JMRL extends hours and building options – Tier 2

The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library will be extending hours and in-building options at many of its locations starting Monday, May 17. Appointments will no longer be necessary, and contactless curbside/drive-up options for materials pick-up will continue at all locations.

As part of the move to Tier 2 of JMRL’s COVID-19 response plan, there will be capacity and visit time limits at all branches and all programs and events will remain virtual. The Bookmobile will be offering limited services.

Patrons are encouraged to limit their visit to two hours and will be required to wear masks and abide by social distancing guidelines inside library buildings.

According to JMRL Director David Plunkett, “The last few months of Tier 3 appointment services have been tremendously busy at JMRL. The people of Albemarle, Charlottesville, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson place a very high value on their library service, and JMRL is glad to be able to safely offer more options for access in Tier 2.”

Public computer use and self-serve printing will be available.

No food or drink will be allowed in the library and patrons should continue to use book drops to return books.

For details about your library branch and its services, please visit

“I won’t tell you what kind of man your daddy was. I’ll let my story do that and you be the judge.”

Brown Baggers book group met virtually on Thursday, April 15 at noon to discuss Go Down the Mountain by Meredith Battle. The novel promises to be a coming of age and love story, a story of family dysfunction and loss, and also the story of community: Virginia families displaced by the government as land is siphoned to create a National Park. Many of us have been intrigued by the chimneys scattered throughout Shenandoah National Park; these are the stately scars, all that remain of the countless houses taken and burned. Some of us have seen the resettlement house offerings in Madison county, still standing. The novel is close enough to home that we were eager to get started, and as we read, all of us enjoyed the local references littered throughout the narrative. And yet having the book set in our backyard was not enough to win us over. A majority of readers found this book disappointing, melodramatic, surface level, and at times, amateurish. 

That being said, we were disappointed for the best reason: we wanted to know more, and Battle’s story did not dredge deeply enough into the historical content promised to us as readers. We were not satisfied with the innumerable plot points meant to excite and shock us; we wanted to know more intimately about the experience of displacement, or the economic or social gains the state and nation had to gain from creating the park. We were fascinated by the Virginia Colony for the Feebleminded — just as we were intrigued by the snake charming, children begging in burlap, a state-abducted infant, shoot-outs and human-destroying dogs, and the love triangle to boot. There was plenty of intrigue here — but sadly, not enough deep-diving to quench our thirst for understanding, or our curiosity to know these characters on a human level.

While the sentimental among us enjoyed the loose structure of the novel — a mother writing to her daughter to finally reveal “the truth” of her lineage — we also agreed this strategy would have been more affecting if the daughter was old enough to find the box of letters herself. We could then get to know her as a character and witness the story twofold: as it happened to our narrator, and then how her daughter processed it. Not only would this have focused the story and brought more richness to the characters, as they thought about and interacted with one another, but it also would have introduced a generational element to the story, which many of our readers enjoyed recently in Red At The Bone

In the end, some of the Brown Baggers learned for the first time about the reality of families being forced off of their own land so that Shenandoah could be created. Some were not familiar at all with the devastating reality of being stripped of not only your land, but also your livelihood. Some were also introduced to the evil of eugenics and forced sterilization. We all agreed that this book — while not our favorite — is now driving us to pursue more information. As we continue to read as a group, a recurring comment is, “I never knew….” Month after month, we are unearthing truths that have always existed, but that are new to us. Whether we’ve contributed to the writing of history, or just ingested the often unilateral narrative, our reading is nudging us to find another version. Another version, and another, and another. We thank Battle for her story, full of twists, turns, and to her credit, one surprise after another. We also thank her for sparking us to read and learn more. 

The Brown Baggers will meet again virtually on Thursday, May 20 at noon to discuss The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Please email for details on how to participate from your computer or phone.

Books Mentioned:

Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia by Steven Stoll

“Answer At Once”: Letters of Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park, 1934-1938 ed. Katrina Powell

The Anguish of Displacement: The Politics of Literacy in the Letters of Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park by Katrina Powell

Writing Appalachia: An Anthology by Tess Lloyd 

Contrasted to books by Lee Smith


The Displaced People of Shenandoah National Park: a ArcGIS Story Map (sponsored by Greene Co. VA) – included history, photos, video, and modern interpretations

Oral Histories of the CCC in Shenandoah – collected by the NPS

Living In Virginia: The Iris Still Blooms (YouTube) – part of a video series by VA Public Media, this section covers the displacement

Shenandoah National Park Oral History Collection (solid state held at JMU) – part of an archival collection which includes oral history from folks living in the mountains before the creation of the park (materials accessible online)

Monument to Families Displaced by Shenandoah National Park Unveiled – Daily Progress

Blue Ridge Heritage Project Monument – Homepage (NPS)

Shenandoah Secrets: Pork, Propaganda, and the Creation of a COOL National Park – Lisa Provence, The Hook

Shenandoah National Park History and Culture – National Park Service

Shenandoah National Park: From Idea to Reality – National Park Service

2021 JMRL-WriterHouse Poetry Contest

2021 JMRL-WriterHouse Poetry Contest

The challenges surrounding the current pandemic may have continued into 2021, but JMRL and WriterHouse were very happy to once again offer the annual Poetry Contest for Adults this past March, which took place for the sixth time this year.  

A team of judges selected finalists from all the entries, which were then judged by the esteemed Luisa Igloria, Poet Laureate of Virginia and Professor of Creative Writing and English at Old Dominion University. We are pleased to announce the winner and runner-up here and share their words for others to enjoy.

The winning entry was “Carolina Wrens,” written by poet Mary McCue, who will receive the prize of a $200 Visa gift card. Poet Laura Wallace was chosen as the runner-up, for her work “Aphasia”; she receives the prize of a $100 Visa gift card. Luisa Igloria had the following to say about the selections:

“Carolina Wrens”

The poet observes such a careful economy of language and image in this poem, yet doesn’t sacrifice any generosity of attention. Birds call through the branches with “voices so clear and bright” as if to illustrate the promise of persistence. But the season might have arrived too early for nesting, for “song and intent.” At the end of the day, there are only “feathers and chips of bone” on the porch. “Living alone, one can believe anything,” says the speaker; but though the world might not exactly last, at least there are these small returns. 


What would we do with no access to even the most ordinary of words, without the ability to communicate in speech? In “Aphasia,” the poet captures a beloved’s struggle with a disorder which has damaged their ability to process language. Though the faltering brain can still “illuminate a scan,” there is such ache and yearning here along with the hope that “you will remember … one morning/ just in time.”   

Please consider these comments as you read the poems below (note: formatting attempts were made to be as close to the original as possible):

“Carolina Wrens” by Mary McCue,

What they are saying this morning
of dew fresh grass
I do not know,

but I understand happiness
as the pair flutters 
in and out of Stewartia branches—

voices so clear and bright
I’d swear the tiny white petals
opened a month early.

Hidden in a fork of the tree,
a thatched pagoda-like house,
leaves, twigs and milkweed silk
spilling from its lip.

For weeks I’ve admired the diligence
of these shy birds hopping from bush pile
to nest and felt blessed
by song and intent.

Living alone, one can believe anything.
I believed they belonged forever
like the morning glories
of blue, dark blue and rose,

those delicate climbers
that appear every spring
wrap themselves around
a reed, a pole.

But hours later, on a porch step,
only feathers and chips of bone.

“Aphasia” by Laura Wallace,

One morning a ragged fingernail scratches 
deep within the brain a soft and lonely itch. 

A yearning not to speak, not to need so strongly 
to be heard or to divine the word that will relieve all 
hunger, quell all war and cruelty, slake a planet’s 
thirst for peace and oxygen, oxygen and peace. 

This changes to desire for tea, just tea, it’s what you always do 
but you can’t recall what tea is called, its early-morning sound or 
meaning, in which disorderly cabinet it waits or how it’s made. 
Instead you head again to bed and start to write until you read 
what you have typed and it 
is gibberish. 

The smart and urgent residents prick and quiz religiously until you 
finally reply in ways that mean as much to them as once had meant 
to you: the will-yous, won’t-yous, can-yous, can’t-yous collected 
over time before you learned this day that all a human needs when 
questions come is yes or no. DNR? Okay? 

They let you sleep or make you sleep and later on illuminate a scan. 
A white spot sends out a beam from the sly cupboard where tea lives, 
where words are stored in wild and looping canyons full of tiny jars 
with golden lids and colors fragrant as continents of flowers. 

You’d had no idea, really none, how a pilot might require 
such skill and concentration. 

You find no secret speech on peace or Paris or the planet but 
when they say the stroke was small you can still go, joy roars 
in your chest as loudly as the engines making snaking, filthy 
trails that fall away below your feet. And though you know 
there might be a word like love you’ve overlooked, you hope 
you will remember it one morning 
just in time.

Thank you to all the entrants for participating in the contest, and congratulations once again to the winners!