Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | January 18, 2017

What I Am Reading: Between the World and Me


As James Baldwin wrote a letter in 1963 to his 15 year-old-nephew in The Fire Next Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes to his 15-year-old son, Samori Maceo-Paul Coates in Between the World and Me. Both books advise the young men about how to make sense of the world. Between the World and Me is the “talk” that parents give their children when they reach a certain age about how to navigate in the world while being in a “black body.”  While Coates’ writing is poetic and eloquent and earned him the National Book Award, his message is not hopeful. He says, “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage.”

He talks a lot about the Dream and the Dreamers. He says that historians created the Dream and Hollywood and novels have perpetuated it. He tells his son about the permanence of racial injustice and the foolishness of thinking things might change. Growing up in West Baltimore, Coates could not reconcile the violence he experienced in his daily life with that dream life depicted on television. Despite the dangers of growing up on crime-ridden streets, Coates’ family life provided some basis for success. Coates’ mother worked as a teacher and made him write essays as punishment for bad behavior. His father founded Black Classic Press and published African-American literature. Later, his father became a reference librarian at Howard University, enabling Coates to go to college.

Coates repeatedly refers to Howard University as his personal “mecca.” He becomes radicalized by the shooting death of his college friend, Prince Carmen Jones by the Prince Georges County police. After leaving Howard University, Coates began to write and be published. David Carr, a New York Times journalist became a mentor. Coates currently writes for The Atlantic as a national correspondent. His articles: “Fear of a Black President” and “The Case for Reparations” have won him recognition.

After reading this autobiography, one better understands his background, his rage, and his frustration as he tries to explain to his son the reality of the world.


Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | January 13, 2017

Center for Civil and Human Rights


If you are traveling over the holidays and go to Atlanta, be sure to check out the Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Located in Downtown Atlanta at the Centennial Olympic Park between the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, the museum is easy to find and well worth a visit.

The Center was first imagined by civil rights leaders Evelyn and Joseph Lowery, and Andrew Young. Opening in 2014, former Mayor Shirley Franklin brought together corporate and community support to create a museum that would connect the American Civil Rights Movement with global Human Rights Movements.

On the bottom floor are Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal papers. The collection was acquired in 2007 for $32 million by a consortium of donors led by then-mayor Shirley Franklin, and is owned by Morehouse College. Low lighting and closely monitored temperature and humidity protect all these writings which include his handwritten notes, sermons, speeches, and manuscripts… a total of over 10,000 items in all.

The middle floors of the Center are devoted to the American Civil Rights Movement, created by playwright and director George C. Wolfe, who won Tony awards for directing “Angels in America” and “Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk.” Thus, it is not surprising that this section is more of an experiential exhibit. While there is plenty to read and digest, an impactful part of the museum for me was sitting at a segregated lunch counter during a simulated sit-in wearing headphones and listening to what might have been said to the civil rights protestors in Greensboro in 1960.  Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., the television newscasts of the 60s that are part of the display brought back lots of memories of events like the March on Washington.

The upper floor of the center has interactive displays of human rights situations around the world. The idea is to connect the civil rights movements of the 1960s to the human rights abuses that are still occurring around the world today.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights’ architect, Phil Freelon of Durham, North Carolina, merged with the Atlanta firm of Perkins and Will. Together they have recently completed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. As impressive as the Center for Civil and Human Rights was to visit, I look forward to seeing their newest project.

For more information about the Center for Civil and Human Rights click here.


~Betty Thomas~

Note: this blog post originally ran in the Charlotte School of Law Blog on December 22, 2016.

Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | January 11, 2017

What I am Reading: The Education of Kevin Powell


Have you read All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg? It is an autobiography about growing up dirt poor in northeastern Alabama. The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood is Kevin Powell’s autobiography about growing up dirt poor in the ghetto in Jersey City.  Both men were raised by single mothers. Both men experienced violence in their childhoods. Both men went on to become successful writers: Bragg won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing for The New York Times; Powell’s writings have appeared in The Washington Post, Newsweek, Essence, Ebony, Rolling Stone, and Vibe.

Powell’s journey was not a straight path. While he excelled in school and was able to go to Rutgers University, his suppressed anger sabotaged his own success several times along the way. His book includes chapters from his life about appearing on MTV’s The Real World, writing for Vibe magazine, running unsuccessfully for Congress, and journeying to Africa.  In an interview about his book, Powell said that his memoir has been inside him for years. He also said that while he did not target his book to young adults, he does hope that young people might avoid some of the mistakes that he made growing up. His memoir is an honest, transparent account of his life, the successes and the failures. He works as an activist, writer, and public speaker focusing on civil and human rights. He works through his organization, BK Nation, to organize peaceful protests. He ultimately works to move humanity towards freedom, justice, equality, and peace.


This book is his story.

Follow-up:  Kevin Powell discusses black masculinity in popular culture with bell hooks of The New School at The conversation begins at 13:13.

The Education of Kevin Powell is available for checkout from the Charlotte Law Library. For a few weeks, it will be located with the New Books in the East Reading Room on the 5th floor and then located here.

~Betty Thomas~

Note: this blog post was published on the Charlotte School of Law Blog on December 27, 2016.

Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | January 10, 2017

The Importance of Legal Research Skills


Early in November, LexisNexis released a paper summarizing their survey of summer associates conducted last July. Summer Associates Identify Writing and Legal Research Skills Required on the Job reported on the responses of 330 summer associates working in large U.S. law firms (with over 50 attorneys).

The findings that I found most interesting were the following:

  • Close to half reported spending between 50 to 100% of their time conducting legal research.

  • 86% of hiring partners believe legal research skills are highly important.
  • Summer associates used state and federal case law (97.3%) and state and federal statutes (87%) the most. Treatises were the most used secondary source.
  • When asked what additional research skills they would like to know, the summer associates chose regulatory research (33.9%), secondary sources (27.3%), and verdicts, briefs, and dockets (24.8%) as the top three topics.
  • Between 20 and 30% of summer associates would like more drafting instruction on contracts (29.7%), memo writing (28.8%), pleadings and motions (22.7%), and briefs (21.5%).

While this is just one study conducted by LexisNexis, it does give some information about the importance of legal research in the work done by summer associates.

~Betty Thomas~

Note: this post initially appeared on the Charlotte School of Law Blog on December 29, 2016.

Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | January 9, 2017

7 Keys to Grant Writing


Over lunch at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Metrolina Library Association members recently learned from Raye Oldham, Federal Programs Consultant with the State Library of North Carolina, about how to effectively write grants. In fact, she gave us 7 keys to successfully unlock the doors to being awarded a grant. The State Library of North Carolina awards Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants to eligible North Carolina libraries. These grants are federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. However, her “keys” are applicable to anyone applying for a grant.

 Be on the Same Page As Your Funder

  • The State Library wants to say “yes.” They have to distribute all of their funds each year so they want applicants to be successful and get those funds.
  • Oldham pointed out that the focus of the grant proposal should be on the needs of the users and future users, not on what the library needs. That focus should be clear in the writing of the application. For example, state that “our users need…” rather than “we need” or “our library needs.” The grant is not about the library. How will that new technology help your users?
  • In addition, the State Library wants to evenly distribute the money. For example, if Charlotte Mecklenburg Library submits 3 applications and two other county library systems submit one application each, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library may have only one application approved so that the other library systems can also get some funding. They also look to distribute funding across different types of libraries: public, academic, community college, etc.

Know Where to Find Information

Become familiar with the funder’s webpages by digging into the links, understanding the different programs, checking for the most current information, and looking for timelines.

For example, the 2017-2018 LSTA Grant Programs timeline starts with the application deadline on February 24, 2017. Libraries will find out if they are funded in May or Early June and projects start July 1.

Review Previous Awards

Most funders post what they have awarded in the past. Applicants should look for this information for three reasons:

  • Check to see if what you want to do aligns with what they want to fund. Funders may want new ideas but looking at these awards will still give you a sense of heading in the right direction.
  • If you see what someone else has done, you can contact them to find out additional information and get ideas.
  • If your library is interested in doing something new, you can see other projects and get ideas.

In 2016-2017 the State Library funded seven projects about literacy: information literacy, adult literacy, and children’s literacy.  A lot of projects included partnerships. For example, a college library partnered with the early college department, a career center, or a disability advocacy group to further integrate with the community.

Data Is Your Friend

Funders are usually not looking for intensive, analytical data but adding numbers to your application will help you be more successful. Statements like the following: “frequently students will ask for x” cause the reviewer to wonder what that frequently might mean: 3 times a day or 3 times a month. A better statement would be: “3 out of 10 times, there are not enough laptops for students to do their own work.” Specifics in context will be helpful in getting your application approved.

Make It Easy

You want reviewers to easily understand your proposal and clearly see the obstacles facing your users. Sometimes the reviewers see applications with a goal statement, a target audience, a budget, and an evaluation but none of the pieces go together. Your application has to be clear and understandable.

Many funding applications include questions with identifiers under each question like parts (a), (b), and (c). Use these to organize your application or response. Addressing each part specifically will help the reviewer see that you have responded to each of those items. If something does not apply, just indicate N/A but be sure to use the identifier.

Schedule Time

A lot of people think the real work starts with completing the application but actually the real work starts when you get funded. Blocking off time on your calendar like an appointment will help with the review process, with keeping implementation deadlines from passing, and with completing the final report. In a similar way, many applications require signatures in different sections. Plan ahead and leave yourself some cushion in case someone is unavailable.


The State Library is happy to help answer questions or brainstorm ideas. Asking questions makes you look like a stronger applicant. Asking questions shows you are making an effort to have the best application possible. The State Library also will review a draft if submitted at least two weeks before the due date.



For further information: The State Library of North Carolina’s 2017-2018 LSTA Annual Program Plan.

Any questions, please contact Raye Oldham at:

Raye Oldham

Federal Programs Consultant

State Library of North Carolina

North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources


Thanks to Raye Oldham for an excellent program!

Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | July 19, 2016

11th Annual Metrolina Library Association Conference Recap

Heading for Announcement

One of the strengths of the Metrolina Library Association’s Annual Conference is the variety of the presentations. The two that I most appreciated this year were extremely different. Cal Shepard, State Librarian of North Carolina, gave a big picture presentation about the Libraries of the Future. In contrast, Tracy Pizzi gave an excellent presentation on the details of RDA (Resource Description and Access) cataloging. Both provided excellent insight into very different areas of librarianship. In this post, we start with the big picture. In a follow-up post will come the details of cataloging for the 21st century.

Disruptive Innovation

Cal Shepard started out her keynote speech by defining disruptive innovation as “innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network.” As an example she talked about the telephone, where what were initially clunky mobile phones have eventually replaced land lines.

Libraries are experiencing disruptive innovation and have been for some time.  We have all heard the question about the continued existence of libraries in the age of Google with everything online. While some libraries and librarians are “hunkering down”, other library staff realize that disruption is an opportunity. One example is the development of open source software like Evergreen which would provide opportunities for new skill development for librarians and increase control over more of our systems.

Host Systems

How do you “find” those opportunities? Libraries exist as parts of a larger system. For a law school library, the law school is the host system. Understanding the host system is vital to taking advantage of the disruption. Librarians need to know the answers to these questions about the host system:

Why does it exist?

What is its mission?

What does it mean to be good or effective within that system?

What does the system value?

Who controls resource allocation in the library’s host system?

What influences them?


Libraries have to scan the environment and host institutions to find opportunities FOR the library to contribute to the success of the host.


5 Suggestions for Navigating Change

  1. Focus on relationships, not transactions. Interactions accumulate and build mutual understanding and collaboration. You have to know your community and your community has to know you.
  2. Specialize – at least not try to be all things to all people. Focus on the priorities.
  3. Get OUT of the library. Engage with your community. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Figure out what you can do to help them the most. Insure the library’s goals are aligned with the community’s needs.
  4. Build alliances or partnerships. Librarians have to go beyond providing a service to being a team partner. It is a different mindset.
  5. Pay attention. Read trade journals, watch the local news, and talk with colleagues about the changing landscape. Figure out a new role for the library.

As a result of aligning with the goals of the host system and helping to achieve those goals rather than just providing services, the library becomes a valued and visible member of the organization. The goal is to be essential and indispensable. The opportunity of disruptive innovation is here.


Cal Shepard, State Librarian with Rebecca Freeman, President, Metrolina Library Association

Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | May 19, 2016

11th Annual Metrolina Library Association Conference

Heading for Announcement

Conference Program

$80 – Non-member

$65 – Member

$50 – Presenter



Keynote Speaker: Cal Shepard

Cal ShepardOpening address — “Inventing Our Future”

Let’s see the disruption that is our current environment and how libraries and library staff might cope with it and even capitalize on it.


Central Piedmont Community College – Harris Conference Center

3216 CPCC Harris Campus Conference Drive, Charlotte, NC 28208

Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | May 18, 2016

A Case at the South Carolina Supreme Court



Full Courtroom


The South Carolina Supreme Court has a “Class Action” Program which is a unique educational opportunity that allows a class of students to attend an oral argument before the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Petitioner’s brief, the Respondent’s brief, and the Reply Brief of Petitioner were provided in advance.  After the oral arguments, attendees remained in the courtroom and questioned the justices and the attorneys who appeared before the Court. Afterwards, one of the staff attorneys gave a tour of the Supreme Court Building.

The case heard on April 13, 2016, Winkler v. State dealt with the following issue:

Counsel for the Respondent in the trial court did not object when the trial judge did not answer repeated questions from the jury about what they should do if they could not come to a unanimous decision as far as the sentencing of a convicted murderer.

History of the case: The trial court convicted the Respondent of murder, first-degree burglary, and assault and battery. The jury recommended the Respondent be sentenced to death. The Respondent appealed to the Post Conviction Relief Court (PCR) on the grounds that he had ineffective assistance of counsel. The PCR court granted relief and set aside the Respondent’s death sentence and sentenced him to life without parole. In the present case, the State argued that the PCR court erred in granting relief and improperly resentenced the Respondent. The State wants the Supreme Court to reverse the PCR court’s decision and reinstate the death sentence.

The Supreme Court heard arguments from the attorneys on both sides, questioned the attorneys, conferenced after the hearing, and will deliver their decision at a later time.

South Carolina differences:

The Supreme Court of South Carolina has a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices.

The justices are elected by the General Assembly, not by popular vote.

The justices are elected to 10 year terms and retire at age 72.

Appellate briefs are filed by paper, not electronically and a blue cover indicates an Appellant’s brief, a red cover indicates an Appellee’s brief, and a green cover is an Amicus brief.

South Carolina has a Post-Conviction Relief (PCR) Court that is a civil court that deals with cases predominantly about “ineffective assistance of counsel.’

In South Carolina, the South Carolina Bar has two lists for each county. A criminal list of regular bar members who are certified by the Supreme Court to serve as lead counsel in death penalty cases and a civil list of all regular bar members eligible to be appointed in the county. The latter list is used for the appointment of counsel for indigents. The judge makes appointments by alphabetical order.

South Carolina does not have a paralegal certification program.

Photo Gallery

Outside Bldg







Front of Supreme Court Building



















Library 2









Me in Courtroom









Author/Student in the Courtroom

Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | May 1, 2016

Law Day 2016 – Miranda: More than Words

Law Day 2016 logo


May 1st is Law Day, a national day to celebrate the rule of law and its contributions to the freedoms that Americans enjoy. The day also provides an opportunity to recognize the role of courts in our democracy and the importance of jury service.  In 1957, Charles S. Rhyne, President of the American Bar Association lobbied for a day to celebrate our legal system.

The first Law Day was established by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958 to commemorate the rule of law. In 1961, Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day, which was subsequently codified (36 U.S.C. § 113). Every year the President of the United States issues a Law Day proclamation on May 1st to celebrate the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Law Day programs are designed to help people understand how the law keeps us free and how our legal system strives to achieve justice. These programs are conducted by various groups including local bar associations, courts, law libraries and schools.

This year’s event marks the 50th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). At the Library of Congress, Roberta Shaffer, the Law Librarian of Congress will interview Paulette Brown, President of the American Bar Association (ABA) about the significance of Miranda v. Arizona.  According to the ABA’s website, “the 2016 Law Day theme — Miranda: More than Words — will explore the procedural protections afforded to all of us by the U.S. Constitution, how these rights are safeguarded by the courts, and why the preservation of these principles is essential to our liberty.”

Paulette Brown’s explanation of the significance of Miranda, especially in these times, can be seen in the video here.

Paulette Brown ABA


American Bar Association. (2016). Law Day 2016 – Miranda: More than Words. Retrieved from

Caravalho, L. (2016, April 5). Law Day Program – 50th Anniversary of Miranda v. Arizona. Retrieved from



Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | April 17, 2016

We Love Our Public Libraries






At least that is what the research shows… In a presentation at the recent Computers in Libraries Conference, Lee Rainie, Director of Internet, Science and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center, explained data from new survey results to find out how we use our public libraries and the importance of libraries and learning in the future.


Here Is What We Think of Our Libraries Now

From earlier research, the Pew researchers know the following about what people think about their libraries (

  • People think libraries are very important, especially for communities.
  • In an era of systemic declines in trust in major institutions, people trust librarians
  • People think libraries level the playing field for those without vast resources
  • People think libraries provide services that are hard to get elsewhere
  • People believe libraries have rebranded themselves as tech hubs

While fewer people physically went to the library in the last three years; more people used their library’s website.

Fewer People Visit

Used website

And How Have Libraries Contributed To Their Communities?

Contributed to Community

What about the Future of Libraries?

 Cat Future pic

85% of People Surveyed Felt Libraries Should Help Local Schools Provide Resources to Kids

 Help schools

85% of People Surveyed Felt Libraries Should Offer Early Literacy Programs


78% of People Surveyed Felt Libraries Should Teach How To Use Digital Tools

 Digital Tools

Interestingly, the Pew researchers found that people identified themselves as learners.

Lifelong learners


…And why they are learners.

why lifelong

76% of people feel their library serves the learning needs of the community.

learning needs

Two other things people would like for libraries to do…

76% of people would like to learn about protecting privacy and security online.


                       64% of people would like more comfortable spaces in the library.      


In Conclusion, Lee Rainie pointed to David Weinberger’s article entitled Library as Platform as the Model for Future Libraries.

library as platform

 Something to Ponder

 Cat pondering



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