Friday, May 26, 2006

Reading is for Everyone

No one should be denied the pleasures and treasures of reading. For those with disabilities that prevent reading standard print, a free library program assures they can enjoy books and magazines in audio or braille format. 2006 marks the 75th anniversary of the Pratt-Smoot Act establishing a national library service for blind adults administered by the Library of Congress. Over the decades the program has expanded to offer music materials, to include children, and to include individuals with physical disabilities other than blindness.

Services are provided by a network of cooperating libraries coordinated by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Eligible residents of Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax, and the City of Falls Church receive NLS audio materials through the Access Services branch of the Fairfax County Public Library, which also offers other special services to local residents with disabilities. Braille materials are available to Virginia residents through a regional NLS library located in Richmond.

All library materials, including playback machines for talking books and magazines, are loaned without cost to borrowers. Materials are mailed to borrowers as "Free Matter" through the U.S. Postal Service and may be returned to the lending library by mail, also at no cost.

NLS audio recordings are currently on four-track, half-speed cassette tapes playable only on machines designed for this format. During 2007-2008 the program will begin a transition from cassettes to digital talking books (DTBs). The new DTBs will be available as downloadable audio files and as recorded books contained on flash memory cartridges. A new playback machine for DTBs is being developed.

If you would like more information about NLS programs or about FCPL's Access Services Library, call 703-324-8380, or post a comment below.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Scarlett’s 70th Birthday

Seventy years ago this week, on May 19, 1936, Margaret Mitchell published her classic novel about the Civil War, Gone With the Wind. The book would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. Three years later it would be turned into an Academy-award winning film with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.

The novel has been published in 40 different countries and spawned sequels such as Scarlett by Alexandria Ripley, published in 1991, and The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall, which retold the story from the slaves’ viewpoint.

Mitchell insisted none of the characters were based on real people, but some researchers believe Rhett Butler is modeled on Mitchell’s first husband, Red Upshaw, who she married in 1922, but divorced several years later because he was a bootlegger.

Theodore Roosevelt’s mother, Martha Bullock Roosevelt, may have been a model for Scarlett’s physical beauty. Mitchell, who was a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution, apparently conducted an interview with one of the president’s mother’s friends, according to the author David McCullough, who wrote a biography of Teddy Roosevelt (Gone With the Wind -- Wikipedia).

Mitchell, who died at the age of 48 after being hit by a taxi, might have been surprised at the enduring popularity of novel. She apparently submitted it to the publisher only after she overheard a friend say “Imagine, Peggy writing a novel.”

What do you think makes a novel a classic? Are there any published in the last decade or two that will have the staying power of GWTW?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sight and Sound

The library invites people with sight, hearing or other disabilities, and caregivers, to the Sight and Sound Tech Quest on May 19 from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. This free event will feature presentations by industry experts, equipment demonstrations, and refreshments. To request special accommodations, call 703-324-8380 (TTY 703-324-8365).

Kicking off the presentations at 10:30 a.m. is Eddie Timanus, a USA Today sports writer and former “Jeopardy” winner who is blind. At 11 a.m. Dr. Joey Wallace, who’s with the Virginia Assistive Technology System, will talk about creative solutions for independence. At 1 p.m. Dr. Suleiman Alibhai, head of Inova’s Low Vision Center, will speak on rehabilitating visually impaired people, and at 2 p.m., Frank Kurt Cylke, the internationally-renowned director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, will present “The Digital World: Broken-Field Running With a Touchdown in Sight.”

Equipment demonstrations and other information will be provided by more than 25 assistive technology providers, agencies and organizations.

Friday, May 05, 2006


The library will offer a special citizenship workshop next Thursday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at the George Mason Regional Library in Annandale. The program is free but seating is limited; please call 703-256-3800 to sign up.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Gloria Williams-Brevard will discuss an Infopass, their free online service for making appointments with staff from their agency. Presentations will also be made by Esmael Husseini from Hogar Hispano; Denise Morgan, the manager of the Lorton Library; Tiguh Gebru from the Woodrow Wilson Library and Beth DiVito from the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library.

“We’ll be talking about services that help people become citizens and get used to their new home in this country,” Morgan explains.

According to a report released in March by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, one out of every four Fairfax County residents was born outside the U.S.

“Our community has a growing need for reliable, easy-to-understand information about how to become a U.S. citizen,” Morgan says. “Because the library system already offers books and other resources on this subject, it makes sense for us to partner with other organizations to present this information to the public.”

You can find books related to this subject on the library’s online catalog.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Murder in the Stacks

If you’re a mystery fan, the Fairfax County Public Library offers plenty of books and other resources to keep you happily enthralled. Whether you favor classic, “locked room” whodunits, tough private eyes or modern thrillers inspired by advances in forensic technology, you’ll find good reading at your local branch.

But if you want to really immerse yourself in a murder mystery by becoming part of the action, the library provides another option: Mystery Night programs. These fun-filled, highly interactive evenings (for adult participants only) feature library staff members and volunteers playing the roles of shady suspects with tongue-in-cheek names like “Rex N. Plunders” (a construction mogul) and “Dr. Clora Fill” (a botanist). After a murder is discovered, the audience gets to mix and mingle with the suspects, gathering clues and asking questions until the solution is revealed at the end of the evening.

The Mystery Night series began in October, 2001 and is still going strong with three performances each year (late winter, spring and fall) at various library branches. The next one, “Murder in the Keys,” takes place at the Kingstowne Library on Saturday, May 20 at 7 p.m. You can sign up for the event starting May 6 and spaces will go fast! If you’re interested, call or stop by as soon as registration opens.

Ours is certainly not the first library system to produce murder mystery programs. Many other libraries have staged them for adults, teens, and children. Our Mystery Nights are always free, while other systems sometimes use these events as fundraisers for Friends groups or library foundations.

Have you attended a past Mystery Night or a similar program at a different venue? Tell us what you thought by clicking on “comments” below.

-- Ted Kavich, Assistant Branch Manager, Martha Washington Library