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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Value of Lifelong Learning

In the world of public relations, it is critical to stay on top of current trends and learn new ways to tell the story of whatever you are promoting. It is the only way to stay relevant in today's ever-changing, technology-filled society. Keeping the mind sharp and well-informed is important to stay at the top of your game in this profession.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to St. Louis, Missouri, to soak in some valuable information specific to promoting libraries. The Library Marketing and Communications Conference was a two-day gathering, held November 13 and 14, of marketing and public relations professionals from libraries across the country. This in-depth continuing education offering is put together by a group of volunteers who understand the value of staying fresh and current. They worked extremely hard to make this an amazing learning experience!

Overhead projection titled Where to Learn about Memes with Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to follow and a meme to the side
Memes are really big in the PR world!
At the conference I ran into two Mississippi friends: David Brown with First Regional Library System and former Flowood Library branch manager Ashley Biggs, who is now in Baltimore. It was great to connect with friends from home!

2 smiling women lean into smiling man in middle 1 woman is holding a service dog
Susan Liles, MLC PR Director, David Brown, Brand and Marketing Strategist at First Regional Library,
and Ashley Biggs, Outreach Librarian for the Maryland State Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped
Some of the sessions I attended included Accidental Partnerships, Memes of Engagement, Effectively Create and Market Your Library with Videos, Unified Brand Strategy, and many more. I came away from the conference with a renewed excitement about my work at MLC and how I can help libraries better tell their important stories. Stay tuned to our social media channels for more information coming soon!

woman with face in shadows takes a selfie in front of the saint louis arch. snow is on the ground
Of course I had to take a selfie with the famous Gateway Arch!

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Mississippi Holiday of a Lifetime

December is here, and so is the frantic rush toward one of the biggest Christian holidays of the year. To help slow things down, give us all time to reflect on the meaning of the season, and create space to spend some special time with family, friends, and community, the Mississippi Library Commission and the Mississippi Film Office have partnered to offer a free screening of Christmas in Mississippi in three Mississippi communities. After each film screening, guests are invited to participate in some lively discussion about what makes their community special during the holidays.

holiday of a lifetime in stylized text in the middle, blurry christmas tree with MLC and Mississippi film office logos in corner

This feel-good Lifetime movie, which was filmed on location in Gulfport, Mississippi, is produced by Daniel Lewis and stars Jana Kramer, Faith Ford, and Barry Bostwick, and provides holiday fun for the entire family. Three Mississippi library systems are serving as hosts for the screening along with their community partners. The dates and locations are as follows:
  • December 7
    Canton’s Historic Courthouse on the Square
    hosted by the Madison County Library System and Canton Tourism
    Facebook event
  • December 12
    Laurel-Jones County Library, 530 Commerce Street, Laurel, MS
    hosted by the Laurel-Jones County Library System
    Facebook event
  • December 12
    The Marion Theater, 604 Courthouse Square, Columbia, MS
    Hosted by South Mississippi Regional Library System, Columbia Main Street, Marion County Development Partnership, and the Marion Theater
The leaders of each agency were quick to share their thoughts about this important partnership that will bring families together during the holidays. Mississippi Library Commission Executive Director Hulen E. Bivins stated,
In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many times what is lost is the human dimension of family, friendships, and associations. The Mississippi Library Commission cherishes the opportunity to, in this cooperative venture, promote the preservation of the many joys of the holidays and the joys of being Mississippians.
Nina Parikh, Director of the Mississippi Film Office added,
What a gift to partner with our friends at the Mississippi Library Commission to celebrate the holidays in communities across the state, showcasing the locations in Gulfport used in the Lifetime television movie Christmas in Mississippi.
We can't wait to see you and your community at these fun and relaxing Christmas-themed events!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thankful for Picture Books

Charlie Simpkins
Digital Consultant

Certain holidays can evoke different emotions for people. For me, Thanksgiving brings up a sense of nostalgia. I remember the excitement of being in elementary school and knowing that a week-long break was coming. One blissful week of sleeping late, visiting with family, eating special foods, and my favorite activity: reading whatever I wanted.

I did not know until recently that November is National Picture Book Month. I don’t know why November was chosen, but it makes sense for me because of the nostalgia factor. This got me thinking about not only how important picture books are, but also the variety of picture book styles available.

4 similar shots of man holding 3 picture books. Each has a heavily colored filter

Picture books are often the first books we experience as children. From exploring the book (even with our mouths as infants) to reading bedtime stories, picture books have substantial lessons to offer children. Even being read to as an infant leaves a lasting impact. They learn the nuances of language sounds, they hear new vocabulary, and early on, they will start to connect the vocabulary to the pictures. They can also be introduced to new concepts, such as letters, numbers, animals, etc. They learn print awareness, such as how to hold the book and which way to turn the pages.

The variety of picture books can help meet children where they are. For example, cloth and board books are popular for babies and toddlers. Though not indestructible, the sturdy construction holds up well to rough use by little fingers and usually features bright, engaging colors with few words. One popular board book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, hits all the marks with its vibrant imagery and developmentally appropriate refrain.

Concept books are what parents, teachers, and librarians can use to introduce children to new themes, including the alphabet, colors, shapes, and counting. Concept books do not always feature a plot but focus on the core concept that is trying to be taught. I personally enjoy Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert. A well written concept book can also lend itself to reflection of the previously taught skill with their memorable, almost lyrical writing.

Easy Reader books, also known as Beginning Reader books, are another step toward independent reading. They usually feature larger print with limited vocabulary and simple sentence structures. While the vocabulary may be limited, Easy Readers do feature engaging, but not overly complicated plots. One of my favorite Early Reader book series is Tad Hills Step into Reading series featuring an inquisitive puppy named Rocket, including Rocket’s Very Fine Day. Such series help support reader independence and build confidence for the budding reader.

Some picture books include only pictures with no text for support. These are called Wordless books and are some of my favorites. The artwork can be simple or detailed, but the reader creates the story guided by the illustrations. One of my favorite Wordless books is Flotsam by David Wiesner. Books in this category can be great for strengthening comprehension skills, such as inference, and proving opportunities for open ended discussions.

Picture books also include non-fiction books that introduce a wide variety of topics in a simple way. They include math, social studies, biographies, and animals. The text may include advanced vocabulary. Two of my favorite non-fiction picture books are What Do You Do with a Tail like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page and P is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever by Raj Halder and Chris Carpenter, illustrated by Maria Tina Beddia. These titles can make even the most complex concept seem more approachable and serve as a great foundation on which to build understanding.

While I may have advanced to reading technical works and full novels, I still enjoy kicking back with a good picture book. What should I read next? I would love to hear what picture books you recommend. Please leave a comment with your favorites below.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Challenge Accepted (And Reported)!

Alex Brower
Reference Manager
Modern libraries are havens of intellectual freedom. They uphold the spirit of the first amendment by providing access to all sorts of information and allowing anyone to come in and learn. However, librarians can face pushback from members of their communities about some of the material in their collections. This pushback usually comes in the form of a challenge, where someone disagrees with the content or ideas of a piece of material and would like it to be removed from the shelf. These challenges happen every day, and I’m hoping to better understand challenges and censorship in Mississippi by growing the Mississippi Challenged Book Index.

smiling woman with glasses stands next to a poster
Alex Brower and her MCBI poster at the
Mississippi Library Association's 2019 annual conference
What is the Mississippi Challenged Book Index? In short, it’s a way to learn about the challenges that Mississippi libraries receive about their materials. Librarians can anonymously report when someone makes a challenge in their library using our Google form. The form has basic questions about the type of material, the reason that it was challenged, and how the library responded. Don’t let the name fool you! We aren’t just looking for book challenges. We’ve received entries with all types of challenges, including a situation where a link to Planned Parenthood’s website on a teen resource list was challenged for containing information about sexuality. Any type of library material that can be challenged probably will be, and we want to hear about it!

It had never occurred to me that someone could keep track of challenged material before starting library school and learning about the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom’s national database. When I started at MLC, I was thrilled to learn that they had something similar! I’m looking forward to working with ALA and submitting the data we gather for addition to the national database. I’m also planning on releasing a yearly report during Banned Books Week that details the previous year’s challenges here in Mississippi. We don’t release library names, but it’s still fascinating to see what material is challenged and why, and to see how libraries respond.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to present a poster about the MCBI at MLA, and it was such a great opportunity! I got to talk to a lot of people about the MCBI, and I was so proud to see an increase in participation. I’m hoping to keep raising awareness so that we get more and more participation and the index continues to grow. I’m excited to be able to do my part to gather information about challenges in Mississippi so that people can study it, and we can have a better understanding of censorship in our state.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A New and Improved Library Reopens in Weir

In late 2017, a new library system was formed in Mississippi. The libraries in Ackerman and Weir became part of the Choctaw County Library System. The main branch in Ackerman reopened to the public in May 2018.

On September 23, the branch in Weir held a ribbon cutting and grand re-opening celebration. MLC staff members Lacy Ellinwood, Library Development Director, and Susan Liles, Public Relations Director, made the trip to see first-hand the outstanding transformation of this library.

Outdoor moveable sign reads Choctaw County Library System, established 2017. Blue balloons are attached to the sign. A permanent marker for the Choctaw County Blues stands next to the sign.
Shelves of children's books. Some are turned face out so you can see the titles.

System Director Cristin Henson and her staff have worked diligently to ensure that the residents of Choctaw County have not had to face an extended period of time with no library services. She has worked very closely with her MLC consultant, Louisa Whitfield-Smith, on properly weeding the collection and other tasks involved in preparing the branch for serving patrons.

A large group of people are standing around talking. They are crammed into a library and children's books are arranged on the tops of bookshelves.

With greetings from Mayor Shuni Coffey and System Director Cristin Henson, the festivities got underway and everyone gathered outside for the cutting of the ribbon into the library.

A woman addresses groups of people standing around the inside of a library.
Mayor Shuni Coffee welcomes patrons to the improved library.

A woman addresses groups of people standing around the inside of a library.
Library System Director, Cristin Henson shares a bit of history about the library with those in attendance.

A large group of people hold up a blue ribbon and stretch it out in front of them. A woman in the middle holds a pair of scissors, ready to cut the ribbon..

With a great deal of support from the community, these two libraries now serve the members of this county with updated materials, public access computers, and a dedicated staff. MLC is proud to support this new library system and applaud them for their dedication to serving their communities.

Two women stand next to each other. On the wall behind them, a sign reads, Choctaw County Library System, Weir Branch.
Library System Director Cristin Henson (left) with MLC Library Development Director Lacy Ellinwood

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Visit from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Jennifer Peacock
Administrative Services Director

The Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) receives federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) through the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) Grants to States program. In order to receive these funds, MLC must have a federal five-year plan in place that provides direction for how these funds will be spent. Once during each five-year plan, the program officer from IMLS assigned to Mississippi comes for a site visit. These site visits are three days long, with the first day at MLC viewing records and talking with various MLC staff about the goals of the Five-Year Plan and how they are carried out. The next two days are on the road visiting libraries that have received LSTA subgrants to see how the funds are used in the communities in Mississippi.

Five people, 3 men on the left and 2 women on the right, pose for the camera in front of a concrete block wall. An abstract painting hangs behind them.
From left, MLC Executive Director Hulen Bivins, IMLS Senior Program Officer Dennis Nangle, IMLS CFO Chris Catignani, MLC Library Services Director Tracy Carr, and MLC Administrative Services Director Jennifer Peacock

Jennifer Peacock, who serves as both Administrative Services Director and LSTA Coordinator, and Susan Liles, PR Director, accompanied the IMLS program officer for Mississippi, Dennis Nangle, and another IMLS employee, Chris Catignani, who was scheduled to be in town for an event on Friday, so he came early to tag along on the site visit.

Books sit on a small red book cart. On the side it says borrow a book.
Text to Checkout at the Bovina Grocery
The site visit consisted of seven stops covering the central part of the state and showed both small, rural areas with smaller library systems as well as larger systems. First was a quick stop in Bovina where a pilot program called Text to Checkout is located in the Bovina Grocery. The next two days encompassed stops at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, Humphreys County Library System, Madison County Library System, Noxubee County Public Library, Mid-Mississippi Regional Library System, and Central Mississippi Regional Library System. In each of these systems, the directors were able to highlight the projects that LSTA funds had helped them to roll out over the past several years and explain the impact it had on their patrons and communities.

Two men and two women stand in the middle of a library talking
Chris, Dennis, and Jennifer with Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library Director Katrina Stokes
Two men look at the papers a woman is holding. A man with his hands shoved in his pockets is looking on from a distance. They're standing in a library.
Jennifer, Chris, and Dennis with Humphreys County Library System Director Sidney Cobb
A woman is talking to a man and using her hands to explain. He is studiously looking at her. Another man to the side stares off into the distance. They are in a library.
Madison County Library System (MCLS) staff David Jackson, MCLS Director Tonja Johnson with Chris
Two men and two women stand in a library talking. This library used to be a jail and still has the bars.
Noxubee County Public Library Director Shameka Conner with Jennifer, Dennis, and Chris
Two women and three women stand in a semi-circle in a library talking together.
Chris, Jennifer, and Dennis with Mid-Mississippi Regional Library
System Director Josh Haidet and Youth Services Librarian Lindsay Fitts
A woman is showing two men a sheet of colorful fabric. They are listening to her intently as she talks. They are in a library.
Chris and Dennis with Central Mississippi Regional Library System Director Mara Polk
Special thanks to Katrina, Sidney, Tonja, Shameka, Josh, Mara, and their staff for welcoming us and taking the time to help advocate for all Mississippi libraries by showing the importance of the federal funding MLC receives and the impact it has both statewide and in the local communities.

Two men and two women pose for the camera. They are all smiling. They are standing in a library.
Chris, Jennifer, Dennis, and MLC PR Director Susan Liles

Monday, September 23, 2019

Meet MLC Monday: Gavin Gainey

Meet Gavin Gainey, Facilities Maintenance staff for the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Gavin's job includes maintaining MLC's lobby and grounds, as well as smaller duties, like meeting room set up. Gavin has been working at MLC for a month, so give him a warm welcome if you see him.

Since he has started here, Gavin says that he is impressed with what MLC does to enable visually and print disabled readers to enjoy and participate in a love for literature. He continues, "Libraries make sure people have access to information and knowledge regardless of social status, age, or even disability."

Gavin says that he read more when he was younger, but that his favorite book has always been The Count of Monte Cristo. He is also a musician, photographer, and graphic artist. He loves listening to music, whether it's in the comfort of his home or in a live venue.
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