Friday, January 23, 2015

Truth and the Law by Meldon D. Jenkins-Jones, RPL Law Librarian

I am amazed at the substantive research happening here at the Richmond Public Law Library—the library of the City of Richmond Circuit Court—which is located on the first floor of the Main Branch of the Richmond Public Library. Our library patrons have cases pending in the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court and local Virginia courts, and many of them do not have lawyers, but are pursuing their legal rights and remedies “Pro Se” (self-represented). Our library is a great place to do legal research for lawyers and laymen alike, since we have a lot of legal information including books in print and on CDs—from Black’s Law Dictionary and treatises to the state and federal statutes—and dedicated computers connected to the WestlawNext, Bloomberg BNA Legal Research, and LexisNexis® databases, and a very knowledgeable law librarian! And added to all this, now we have law programming!

Teaming up with members of the local bar, we started with free, basic legal informational classes for the general public including: How to Start a Business; Estate Planning 101; Workers Compensation; and Teen Legal Empowerment—the “Know Your Rights! Community Law Series”. The classes are held at various times, and have been well attended. This year we are planning to add additional attorneys and new sessions on Employment Law, and the U. S. Constitution. Look for a different class almost every month!

Last year the legal research class for the general public included a brief history of the American legal system, the organizational structure of the federal and state court systems, and how legal cases are structured. Handouts provided links to legal websites. It ended with a tour of the law library.  This year the expanded Introduction to Legal Research Class, scheduled for Saturday, January 24th at 10:00 am, has 16 people signed up so far. In addition to this general orientation to legal research, this Spring, Thomson Reuters has agreed to send a trainer to teach using WestlawNextTM for computerized legal research on the two law library computers. There will be two classes, one for the general public on Monday, March 2nd at 10:30 am, and one for attorneys. Attending lawyers will have the option of receiving Continuing Legal Education credit for their participation.

Another program in the development stage is Law Career Day to encourage local high school and college students to consider careers in law librarianship as well as other areas of the law, so stay tuned for more law happenings at the library. Our Richmond Public Law Library is providing valuable resources to all members of the Richmond community!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Decadent Heroes: Resolve to kick back like Oblomov this winter

Are you buried in ice? Is it getting harder and harder to leave the comforting confines of your many blankets? Thinking of joining your cat all curled up under the radiator? I'm not going to tell you to get out of bed and exercise or anything, so don't worry. I'm just here to offer some literary inspiration for those long winter naps. Allow me to introduce you to our titular hero, Oblomov. No, no, please don't get up. This satirical 19th century Russian novel follows affable, decadent nobleman Oblomov, who seldom gets out of bed. In fact, he spends the first 50 pages of the novel entirely in bed in his dusty room receiving visitors who try to coax him to a party. His refrain in response, "How awful", feels familiar of late. If you are looking for a companion to your seasonal apathy, there's no better friend than him. Laughter could even count as exercise so you may want to think about some light stretching before reading this or either of the following.

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

One of my all-time favorite books, Toole's hilarious, and unfortunately posthumously published novel follows eccentric and hungry failure-to-launch Ignatius Reilly on his comic adventures through the French Quarter. Speaking of hungry, there is a restaurant in Chicago responsible for an extreme gastronomic creation known as the "Ignatius R.", so named for our decadent hero. Why this sandwich ended up in Chicago when our hero never leaves New Orleans is beyond me but there is no need to make travel plans to try it out. Stay warm and safe indoors and assemble the following cold leftovers between some sturdy bread: fried chicken, steak, bacon, mozzarella, lettuce, vinegar, fried shrimp, fried green tomato, mortadella, country ham, pickled okra, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Or you can dine as our hero does and just eat lots and lots of Paradise Hot Dogs.

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

Misha Vainberg, gregarious and corpulent son of the "1,238th-richest man in Russia" desperately wants to return to his South Bronx sweetheart, Rouenna, but finds himself stuck trying to save the fictional republic of Absurdsvani.  Misha is clearly something of a modern-day Oblomov and he *heavily* (sorry) references the book. If you feel the need to get out and move around for the sake of your health and sanity, Absurdistan is available as an audiobook and the voice actor, Arte Johnson, does a marvelous job not only of achieving multiple accents but also totally nailing the comedic delivery.

So there you have it. Grab a sandwich and a warm drink, or summon a man-servant à la Oblomov/Misha Vainberg, and kick back with some good books until Spring arrives.
Speaking of cold weather binge-reading, I have entirely too many books* checked out right now. Can I please get a snow day? Off the top of the stack currently threatening to collapse my night stand: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, a thriller I've been told is fantastic so I will let you know how it turns out; How to be Both by Ali Smith, which I've also been told is fantastic; Amnesia by Peter Carey; 2 AM at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino, which is funny and charming, and a much needed palate cleanser following Richard Flanagan's harrowing, Man Booker winning, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

*not possible!

What are YOU reading to keep warm and cozy? Tell us in the comments!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Best of The Best Fiction of 2014: unsung heroes edition

So you've seen just about all of the "Best of 2014" lists you can handle but you're still a little...hungry? Was there something missing from those lists? Did you notice, like we did, that they all seemed to rave over the same books, over and over and over again? I mean, sure, Fourth of July Creek was OUTSTANDING and also one of our favorites (definitely rush right out and get a copy) but what about the unsung literary heroes of 2014 fiction? Those little guys that may not have been on your radar, or the critics', but should have been lauded? Hunger no longer, readers. We at the blog have discussed and emailed and compiled and debated to come up with this list of a top five picks the critics missed in 2014.*

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is a comedic debut from Mira Jacob spanning three decades about an immigrant family’s move from India to Albuquerque, New Mexico and how they transition through the limbo of grief. We follow the deeper transition of Amina and her self-realizations within the lovingly chaotic embrace of family and tweaked traditions. Jacob creates magic from heartbreak in this first-rate, heartily satisfying story.

(*OK, so some critics did pick this book but not nearly enough in our humble opinions. We were shouting from the rooftops about it, and think you will too.)

With her debut novel, Emma Healey does something truly remarkable. Elizabeth is Missing puts the reader inside the mind of a woman who is attempting to solve the mystery of her missing friend while suffering from progressive memory loss. In less capable hands a narrator this unreliable would fall apart; the repetition would feel awkward and the whole device, gimmicky. However, Maud's sleuthing and sliding is riveting. You feel frustrated with her and terrified for her, and as Maud's obsession reveals another unsolved mystery buried deep in her past you'll think: ah, brilliant

The Hundred-Year House would make a fantastic book club selection. It's a bit of a mystery, a bit of a ghost story, a bit of a multi-generational family saga, and a lot of a page-turner discussion generator. Not that it lacked resolution, but the book seemed to leave us all with questions we had to share, and we do love a book that gives us lots to talk about.

(Perhaps worth noting, this novel is the only non debut on our list. It it Makkai's second novel, her first being The Borrower, which I have not read *yet* but it sounds like a bit of a love-letter to librarians. This fact in no way influenced our decision to add Hundred-Year House to our esteemed list.)

Previously raved about on this blog and worth raving over again, The Bees tells the story of Flora 717, a big awkward sanitation worker bee who dares to bee (sorry) more than her prescribed station in life. She is special, somehow not like the other bees, and we follow her on an exciting, suspenseful, unbelievably compelling journey of self discovery. This book, quite frankly, should have been silly, but I haven't connected with an anthropomorphic bug protagonist in such a visceral way since Charlotte's Web. And for the purists out there: people who know far more about these things than we do have reported that the bee science in the book is pretty darn accurate and quite well-researched.
Knee-slappingly, spot on, deliriously hilarious,* How to Build a Girl is Caitlin Moran's first fiction and we hope she hurries up with the sequel to it (allegedly this is to be a trilogy, news of which I accepted as a late Christmas gift). Joanna Morrigan is an awkward teenage girl, but determined and resourceful, shockingly self-aware and honest, she is hell-bent on a mission to create herself in the way she wants to be. 

(*We can show you the bruises from all the knee slapping if you don't believe us.)

Also worth noting: all of our top 5 are authored by women. Perhaps this post should be sub-titled "unsung heroines"?  We hope you find something new to add to your New Year "to reads" from this list. Keep an eye on the blog this year for all of our favorite books.

Happy New Year (reading)!

Your Bloggers,
Natalie, Ellen, and Tonya

Friday, December 19, 2014

Truth and the Law by Meldon D. Jenkins-Jones, RPL Law Librarian

Good News! RPL teens are learning good business skills as well as non-profit fund-raising techniques by participating in the annual RPL TAG Recyclable Craft Sale held on December 12th and 13th. For anyone, not just teens, interested in starting their own business or organizing a non-profit entity, RPL is presenting a series of workshops and classes to help you with the legal aspects. The “Starting a Non-Profit” workshop organized by Foundation Center resource person, Reference Librarian Bev Mitchell, was well attended. Taught by local attorney Charles Schmidt, it is almost as popular as the How to Start a Business class, also taught by Mr. Schmidt, which is a part of the Richmond Public Law Library’s Community Law series.

The Law Library, as well as RPL, has an extensive collection of books on both topics. I recently read Build Your Own Life Brand! by Graham Stedman (Oprah’s boyfriend) on the basics of seeing yourself as a brand. The ever expanding number of new business, management, and non-profit organizing books include Reinventing You by Dorie Clark, another brand-building book.

Future classes for entrepreneurs, business owners, and non-profit leaders will include the “Business Entity” workshop on January 12th at 5:30 pm and the Non-Profit Grants Seekers Workshop on January 30th and February 13th at 10 am. There will also be an Employment Law class which is now in the planning stages.

Of course, writers increasingly view themselves as a marketable brand, so in conjunction with the recent birth of the RPL Main Writers Group, we’ll be blogging about the many books the library has on that topic.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What did the Readers of Richmond read this year? Check out the Most Circulated Books of 2014!

I'm sure you're the curious sort of blog reader who wonders what constitutes a "best seller" list at the public library. I mean, what do readers read? I was curious too, so I got to asking*. Well look no further! The RPL blog proudly presents the Top Ten Most Circulated Books in 2014 in Adults, Children, and Young Adults categories!

#1 #2 #3 #4
#5 #6 #7 #8
#9 #10


#1: Gone girl : a novel / Gillian Flynn

#2: The goldfinch / Donna Tartt

#3: The invention of wings : a novel / Sue Monk Kidd

#4: Sycamore Row / John Grisham

#5: To Paris with love : a family business novel / Carl Weber with Eric Pete

#6: The Target / David Baldacci

#7: Ericka Kane : never trust a bitch with power / Kiki Swinson

#8: Still the baddest bitch / Joy Deja King

#9: And the mountains echoed / Khaled Hosseini

#10: Who asked you? / Terry McMillan

This list should come as no surprise. Most of these titles were so buzzed about they buzzed right off the shelves (nobody was injured but several were startled). Quite different from the young adult list at the bottom, only one of these titles was adapted into a film this year. I am also a little shamed to admit that I have only read one of the top ten books. What did you read this year? See any favorites in the top 10? Answer in the comments!

#1 #2 #3 #4
#5 #6 #7 #8
#9 #10


#1: Tales from a not-so-glam TV star / Rachel Renee Russell

#2: Pete the cat : Pete at the beach / James Dean

#3: One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish /  Dr. Seuss

#4: Wonder / R.J. Palacio

#5: The cat in the hat / Dr. Seuss

#6: We are in a book! /  Mo Willems

#7: Dork diaries : tales from a not-so-fabulous life / Rachel Renee Russell

#8: Captain Underpants and the attack of the talking toilets / Dav Pilkey

#9: Hop on Pop /  Dr. Seuss

#10: I spy Fly Guy! / Tedd Arnold

This list just goes to show you that there's nobody quite like Dr. Seuss. The Cat in the Hat was originally published in 1957, One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish in 1960 and Hop on Pop in 1963. Talk about enduring!

#1 #2 #3 #4
#5 #6 #7 #8
#9 #10

Young Adults

#1: Mockingjay / Suzanne Collins

#2: Diary of a wimpy kid: Hard luck / Jeff Kinney

#3: Divergent / Veronica Roth

#4: Catching fire / Suzanne Collins

#5: The book thief / Markus Zusak

#6: Diary of a wimpy kid: Cabin fever / Jeff Kinney

#7: The fault in our stars / John Green

#8: Diary of a wimpy kid: Dog days /  Jeff Kinney

#9: Allegiant / Veronica Roth

#10: Diary of a wimpy kid: The ugly truth / Jeff Kinney

The Wimpy Kid is the clear winner in the YA category with four titles but the ceaselessly popular Divergent and Hunger Games series are still in the top three. Movie adaptations certainly do a lot to increase or renew interest in a book; the majority of the top ten have been made into films fairly recently. The YA literature market looks to be lucrative for Hollywood for a long time yet.

Don't forget! You can get everything you need for your "nice" list at the Teen Advisory Group's Craft Sale going on TODAY (Friday, December 12th) from 3:30-5 and Saturday, December 13th from 1-4. Proceeds support cool stuff for teens at RPL. Buy handmade!
(*Thanks Donna and Melissa for the lists!)