Step Dancing Comes To CHPL

The Chapel Hill Public Library begins its celebration of Black History Month this Saturday, February 6, at 3 pm with a free exhibition of step dancing performed by local students.

The step groups at UNC’s Communiversity Youth Program are comprised of 3rd through 5th graders, taught by UNC students through the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. Step is a percussive form of dance that originated at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the early 20th century.

Chris Wallace of Communiversity discussed Saturday’s program with Aaron Keck on WCHL, joined by two dancers and one teacher from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Medicaid Expansion In NC?

North Carolina is one of 16 states nationwide that still hasn’t expanded Medicaid, even though (or because) Medicaid expansion is a key component of the plan behind the Affordable Care Act. With a major election looming this year, what is the status of the Medicaid expansion debate in North Carolina?

The League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham Counties is hosting a discussion on Medicaid expansion this Wednesday, January 20, at 6:30 pm in the Chapel Hill Public Library. (The LWV is a nonpartisan organization, but it’s taken a position in favor of Medicaid expansion.) League president Janet Hoy will speak along with Adam Linker of the NC Justice Center.

Janet Hoy previewed the event and discussed the issue with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Wednesday’s event is called “Status of Medicaid Expansion: What’s On the Political Horizon?” It’s free and open to the public.

Visit for more information.

New Book Machine Speeds Reads Back To Chapel Hill Public Library Shelves

The Chapel Hill Public Library boasts one of the highest per capita circulation rates in the state. That means a lot of books and DVDs coming and going each day, totaling approximately 1.3 million items annually.

Handling that volume of materials takes time, and can be physically taxing for library staffers. Library Director Susan Brown says it takes a mental toll as well.

“You fill up a cart of books and you turn around and there are more books, says Brown. “It’s like this fire hose of stuff that keeps coming back in.”

Starting this week, the library has a new solution in the form of an automated materials handler. The machine combines a conveyor belt with Radio Frequency Identification technology to collect and sort materials after they’ve been dropped off in a book return by library patrons.

The books will be automatically scanned and checked in, then travel over several yards of conveyor belts before being sorted onto one of eleven bins. From there, librarians will re-shelve the books.

In addition to the new ramps and conveyor belts in the sorting room, there’s a Plexiglas window in the library lobby so patrons can watch the process in action.

“We were sort of thinking of that Krispy Kreme model, when you can see the doughnut coming off the belt,” says Brown. “It has proven to be very popular.”

The purchase of the $300,000 machine was made possible by a $200,000 gift from the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation, combined with an additional $100,000 from the town’s Library Gift Fund.

Brown says they are taking suggestions for what to call the new contraption.

“We thought it would be a super-fun way to engage the public in this, so just for a couple days, we’re having an informal contest to name it.”

You can drop off suggestions in a ballot box near the viewing window.

The library will conduct a formal ribbon cutting as part of its Mystery in The Stacks fundraiser this Friday. Find out more here.

“Civil Rights: Then And Now” At CHPL

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act – a law that’s still very much in the news, with a wave of recent state laws changing voting procedures after a Supreme Court ruling struck down some of its key provisions.

One of those laws was North Carolina’s controversial 2013 “voter ID” bill – passed almost immediately after the Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which enabled states and municipalities with a history of discrimination to amend its voting laws without getting “pre-clearance” from the federal government. That law is now being challenged in court too, as are similar laws in other states – including Texas, whose post-Shelby law was recently struck down by a court.

Those legal conflicts make it clear – if it wasn’t already – that the Voting Rights Act is still just as salient in public life today as it was fifty years ago. To mark the anniversary, the League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham Counties has teamed up with the Chapel Hill branch of the American Association of University Women to sponsor a discussion of “Civil Rights: Then and Now,” featuring NC Central law professor Irving Joyner.

The event will take place on Thursday, September 17, at 6:30 pm in the Chapel Hill Public Library. It’s free and everyone’s welcome to attend.

Irving Joyner spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Tuesday – along with League of Women Voters president Janet Hoy and AAUW president Bea Keller.

Chapel Hill Library to Host Harper Lee Celebration

Harper Lee’s new book, “Go Set a Watchman,” will be the subject of events Tuesday at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Readers remember the Atticus Finch of Harper Lee’s groundbreaking 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” as the white lawyer who stood up against racial prejudice. In the book, Finch defends a young black man named Tom Robinson, who was falsely accused of raping a white girl. Gregory Peck played Finch in the 1962 film adaptation.

But critics who’ve read advance copies of Lee’s second release warn readers to prepare themselves for a very different Atticus Finch. “Go Set a Watchman” features a racist Atticus Finch who affiliates with the KKK and opposes desegregation.

Nonetheless, Harper Lee fans are awaiting the release of her new book with a great deal of excitement. Flyleaf bookstore owner Jamie Fiocco says she’s even a little nervous about the expectations readers have for a book that may have been an early draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“Whenever I read a debut novel, I’m a little more forgiving with maybe the author’s way of writing and how they develop the story,” Fiocco said. “But this is a really strange situation in which the second book we’ll be reading is really the first book, […] but we’re reading it as the second and so there’s a lot of expectation.”

The Chapel Hill Public Library is inviting fans to gather there Tuesday to celebrate the release of “Go Set a Watchman.” Library Director Susan Brown says the celebration will feature the 1962 film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a panel discussion.

“Daniel Wallace is going to moderate,” Brown said. “We have an author, someone from the ACLU, someone from the Center for the Study of the American South, and they’re all going to talk about what Harper Lee has meant to them as writers, as readers and to our culture.”

The library is showing the film at 2 p.m. The panel will take place at 6:30 p.m. Flyleaf Books will be selling copies of Lee’s new book at the event.

Thieves Target Chapel Hill Public Library

The Chapel Hill Public Library was the target for thieves on Thursday.

Chapel Hill Police Sergeant Bryan Walker says the manner in which the crime was committed is unusual.

“Apparently someone overnight had actually removed glass from one of the doors,” says Walker. “The glass and frame had been removed and was not broken.”

Once the glass was removed someone stole an Apple computer estimated to be worth $2,000 from the library’s teen center.

The crime was discovered by employees when the library opened on Thursday morning. Chapel Hill Police are still investigating the incident.

Mark “Banned Books Week” At CH Library

This tribute to Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” is one of the Chapel Hill Public Library’s seven trading cards.

National Banned Books Week begins on Sunday, September 21 and runs through Saturday, September 27. Stop by the Chapel Hill Public Library that week and pick up your Banned Books Week Trading Cards – a new card every day, designed by a different local artist, commemorating a book that often finds itself censored, challenged, or banned.

CHPL director Susan Brown joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air Thursday.

On Friday, September 19, the library is hosting a “Sneak Peek Party” from 7-9 pm for anyone who wants to meet the artists and get an early look at the cards.

There were 73 submissions this year for the trading-card project – and you can see all 73 on display at the library that week as well.

Chapel Hill Public Library: Summer Reading So Far and Banned Books Project

The Chapel Hill Public Library has had quite a busy summer, and the summer reading program is still ongoing with a few more events on the way later this year.

Director of the Chapel Hill Public Library, Susan Brown, joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck to give an update on how this summer’s reading program has faired thus far.

“Summer reading is going really well. Chapel Hill is a town of readers of all ages,” says Brown. “Thanks to our friends groups, we have funds for some awesome programs. Our goal this year was 20,000 hours for everybody: kids, teens, adults, and I think we’re right on the cusp of meeting that, and we really want to bust it.”

The Banned Books Week Project is also coming back to the library in the last week of September. Brown explains the details:

“We’ve started getting in some great submissions,” says Brown. “This is where we ask local artists to create a small scale work of art on paper based on a banned book or author. We had about 48 submissions last year. All of the submissions get put into an exhibit at the library, but we have a jury, including the mayor, and we choose seven in a blind jury to print as little trading cards. During that week in September, you have to come into the library every day of the week to get a full set. It’s great art.”

There is still time left to sign up for the Chapel Hill Summer Reading program, available for kids, teens, and adults. To learn more, click here.

For more information on the Banned Books Week Project, click here.

Health, Safety, Schools, Libraries, And Hillsborough

If you still haven’t signed up for health insurance, the Chapel Hill Public Library is holding an all-day Affordable Care Act enrollment session on Monday, March 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The library is holding the session in partnership with UNC Healthcare, the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood, and UNC’s Student Health Action Coalition.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance in 2014 is March 31.

For more information or to reserve a time, call the Chapel Hill Public Library at 919-968-2780.


Are you a veteran or connected to the military? Orange County’s Department of Social Services is inviting you to a new event called “Military Monday,” geared especially toward veterans to make sure they have access to benefits and other federal, state, and local resources.

The first Military Monday event will take place on March 24, from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Hillsborough Commons on Mayo Street. It will be a Career/Resource Fair, with benefit assistance, career assessments, education resources, the Mobile Vet Center and more.

For more information, contact Betsy Corbett at 919-245-2890.


Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens will deliver his annual State of the Town address on Monday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the Orange County Public Library.

Among other things, the address will include an update on the town’s Riverwalk project as well as a discussion of Hillsborough’s future population boom. The town is expected to grow by 31 percent in the next four years.

Members of the public are invited to attend. Before the speech, from 5:30-6:30, planning staff will host a public information meeting on the status of downtown access improvements.


If you’re a parent in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and you’d like more information on the district’s dual language program, the district is offering four information sessions this spring, beginning later this month and running through May.

The Dual Language program gives students the chance to become proficient in two languages, English and either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. The district says Dual Language students, on average, outperform their peers on standardized tests and other student growth measures.

The first information session will be for the Spanish program on Thursday, March 20, at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School. The session will be offered in Spanish from 6-7 p.m. and in English from 7-8 p.m. Two more sessions on the Spanish program will take place—at the same times of day—on Thursday, April 24 at Carrboro Elementary and on Thursday, May 22, again at FPG.

There will also be an info session on the Mandarin Chinese program on Tuesday, March 25, from 6-7 p.m. at Glenwood Elementary.


Are you excited about the proposed new Southern Branch Library in Carrboro? What do you want to see there? What do you NOT want to see there?

If you have thoughts and ideas about the library, come out to a Community Engagement Meeting hosted by Orange County. The county is actually holding two meetings: the first is Tuesday, March 25, at 6:00 at Hickory Tavern; the second is on Saturday, April 12, at noon in Carrboro Town Hall. The first 50 participants at the March 25 meeting will receive gift certificates to Hickory Tavern.


The Hillsborough Arts Council has announced a partnership with a new charter school coming to Hillsborough this August.

The Expedition School will be taking part in the Art Council’s ArtCycle program, a program that collects new and used art supplies to be used in local schools.

The Expedition School is scheduled to open its doors in August. It’s a STEM-focused school for grades K-8.


Driving around this month, you might see some new signs on the road – all part of a local campaign to remind people to pull over if they see emergency vehicles coming their way.

The campaign is called “See the Light, Pull to the Right.” The idea came from a town employee, Fire Equipment Operator Luis Rodrigues. Six new signs are being installed near major intersections in Chapel Hill.

If an emergency vehicle is approaching you from behind, take your foot off the accelerator, merge to the outside lane if possible, and pull off the side of the road to allow the vehicle to pass.


This Week In Orange County! (Weather Permitting.)

**UPDATE: The OWASA Board meeting scheduled for Thursday night (see below) has been cancelled. The Board will accept public comment on their Draft Strategic Plan at their meeting Thursday, February 27. (To read the plan, again, see below.)

ORANGE COUNTY – UNC will test its emergency sirens today, Tuesday, February 11, between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m.

The test was originally set to take place in late January, but got postponed because of the snow that hit the area.

You’ll hear the sirens if you’re on campus, downtown, or near the Friday Center or Carolina North. The purpose is to test the Alert Carolina system; UNC will also send a text message to about 50,000 cell phones registered by students, faculty and staff.


Carrboro town manager David Andrews has named Carol Anderson Dorsey as the town’s new human resources director. Dorsey has spent the last five years as human resources director for the city of Oxford, NC; her prior jobs included serving as director of human resources for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA.

A total of 85 candidates applied for the position, representing 16 different states.


The Orange Community Players will open their 2014 season in February with “Steel Magnolias,” the acclaimed story of six very different Southern women whose tight friendship carries them through joys and tragedies.

“Steel Magnolias” runs from February 13-16 at the Central Orange Senior Center in Hillsborough. You can purchase tickets at the Senior Center, or online at


The OWASA Board is inviting you to come ask questions and comment on their Draft Strategic Plan at a meeting on Thursday, February 13, at 7:00 p.m. in the OWASA Building on Jones Ferry Road.

You can also send your comments and questions via email or by letter or fax. Send an e-mail to; send a letter to 400 Jones Ferry Road, Carrboro, NC 27510; or send a fax to 919-968-4464.

Click here to read the draft strategic plan.


Chapel Hill town government is moving out of Town Hall! (Part of it, at least.)

Renovations are about to begin at Town Hall, to repair the damage from last year’s flood and make some other layout changes to improve customer service. In the meantime, the mayor’s office has moved to the Chapel Hill Public Library, along with the office of the town manager and seven other Town staffers.

Everyone will move back into Town Hall when the renovations are finished. Town Council chambers are expected to reopen in September; other building areas will be addressed in phases after that.

Other town officials who are temporarily moving to the library: mayoral aide Mark McCurry, Assistant to the Town Manager Jason Damweber, Policy and Strategic Initiatives director Mary Jane Nirdlinger, Sustainability Officer John Richardson, Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett, Organizational Effectiveness Coordinator Rae Buckley, and Administrative Assistant Peggy Paumer.


This weekend, the campus organization VDAY Carolina is staging a bilingual production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” to benefit the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

Shows run from Friday, February 14, through Sunday, February 16 at Hanes Auditorium, with two shows each on Friday and Saturday–one in English and one in Spanish.

You can buy tickets at Union Box Office, over the phone or online. For ticket information, visit


Thursday, February 13, UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center will host the world premiere of “Ice Music,” a multimedia creation by the artist Brooks de Wetter-Smith. “Ice Music” examines the beauty and the importance of ice in our world, featuring de Wetter-Smith’s videography and photography, a new musical composition by Lowell Liebermann, and dance choreographed by Carey McKinley.

“Ice Music” will premiere at 8:00 p.m. on February 13, in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at the FedEx Center as part of UNC’s Process Series. On Friday the 14th, there will be a workshop presentation and discussion at 4:00 p.m., also in the Mandela Auditorium.

For more information, click here.


You’re invited to a public information meeting on Thursday, February 13, to discuss Orange County’s “Agricultural Support Enterprises” program.

The program is designed to help farmers generate additional income by expanding the types of activities they may pursue on their farms. It’s been in development since 2001; Orange County is currently considering amending the Unified Development Ordinance to adopt it.

The meeting will take place at 6:00 p.m. in the Food Lab of the Environmental and Agricultural Center, located at 306 Revere Road in Hillsborough.


Protect your cats and dogs by coming to a Microchip Clinic on Thursday, February 13, from 3-5 p.m. at the Orange County Animal Services Department on Eubanks Road.

Microchips will cost $25 per pet, which includes registration with 24PetWatch’s national database. The Department will also offer one-year rabies vaccinations as well, for $10 per pet.

For more information, visit