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Thursday, October 15, 2020

You Say Goodbye, But We Say Hello... To National Hispanic American Heritage Month!

Unlike other month-long celebrations you might know, like Black History Month in February or Women's History Month in March, National Hispanic American Heritage Month is spread over two months. It officially runs from September 15-October 15. According to population estimates, 3.4% of Mississippi's population identifies as Hispanic or Latino and a whopping 18.5% of the United State's population does the same. In fact, Hispanics are one of the fastest growing minority groups in the nation, and the fastest growing group in the South. 

With all the beautiful Hispanic and Latino voices surrounding us, why don't we read more Hispanic and Latino authors? Authors like Jeanette Cummins cash in on what they think this culture is like, but for the most part do a very poor job of painting a realistic picture. I'm not here to judge--if you enjoyed American Dirt that's not a bad thing--but you can avoid misinformation and seek out authors who live this culture and know these experiences. And you don't have to confine yourself to one thirty-day period. You can read Hispanic and Latino authors all year round!

If you don't know where to start, the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) and your local public library are great places to find books written by Hispanic and Latino authors. The following are but a drop in the bucket of what's available at MLC. Feel free to click on any of the book links to request an item to pick up curbside. Many of these books are available for our BARD patrons, too.

Explore the world of fiction with short stories focusing on mothers and daughters like Sabrina and Corina, historical westerns like Rosary Without Beads, gothic noir like Mexican Gothic, and literary mystery like The Lost Book of Adana Moreau.

Julia Alvarez
Diana Holguin-Balogh
Mexican Gothic
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Find out more about the real lives of Hispanic Americans with biographies about the son of a Mexican immigrant who joins the United States Border Patrol (The Line Becomes a River) and the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants who became the first Hispanic and Latino member of the United States Supreme Court. If poetry is more your jam, fall into the beauty of language with collections from David Tomas Martinez and Alberto Ríos.
Francisco Cantú
Reyna Grande
Alberto Ríos
My Beloved World
Sonia Sotomayor

Learning can be fun, both when kids learn about experiences that may be different from their own and about the ways we are all the same. Check out these books about popsicles (What Can You Do With a Paleta?), moving to America (Dreamers), a father teaching his daughter about her heritage and faith (Yo Soy Muslim), and integration (Separate Is Never Equal).
Mark Gonzales

Yuyi Morales
Carmen Tafolla and Magaly Morales
Duncan Tonatiuh
Duncan Tonatiuh

There are so many ways for kids in middle school to feel like they don't fit in: because they have trouble paying attention (Each Tiny Spark), or because they like different music (The First Rule of Punk), or even because their family embraces the food of their culture (Stef Soto, Taco Queen). Tip: for sci-fi lovers, don't miss Sal and Gabi Break the Universe!

Ruth Behar

Pablo Cartaya
Carlos Hernandez
Juana Medina 
Celia C. Pérez

Jennifer Torres

Young adult fiction offers just as wide a variety of genres as adult fiction. From novels in verse, like Clap When You Land, to books about witches and brujas, like Labyrinth Lost, to books about teens engaging in social action, like Anger is a Gift, there is something out there for everyone's taste.

Elizabeth Acevedo

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

From Cuba to Mexico and Columbia to the Dominican Republic, the Latino and Hispanic authors have books on just about every topic in just about every genre. Don't miss out on a great book--celebrate National Hispanic American Heritage Month all year long!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Read with Welty: Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored

Tracy Carr
Library Services Director

 "There is very little about a segregated America that bears nostalgia, and some readers may not be charmed by Mr. Taulbert’s portrait; yet he has evoked such loving memories of Glen Allan and its residents that readers will come away from Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored at least a little sorry that they didn’t grow up there too.”

--Rosemary L. Bray, Review of Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, The New York Times, February 18, 1990

If you do an internet search for Glen Allan, Mississippi, located about 30 miles from Greenville, you’ll get few results: a pretty blank Wikipedia page and a couple of videos touring the depleted current state of this small community. To get a better sense of what the Glen Allan community once was, you’ll have to turn to Clifton L. Taulbert’s Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored.

Taulbert’s account of his childhood and adolescence in Glen Allan during segregation—when black people were “colored”—crackles with life. The people we meet are as real as if we were there: Miss Shugg, Cousin Beauty, Poppa, Ma Ponk, Miss Doll, and many others populate both the town of Glen Allan and Taulbert’s memories. Their lives were affected and shaped by the realities of racism and segregation, and those realities are certainly present throughout the book. But the reader comes away from Taulbert’s memoir enchanted and perhaps a little wistful that we can’t go visit some of the larger than life characters.

Taulbert continues his memoir in The Last Train North, which details his experiences as he went to St. Louis in the mid-60s, and the realities he discovered of the mythical north he’d heard of growing up. Taulbert serves on the Eudora Welty Foundation National Advisory Board.

Listen to this Fresh Air interview with Clifton Taulbert:

Monday, October 12, 2020

High-Speed Internet Available to All Mississippi Public Libraries

Ethel Dunn
Executive Support Director

The Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) is pleased to announce that because Contract 5000 has officially been awarded to CSpire and signed by the Department of Information Technology Services (ITS), fiber internet will be available to every library in the state of Mississippi within an 18-month implementation time frame. 
Computer usage at Corinth Public Library in Corinth, MS
The change offers all public libraries in the state higher internet speeds at lower prices. Jennifer Peacock, Administrative Services Bureau Director, stated, “It is exciting to know that Mississippi will finally have high internet speeds, even in the most rural areas of the state. This will allow libraries to better serve their patrons and offer more programs to the communities they serve.” 
Computer usage at the Union County Public Library in New Albany, MS

In preparation for the switch, MLC staff and other state agency representatives meet each week to organize and plan the implementation. MLC is reaching out to all library systems to help prepare for the migration. When the project is complete, public libraries should see a significant decrease in cost and increase in bandwidth speeds to a minimum of 100Mbps. 
Computer usage at the Bay St. Louis Public Library in Bay St. Louis, MS

Currently, some libraries have slow internet speeds equivalent to dialup, which is challenging to their patrons. Sidney Cobb, Director at the Humphreys County Library System, said, “Many of our patrons do not have access to high-speed internet and WiFi other than in our library, and the increased speed of Contract 5000 will help us in our mission of digital inclusion. Some benefits from enhanced digital inclusion are improved education and employment possibilities, improved health and well-being, and networking with other resources.” 
Computer usage at the Dorothy J. Lowe Memorial Library in Nettleton, MS
The Mississippi Library Commission supports innovative programs and initiatives to strengthen and enhance library services for all Mississippians. The agency is funded by the Mississippi Legislature, with additional funding provided through the Institute of Museum and Library Services under provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). MLC offers leadership in library services, advocacy, and training for library professionals and paraprofessionals. 
Computer usage at Greenville Public Library in Greenville, MS

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Read With Welty: The Professor's House

photo of an old copy of the professor's house by willa cather. It is accompanied by text that identifies the author and title as well as the words Read with Welty Reading Challenge. It also says From the Collection of the Museum Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Tracy Carr
Library Services Director

Our Read with Welty reading challenge encourages you to read 12 books from Welty’s home library at your own pace—over the next weeks, months, or even year! Each week, we’ll explore one of the books here.

Week One: The Professor’s House by Willa Cather

The desire to make a work of art and the making of it—which is love accomplished without help or need of help from another, and not without tragic cost—is what is deepest and realest, so I believe, in what she has written of human beings. Willa Cather used her own terms; and she left nothing out. What other honorable way is there for an artist to have her say? 
--Eudora Welty, “The Physical World of Willa Cather,” The New York Times, January 27, 1974

If you’ve read one of Willa Cather’s more popular works, My Ántonia or O Pioneers!, there is a thing that pops into your head when you hear her name: the prairie. Long descriptions of the wind rippling across the grains of wheat or grass, fertile ground, farming—that is Willa Cather to many of us. However, The Professor’s House, chosen as our first title in the Read with Welty reading challenge, doesn’t take place on the prairie at all: it’s a part academic novel, part adventure novel, and part domestic novel.

The Professor’s House is the story of Professor Godfrey St. Peter and his quiet, midlife, Midwestern, domestic, existential crisis. St. Peter is a history professor who has just won a big academic award, allowing his family to move into a bigger house. But he’s very comfortable in the old house, where he’s written all his books in the attic office, as well as where he and his wife have raised their daughters, and he decides…well, he’d really rather stay. This tiny rebellion allows him to truly steep in his own introspection, and he spends months with his life flashing before his eyes as he reviews his life’s choices and decisions.

I get it. This does not sound exciting. But wait! One of St. Peter’s students, the brilliant and mysterious Tom Outland, plays a huge role in St. Peter’s life. Tom’s backstory, which takes us to the gorgeous mesas of New Mexico, is exciting and adventurous where St. Peter’s life is stable and predictable. The middle section of the book, told to St. Peter by Outland years before about how he discovered an untouched Native American ruin, contrasts with the quiet drama of St. Peter’s chosen life.

We chose The Professor’s House over one of Cather’s better known works for a couple of reasons: we couldn’t resist that The Professor’s House was found in the Welty House (and that there’s a Willa Cather house as well!). We also thought that this quiet novel of a person reviewing their life might resonate with readers in this particularly strange year, where many of us were at home this spring and summer, potentially reviewing our own lives and decisions.

If you’ve read The Professor’s House or decide to read it now, please tell us what you think!

Friday, October 2, 2020

A Letter from Your Friendly MLC Archivist

Miranda Vaughn
Reference/Archives Librarian

Dear Reader,

This is the first in a series of letters I will be writing to you from time to time as I gleefully work my way through the hidden treasures of the MLC archives. I will be sharing interesting items, stories about the history of MLC, and any other interesting tidbits I may find on this “curiosity voyage.” First, I want to share with you a personal story about my first experience working in an archive, an experience which solidified my love for historic preservation and archival management. It’s a story of human connection found unexpectedly beneath a pile of yellowed papers.


I’ll never forget the first time I cried in a library. No, I wasn’t reading a Nicolas Sparks book or doing my taxes. I was reading a letter from William J. Love, a WWI veteran and businessman from Columbus, MS. This letter was addressed to his friend and business partner and was written the year before he passed away. I discovered this letter after spending several months going through boxes of Love’s belongings – mostly letters, scrapbooks, some photographs, and business documents. Although he had been dead for over 40 years, I felt like I had come to know him while organizing the belongings he left behind. I had read multiple letters like this one, but somehow, this one seemed very final. His health was declining. I knew he would die the following year. Maybe he knew it too.

So I cried.

It was an unexpected side effect that sometimes comes with archival work. If you’ve ever worked in an archive, or if your library has its own local history department, you are probably familiar with the situation I described. A patron goes through their recently deceased relative’s attic. They bring in half-chewed boxes of documents and photos to donate to your collection. You quickly leaf through the items to get an idea of what is in them (and check for any varmints that may be hiding between the pages). Then, you add the boxes to the stack of other boxes from other deceased relatives that you hope to finish processing before the year is out. Or the decade. Or maybe just before you retire.

Photo of slides from the William J. Love Papers in the
Billups-Garth Archive, Columbus Lowndes Public Library

The process can become very monotonous very quickly.

Archivists bear a lot of responsibility when it comes to processing collections, especially those collections that come from private donations. Not only is it the job of the archivist to analyze every item that comes into their possession, organize boxes of materials, and create extremely detailed, searchable records of the items, but they are also responsible for taking proper care of belongings that have sentimental value to loved ones. For many private donors, an archive is the final resting place of a life that they cherished. For this reason, archivists have the responsibility of maintaining a sense of reverence when processing and preserving historical records.

It is easy to get caught up in the pressures of time constraints, cataloging and copyright issues, etc. and miss the opportunity to get to know the person(s) behind the collection. Archivists have a unique opportunity that goes beyond removing rusty paperclips and translating sloppy cursive. I like to tell people that I’ll never know what it’s like to cure cancer or invent some new technology that changes the world, but I do know what it’s like to see the look of pure joy on the face of the only daughter of a WWI veteran in Columbus, MS after I finished processing her father’s papers, allowing generations of researchers the opportunity to get to know her father the way I did.

Some would call it closure. Maybe a sense of peace. I like to think of it as another special service offered free of charge at your local library.

All the best,

Your friendly MLC archivist

P.S. If you are antsy with anticipation for my next letter, feel free to check out the MLC photograph collection made available through the Mississippi Digital Library.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Let's Get Political(ly Engaged)!

triangular united states flags hang from the top of this graphic. A ballot box with an empty ballot sticking out of the top has the word Vote printed on the front. Below this handwritten words read National Voter Registration Day. The MLC logo is below this.

Kayla Martin-Gant
Training Coordinator

September 22 is National Voter Registration Day.

Yes, you read that right.

As impossible as it may be to believe given that March felt like it lasted roughly a thousand years by itself, we’re entering the last quarter of 2020--which means that in less than two months, we’ll be holding a presidential election.

Some of you may already be prepared, comfortable in the knowledge that you know everything you need to know about civics and US elections. If that’s the case, then we tip our respective hats to you.

For those of you who have started to feel claustrophobic just hearing the word “election” in anticipation of the information overload--trust us, we understand. Especially in the year 2020, combing through the news often feels like the mental equivalent of getting tossed under a dump truck even if you already have a good baseline knowledge of the US government.

But what if you don’t?

Don't worry! Whether it’s you who needs to brush up on the ins and outs of civics and politics or a whole (virtual) classroom full of students who need to understand how it all works, we got you.

For Educators & Parents:

  • iCivics is an excellent resource for K-12 from which features games, lesson plans, WebQuests, infographics, and more.
  • PBS Learning: Election Collection is an ideal tool to help teach and learn the history and process of elections with videos, activities, and lesson plans.
  • Scholastic Elections has activities, information, lesson plans, and book recommendations for Pre-K to Grade 10 for topics including campaigning, mock elections, and news literacy.
  • Young Voter's Guide to Social Media & the News from Common Sense Media is also a great, no-nonsense collection of resources for helping children and teens understand voting as well as what they can do to make their voices heard even if they aren’t eligible to vote yet.
  • Vote by Design was developed by educators at Stanford and is an immersive, non-partisan, digital learning experience designed to promote civic engagement, agency and action among all voters, and particularly next gen voters.

For All Learners:

  • Y'all Vote is Mississippi’s online voter information center as approved by the Secretary of State, Michael Watson.
  • Crash Course: US Government & Politics is a playlist created and curated by PBS’s CrashCourse channel and includes 50 short, entertaining videos on US politics.
  • How to Vote: 7 Simple Steps for Ballot Beginners from Public Service Degrees is a handy how-to for new voters.
  • Rock the Vote is a one-stop shop for the basics of election information and what you need to know to get started on your journey to becoming civically engaged.
  • Resources for Voters with Disabilities from the US Election Assistance Commission is a roundup of accessibility aids from the independent bipartisan commission charged with developing guidance to meet Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA).
  • Voting, Accessibility, and the Law from the National Federation of the Blind contains The Blind Voter's Guide to Voting in English for Word, BRF, and audio and in Spanish for Word and BRF. It also offers voting guides for young people who are Blind and videos on the Blind Voter Experience.

Want more information? Don’t forget to check out the books, videos, and digital tools available here at the Mississippi Library Commission and at your local library!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Meet MLC Monday: Jennifer Todd

 Elisabeth Scott
Reference Librarian/Social Media Coordinator

Meet Jennifer Todd, Director of Technology Services at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC). Jennifer oversees MLC's Technology Services Team and the day to day operations of the department, as well as planning, developing, and coordinating technology projects and initiatives for the agency. She holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Mississippi and associate degrees in Cyber Security Technology and Computer Networking Technology from Hinds Community College.

Jennifer returns to MLC after four years at the Hinds Community College Learning Resource Center in Raymond. She says she enjoys the variety in day to day activities and the wonderful staff here at the Commission. She started working in libraries as a shelver during high school and hasn't looked back since. "I enjoy the atmosphere and the people I meet--both staff and patrons."

When asked her opinion on libraries, Jennifer says, "Libraries play a vital role in society: they provide education, entertainment, and opportunities."

Jennifer is a member of the Mississippi Library Association, the professional organization for librarians and library workers in Mississippi. She is the co-chair of the Web Committee. In her spare time, she likes to read, try new recipes, and spend time with her family. Her favorite books are young adult historical fiction, like Copper Sun by Sharon Drake.

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