Thursday, June 9, 2016


As the parent of any preschooler knows, kids are always learning. They watch you and model the behaviors they see and hear. That's why we learn to eliminate certain words from our vocabulary--so we won't hear them come out of the mouth of a toddler!

The same is true for older kids, teens, and adults. So this summer, help your kids keep learning.

Come to the library!

This summer, RCPL has plans to keep kids, teens, and adults healthy and active. The summer reading program theme is Read for the Win so we are stressing healthy activities--any activity that gets you moving! We'll have a few healthy eating programs, and programs to introduce you to activities you may have heard about and not tried, like yoga and zumba.

For all ages, there will be bingo-like sheets available with ideas on keeping your mind and body active this summer. 

Keep moving, learning, and having fun this summer. We'll help!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Libraries Transform

It’s National Library Week and the theme this year is Libraries Transform. And libraries do transform lives and people in so many ways.

If you aren’t a library user-–wait… 

You are reading this and you aren’t a library user? Really? Well, clearly you need to remedy that and come visit! Get up now and just do it! If the library isn’t open, explore our website (

How do libraries transform? Children explore the things they love at libraries, things like dinosaurs and Junie B. Jones. They design and build things (Legos), perform simple science experiments, and create art in many media. The silent one is now comfortable talking about a personal creation; the chatter-box goes suddenly quiet in concentration.

For teens, the library can be the third place…it’s neutral territory where they can just be. They read, create, and organize programs for themselves.

Adults use the library to apply for a job and create a resume. They may also find a recipe or a set of plans for a new creation. They may also be taking an online test for a college course. They may just be checking their email, Facebook, and the news.

Music, movie, magazine, or book…all are available for borrowing. Look online for a calendar of library events or pick up a printed copy at the front desk in either branch library.

Spend time in your library. Your view of a library may just be what's transformed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Voting, History, and Women

Today is March 1st. It's Primary Day in Virginia.      
What if you didn't have the right to vote?

In many states in the union, you needed to be a property owner and pay a poll tax to be allowed to vote. This was true until well into the 20th century. In Russell County, that means that in 1860 of the 10,280 residents, less than half of them were eligible to vote. Neither could the white women; there were 4,514 white females in the county, of which maybe half were of an age to vote. The Supreme Court case that overturned the collection of the poll tax from voters in presidential elections originated here in Virginia...and was only overturned in 1964.

The nearly 1,000 black people who were slaves in Russell County in 1860 could not vote. The 15th Amendment (1870) prohibited denying any citizen the right to vote because of race, color or previous condition of servitude. But it was nearly 100 years before that amendment became a reality, for black men or women.

Almost every woman now alive in the United States was born with the right to vote. Oddly enough, many New England states did allow women to vote until the early 1800s. In the late 1800s four western states gave full voting rights to women. It wasn't until 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, that women were allowed to vote in federal elections.In 1920, the Russell County population was 26,786. The population of females over 21 was 5,562, while the male population over 21 was 6,347. 

Today in Russell County, only 18,500 people are registered to vote. (Of the approximately 28,897 people in Russell County, over 22,000 are old enough to vote.) If you are not registered, you can register and vote in the presidential election in November. Just get registered by September, and don't forget that photo ID when you head to the polls in November.

Are you registered to vote?       Will you vote today?      

Monday, February 8, 2016

February is Black History Month

According to census data, in 1860 there were about 490,887 slaves in the state of Virginia. About 26% of Virginia families owned slaves at that time, including several Russell County families. To see the names of Russell County slaves and slaveholders in 1860, just prior to the Civil War, you can view the slave schedules on The library has a subscription, so you can view them here if you can’t access Ancestry at home.
     Few personal accounts of slaves from Russell County exist now. An interesting story appeared in The Lebanon News, January 11, 1951 paper, about a West Virginia man named Henry Jones, who reported he was born a slave in Russell County in about 1855. He was 96 at the time the story was published in 1951, but he stated that he clearly remembered the day he was almost sold when he was 10 years old. He recalled that the mistress of the farm he lived on did not want him sold, but that a woman had no authority at that time to stop it. However, when she began to cry, the men conducting the auction relented and did not sell him. He returned and worked on the farm for her years later, after emancipation, until he married and moved to West Virginia. There, a mine injury temporarily left him unable to work, and he was able to convince a local school teacher to teach him to read as he recovered.
     Other brief mentions of former slaves appear in obituaries, names such as Hence Browning, who died in 1938, Johnson Alexander, who died in 1961 at the age of 104. Another, John Duff, was still living in 1958 at the age of 103, and could remember watching boys and young men sign up for Confederate service at the old Russell County courthouse.
     To learn more about Black History in Russell County during the 20th century, stop by the library and take a look at Memories from Dante by Kathy Shearer, which contains memoirs from students of the Straight Hollow School and the Arty Lee School in Dante. You can also visit the H. Lee Waters film collection at to see films of some of the students and teachers at these schools. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Thoughts

The holidays are rushing past. If you want a quiet moment, you might find it at your local library. Stop by; sit and gaze at our tree. (We will leave our trees up until January 4th.) We can't promise quiet; the libraries are often bustling places. But you can lay aside all other thoughts and gaze at the lights for a few moments.

While you are here, pick up a book or DVD or CD to take home. If there are youth in your circle, take home something in print for them. Increasingly, studies are showing that our brains treat reading on a screen very differently than reading on a printed page. We retain more that we read on a printed page. And a little reading--and talking about it--will keep the young and mature minds alert during the break from school!

Better yet, spend some family time just gazing at the lights and decorations. Consider your blessings, be they many or few.

The Library Staff and Board of Trustees send all the best to you throughout the holidays and in the new year.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Have You Got the Music in You?

Free downloadable music now available from your local public library. Freegal is the name of the service and you are allowed to download 3 songs per week and to stream 3 hours of music per day.

Start by downloading their app and go from there. You can stream or download the music. (It is easier than downloading books; downloading music has a longer history and they have ironed out many of the complications.)

What kind of music can you download? Well, every genre of music is there and it is international. So you can listen to Christian choirs from Asia and bluegrass from Eastern Europe. (Bluegrass is very popular in parts of Europe!) You can search for a song, album, or artist. You can browse by genre, or listen to one of their pre-selected Freegal playlists, like the '80s or top Grammy winners.  Want the newest stuff? It's there. And some of that new stuff can have language and themes inappropriate for children. It's clearly marked Explicit. Want old stuff? Barry Manilow or Earth, Wind & Fire? Elvis? Really old, like Mozart?!

We know, three songs a week is not much, but did you notice we said it was free? Well, it's not free, but it is at no cost to you, the library patron. There are even music videos, although they need to be downloaded.  

As more and more people are using a device to read and listen, we are trying to keep up and provide you with options to download music and books.The music is yours to keep. They even suggest you download to a computer and then move it to your phone or tablet. That way your songs are still on the computer as a backup.

Do you have the music in you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Virginia writer Earl Hamner, creator of the television show The Waltons, wrote about growing up on a Virginia farm during the Great Depression. He says that in the show he was accused of portraying the depression years as too happy. His response was that he and his siblings, although poor, believed that they lived in the best of all possible times. He wrote, “It may have been severe for city people, but we were country people with country people’s advantages,” and “I am probably the only writer in Hollywood who knows how to milk a cow, not that I get called on much to use that particular talent.”

Speaking of Virginia farms, did you know that Russell County was once a part of one of the largest farms east of the Mississippi? In fact, so were several other Southwest Virginia counties. At its largest, the Stuart Land and Cattle Corporation covered about 100,000 acres! In the beginning, the land belonged to Thomas Hendricks, who was given a land grant in 1769 by the English government in the area that became known as Elk Garden.  In 1868, William Alexander Stuart purchased this same land of 2, 144 acres for $60,000, which was the beginning of Stuart Land & Cattle. William continued to expand by buying other property. William’s son, Henry Carter Stuart, born in 1855, went on to expand the land holdings even further, and also served as governor of Virginia from 1914-1918.

Since its creation Russell County has been largely a farming county. The peak in the number of farms was in 1935, with 3,721 farms. The greatest land amount in farms was in 1890, when there were 296,080 acres of farmland. Although these numbers began to steadily decrease in 1945, according to the 2012 agricultural census (the most recent data available), there are still 995 farms and 187,620 acres of farmland in Russell County.

In fact, for the state of Virginia as a whole, agriculture is by far the largest industry. Virginia has about 46,000 farms with an economic impact of $52 billion annually. Broilers, cattle, milk, soybeans, and turkeys are the top five revenue generators.

To learn more about farming history in Russell County, join us on September 27th at 3:00 pm for the release of Kathy Shearer’s new book, Working for Stuarts. It’s comprised of the history of Stuart Land & Cattle Company, as told by the people who worked for the company.