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VCU Libraries is online and in person: VCU Libraries COVID-19 response

The Health Sciences Library and Cabell Library are open. Find out what to expect when you visit

2019–20 a year of achievement and change for VCU Libraries events

July 15, 2020

Despite the arrival of COVID-19 and the closure of physical event spaces, 2019–20 managed to be another year packed with programming. VCU Libraries organized, sponsored or hosted approximately 475 total events with more than 20,500 attendees.

80 of those events were open-to-the-public programs organized or sponsored by VCU Libraries and account for more than 5,150 attendees. The remainder were internal functions plus 340 events organized by departments or units outside the libraries.

While the library Events Office does look forward to the reopening of physical event space, the year offered an important opportunity for learning new technology and best practices for events and re-evaluating what it means for an event to be successful.

Moving into a post-pandemic world, events won’t go back to exactly how they were before. Some, especially meetings, may continue to be virtual in order to reach the largest possible audience. Others may have both in-person and virtual components, allowing attendees different ways to engage. And many events may also be shorter, delivering their content more efficiently in order to help prevent audience fatigue.

Thanks to everyone who made this past year a memorable and productive one.

10 Highlights from the Lineup of Library-organized and -sponsored Events

Real Life Film Series
Sept. 17, 2019–Feb. 13, 2020

This popular annual series organized by librarians from Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences focuses on documentaries on topics in the health sciences, from the latest hospital technology to the intersection of medicine and social justice. Kicking off the 2019–20 lineup was the film Give me a Shot of Anything, which was tied to themes from the 2019 Common Book, Evicted. Discussions about homelessness and access to healthcare were facilitated by Lorae Ponder, executive director of Home Again Richmond, and Sally Santen, MD, Ph.D., of the VCU School of Medicine. In observation of Black History Month, the film The Power to Heal: Medicare and the Civil Rights Revolution was screened in February and accompanied by a discussion led by Sheryl Garland, chief of health impact at VCU Health. The Real Life Film Series is co-sponsored by VCU Student Commons and Activities.

Coverage of The Power to Heal Screening by The Commonwealth Times

Jeffrey Blount and Jeanne Meserve at an event about Blount's novel The Emancipation of Evan Walls

The Emancipation of Evan Walls: A Conversation with Author and VCU Alumnus Jeffrey Bloun
Sept. 19, 2019

VCU alum, author and Emmy Award–winning television director Jeffrey Blount discussed his new novel, The Emancipation of Evan Walls (Koehler Books, 2019), with Jeanne Meserve, an award-winning security analyst, journalist and media coach. The novel concerns an ambitious young African American man whose attempts to succeed bring him criticism and misunderstanding from both sides of the racial divide. The frank conversation touched on Blount’s inspiration and the theme of systemic racism.

Photos from the Event
Coverage by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture
Coverage by the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Friends of VCU Libraries Board member Stephanie Holt at the annual book sale

Friends of VCU Libraries Book Sale
Oct. 25-30, 2019

This past year’s sale was the most successful in its history, bringing in roughly $24,200 in sales, $1,200 in cash donations and $7,000 in sponsorships for a combined total of $32,501.42. Books were donated during the previous year from more than 80 individuals in the Richmond area. The sale itself was organized and operated by members of the Friends of VCU Libraries and students from VCU’s Emerging Leaders Program. Proceeds benefited library programs, collections and lectures, as well as the Emerging Leaders Program.

Library Blog Post

VCU Cabell First Novelist Award Night
Nov. 12, 2019

VCU Cabell First Novelist Award winner Ling Ma read from her acclaimed novel, Severance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), which, eerily prefiguring COVID-19, describes a mysterious pandemic that brings the world to a halt. In the novel, a sendup of contemporary work culture, the infected turn into zombies that, rather than eat brains, mindlessly continue their office routines. Ma joined Jin Auh, her editor, and Jenna Johnson, her publisher, in a discussion of the genesis of the book, its themes and the publishing industry.

Coverage by VCU News
Coverage by Richmond Magazine
Interview with Jin Auh
Interview with Jenna Johnson

Richmond Indie Comic Expo
Nov. 17, 2019

A group of VCUarts students organized this showcase of local talent, featuring 80 creators and vendors, including current students and alumni. Not only did participants have exposure and earn sales, but the event provided organizers with valuable practical experience. Bizhan Khodabandeh, an assistant professor of advertising in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, and Kelly Alder, who teaches at VCUarts, led the students through the process. Approximately 1,000 attended the event.

Coverage by VCU News
Coverage by NBC12
Coverage by RVA Hub
Coverage by Style Weekly

Leni Sorensen talks at an event tied to a medial library exhibit

It Takes a World to Make a Meal: The Human Costs of Feeding Virginia’s Elites
Feb. 5, 2020

Leni Sorensen, Ph.D., food historian, came to Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences for a talk exploring the extraordinary complexities of food procurement and meal preparation in the homes of the wealthy in 18th-century Virginia and how enslaved people became the culinary experts and master chefs of the era and shaped American cuisine. The talk was tied to a traveling exhibit from the National Library of Medicine, titled Fire and Freedom: Food and Enslavement in Early America.

Coverage by VCU News

Cartoonist Keith Knight speaking in front of a screen showing some of his art at the annual Black History Month Lecture

19th Annual Black History Month Lecture: Red, White, Black and Blue: Documenting America's Racial Illiteracy by Keith Knight
Feb. 11, 2020

Political cartoonist Keith Knight, whose life and work are the subject of the recent Hulu series Woke, returned to VCU for his second Black History Month Lecture for VCU Libraries. In his talk, he encouraged people to find ways, as through cartooning, to confront people about race, to expose harmful and complacent notions of “color blindness” and to have productive, even if uncomfortable, conversations. Fans stayed long after the event to get prints of his cartoons and copies of his books signed.

Photos from the Event
Coverage by VCU News
Coverage by The Commonwealth Times

Transgressed: A Discussion by Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz
Feb. 26, 2020

VCU alum Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz, Ph.D., returned to campus to talk about his new book, Transgressed: Intimate Partner Violence in Transgender Lives (NYU Press, 2019), a landmark study of a historically underserved and under-researched population. This event was organized by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and the Certificate in Gender Violence Intervention Program in the VCU School of Social Work, with additional sponsorship by VCU Libraries.

Webinars from the Workshop
April 1–May 6, 2020

This series of hour-long workshops designed by Multimedia Teaching and Learning Librarian Oscar Keyes was the first of VCU Libraries’ virtual offerings during the pandemic. Sessions highlighted online, free-to-use collaborative software to help instructors and students alike find creative ways of connecting with one another during the days of the shelter-in-place orders. The workshops were also a testing ground for library employees who needed experience with running successful events in a new medium.

Ward Tefft, owner of Chop Suey Books, holding a copy of the book Organ Thieves during a session of VCU Libraries Community Zooms

VCU Libraries Community Zooms Series
April 30–June 25, 2020

Having lost a number of large in-person community events to the pandemic, the VCU Libraries Development Office was eager to find a way of staying in regular contact with donors and community members. This series of informal, hour-long sessions every week featured a new subject of interest to library lovers, generally spotlighting materials and expertise from VCU Libraries. Topics included how to find reliable COVID-19 information, student award programs and personal reading. The series was warmly received, and now in a roughly biweekly format, it continues through the 2020–21 academic year.

Library Stories Blog Post with Links to Recordings

Top 10 Users of Library Event Space

  • Human Resources, 33 space uses
  • Inclusive Excellence, 15 space uses
  • School of Education, 15 space uses
  • Card Services, 13 space uses
  • Staff Senate, 13 space uses
  • Development and Alumni Relations, 11 space uses
  • Technology Services, 11 space uses
  • Center for Community Engagement and Impact, 10 space uses
  • Health Promotion and Well-being Center, 9 space uses
  • Office of the Provost, 8 space uses

Images: Jeffrey Blount and Jeanne Meserve, photo by Dan Currier; Stephanie Holt at the Friends of VCU Libraries Book Sale, photo by Jay Paul; Leni Sorensen, photo courtesy of VCU University Relations; Keith Knight, photo by Dan Currier; Ward Tefft in a session of VCU Libraries Community Zooms

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