Press Release from the Tennessee Library Association, August 30, 2017:

TLA Statement on Events in Tennessee and Virginia, August 2017

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Library Association (TLA) respects the First Amendment rights of citizens to freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble. We are grateful that the recent demonstration in Knoxville was nonviolent after news of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia in the past weeks. These events caused us to reflect upon on our values regarding the diversity and inclusion of all people in our membership and more broadly in the communities in which our members serve. Our organization proudly supports the American Library Association’s (ALA) position on the recent tragic violence in Charlottesville and joins them in affirmation of the statement issued by ALA President Jim Neal. ALA released the following statement:

“The ALA expresses our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those lost and injured during this weekend’s protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. We will not forget their efforts to enlighten and safeguard their communities from bigotry while opposing racist, anti-immigrant, anti-GLBTQ, and anti-Semitic violence. We stand in solidarity with the people of Virginia as well as anyone who protests hate and fights for equity, diversity and inclusion.”

“The vile and racist actions and messages of the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in Charlottesville are in stark opposition to the ALA’s core values. No matter the venue or the circumstance, we condemn any form of intimidation or discrimination based on culture, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Our differences should be celebrated, and mutual respect and understanding should serve as the norms within our society.

“The ALA supports voices of hope as such actions mirror the library community’s efforts to abolish bigotry and cultural invisibility. As we recently stated, ‘we must continue to support the creation of a more equitable, diverse and inclusive society,’ and we will do this through the work of our members and through resources such as Libraries Respond.”

–The TLA 2017 Executive Board

About the Tennessee Library Association

The mission of the Tennessee Library Association (TLA) is to promote the establishment, maintenance and support of quality library services for all people of the state; to cooperate with public and private agencies with related interests; and to support and further professional interests of the membership of the Association.

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, Aug. 23, 2017:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett announced today Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time record high of $19.3 billion in 2016, up 4.7 percent over the previous year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association.

For the 11th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.7 billion. That marks a 6.7 percent increase over 2015, higher than the national growth of travel related state tax revenues. Tourism generated 176,500 jobs for Tennesseans, a 3.3 percent growth year over year.

“More people from around the world continue to visit Tennessee each year,” Haslam said. “The $1.7 billion in sales tax revenue and job growth are good news for everyone in Tennessee. The hard work of the tourism industry, led by the Department of Tourist Development and Tennessee Tourism Committee, continues to produce record results and dedication to boost Tennessee’s economy.”

Five counties exceeded one billion in travel expenditures including Davidson ($5.996 billion), Shelby ($3.335 billion), Sevier ($2.217 billion), Hamilton ($1.060 billion), and Knox ($1.056 billion). All 95 counties saw more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures in the economic impact of tourism and 19 counties saw more than $100 million.

“The economic impact growth of the tourism industry is a result of guests from around the world discovering everything that makes Tennessee ‘The Soundtrack of America,’” Commissioner Triplett said. “It starts with what we have; the music, history, culture and experiences. It is enhanced by how those things are managed. The authenticity and Southern hospitality from our communities and partners create an environment for our guests in a way not only that helps them enjoy their stay but motivates them to return. These numbers are a reflection of Tennessee becoming a destination of choice. But a critical component of this is they do not include the staggering capital investments being made by tourism partners across the state to enhance the experience.”

In another record previously announced during National Travel and Tourism Week, 110 million people visited the state in 2016, up 4.4 percent from 2015, as reported by D.K Shifflet & Associates. An increase in leisure travelers also led to a jump in overnight stays. Tennessee places among the Top 10 travel destinations in the U.S. for the third consecutive year and is considered a top retirement destination.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development doesn’t achieve these numbers alone. In 2011 Gov. Haslam appointed the Tennessee Tourism Committee, made up of tourism leaders in both the public and private sectors. The Committee is chaired by Colin Reed, Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. The department also works with local convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce and city and county leaders in all 95 counties to draw people to the state.

For more information, contact Jill Kilgore, public relations media manager for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, at 615-927-1320 or by email at Jill.Kilgore@tn.gov.

For a complete breakdown of the 2016 Economic Impact for county by county in Tennessee, click here.

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Tennessee is the birthplace of the blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll— delivering an unparalleled experience of beauty, history, and family adventure, infused with music, that creates a vacation that is the “Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.”

Explore more at tnvacation.com and join other Tennessee travelers by following “tnvacation” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.

Big lakes and large rivers aren’t the only habitat for brawny bronzebacks

Anglers are notoriously tight-lipped about where they go to rip fish lips. And that’s especially true among those serious about stalking skinny waters in search of fat bass.

But one of the great things about Middle Tennessee and the Upper Cumberland is that opportunities abound around here for escaping the mechanized weekend multitudes by sequestering yourself on backwoods bodies of moving water. There’s no shortage of covert creeks, secluded streams and secret side-channels that house hidden lairs holding lunker smallmouths.

Fervent fly fishermen like Sawyer Campbell are, of course, forever in thrall to the thrill of landing a big wily trout on an isolated run of fast-flowing river. Campbell, a Tennessee Tech grad, is Outdoor Experience of Cookeville’s floor manager and in-house fly shop tutor. But when he wants to steer clear of the Caney Fork’s flailing fleets of summer pleasure-floaters — or if an overnight excursion to East Tennessee’s South Holston River isn’t feasible — he likes to trek out to undisclosed stretches of tributaries feeding the Cumberland River in search of the copper-tinted kings of lower-elevation creeks and streams.

“It really doesn’t get much better than this,” Campbell remarks as he admires yet another plump, vermillion-eyed smallie he’s wrestled to submission on his 6-weight fly rod somewhere deep in the Roaring River watershed.

Creek-bass angling in the Upper Cumberland offers opportunities to connect with fish both in numbers and for size. That’s a pretty seductive win-win proposition for any fanatical sport fisherman, says Campbell, who’s always game to gab about fly-angling pursuits with customers browsing in the store. One of his specialty topics is discussing tips and tactics with trout anglers interested in crossing over into the realm of bass-catching.

Always Ready to Rumble

Anybody who’s ever caught a smallmouth will tell you they’re among the fightingest fish, pound for pound, of any inland North American warmer-water species. In moving currents, the initial hookup and subsequent thrashing fracas is especially vigorous.

“If you’ve caught smallmouth on lakes before, then you will understand,” said JG Auman of Mt. Juliet-based Tennessee Moving Waters Guide Service (tnmovingwaters.com). “I’d say these stream fish are on average twice as strong as a reservoir smallmouth.”

Auman and his business partner, Nick Adams, guide almost exclusively in Middle Tennessee on, as their name denotes, moving waters. One of their sought-after talents is putting customers — typically using traditional spinning rods — on secret holes in unfrequented streams that support large smallmouth.

When Auman and Adams head out for a day on the water, they ask clients if they’re looking to catch lots of fish, or just interested in targeting the big ones. If it’s the later, wielding a rod and line with some heft is imperative.

Big Fish Require Bigger Tackle

Battling a bruising five-pound smallmouth in swift current is probably a losing proposition with light gear and tackle, Auman said.

JG Auman of TN Moving Waters

“We do tend to use heavier tackle than what people often associate with stream fishing, because we often try and target trophy fish,” he said. “They will either break the rod off or break off the line when they pull it up under a tree or rock.”

Auman, who also works as an aquatic biologist for the Nashville Zoo, said a creek smallmouth that’s 20 inches long is probably 15-20 years old. “It knows every rock, every tree, every branch in its home,” he said. “And when you hook it, those are the places it’s going. You are not going to be able to stop them if you’re tackle is too light — you just aren’t going to keep them out of the cover. We learned that from experience long ago.”

In 2015 Adams and Auman were featured on Chad Hoover’s popular Youtube channel, KayakBassinTV. Hoover, who also lives in Middle Tennessee, is usually partial to chasing largemouth. But in the episode with the TMW crew, he acknowledged there’s little not to love about paddling for smallmouth on the region’s scenic rivers and creeks.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t done as much (smallmouth fishing) for the show — primarily, because I’m selfish,” Hoover said. “I really like to keep these smallmouth places to myself.”

Destinations Classified 

Auman said he gets a fair number of people calling him up not so much looking to book an outing, but just “fishing for stream names.” But he’s a devoted practitioner of the fisherman’s code of secrecy, especially on the matter of small-stream smallmouth fishing.

Holes that hold big fish will fizzle in a hurry if they get publicized, he said.

Not only doesn’t Moving Waters give out stream names, but some of their highly classified hotspots are designated for tourists only. “If I have clients that are local, I take them to streams that are somewhat known,” he said. “Then I have others that I fish only with out-of-town clients, because I know they aren’t going to tell people or come back later. In this day and age of social media, all it takes is one person to get on a Facebook page that has 5,000 members and start giving out creek names, and it’s ruined.”

All the same, Auman encourages anglers to get out and explore for their own patches of highly productive moving bass waters. Most anybody can be successful if they just scout around and study some maps, he said.

“You want to find streams that flow directly into larger bodies of water — that’s the best way that I tell people to find good smallmouth streams,” he said. “If you can find a stream that is a direct tributary to the Cumberland River or the Caney Fork River, then those are the streams you are going to want to look for. You probably don’t want the streams that just feed into another little stream.”

Healthcare Bluebook seeks to empower patients to shop around, negotiate ‘fair prices’

A Nashville-based company that specializes in researching and comparing medical-care costs and rating quality-of-care outcomes is offering its services for free to Middle Tennessee residents.

“Health care is the one industry in which people make purchases without knowing the cost in advance,” says Jeffrey Rice, CEO of the price-transparency company called Healthcare Bluebook.

Often, even within the same general area, there are “huge differences between hospitals and other health care facilities for the exact same procedure,” said Rice, who is himself a doctor.

That needn’t be the case, he said. Healthcare Bluebook’s mission and function is to advance, in the company website’s words, a “simple, yet powerful idea: create fairness in the healthcare marketplace.”

American consumers obviously know how to shop for good deals on all manner of goods and services, yet when it comes to making health-care choices and obtaining medicines, they often just take what’s given to them without shopping around, said Rice, an editorial board for the American Journal of Medical Quality.

Healthcare Bluebook’s app works by crunching pricing information and service-quality assessments from a wide set of providers in regions around the country.

“We know that most hospitals perform most services, but they are not equally good at everything,” Rice wrote in an op-ed column for The Tennessean back in April. “Bluebook offers consumers information about quality of care that allows them to see hospital outcomes for the specific service they need. We combine this health-care quality information with cost information so that they can get the quality care they need at a price they can afford.”

Cost and quality-rating information is presented to the app’s users in easily understood color-coded grading and ranking schedules, giving patients and their families the ability to locate high-quality, lower-cost alternatives for medical treatment than what they might think are otherwise available.

Healthcare Bluebook also strengthens the patient-as-customer’s ability to successfully negotiate a “fair price” after the fact, if they feel overcharged, or when discussing payment arrangements with a care-provider’s billing department.

“We really like it, and a lot of people in the area really like it to help them get an objective price on medical procedures,” said Bob Gunter, CEO of Premier Diagnostic Imaging in Cookeville and Tennessee chapter president of the national Radiology Business Management Association.

If a medical services provider isn’t willing to negotiate a billing amount that’s in line with what Healthcare Bluebook has determined is the fair price for a procedure or service, “then you should probably go someplace else,” said Gunter.

A 2016 survey by the Kaiser Foundation, a national health policy analysis center, discovered that nearly 70 percent of patients sampled across the country reported substantial difficulty trying to find useful or binding estimates on prices for medical procedures ahead of time. And more than 65 percent who attempted to negotiate a bill-reduction with a care-provider afterward said their efforts failed.

Healthcare Bluebook helps patients deal with both issues, says the company’s marketing director, Greg Stielstra.

“This works for people who are insured as well as uninsured,” he said. “People mistakenly think the problem we must solve is getting everyone insurance so they can pay for overpriced health care. But what we ought to be doing is trying to solve the pricing of health care itself, which you can greatly reduce by making it more transparent.”

The lack of transparency in health-services pricing hasn’t just resulted in people paying more than they think they should. It also causes consumers to believe that market rates for health care services are higher than they actually are.

Health care need not be outlandishly overpriced, or prohibitively expensive, said Stielstra. To the contrary, Healthcare Bluebook shows that affordable options actually exist, and they’re usually not far away, he said.

Healthcare Bluebook has been available for free to Middle Tennessee residents since February. Stielstra said they typically market the premium app services to business owners, who in turn offer it as a free benefit to their employees.

Given that Nashville is “the health care capital of the nation,” said Stielstra, company officials want to see the app as widely available as possible here. They’ve determined that’s best achieved by offering it free to whoever wants it.

As a result, Stielstra hopes Nashville and the surrounding region will become “the most transparent in the nation in terms of price and quality.”

“Transparency is transformative,” he said.

Press Release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, August 17, 2017:

The Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) has released a report that answers some common questions about student data privacy in Tennessee. The Q & A provides information on state and federal laws that protect K-12 students’ privacy.

In general, student data privacy refers to efforts to maintain the confidentiality of information that identifies individual students. The term “student data” is broad, encompassing almost anything that a student creates in school or that identifies an individual student.

Student data is not limited to social security numbers or test scores. Student data can encompass school work, class behavior, or even a student’s location. A key question to ask is whether a piece of information identifies an individual student or uses personal information about an individual student – if the answer is yes, then that information can be considered “student data”.

State and federal laws protect student data privacy by governing the actions of either a school employee, a member of the public, or a third-party vendor or technology operator. The new publication explains state laws in Tennessee that protect student data privacy. One of the laws – the Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act – gives the state more control and oversight regarding Tennessee public school employees’ collection of student data, and strengthens parental rights with respect to student data privacy. The Tennessee General Assembly passed this law in 2014.

Another law is the Student Online Personal Protection Act, passed in 2016, which primarily addresses the actions of third parties outside of Tennessee schools and districts. This law regulates vendors/contractors or other third parties operating online services used by students. The three primary federal laws related to student data privacy are also covered in the Comptroller’s publication.

School districts may take steps to protect student data privacy beyond what the laws require. However, those additional protections are likely to cost more in time or money.

OREA is a division within the Comptroller’s Office that is charged with providing accurate and objective policy research and analysis for the Tennessee General Assembly and the public. To view the full report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/OREA/

PRESS RELEASE from the Putnam County Library, August 2, 2017:

The Putnam County Library Friends proudly presents the 10th Annual Dinner With An Author. This year’s dinner will be held on Friday, September 15th at 6:30 p.m. at the Leslie Town Centre, which is located at 111 West 1st Street in Cookeville, Tennessee.

The guest author this year is Ruta Sepetys, the 2017 winner of both the Carnegie Medal (the UK’s most prestigious award for children’s literature) and the Golden Kite Award for Young Adult Literature from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Ms. Sepetys is a New York Times bestselling author of Out of the Easy and Between Shades of Gray. Her most recent book is Salt to The Sea.

Sepetys’ writing can be described as deeply researched historical fiction that appeals to both adults and students.

A movie adaptation of Between Shades of Gray entitled “Ashes in the Snow” is in production.

Her books have been published in over fifty countries and thirty-six languages. Prior to becoming a novelist, Ms. Sepetys enjoyed a career in the music industry. She now proudly calls Tennessee home.

Tickets for this event are $35 and will be on sale from August 14th – September 12th at both the Putnam County Library and at CPAC. This year, tickets may be ordered online through CPAC at http://www.cookeville-tn.gov/ls/cpac/.

The Putnam County Library Friends is a non-profit organization that supports and promotes the use, services, and facilities of the Putnam County Library System. Proceeds raised by this event and other activities directly impact the Library. The PCL Friends is a proud and dedicated supporter of the Library’s Summer Reading Program.