right now, and acknowledging those who guided me on the journey. Two people who helped me are library directors for whom I used to work, and I have had encounters with both of them recently.

I read a newspaper article interviewing the woman who hired me when I was in high school to re-shelve books at our local library. The article stated that she came to that library as the director fifty years ago [How could that be?].  Still very much involved with libraries and their issues, she reveals in this interview that the dry sense of humor she had back then is still intact. One of her recollections was of when she first arrived in town:

Actually the whole town accepted me right away, although I did get looked up and down the first few times I had lunch in the Coffee Cup. They were not really accustomed to strangers in there. I thought I should get a sandwich board saying ‘I’m the new librarian, just call me Ardath.’

The second director gave me my first adult library job. I’m not sure exactly why she hired me; I think perhaps it was due to a phone call from a mutual friend urging her to do it. At any rate, she took a chance on me. She made sure that I understood the core values of librarianship—equality of access to information for all the people in our community, protecting the privacy of the patron, promoting lifelong learning, resisting censorship, providing high levels of service to users of the library. I came to the library with a good education and a real affection for libraries, but I needed to learn these values so that my professional practice was at the high level of her expectations and served the library and the community well. She did not accept less than our best, and I am a better librarian today because of that. It’s great to have two mentors who have stayed interested and involved with the world of libraries. As anyone who has been in one lately knows, libraries today are radically different than they were during the careers of these two women. Yet the fundamentals are still intact—we work every day to connect people with the information they need. When I review the influence these two had on me, I realize that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. [1] [“If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  Isaac Newton.]

Who’s your giant?

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Guest Post

Yesterday marked the official launch of the library’s program, Health Information & Advocacy @ Your Library. The speaker for the event was Susan Paynter, local writer and library advocate. Here are her remarks:

Just before I was asked to speak here, I’d been thinking about my family, and my community. And how much a small community like Chatham is like a family. Then I started thinking:

What if Chatham was a family?

Which buildings would be which people?

Well, I thought about the Courthouse…with its authority and sense of fairness…meting out discipline when necessary…and I decided the courthouse would be the father.

The houses of worship, with their eons of wisdom, might be the grandparents.

The police station, looking out for us and keeping us safe, could be our big brother.

And the library?

That’s pretty easy.

standing by to help when we need it:

That sounds like Mom!

And now, with this new Health Information & Advocacy program, Mom’s got a brand new medicine cabinet.

I don’t know if you’ve ever turned to the Internet for information on a disease that runs in your family, or a loved-one’s diagnosis, or a new medication, or treatment options, or some other medical question. I know I have, and did I get confused! It felt less like an information medicine cabinet and more like a little shop of horrors.

It was filled with contradictory information, people trying to sell cures, therapies and treatments, and testimonials that may or may not have been genuine.

How are you supposed to know?

There was too much information and no way to judge it.

Modern life is like that. It’s filled with too many claims and choices, and we just end up baffled!

I’ll share an embarrassing little story, just to illustrate.

The other day I was at the Food Lion. I had bathroom tissue on my list. I usually get the same-old-same-old. But I thought “Maybe it’s time to analyze the situation.” So I stood there staring at an acre of choices, paralyzed with indecision! They had regular rolls, double rolls and mega rolls. There was soft and ultra-soft. Super-absorbent, quilted, squeezable and huggable. And a new one for me: TUG-able!

They came in single rolls, 4-packs, 8-packs, 12-packs and 24-packs. I looked at the unit pricing: you know, how many cents per little square? But how do you weigh the 1-ply against the 2-ply? It was all too much! I finally grabbed a 4-pack of the house brand and fled the scene. I mean, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

But when you’re faced with that kind of confusion as you analyze medical information it does matter. It matters a lot. You can’t just grab and run.

Once you’ve spent some time on line looking for information on health & wellness you begin to realize that snake oil salesmen aren’t just colorful figures from the 19th century; they’re alive and well and thriving on the Internet.

And that’s what’s so exciting about this new program.

The only thing the library sells is used books. So when they give you medical information, you know that the only criteria they use are quality, accuracy and helpfulness. And librarians have a code of ethics and confidentiality they take just as seriously as any doctor does. Our privacy is sacred to them. When we ask for their help, they treat us with respect and dignity, even when we’re clueless! They never laugh or roll their eyes.

We’ve known since we were kids in school that we go to the library when we need information. Mothing much has really changed. It’s just gotten better.

They still have a wonderful collection of books on health & well-being. But this new program is like an all-encompassing healthcare website. One you can trust. It’s got up-to-the-minute information you can’t get from printed books. And it’ll tell you about local resources and services which books can’t possibly do.

So if you’re confused by what your doctor told you, if you’re worried about a diagnosis, if you want to know what your medical options are…

Come to Mom!

She’s at every branch of the Pittsylvania County Public Library. And she never sleeps. She’s always available on the library’s website:


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