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ALXnow editor Vernon Miles’ bookshelf (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

With book bans on the rise, the Alexandria Library is partnering with Elaine’s Restaurant (208 Queen Street) in Old Town to host a free reading from books on banned lists nationwide.

The free event tomorrow (Wednesday) will allow locals to read a 3-5 minute segment from a favorite banned book, like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner or Harry Potter, or just come to listen. The event will be held on the second floor of Elaine’s Restaurant from 7-9 p.m.

A list of frequently challenged books is available online.

According to the event listing:

The Freedom to Read is a right, but books are still being banned throughout the country. And the numbers are up, “In a time of intense political polarization, library staff in every state are facing an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom ALA documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.” from The American Library Association.


From tango to storytime, the Alexandria Library is hosting an array of events this month to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

The month of programming started on Sept. 15 and will run until Monday, Oct. 16.

There will be a bilingual storytime on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 10:15 a.m. in the Burke Branch Library (4701 Seminary Road). The event is aimed at children who are one or two years old.

There are storytime events throughout the month, including ones for older children and a book club for adults. There will be a screening of Encanto, one of the best Disney movies in recent memory, at the Duncan Branch Library (2501 Commonwealth Avenue) on Wednesday, Oct. 4 from 4-6 p.m.

There are also multiple dances and dance classes, including a Tango class on Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 4-5 p.m. in the Burke Branch Library.

The full list of events over the next month is available online.

Image via PreilluminationSeTh/Unsplash

Dungeons and Dragons at the Alexandria Library (photo via Alexandria Library/Facebook)

(Updated 8/24) A group of adventurers slowly entered a dimly lit tavern with a locked cage at the center of the room. The commoners of the town, including the party cleric’s brother, were locked in that cage.

As the group filed in, suddenly from out of the shadows, things began to crawl forward. As the group of children at the Alexandria Library listened eagerly to Dungeon Master Aly Ahn describe what was lurking in the shadows, one of them hopefully suggested “Kittens?”

The table erupted in laughter and Ahn said it was one of her favorite moments in an ongoing Dungeons and Dragons campaign occurring monthly at the Alexandria Library.

For those out of the loop, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a popular tabletop roleplaying game where a dungeon master weaves a narrative and a group of players embodies various fantasy archetypes on a quest.

Ahn, who is used to working with children in after-school programs, set up the Alexandria Library’s D&D campaigns. The program’s turned into such a success that Ahn said more volunteer dungeon masters are needed to keep up with the demand from local kids.

The campaigns have their roots in Ahn’s work in an after-school program during Covid.

“When students went back to school and it was still virtual, my program was able to accommodate children whose parents could have them at home for virtual schooling,” Ahn said. “When 2:30 comes around, the kids needed something to do. We were trying to be mindful of close contact and I thought: oh, I can teach them how to play Dungeons and Dragons.”

Ahn said her older brother tried to teach her the game when she was a child, but she really fell in love with the game when she started playing with friends in 2019. In early 2022, some of the quarantine campaigns fizzled out, and Ahn said she felt the itch to play again. She reached out to the library and started a campaign for local kids in June 2022.

The campaign was originally aimed at pre-teen players, but ended up mostly with players between eight and ten years old.

Ahn said running a D&D campaign for children is different than running a campaign for adults. She started off with modules written specifically for younger players and avoids saying things like a character or creature dies.

The campaign has been popular enough that Ahn’s enlisted the help of other volunteers to help run other campaigns to keep the group sizes more manageable. Fewer players per campaign means each player gets more time to shine.

“It’s difficult to keep them invested and [keep their attention],” Ahn said. “That’s why we’re constantly looking for new volunteers. This past weekend, we had 12 kids, which is a lot. There was only one time when I, by myself, had to run a 12-person table. Now with three [dungeon masters] we have four or five kids per table.”

Most of the adventures have been episodic “one-shots” but now that the players have a more firm grasp on the game, Ahn is starting to work in the backstories of the characters to build an overarching campaign to help the children practice roleplaying.

Ahn said one of the crowning moments of her work with the Alexandria Library Dungeons and Dragons campaign was when one of the players started to run their own game with their parents and some of the others in the group.

In general, Ahn said the game has been great for teaching children teamwork, outside-the-box problem-solving, and letting them take chances in a safe environment:

Liam O’Brien from Critical Role once said there was a moment in the [campaign] where it struck him that the [dungeon master] wasn’t there to be their enemy, he was there to turn them into heroes. That’s something that stuck with me. That’s something I can do with the kids as well. I want them to practice looking out for each other, working together as a team, and learning how they can contribute and how they can help others around them.

Ahn said Dungeons and Dragons, the current 5th edition in particular, is built so that no one player can do everything.

“Wizards can literally reshape history and can mold things the way they want things to be, but they can’t cast cure wounds — you’ll need a ranger or cleric or alchemist for that,” Ahn said. “It’s designed for teamwork. Kids will say ‘I’m a wizard, why can’t I do this?’ and it’s because one person can’t do everything.”

The next session is Saturday, Sept. 16, from 1-4 p.m. at the Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library (717 Queen Street). Ahn said the campaign can use all the dungeon masters it can get and the best way for people to get involved is to reach out to their library’s volunteer coordinator.

Photo via Alexandria Library/Facebook


The Appalachian Mountains never touch Mexico, but a concert tomorrow at Alexandria’s Beatley Central Library (5005 Duke Street) will manage the geographically impossible and bring them together.

The musical group Lua Project combines musical styles from Chattanooga to Veracruz, with a narrative storytelling approach similar to the Scotch-Irish style prevalent in Appalachian music but with instrumentation and musical traditions from Mexico.

The program is scheduled to run from 10:30-11:30 a.m. tomorrow (Friday).

“A bilingual concert of songs and stories featuring an introduction to Mexican and [Appalachian] music, instruments and dance,” the Alexandria Library said. “All ages.”

Photo via Lua Project/Facebook

The Kate Waller Barrett Branch of the Alexandria Library. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

(Updated 10:15 a.m.) One month after the Alexandria Library was crippled due to a “data incident,” the library is still recovering services and won’t say more about what caused the outage.

For weeks in early July, many of the library network’s digital services were completely inaccessible, including audiobooks, wifi and signing up for a library card.

Some of those services, like wifi and audiobooks, were restored after a few weeks. Others took longer and public computer stations and printing are still unavailable at the Barrett and Burke Branch Libraries. Payment for some fees and services also cannot be accepted.

“We have gotten internet stations and public printing back online at Beatley Central Library as of yesterday,” Senior Communications Officer Nathan Carrick said, “and [we] expect to have the other branches back online this week as well.”

The Alexandria Library said on its website that the technological issues were caused by a data incident:

The Alexandria Library system is experiencing a partial network outage due to a data incident. The investigation is ongoing and Library staff is working with cybersecurity professionals and law enforcement to remediate and investigate this incident. The Library is open and nearly all services are available.

Over a month after the Alexandria Library first published that notice, though, Carrick said the library can’t provide any additional information about the cause.

“We cannot provide an update on the investigation at this time as it is still ongoing,” Carrick said.

Playing at the sprayground at Potomac Yard Park (Staff photo by James Cullum)

With heat index temperatures expected to reach upward of 107 degrees today, Alexandria is offering cooling centers at recreation centers and libraries.

The National Weather Service issued a a hazardous heat forecast today, in effect from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Temperatures are also expected to be more than 100 degrees through Saturday.

“Prolonged exposure to hot temperatures and high humidity can cause heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, cramps or, in extreme cases, heat stroke,” the city said in a release. “It is especially important for individuals with underlying health issues to take extra precautions and plan ahead for this and future excessive heat events.”

Cooling centers are scheduled at these locations:

  • Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe St.) — 9 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday
  • Leonard “Chick” Armstrong Recreation Center (25 W. Reed Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed on Sunday
  • Lee Center (1108 Jefferson St.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m during the week, closed on weekends
  • Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday
  • Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center (1108 Jefferson St.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, closed on weekends
  • Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
  • William Ramsay Recreation Center (5650 Sanger Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed on Sunday


Alexandria is also advising residents to visit city pools on its heat safety webpage.

Additionally, the Potomac Yard Interactive Fountain at Potomac Yard Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Labor Day.

The city issued the following tips to beat the heat:

  • Stay indoors and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait to be thirsty to drink.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
  • Do not leave infants, children, people with medical conditions, or pets in a parked car even if the windows are cracked or even for short periods of time.
  • Monitor people around you, including co-workers, neighbors, and friends, for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Learn what you can do if you are concerned about someone who is homeless.
The nearly full Strawberry Moon in June 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated 7/19) Celebrating the 54th anniversary of the moon landing, the Alexandria Library is also attempting a seemingly impossible feat: putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle of the moon in under two hours.

The James M. Duncan Jr. Branch Library at 2501 Commonwealth Avenue is hosting an all-ages race to put the puzzle together. The race is scheduled to run from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, July 20.

“Join us for a two-hour sprint to build a 1,000 piece moon puzzle to celebrate the anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20th, 1969,” the library said in an event listing. “All ages and levels of puzzle enthusiasts welcome!”

From 4-corner finders to edge builders, the library said all are welcome to help the library build the moon.

The Kate Waller Barrett Branch of the Alexandria Library. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

In the Alexandria Gazette’s newsroom is a wall filled with archives of the news organization dating back to the early 19th century.

It’s an invaluable resource and a chance to look back at Alexandrians describing the city in their era in their own words, from local advertisements to gossip at the port. As more news is reported exclusively online, the Alexandria Library is hoping to recapture that sort of archive for the digital age.

The Alexandria Community Web Archives is described by the library system as part of an ongoing mission to document the history and culture of Alexandria. The archive captures images of various websites covering Alexandria to keep them available for posterity.

ALXnow spoke with Patricia Walker, branch manager of Local History/Special Collections, about the new archive.

ALXnow: How did this project get started? Has this been on your mind for a while or was it something that was spurred on by a particular incident?

Walker: Web archiving has been on our radar for several years, because it is very important for documenting local communities. However, we needed time to update the Local History/Special Collections Branch’s digital archiving technology.

Fortunately, the timing worked out well because we were able to hire a new archivist around the same time as the Internet Archive opened up applications for public libraries to apply for the Mellon-funded Community Webs program. This program is very beneficial to public libraries because it helps establish these Community Web programs by taking care of the costs for the software and storage support for the first two years.

ALXnow: When did this project start?

Walker: We applied to be a Community Webs member on August 26, 2022. We began compiling a list of sites we knew we wanted to document in September 2022. Because these types of projects can require a lot of technical and descriptive work, it takes time to launch them. In fact it took us almost a year to launch, which happened on 4/7/2023.

ALXnow: As this project gets going, what are you hoping will be the benefit to people a generation or two removed as they look back at this collection?

Walker: People will have access to the information they need. Essentially we are capturing snapshots of our community in all its variety – whether that is obituaries on funeral home sites; information on food insecurity, immigration, or civil rights needs captured through non-profit sites; or the changing architecture and cuisine within the city captured through the sites of businesses and restaurants. We want people to make site suggestions to make sure we are representing everyone.

ALXnow: Are there any goals for how often the archive will document sites? Right now it looks like there are only a handful of sites with archives captured and there are some, like ours or Patch, that update every day. Will every day eventually be accessible?

Walker: We have guidelines for how often we capture a site based on if it updates daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually. We don’t want to capture most sites every day since many do not update that often. Also, with projects like this one, there are subscription and storage costs involved so we need to balance cost against how often we capture a site.

Fortunately, the first two years will be funded by the Mellon Foundation, but they have set data limits we still have to work within for this project. We want to make sure that we manage the project in such a way that we can anticipate the future costs and data needs the Library will be responsible for after the second year of the project.

While it appears that we only have 23 sites being captured, we actually have 197 sites on our list to be evaluated, and we are still actively adding more as we find them. We are contacting site owners in advance so we can answer questions and address any concerns they may have about the project before capturing their site.

Alexandria City Hall (staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Personal security cameras, speed cameras in school zones, summer youth employment programs and eviction prevention funding are just a few of the final additions included in the fiscal year 2024 budget by the Alexandria City Council on Tuesday.

Council approved funding a $20,000 program to encourage businesses and homeowners with a “small incentive” to set up security cameras to deter crime, as well as increase their coordination with the Alexandria Police Department.

“I like the concept,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “I think we want our residents to partner with us in providing this kind of neighborhood visibility.”

Other additions include $490,000 for five speed cameras at school crossing zones around the city. Last year, Council approved $400,000 for the speed camera program in five school zones.

Not all of the requests made the final cut. Vice Mayor Amy Jackson’s request to give the Alexandria Commission for Women $20,000 for it’s 50th anniversary event failed to gain consensus.

Council also took $657,629 from the budget that was intended for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center (200 S. Whiting Street), pending proposals from City Manager Jim Parajon to find alternative uses for the facility, pursue regional partnerships for facility use and optimize capacity for the underutilized space.

The full list of additions to the budget are below.

  • Out of School Time Program (OSTP) staffing ($200,000) This increases paid leave and benefits for part-time staffing with the city’s Out of School Time program.
  • Fee waiver for OSTP participants ($15,000) — This would fund a waiver for program participants eligible for SNAP and TANF.
  • Speed cameras in school zones ($490,000) — This adds five photo speed cameras to school crossing zones prioritized by the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services
  • Childcare services ($50,000) — This will provide child-minding services at City COuncil town hall events, as well as select board, committee and commission meetings.
  • Additional eviction prevention funding ($150,000) — This would increase the current funding level of $100,000, all of which will “reasonably assist 40 households in FY24,” according to the city.
  • Central coordinator for immigrant affairs/refugee settlement ($110,000) — This would explore a new position or series of positions that could advance efforts to connect immigrant communities with information, resources and services and address the city’s challenges with immigrant populations.
  • RPCA Mental Health Pilot position ($75,000) — These funds would go toward developing a Department of Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities pilot program for youth mental health services.
  • Summer youth employment program ($214,943) — This would expand the program by 50%, to serve 255 children (85 more than the current program).
  • Study for local housing voucher program ($250,000) — This would add funding for a study on a voucher-like program that stabilizes housing and enables access for low-income housholds across the city’s private rental market.
  • City library security ($70,000) — This funding maintains library security staffing at current levels.
  • Department of Aging and Adult Services ($19,000) — This fills the gap created by Virginia budget formula changed related to the Older Americans Act.
  • DASH service line expansion on Line 33 ($120,000) — This would expand DASH Line 33 service from once every 60 minutes to 30 minutes on Sundays, easing connections to the new Potomac Yard Metro Station.
  • Visit Alexandria advertising ($78,000) — This additional funding can be used by Visit Alexandria for any sort of media, online or print advertising, either regionally or nationally at their discretion.
  • City Council aide compensation increase ($5,300) — This is a 2% scale compensation adjustment.
  • Private security camera incentive program ($20,000)
  • Continuation of AEDP economic recovery manager ($147,208) — The ERPM is responsible for creating and administering AEDPs Business Association Grant program, which supports Alexandria business associations as well as other ARDP rogramming to promote economic recovery.
  • Rental inspection program enhancement ($136,000) — This allows staff to evaluate non-compliant multi-family rental properties.

The budget will be approved on May 3 and go into effect on July 1.



Anyone that’s a sucker for a good book sale might want to head to the Beatley Central Library (5005 Duke Street) at some point this week.

The Friends of the Beatley Central Library are hosting a book sale, starting today, Wednesday (not counting yesterday’s members-only preview day), and running through next Monday.

The sale host includes thousands of books, DVDs, CDs and more, the proceeds going to support the Alexandria library stystem.

The sale runs from 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow, then from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Sunday is Half-Price Day and runs from 1-4:30 p.m. Monday, the last day of the sale, is $10 Bag Sale day and runs from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.


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