Thanks to everyone who helped to make this year's VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Night one of the best attended in the award's 12-year history. Approximately 270 people from around VCU and the wider Richmond community gathered together to hear critically lauded new novelist Ramona Ausubel read from her winning book, No One Is Here Except All of Us. Following the reading, locally based writer Tina Griego led a discussion among Ausubel and her agent, PJ Mark, and her editor at Riverhead Books, Sarah McGrath.
The discussion and Q&A session brought forward important questions. Some were timeless: questions of inspiration and work ethic and of how a writer makes decides when to take the advice of readers. Other questions were more timely, touching upon changes in the publishing world and the rise of e-books. After the event, the long lines at the Barnes & Noble table to buy books and to get them signed was further evidence of the value that people continue to see in reading.
Photographs from the event can be found on the VCU Libraries Flickr stream and on the VCU Libraries Facebook wall. To learn more about Ramona Ausubel's novel, read her interview in Style Weekly. And don't miss the video interview on Virginia This Morning.
The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, named for renowned local writer and Cabell Library namesake James Branch Cabell, is given each year to the author of an outstanding first novel published during the previous calendar year. Dozens of presses, both small and large, and writers themselves submit new novels to be in the running.
In order to select the winner, we need your help. On the first floor of Cabell Library, beside the Information Services desk, is a shelf containing the first batch of submissions for the 2014 award. To participate in the process of selecting the winner, just check out a book, read at least the first 50 pages, and then complete and return one of our brief review forms that asks you to rate the novel on features such as plot and character before April 1, 2014. You can read and review as many books as you like.
The reviews of all of the readers determine the list of semifinalists from which a committee in the VCU MFA in Creative Writing Program selects three finalists to be sent to three judges, including the preview year's award winner. The judges each read all three finalist books and convene to decide the winner.
Even if you choose not to review for the contest, please come browse the books and feel free to check some out. This is a great way of sampling new novels, discovering up-and-coming writers, and staying in touch with some of the latest trends in publishing.
To read more about the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, see the official website.
Finding a good book to read can be tough, and bestseller lists aren't always the most reliable. But as the year winds down, those in the know have compiled their lists of the best books of 2013--books that thrill you and make you think.
- Amazon's Best Books of 2013 includes both the top 20 editors' picks overall and the best books by genre.
- The Huffington Post's 3 Best Books of 2013 list include three very diverse titles.
- Kirkus Reviews best books of 2013 picks out 10 bestsellers that are actually worth reading.
- Publisher's Weekly Best Books of 2013 offers a good mix of history and fiction, East and West, poetry and prose.
- The review editors at Library Journal have picked their top 10 books of 2013, along with some honorable mentions.
- Winners of the 2013 National Book Award for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature, plus finalists and runners-up.
Just as the Girl Scouts of America marked the centennial of its founding in 2012, VCU Libraries secured a significant donation of records and materials from The Girl Scouts Commonwealth Council of Virginia. One of four councils in the state, the Commonwealth Council serves some 12,000 girls and 5,700 adults in 30 counties and the cities of Fredericksburg, Richmond, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, Petersburg and Emporia.
Special Collections and Archives staff has processed and opened the collection for use. Some of the materials soon will be on display on the fourth floor of James Branch Cabell Library.
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Sara Williams assumed a new position as Head of Academic Outreach this fall semester. She will shape a program of creative academic outreach to the Monroe Park Campus. In addition, she will lead a group of faculty librarians to expand their connections to their disciplines and students and faculty. Working collaboratively with faculty colleagues, she will ensure that VCU Libraries is at the center of new and evolving modes of pedagogy and scholarship.
Academic librarians for many years have not been limited to sitting behind their desks waiting for researchers to come to them with questions. VCU has a tradition of activist librarians--embedded in schools and programs to which they are assigned, serving on university and research committees, and working closely with faculty to identify their discipline-specific research and teaching needs.This new position is a step-up from previous work.
Williams brings a strong foundation of education and experience to it. Her most recent professional experience includes four years as Assistant Director of Public Services at the Carrier Library at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Prior to that, she served in several leadership and liaison roles at libraries at the University of New Orleans and Tulane University. She began her professional career at the University of Georgia. Ms. Williams holds the B.A. in English literature from The University of Alabama and the M.L.S. from Louisiana State University.
Explaining her thinking about this new role on campus, Williams said: "Academic outreach describes both the naturally evolving process and the deliberate extension of library services beyond traditional collections, tools and communities. Today's effective librarians respond creatively and dynamically to our users' needs for information and data. We continually experiment, monitor and assess new tools, skills and collaborations to help researchers find, analyze, evaluate, share, interpret and use documentation and evidence.
"One of the most exciting parts of this user-centered approach will be in applying our already excellent information skills to new types and formats of materials: everything from data sets to artifacts to published and unpublished research from non-western areas and minority cultures."
"Outreach is all about understanding, and staying on top of, the changing responsibilities of researchers, learners, and anyone who wants to be best-informed in a world of global information."
In addition to the appointment of Williams, the new initiative also will be led by Bettina Peacemaker, a librarian who has taken on many outreach responsibilities, first as a social sciences and business librarian, and later as Assistant Head for Research and Instructional Services. She has been named Assistant Head of Academic Outreach. Ms. Peacemaker will continue her deep relationships as a discipline-specific liaison and build on relationships of many years' making. Previous to her 10 years service at VCU, she worked at the University of Maryland University College. Ms. Peacemaker holds the B.A from the University of Mary Washington and the M.L.S. from the University of Maryland.
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This new department head will provide leadership for outreach and engagement with upper-level undergraduate and graduate students and faculty throughout departments, school, colleges and interdisciplinary programs. She will work to:
- Create and implement a program for creative academic outreach, with responsibilities for academic outreach librarians to the Monroe Park campus to undergraduate and graduate students and their faculty in humanities, arts, business, sciences, engineering, social sciences and public affairs.
- Take strategic responsibility for the development, promotion and delivery of research support, enabling all University members and external partners to locate, access and organize information using the most appropriate tools.
- Collaborate with teaching faculty to develop course content.
- Paticipate in assessing and designing student learning outcomes.
- Lead outreach programs to the campus and appropriate local communities.
You may be surprised when stepping off the elevator on the fourth floor of James Branch Cabell Library. But don't worry, that's not a piece of driftwood you're looking at. It's a bookshelf.
Cabell Library's newest art installation is the work of five Art Foundation students in a class called Space Research. The students were challenged to design and build bookshelves, each with a similar function and a unique artistic vision. These are now on display throughout the library, Nov. 5-Dec. 5.
"I asked each artist to draw a fantasy research shelf on a piece of paper as big or bigger than themselves," said Suzanne Seesman, an adjunct professor in the department. "In Space Research we are tasked with considering space intentionally. We also try to make work that enables others to consider spaces, objects and activities that are normally overlooked or taken for granted."
Why bookshelves? Instructor Seesman wanted to be sure her art students did some time working in the library--exploring art history, finding books in the Fourth Floor Art Browsery (a section filled with books on art, architecture and design) and gleaning a sense of the vast ways of creative expression through art. She asked her students to find inspiration through books about art and artists.
Secondly, books and shelves are common, familar objects. When explored more creatively and with fresh eyes, the ordinary can become amazing. Students came up with a variety of ideas for materials and structures.
The branch-shaped bookshelf on the fourth floor of Cabell is a piece called "The Growth" by Jacqueline Javier. "I wanted to make [the bookshelf] organic and it just became a tree," Javier said. In her project summary, she explained further, saying, "The bookshelf engages the individual with its vivid contrast of lines and flowing motion. The tree itself represents how ideas can change, grow and morph over time and on top of a former 'solid base.'" Javier's bookshelf features six spaces for shelving books and is covered in papier-mâché
The dual functions of these bookshelves are as varied as their appearances. Some function also as workspaces. One includes a light fixture and a bed. One includes a game board for taking a break from studying or reading.
"I came up with a couple of idea but I had to scale it down," said Jonah Hacinas, whose work was inspired by tatoo arts. "Carving was the most difficult part and it took a while." Hacinas said she was inspired by another artist's interpretation of traditional American woodcuts, and chose to decorate her bookshelf with stars, flowers, birds and other images.
Students had about two weeks to design, purchase materials for, build and decorate their bookshelves. For one student, this also included some electrical wiring. Bethany Allen's creation, "A and B," is actually a lighted, cushioned seat with shelving along the sides.
"I like building shelters and creating unconventional spaces," Allen said. Her piece provides a sheltered reading space for its user, and instead of shelves, uses 16 wire racks to hold books open at the last page read.
Details about The Bookshelf Project
Artist: Bethany Allen, A and B, First Floor, far left of main entrance
Artist's Notes: There is a language of research that is only understood when two or more people gather together with the shared "non-agenda" of learning from one another. The amount of wisdom and knowledge that one can glean from reading is endless. However, there is another dimension of growth that can take place when we share this experience with others.
"A and B" is about two parts coming together, not to become one, but to provoke and explore what the other has to offer. A seat provides a physical place for communal reading and research to happen. Sixteen book racks provide a storage system that allows books to be explored and conveniently stored to hold the page that was last read
Artist: Brett Alvis, Cylindrical Bookshelf, Third floor
Artist's Notes: This project engages the artist's interests in wood craft and painting. From the outside, the unit can hold books on the bottom layer of shelves and potentially oversized books horizontally on the top layer. The bookcase is hinged and on wheels so that it can be opened to reveal an internal painting. Not only can the piece hold books, but it can double as a table and seating area. This work conveys the artist's interest in art that supports social interaction. This shelf provides a place for students to sit, drink their coffee, do homework and interact within the library. Books on display:
- Emily Jacir by Emily Jacir
- Belongings: Arbeiten/works 1998-2003 by Emily Jacir
- Janet Fish
- Janet Fish: Paintings by Vincent Katz
- Two books about Janet Fish
Artist: Farrah El Sharif, The Arabic Backgammon Bookshelf, Third floor
Artist's Notes: This bookshelf can be used as a game by setting it down on the floor so that two people can sit on it and play with the backgammon board. It can also function as a regular bookshelf by leaning it against the wall. This bookshelf is focused on the idea of supporting communication between two people. It is designed to keep people engaged at the library by providing a mental break from study. After studying for a period of time, students can take a break to play the game. Students who study for a long periods of time or those who pull all-nighters need something that can keep them up or encourage them to keep going. This bookshelf provides that something. Books on display:
- Vintage Furniture by Fay Sweet
- Interior Design Fundamentals by Helper, Jensen, and Wallach
- Furniture Studio (the heart of functional arts) by John Kelsey and Rick Mastell
- Formless Furniture by Peter Noever
Artist: Jacqueline Javier "The Growth" Fourth Floor, lobby
Artist's Notes: A bookshelf's main purpose is to hold books and research for an individual, but it can be more than a simple holding area. This bookshelf has vivid contrast and flowing lines of motion and the metaphor of a twisting tree. The tree itself represents how ideas can change, grow, and morph over time atop a "solid base." It represents how research should be able to grow freely without too much worry of direction or structure. The shelves can be used as innovatively as the user wants, with the triangle base as a holding area for writing utensils. There is no right or wrong or upside down in this bookshelf just as research can develop in multiple directions. Books displayed, including sketchbooks:
- The Surrealists
- Tetsumi Kudo: Garden of Metamorphosis: Barbel Miebach and Claudia Steinburg
- Chihuly: Garden Installations: Mark McDonnell, David Ebony and Tim Richardson
Artist: Jonah Hacinas, All American, Fourth Floor, near the Book Browsery
Artist's Notes: This bookshelf doubles as a seating area, for four or more people. The seating base has vertical shelves for many books to slant on. The middle piece serves as a back support, a second shelf, and a flat table top. The bookshelf is carved by hand to expose the natural color of the wood. The shelving on the base is painted close in color to the wood. The piece is decorated with carvings of animals and things found in nature, in an all American Traditional Tattoo style. Books on display:
- Tattooing the Invisible Man: Bodies of Work 1955-1999, Don Ed Hardy
- Body Decoration: A World Survey of Body Art, Karl Groning
- Pacific Designs in Print and Skin: Tattooing the World, Juniper Ellis
- Customizing the Body: The Art and Culture of Tattooing, Clinton P. Sanders
- Bodies of Inspection: Cultural History of Modern Tattoo Community, Margo DeMello
Photographer Chad Hunt and writer Kevin Powers use their art to illuminate and document powerful truths about military life and the human face of war and conflict. Both alumni, Hunt and Powers will be on campus in November to talk about their work and their experiences.
An exhibition of Hunt's photos in James Branch Cabell Library runs Nov. 1-15 and Powers speaks in a free-and-open lecture Nov. 8.
Hunt studied photography at VCU. His photographs of military subjects have appeared in Time, Popular Mechanics and The New York Times and are in the permanent collections of several museums. The Maplewood, N.J. resident spent time as an embedded photographer with the U.S. Military in Afghanistan and will share his photographs and stories with the VCU community. The exhibition "Ghosting Home: Soldiers in and out of Afghanistan" features military men and women both on the job and in civilian life.
Hunt's photographs will be on display on the first floor (southside) of Cabell Library, Nov. 1-15. He will be in Starbucks at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 to discuss his work informally.
Richmonder Powers graduated from VCU (B.A. '08/H&S) after serving in the U.S. Army. His experiences as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq inspired his novel, The Yellow Birds, a best selling 2012 finalist for the National Book Award. He wil speak Nov. 8 at a lunch in the VCU Student Commons designed to honor VCU veteran students.
Special Assistant to the Provost for Military Support Services Martha Lou Green said these events will showcase one of VCU's fastest-growing populations. "Each year we are seeing more and more students using military education benefits to attend school," Green said. "These students are an integral part of our campus and Veterans Day is a great time to highlight some of the things they have done."
These events in recognition of veterans are being presented by VCU Military Student Services, VCU Libraries, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, VCU Student Media, the VCU Alumni Association and Broad Street Magazine. For more information contact VCU Military Student Services at (804) 828-6563.
"Curating Digital Objects" will be the topic of discussion Nov. 21, 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Cabell Library.
Museums, libraries and archives rely on the digital environment to save, manage and provide access to their collections. These organizations also collect digitized and born-digital cultural objects.
Presenters from Richmond cultural institutions will share their experiences and best practices for collecting and curating digital objects. Panelists will include Meg M. Eastman, digital collections manager, Virginia Historical Society; Crista Lembeck LaPrade, digital projects and preservation coordinator at the University of Richmond; Renee M. Savits, Civil War 150 Legacy project coordinator, Library of Virginia; and Wesley Chenault, head, Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library.
The session, followed by a reception, will be held in Room 250. It is free and open to all but seating is limited.
This event is a part of VCU Libraries' well received Digital Pragmata series.
Projects from "Digital Archaeology in the Virtual Curation Laboratory: 3D Scanning and Research at VCU" will be on display beginning Oct. 21 in James Branch Cabell Library.
VCU students are working with project director Bernard K. Means, Ph.D., in the Virtual Curation Laboratory in Lafayette Hall. They use state-of-the-art technology to create digital models of archaeological objects from across the globe. Using a NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner and a MakerBot Replicator, they bring innovation to teaching and research.