The Library of Virginia Newsletter
May 2016

Cast Your Vote for the 13th Annual People's Choice Awards

The Library of Virginia is pleased to sponsor the 13th Annual People's Choice Awards. Finalists in fiction and nonfiction were selected by Virginia librarians and independent booksellers. Awards are given for the best fiction and nonfiction books by Virginia authors published in the past year; in the case of nonfiction, books on a Virginia subject are also eligible.

The winners will be chosen by votes from the public from among five finalists in each category. Readers may vote online at the Library of Virginia's website, and in local public libraries.

Voting for the People's Choice Awards runs from May 2 through June 30, 2016.

This year’s fiction finalists for the People's Choice Awards are:

  • The Fraud, Brad Parks
  • All the Stars in the Heavens, Adriana Trigiani
  • The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, Christopher Scotton
  • The Jezebel Remedy, Martin Clark
  • The Fall of Princes, Robert Goolrick

The nonfiction finalists are:

  • Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, Bert Ashe
  • Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul, Laurie Jean Cannady
  • The Great Hound Match of 1905, Martha Wolfe
  • Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County, Kristen Green
  • A Nation of Nations, Tom Gjelten

The winners will be recognized on October 15, 2016, at the 19th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration presented by Dominion. Each winner will receive an engraved crystal book and a monetary prize of $2,500.

<< back to e-newsletter

Library to Offer Discussion on Religious Diversity and Immigration in Virginia

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, wrote in his autobiography that the statute included "within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination." The tension surrounding what constitutes religious freedom resonates today just as it did in Virginia in the late 1700s.

The Library will partner with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities to host a panel discussion on June 21 at 5:30 PM exploring the intersection of religious freedom and immigration, focusing on how the concept of religious freedom informs or influences an immigrant's perceptions of citizenship. Aprilfaye Manalang, a sociologist and assistant professor in the Department of History and Interdisciplinary Studies at Norfolk State University, will serve as moderator for a group of panelists representing the Asian Indian, Muslim, and Latino communities in the metro Richmond area. A native of Mumbai, India, Rumy Mohta completed graduate studies in chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University and is CEO of Atlas Branding and Communications. A practicing Zoroastrian, he is married to a Catholic. Dr. Imad Damaj is a pharmacology professor at the Medical College of Virginia. A native of Lebanon and a Muslim, Dr. Damaj is the president and founder of the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs and is involved in multiple interfaith and community organizations in the Greater Richmond area. A native of Guatemala, Oscar Contreras is a program host on Radio Poder WBTK 1380 AM.

This program, which complements the Library's current exhibition First Freedom: Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, is made possible through a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The program is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please register at

<< back to e-newsletter

Roanoke Library Director Receives Sullivan Award from the American Library Association

Sheila Umberger, director of Roanoke Public Libraries, has received the American Library Association's 2016 Peggy Sullivan Award for Public Library Administrators Supporting Services to Children. The Sullivan Award is presented annually to an individual in a library administrator role who has shown exceptional understanding and support of public library service to children. Umberger was nominated for the award by her staff. A Virginia native, Umberger earned her MLS from the University of South Carolina. She joined Roanoke Public Libraries in 1982 and became the library director in 2004.

As Roanoke's library director, Umberger has led a team of library staff in developing innovative programs including the Roanoke Baby book, free book distribution, and Feed and Read. Children's programs have been expanded beyond traditional story times to include STEM, art, and music activities. The number of youth services programs offered increased from 118 to 3,392 a year during her tenure, and she oversaw the expansion and enhancement of library spaces for children to include a play area, a programming mezzanine, and a two-story slide.

"Star City Reads" may be Umberger's crowning achievement. Launched in 2012, it's Roanoke's campaign for grade–level reading coalition, focusing the entire community on the goal of having children reading proficiently by the end of third grade. In collaboration with a dozen partners, ranging from Virginia Tech to the Roanoke Police Department, "Star City Reads" reached into every segment of the Roanoke community, even launching Books on Buses, a mobile lending library available on three Valley Metro bus lines.

Through a well–defined strategy, Umberger targeted the most at–risk demographic, weak readers approaching third grade, and caught them at that pivotal age. This smart investment of resources gave children the tools they needed to become their own champions.

Umberger will receive the award on June 26 at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.

<< back to e-newsletter

Biographers International Organization to Meet in Richmond June 3–5

The Biographers International Organization welcomes biographers, editors, agents, publishers, and publicity professionals from across the nation and around the world to the Seventh Annual Biographers International Conference, June 3–5, in Richmond. Speakers and panelists include James Atlas, Douglas Brinkley, Kitty Kelley, Thomas Mallon, Evan Thomas, and Stacy Schiff.

On Friday, June 3, BIO will offer morning and afternoon tours of three of Virginia's top historic and archival sites, the Library of Virginia, Hollywood Cemetery, and the Virginia Historical Society. For the first time, the roster of preconference events features brief readings by biographers. The readings and Friday evening's opening reception will be held at the Library of Virginia. The annual BIO Biblio Award recognizing a distinguished local archivist or research librarian will be presented at the reception. For more information and registration information, go to

<< back to e-newsletter

Honor Earl Hamner's Memory by Giving to the Virginia Authors Circle

The Library's Virginia Authors Circle lost one of its most beloved and generous supporters with the death of Earl Hamner Jr. in March. Hamner and his wife, Jane, joined the Virginia Authors Circle shortly after the group was organized in 2010, and have been regular supporters ever since. We encourage all Virginia authors and their families to honor Hamner’s commitment to the Library of Virginia by making a donation in his memory to the Virginia Authors Circle.

The Virginia Authors Circle was created to help preserve and expand the Library's vital collection of works by Virginia authors. Membership in the Virginia Authors Circle is open to Virginia authors and their families. All funds raised by the program will go directly toward the purchase of titles by Virginia authors for the Library's collection.

For more information or to make a gift, please call Amy Bridge at 804-692-3590.

<< back to e-newsletter

Greggs to Serve as Foundation Development Manager

Dawn Geron Greggs has joined the staff of the Library of Virginia Foundation as development manager. Greggs will be responsible for the Annual Fund, membership, and sponsorships for the Foundation.

"We are so fortunate to have someone with Dawn’s experience in the history museum field become part of our development team" said Amy Bridge, the Foundation’s executive director. "Having previously worked with Dawn at The Valentine, I know that her skills and expertise will be beneficial to the Library."

She came to the Library of Virginia Foundation from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, where she was external relations manager. Previously she worked as fundraising counsel for the King & Queen Community Development Corporation. A 1996 graduate of Hollins University, Greggs has extensive nonprofit experience with The Valentine, the Virginia Association of Museums, and the Jamestown–Yorktown Foundation, Inc.

<< back to e-newsletter

James "Plunky" Branch to Discuss His Memoir at the Library on June 23

Richmond native James "Plunky" Branch is a multitalented saxophonist, businessman, composer, and producer. On the evening of June 23 he will celebrate the launch of his memoir, Plunky: Juju Jazz Funk & Oneness, at the Library. The launch will include a brief musical set by Branch and an interview with Peter Solomon, host of Jazz with Peter Solomon on WCVE 88.9 FM. The interview will be followed by an audience question–and–answer session and a book signing. Copies of the book will be available through the Virginia Shop.

Branch was educated in Richmond's segregated schools and attended Columbia University. In 1971 he formed Juju, a musical group that combined R&B, jazz, soul, and African musical influences. Branch and his group have continued recording and performing, most recently as Plunky & Oneness. In 1982, their song "Every Way but Loose" made the top 10 on the London soul music charts. Branch is a founder of the Richmond Jazz Society and has released 25 albums through his own independent record label, N.A.M.E. Brand Records.

In Plunky: Juju Jazz Funk & Oneness, Branch discusses music and his career, during which he composed hundreds of songs and produced a documentary, Under the Radar: A Survey of Afro-Cuban Music. Working with the U.S. Information Agency and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Branch has educated audiences at home and around the world about the cultural significance of music. He has lectured on African American music at Virginia Commonwealth University and directed the Virginia Union University Jazz Ensemble. Branch, who serves as an artist–in–residence, performs in public schools around the state and in 2012 was named one of the Richmond Public School system's Living Legacies. Today Branch spends his time leading his band onstage playing rousing funk, R&B, jazz, African, reggae, gospel, and rap and making music in his recording studio.

<< back to e-newsletter