Friday, February 24, 2012

Celebrate Reading & Dr Seuss @ Your Library

The Cat in the Hat was silly but smart. He said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
Kids of all ages can come to the Armstrong Library on Friday, March 2nd, to celebrate reading and the wonderful Dr Seuss. From 10:30 to 11 am. and again at 1:30 to 2 pm, kids can stop in to hear stories, sing songs, rhyme, and color! The event is free, and no registration required.

Every year, schools and libraries across the country mark the March 2 birthday of Dr Theodor Geisel, aka Dr Seuss, with Read Across America events promoted by the National Education Association. It's an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading. Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong success. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.

If you can't make it to the Library, then just "pick up a book and read with a child".

You're never too old, too wacky, too wild,
To pick up a book and read with a child.
You're never too busy, too cool, or too hot,
To pick up a book and share what you've got.
In schools and communities,
Let's gather around,
Let's pick up a book,
Let's pass it around.
There are kids all around you,
Kids who will need
Someone to hug,
Someone to read.
Come join us March 2nd
Your own special way
And make this America's
Read to Kids Day.

Courtesy of NEA

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mardi Gras in Natchez and Around the World

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) or Carnival generally refers to the time between Ephiphany and Ash Wednesday, when popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, and other celebrations before the penitential season of Lent. It is an important time in most Catholic countries and communities.

The Brazilian Carnaval is their most famous holiday and accounts for 80% of their annual beer consumption and 70% of their annual visitors. The celebration in Rio de Janeiro is the largest carnival in the world.

The Carnival of Venice is one of the oldest in Italy (12th century), and the subversive nature of the festival is reflected in the many laws created over the centuries in Italy attempting to restrict celebrations. Carnival of Viareggio is the most famous one in Italy.

Mardi Gras arrived in the United States along with the French. The settlement of Mobile AL became the first capital of the territory of Louisiane in 1702. The next year was the first celebration of Mardi Gras in the US. In 1720, Biloxi became the capital, and the Mardi Gras followed, as it did when New Orleans became the capital in 1723. Mardi Gras is celebrated all along the Gulf Coast, although most Americans associate it with New Orleans.

Elodie Pritchartt's aunt in
1909 Mardi Gras Parade
The first celebration of Mardi Gras in Natchez may have been in 1875, according to Natchez: An Illustrated History by David Sansing, Sim Callon, and Carolyn Vance Smith.

"In 1875 Natchez became the first town in Mississippi to hold a Mardi Gras celebration. Rex and his retainers arrived at the Natchez landing on a steamboat appropriately named “Royal Steamer.” In the evening following a downtown parade, the Italian Society of Natchez held a gala Mardi Gras ball."

The diary of Rev Joseph Buck Stratton has this description from 1898.
"Today was a public holiday devoted to the celebration of the rites of what is known in this region, once dominated by the French and Spaniards, as Mardi Gras. General decoration of buildings took place, processions of the Fire companies, military, trades, maskers, etc. occupied the day and the population of the town and country filled the streets. At night a beautiful torch-light procession in which the king of the Carnival presided, traversed the streets. It was composed of a number of floats on which a succession of tableaux – historical and other was displayed greatly to the delight of the spectators. The pageant was elaborate and tasteful and exceeded everything of the kind which had ever been witnessed in Natchez. A grand ball at the Institute Hall closed the exercises. It is supposed such saturnatia pay financially. It is more than doubtful of the pay morally; “in like manner did not our Fathers”.
Mimi Miller, Executive Director of Historic Natchez Foundation, is quoted in an article in County Living, where I also found the quotes above and the photo.
"A major fire broke out during the festivities in 1909 and the fire trucks had been appropriated as floats. Needless to say, the fire caused a lot more damage than it might have otherwise. The fire and the boll weevil, which first appeared in Mississippi in a Natchez area cotton field in 1907, caused the demise of Mardi Gras. When it was reborn in the early 1980s, the first krewe named itself appropriately--the Krewe of Phoenix.".
And that krewe rolls out once again in Natchez today at 5 pm through downtown. Don't miss it!

Friday, February 10, 2012

How's the Weather in the Library?

Working thermostats!
What a mild Winter we have had! Even inside the Library! The repairs to the library's HVAC systems continue. Thank goodness we have had mild (more or less) days, as we had no air flow during December while the work was ongoing in the attic.
Ductwork was repaired and cabling was installed - as well as actual working thermostats! For years, the 27 - yes twenty-seven! - thermostats in the building were useless. Our only control for cool air was turning the chiller on and off. The heat could be somewhat controlled by adjusting the boiler water temperature. This was assuming the chiller or boiler were working - not a safe assumption much of the time.
We are awaing the installation of the new energy efficient boiler and the repairs to the chiller (the compressor and fans). All repairs should be completed by the end of March!
So, to celebrate, we are planning a big party! National Library Week is April 8-14, so look for updates for when our big "Come see our new Thermostats!" Open House is scheduled (probably during that week)!

Grant Sign in front of Library
Many of you wondered why we went so many years without repairing the system. It was because this was a very costly project, and the funds were simply not available. The total cost of the project was $206,634. Fortunately for us, the President and Congress passed the Stimulus Bill (officially the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act or ARRA) with monies allocated for energy efficiency projects. Thanks to Southwest Mississippi Planning and Adams County, we applied for and received a stimulus grant for $162,700. We still needed more to complete the project, so we asked, and Adams County and the City of Natchez each contributed an additional $18,000. The Library made up the difference of about $8000.
Then, on to the next project..... Anyone who has driven, walked, jogged, or passed by the library can attest that the building is in need of major painting! The shutters need to be repaired, and there is some exterior work needing to be accomplished.
And, even though the City of Natchez owns the library building, I made a deal. If the City would put up the funds (to match what the County agreed to pay) to get the repairs to the HVAC system complete, we would raise the funds to get the building painted and repaired. The City came out on the better end of that deal!
A friend of mine (a library director in another county) held a VERY successful fundraiser, which I plan to copy. It involves a party and wine - and should fit right in here in Natchez! Look for news to come on these plans.
In the meantime, rest assured that you don't have to call ahead to find out whether you need to dress in your snowsuit or your bikini in order to visit the library!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why Do We Have Black History Month?

Well, I guess that it was all truth when someone spoke the words: "You learn something new everyday!" While beating myself over the head about a blog idea, a light went off over the top of my head and like a ton of bricks, it hit me: Black History Month!
Then, two more tons of bricks landed on my head with a loud "THUD!" I realized that I did not know much about black history month! Who would have thought it, right? Who knew that Black History Month had a theme? Who knew that it first started out as ONE week? Well, I certainly didn't before I went on a "fact hunt" and gathered some information for your enjoyment (and mine, seeing as that before this blog idea happened, I knew only about 25% of this information)!
Black History Month is a month set aside to learn, honor, and celebrate the achievements of black men and women throughout history. Since its inception, Black History Month has always been celebrated in February. Find out how Black History Month originated, why February was chosen, and what the annual theme for Black History Month is for this year.
The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to a man named Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950). Woodson, the son of former slaves, was an amazing man in his own right. Since his family was too poor to send him to school as a child, he taught himself the basics of a school education. At age 20, Woodson was finally able to attend high school, which he completed in just two years.
He then went on to earn a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Chicago. Three years after earning his doctorate, Woodson made a trip that had a great impact on him. In 1915, he traveled to Chicago to participate in a three-week celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of slavery. The excitement and enthusiasm generated by the events inspired Woodson to continue the study of black history year-round. Before leaving Chicago, Woodson and four others created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) on September 9, 1915. The following year, the ASNLH began publication of the Journal of Negro History.
Woodson realized that most textbooks at the time ignored the history and achievements of blacks. Thus, in addition to the journal, he wanted to find a way to encourage interest and study of black history. In 1926, Woodson promoted the idea of a "Negro History Week," which was to be held during the second week of February. Woodson chose the second week of February to celebrate Negro History Week because that week included the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). The idea caught on quickly and Negro History Week was soon celebrated around the United States. With a high demand for study materials, the ASNLH began to produce pictures, posters, and lesson plans to help teachers bring Negro History Week into schools. In 1937, the ASNLH also began producing the Negro History Bulletin, which focused on an annual theme for Negro History Week.
In 1976, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week and the bicentennial of the United States' independence, Black History Week was expanded to Black History Month. Ever since then, Black History Month has been celebrated in February around the country.
Since its inception in 1926, Negro History Week and Black History Month have been given annual themes. The first annual theme was simply, "The Negro in History," but since then the themes have grown more specific. This year's theme is: Black Women in American Culture and History.
We have a display on this theme in the Children's Section (see picture). Come to your Library - and bring your children - to see the display and check out books on these historical women.