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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Lusia Harris, Mississippi Basketball Queen

Elisabeth Scott
Social Media and Reference Librarian

Lusia Harris
Delta State University, The Broom, 1977

Mississippi's queen of basketball, the one and only Luisa Harris, passed away earlier this week. She was a world-class pioneer of the sport, an Olympic medalist, and an NBA draft pick. She helped redefine how people view basketball, especially basketball played by women, and doubly so by Black women. I've always found her story inspirational: she was a force on the court and gave back to her community as a coach. She had grace under fire and she rose above the barbs people slung her way, concentrating only on basketball and her education. There aren't any biographies solely about her yet, but there are some great books about girls on the court out there that I think you should know about. Check them out at your local Mississippi public library!


Allie's Basketball Dream
Barbara E. Barber, author
Darryl Ligasan, illustrator

This 1996 picture book is perfect for girls who dream of playing basketball, but are either intimidated by boys who play or told they can't play because they're girls. You'll cheer for Allie when she makes her first shot. I bet Lusia would have loved this book!

Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Erin Yun, author

Imagine Great Expectations, only Pip is a Korean-American girl who loves to play basketball. That's right! Grace Yun has updated Dickens's classic in this 2020 middle grade book that is no whining--I'm looking at you, Pip--and all heart (and basketball!)

Shattering the Glass: The Remarkable History of Women's Basketball
Pamela Grundy and Susan Shackelford, authors

As this 2005 young adult book will tell you, women have been playing basketball practically since the sport was invented in 1891. If you want to explore girls playing ball, this is the book for you. Lusia Harris and her Delta State team are prominently featured in the chapter "The Fight for Title IX".


Full-Court Quest: The Girls from Fort Shaw Indian School Basketball Champions of the World
Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith

Did you know that a team of Native women playing basketball was one of the main attractions of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis? While this book lacks something in the way these women and other Indigenous peoples were treated as a whole, it is a fascinating look at women playing basketball and beating the pants off men. I think Lusia Harris would approve.

Inspired to learn more about Lusia herself? Don't miss Inaugural Ballers, coming this fall. (Yes, that's Harris with her Olympic medal, fourth from the left.):

Monday, January 3, 2022

Meet MLC Monday: Evan Theilman

 Elisabeth Scott
Reference and Social Media Librarian

Meet Evan Theilman, Patron Services Librarian and Readers Advisor in the Talking Book Services Department at the Mississippi Library Commission. Evan helps patrons select digital books, as well as responding to any concerns or questions they may have. He also assists in downloading books to cartridges for patrons. Evan holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Mississippi. 

Evan began working at MLC December 1 and says he enjoys working for an organization that's motivated by helping people rather than being purely profit-driven. When asked why he thinks libraries are important, Evan responds, "Libraries provide everyone with access to information that used to be the domain of the wealthy. They're a great tool you can use to better yourself for free."

Evan spends a fair amount of his free time reading, especially science fiction and fantasy novels. Even though it falls into neither category, his favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. When he's not reading, you can find him building models, cooking, and playing video games and RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Books We Loved in 2021

Elisabeth Scott
Social Media and Reference Librarian


It's the "best of" reading list you've all been waiting for! Every year, MLC staff put together their favorite books--novels, picture books, comics, nonfiction, what have you-- and post it here on our lovely blog for you, our dear readers. Hyperlinked titles are available in MLC's collection and many of these books are also available at your Mississippi public library. We've been sharing these lists for several years, so if you're looking for book recs you should check out some of our faves from years past: 2016 part 1, 2016 part 2, 2017 adults, 2017 kids, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Without further ado, these are the books MLC staff loved reading this year. 


Black Buck (2021)
Mateo Askaripour
A look at the modern salesperson of today and the insanity of it all. Plus the author breaks the fourth wall in such a clever way. 

Bunny (2019)
Mona Awad
Samantha Mackey, an MFA student at a prestigious university, REALLY doesn't like the girls in her fiction writing cohort: four rich girls who all call each other Bunny. But as Samantha gets closer to the Bunnies, she discovers a dark world of secrets, desire, and a sinisterness behind the Bunnies she never would have expected. A mixture of Heathers and The Secret History with a BIG dose of bonkers, Awad writes a darkly compelling page-turner of a book.
The Witch's Daughter (2008)
Paula Brackston
I picked this up at the Starkville Public Library Friends book sale on a site visit. I enjoyed the historical witchy time travel and romance aspects. I actually bought the second book because I enjoyed the first one so much. Book one was an easy/quick read.
Parable of the Sower (1993)
Octavia E. Butler
I love dystopian fiction, so I've been going back to read some of the classics. Parable of the Sower is hands down the type of masterpiece I was hoping to find.

Lakewood (2020)
Megan Giddings
How far would you go to help the ones you love? This dystopian work ponders that question while considering class and race in medical experimentation. This page-turner kept me guessing who Lena, the main character, could trust and when she would be pushed too far.

Less (2017)
Andrew Sean Greer
I finally read this after so many people have recommended it. Arthur Less's escape becomes his journey. This book showed me that you can love a book even when you don't agree with the ending. Beautiful writing. I wish I could meet Arthur Less IRL.

Homegoing (2016)
Yaa Gyasi
Austenland (2007)
Shannon Hale
Jane Hayes, a graphic designer in her 30s, has a problem: no real man will ever match up to her love for Mr. Darcy. In order to cure herself of this obsession, she goes to an immersive Jane Austen theme park... though she doesn't expect to find love in the process. This is a cute, short, quick read (under 200 pages!) perfect for anyone who's spent a decent amount of time dreaming of Colin Firth in a wet shirt.

Kristin Hannah
Both empowering and heartbreaking, this well-researched work shows the struggle of so many families during a not-so-often talked about point in history, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Even though the characters kept enduring hardships, their perseverance kept me coming back.

Helen Hoang

Rachel Joyce
Offbeat, historical, British fiction about one woman's search for the golden beetle of New Caledonia. It brought me to tears. I would read it again. A beautiful, moving, witty book.

Jess Kidd

Lisa Kleypas
T.J. Klune

Damnos (2013)
Nick Kyme
I'm a huge fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and this book features a massive war between two of my favorite factions: the Emperor's Ultramarines and the ancient alien Necrons. The book is almost entirely action, but it does slow down enough to get the human characters' perspectives. The strategic planning and tactics used by the soldiers are also excellent.
The Millenium series
Stieg Larsson 
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005)
The Girl who Played with Fire (2006)
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2007)

Ariel Lawhon
For the Emperor (2003)
Sandy Mitchell
While also set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, this book is vastly different in tone from Damnos, following a political officer who has managed to stumble his way into becoming an Imperium-wide hero. Ciaphas Cain is an unconventional hero who is highly aware of his own cowardly ways, and desires nothing more than to remain out of danger. His actions, while self-serving in motive, also serve the best interests of the soldiers under his command, and he gains their trust and admiration by being cautious and careful with their lives.
My Girl (2007-2010)
Sahara Mizu
This Japanese comic series follows an office worker who learns that his old lover has died in an accident, leaving him to raise a daughter he never knew he had. It's simultaneously sad and wholesome, as he's thrust into being a single father while losing the love of his life, as he does his best to provide the love and support that his daughter needs.  

If the Shoe Fits (2021)
Julie Murphy
Deesha Philyaw
Flawless. Each of the stories in this slim volume is pure perfection.
Survive the Night (2021)
Riley Sager

Jill Shalvis
Jill Shalvis 

One by One (2020)
Ruth Ware

Kevin Williams
Lillian is called on by a former best friend she rarely exchanges letters with for a major favor; she wants Lillian to come take care of her husband's twin children from a previous marriage while he is making moves up the political ladder. The catch is no one can know about it/them, and they spontaneously combust when they have heightened emotions. The narrator does a wonderful job incorporating Southern accents naturally in a story that had me cracking up.

Kerry Winfrey



James Clear
A Lion Called Christian: The True Story of the Remarkable Bond Between Two Friends and a Lion (1971)
Anthony Bourke, John Rendall, George Adamson (foreward)
I tend to read a lot of science fiction, but this is the book that touched me the most this year. Someone recommended it to me, I put it on my TBR, and it stayed there for over two months. It's a thought-provoking look at the plight of many exotic animals all over the world. Some live out their lives in very restrictive situations. There is a YouTube series that goes with this story, but it was compiled years after the books was published. It consists of all of the videos that were made when the authors had Christian in their care.

Julian Sancton
In 1897, the Belgian ship Belgica is sailing to Antarctica, to explore the continent. Unfortunately, it gets frozen in and has to spend the winter in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth as disease and madness start to spread through the crew. Sancton does an amazing job describing this lesser-known voyage that's part horror story, part adventure story, all delivered with a beautifully novel-like touch.



Allie Brosch 

Alison Bechdel
Marjane Satrapi
This memoir of the Iranian Revolution, told from the perspective of a young girl, is shown in stark black and white panels. As she grows older and the situation in Iran worsens, a young Satrapi grapples with the trials of adolescent rebellion alongside the tolls of war. I can't wait to read book two. 
Natasha Trethewey
Trethewey's words are so lush, so poignant, and so overwhelmingly beautiful that I was completely transfixed the whole journey through this short memoir. Could you expect anything less from this former Mississippi Poet Laureate and two-time United States Poet Laureate?


Picture Books

Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar (illustrations)
Author Antrobus, who is Deaf, and illustrator Dunbar, who is partially Deaf, team up for this insightful and sweet look at childhood deafness.

White Socks Only (1996)
Evelyn Coleman and Tyrone Geter (illustrations)
I love picture books: the art, the spare text, and the way they combine together to convey stories to children. White Socks Only was a unexpected breath of fresh air. I'll be recommending this one a lot.
Mother Bruce series
Ryan T. Higgins
The Bruce Swap (2021)
Bruce's Big Fun Day (2019)
Bruce's Big Move (2017)
Bruce's Big Storm (2019)
Hotel Bruce (2016)
Mother Bruce (2015)
Santa Bruce (2018)
Spring Stinks (2021)
When Aidan Became a Brother (2019)
Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita (illustrations) 
A little boy worries that his new sibling will have to confront uncomfortable things in their life, perhaps even things as tough as when he transitioned fully into being a boy. He sets out to make sure this won't happen and his parents provide soothing support to guide him. Super sweet and affirming.
Chicken of the Sea (2019)
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ellison Nguyen, Thi Bui (illustrations), and Hien Bui-Stafford (illustrations)
An inter-generational story about pirate chickens--a must read! 


Middle Grade

Louise Erdrich
Set just in the same neck of the woods and a mere thirty years before the events of Little House on the Prairie, this middle grade book introduces us to a little Ojibwe girl named Omakayas and her family. Erdrich delves deep into small aspects of daily life in this little community and earth-shattering events from the wider world that affect them. I can't wait to read the entire series.
The Lucky Ones (2022)
Linda Williams Jackson
Robert Kennedy's Southern Poverty Tour lends itself as a backdrop to this tale of determination, hope, and family love. Look for it in 2022!
Lalani of the Distant Sea (2019)
Erin Entrada Kelly
Inspired by Filipino folklore, this mythic tale of pluck and fortitude had me cheering for Lalani, who must save the people of her tiny village. I gobbled it up in a day.
Ann Clare LeZotte
Have you heard about the Deaf community who lived on Martha's Vineyard in the early 1800s? LeZotte sets her suspenseful book of courage on the peaceful island.

Young Adult

Deathless Divide (2020)
Justina Ireland
Trung Le Nguyen
I love this graphic novel with all my heart. The interwoven fairy tales, the relationship between Tiến and his mother, the lovely, expressive art... this is the perfect coming out story.
Kageki Shojo!! (2021-2022)
Kumiki Saiki
Sarasa Watanabe is a loud, brash girl who's set her sights on playing her favorite role on the stage. Ai Narata is a closed-off girl who just doesn't want to deal with men. In order to achieve their dreams, the two enroll in a prestigious all-girls theater school. This manga series isn't afraid to tackle tough subjects, and the bright and infectious personalities of our two leads make for a compelling read.
Cemetery Boys (2020)
Aiden Thomas
 Brujos and ghosts and romance, oh my!

Angie Thomas
If you loved The Hate U Give, you have to read its prequel Concrete Rose. Angie Thomas is spectacular yet again.

Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite reads this year? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Racing to Meet that Reading Goal!

Shellie Zeigler
Library Consultant
Around this time of year, a lot of my friends and co-workers start talking about meeting their Goodreads or other reading goals for the year. I hear things like, “Oh, that’s a small book, that will get me toward my goal.” or “I met my goal. I can relax now.” I get it, I do. I do the same thing. But I’m starting to have concerns about reading goals. Hear me out.

I make a reading goal every year. I started doing this seven years ago. My reading productivity, what an awful word, has increased every year since I started creating a goal (it took a small dip this year, but that’s an anomaly). So, it makes me wonder, does making a goal truly increase the amount of reading I do, or has it increased the amount of reading I feel I need to do? Let me look back just a bit.

In 2020, I read 161 books. My goal that year was 150 books. Yes, I was very elated and proud of myself, but I was also embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell people I read that many books, for several reasons. I didn’t think people would believe me. Many of those books were also audiobooks, and I know that a lot of people don’t feel that audiobooks count as reading. (I have strong opinions about this and have written about this before, but the audiobook stigma is still around). And lastly, I felt like it made me look like I don’t have a life outside of reading. I know that may sound ridiculous, but I’m laying it all out here!

In 2015, I made a goal of reading 35 books. It was my first year to make a reading goal, and I achieved it. I read 38 books that year. I feel like I felt more accomplishment that year over those 38 books than I have any year since. I think it’s because I didn’t put pressure on myself. I didn’t look at what other people’s goal were. I didn’t compare my reading goals to theirs. It really is true that “comparison is the thief of joy.”

I’ve surpassed my goal this year with an admirable 92 books. (My goal was 80). I keep thinking, "What will I do for my goal for 2022?" Will I make one? I’m sure I will because I enjoy keeping track of which books I read in which year. It’s a nice way to summarize the year--I love organization! But. I am going to work on taking the pressure off my reading self. My real 2022 reading goal will be to simply enjoy the books I choose and get off the treadmill of caring so much about the number. My wish is that you do the same.

Happy reading in 2022!

Monday, December 6, 2021

What's on my Nightstand?

Lacy Ellinwood
Lead Library Consultant

The leaves have fallen, the temperatures are dropping, and the days are getting darker; that means it’s time to hunker down with a good book. In my case, there is no shortage of books that have accumulated on my nightstand over the past year. I thought I would confess to YOU and only YOU what I lovingly curated from my chosen book peddlers over 2021 but haven’t opened…YET. These are not book reviews. I will share why I chose these titles and what has kept me from diving into these books I was once so excited to acquire.

Edward Weston: His Life from Ben Maddow, published by Aperture in 2005. 
Before becoming an employee at the Mississippi Library Commission, I was working on a second master’s degree in humanities with a focus on film theory and art history, specifically in the medium of photography. I had studied the work of Weston and his partner Margrethe Mather and was looking to gain further insights into his work that might illuminate the concept of “the female gaze” in the art of Mather and other photographers. Aperture is a known publisher for high-quality materials on photography, so I naturally picked up the title when it was suggested by Thrift books. DARN YOU RECOMMENDED READS RIBBON! Due to the academic nature of the purchase, it has sat unread underneath my collagen face cream for nearly a year. My book shame has been bubbling, but I know that it will eventually be a good investment when I find that elusive thing called “time” to get back into my research interests.

The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine: How I Spent a Year in the American Wild to Re-create a Feast from the Classic Recipes of French Master Chef Auguste Escoffier
, by Steven Rinella. 
We all picked up watching, reading, and listening habits during the pandemic. One of my habits was consuming all content created by Meateater and listening to interviews from conservationist and writer Steven Rinella. You can find his show on Netflix and his podcast on Spotify. The man is fascinating, and while I do not encounter Alaskan brown bears regularly, or hunt and forage wild game, I am like most librarians and have a fascination for knowledge. I have learned a lot of about feral hog populations and that the fat pockets behind the eyes of a caribou taste like raw pizza dough. Thanks, Steven Rinella! This title is one of my most recent book purchases and my goal is to take it on an upcoming trip to my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I have a feeling I might get hungry on the plane while reading.

An Echo in the Bone, by Diana Gabaldon.
This is the seventh book in the Outlander series of novels. I have been slogging my way through this series for the past four or five years. What started with a discard at a library book sale has developed into a long-term relationship with Claire and Jaime. I fall in love with one book and then 1200 pages later need to take a breather. It’s an on again off again sort of thing. I was in the breather phase with the series, but the pandemic was in full force and I thought I needed more reading material. A librarian never has enough reading choices, am I right? As I write this blog post I have started reading this book and it has acquired the dubious coffee mug stains of weekend leisure reading. While I appreciate the Starz television series of the books, there is much richer content to be had in these lush novels. Currently there are nine books in this series…looks like I might have some more titles to add to my nightstand for 2022.

My hope is that this confession relieves some of the anxiety you may have about your pile of best book friends waiting on your nightstand. Whenever you are ready, they are there to occupy the time of the brooding winter months or to break up a streaming binge session. I implore you to read what you love, when you love it, and know that there is a book for every reader.

Monday, November 22, 2021

We Can Help With That

Alex Brower
Information Services Director

What do To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, and The Sun Also Rises have in common?

They’re all banned books! These classics have been banned, nearly banned, and everything in between for a variety of reasons, some of which you can read here.

On one side of those challenges there is always a librarian or teacher who was incorporating a novel into their collection or classroom. They had reasons behind choosing to add these books to their collection and teaching them to generations of students. When a book is chosen for a collection in a library or added to a school curriculum, there is typically a vetting process that involves reviews and research, as well as knowledge of a community. It is a deliberate and thoughtful decision. When a book is challenged or opposed, the librarian or teacher must defend their choice and dig up those reviews and articles and awards.

Or could someone else do the heavy lifting for them?

The Mississippi Library Commission is now offering a service for Mississippi teachers and libraries who face materials challenges or can feel one brewing and want to be prepared. We will do the research for you: finding awards lists, reviews, and articles that discuss the title in question so that you can more easily defend your collection and your community’s right to read. All you need to do is call our Reference Desk at 601-432-4492, text us at 601-208-0868, or email us at We will compile the information that you need so you'll have more time for other thoughtful and deliberate decisions.

For other information about dealing with materials challenges, feel free to visit our Intellectual Freedom Resources page here. We hope that you will not need this service, but know that it will be invaluable if you do.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Let's Go StoryWalking®, Mississippi!

Storytime is one of the most iconic services public libraries provide children. They're a great way to engage kids with books and get them up and moving around . You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't remember attending one at least once when they were small, whether with a family member, a day care, or a school group. When Covid-19 struck and social distancing became the norm, libraries were left scrambling to fill that gap. Many responded with successful virtual storytimes and outdoor storytimes, but StoryWalksⓇ, the 2007 brainchild of a Vermonter named Anne Ferguson, have exploded in popularity across the state and become the unexpected champion of storytime during the pandemic.


StoryWalksⓇ are a relatively simple concept. Break a book down to just its pages. Post those pages along a walking trail or around the library. Wait for the squeals of glee. Earlier this year, the Mississippi Library Commission invested a small portion of  its LSTA funds into creating four initial StoryWalksⓇ for public libraries to borrow. We chose several popular picture books: Not Norman by Kelly Bennett, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, How to Fold a Taco/Como Doblar un Taco by Naibe Reynoso and Ana Varela, and Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan and Tae-eun Yoo. Then our team of workers got to work disassembling the books, laminating pages, and cutting up velcro. We set up a Google document so that StoryWalkⓇ visitors could check in via QR code and we were up and running. Six library systems have already taken advantage and checked out these kits, and many more were inspired to create their own. They are a new welcome addition to festivals and parks that we hope will be around for years to come. 

This year, Let's Move in Libraries and the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services have partnered to celebrate StoryWalksⓇ--and the librarians who create and promote them--across America with the first ever StoryWalkⓇ Week. Definitely visit their Facebook and Instagram pages to view the libraries showcased there. Want to check out one of our StoryWalkⓇ kits? Contact our Digital Consultant Charlie Simpkins at to learn how. Want to create your own StoryWalkⓇ? The steps are outlined for you right here. Been to a StoryWalkⓇ in Mississippi? Tell us about your experience in the comments! And last, but certainly not least: happy reading!

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