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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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

MLC at the 2020 Mississippi Science Fest

Charlie Simpkins
Digital Consultant
seated man wearing glasses sits and looks straight into the camera. behind him to the right are bookshelves filled with books and to the left is a small maze created from plastic pieces and a small plastic mouse
Charlie Simpkins and his Code and Go Robot Mouse
for the 2020 MS Science Fest

A subtle change in weather has arrived, and that means one thing. I do not mean football season is here. (Football fact: The magic yellow first down line you see on TV is not actually on the field. It is computer generated for the television viewer. Check out How Does the Magic Yellow First-Down Line Work? and How the First-Down Line Works? to learn how it works.) The change in weather means the Mississippi Science Fest is near! Since 2017, the LeFleur Museum District (LMD) in Jackson, MS has organized a unique, interactive event each year that celebrates STEM and how it relates to Mississippi’s future. The event features a family-friendly environment across LMD with innovative exhibits, special guests, and hands-on activities showcasing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 2020 brings a new challenge to participate in festivals, so the Mississippi Science Fest is going virtual. Videos from the LMD and this year’s guest presenters will be released on LMD’s Facebook page.

Charlie Simpkins and his littleBits kits
at the 2019 MS Science Fest

This marks the second year that I have presented at the Mississippi Science Fest. In 2019, I brought a littleBits Workshop kit so that participants could explore simple circuits using small magnetic components that included a LED light, a fan, and a buzzer. Families and groups enjoyed coming by and experimenting with closed circuits using buttons and light sensors. Most of the children seemed to enjoy activities that make a lot noise, because I heard the buzzer bit consistently. For 2020, I wanted to cover a different concept, so I decided to try something that could be duplicated at home with common items. I created a video introducing coding concepts using a Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Kit from MLC’s Special Collections and designed an activity to practice the concepts at home using common supplies but without a computer. The activity involves creating a maze on a grid with obstacles, then creating a list of steps to make it through the maze.

The Mississippi Science Fest 2020 is on September 18th and 19th. Check out the MS Science Fest 2020 online video release schedule here and watch the videos on LeFleur Museum District's Facebook page. I hope you enjoy the activities that will be uploaded and that you learn something new.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Storytime at the Welty House!

During the spring and summer, the Mississippi Library Commission and the Eudora Welty House and Garden teamed up to present Storytime in the Garden. MLC employees, Eudora Welty House employees, and Eudora Welty House docents all took turns reading a children’s book while sitting in the beautiful gardens of the Eudora Welty House. The featured books included a wide range of biographies focused on blues musicians, famous inventors, labor organizers, and Congressmen. These storytimes were broadcast on the Eudora Welty House and the Mississippi Library Commisssion's Facebook page.

While the storytime sessions could only be featured on Facebook for a short time, the Mississippi Library Commission has a copy of each book featured in Storytime in the Garden that can easily be checked out via our curbside checkout. The titles, authors, and a brief description of the books are listed below.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton and Don Tate talks about the childhood and career of John Roy Lynch, one of the first African American U.S. Congressmen and the first African American elected to serve as Speaker of the Mississippi House.

The Boo-Boos that Changed the World by Barry Wittenstein and Chris Hsu is a history of the invention of the Band-Aid and how this medical marvel went from patching up kitchen wounds to being used in battlefields.

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet details the 1909 New York shirtwaist strike through the eyes of labor organizer Clara Lemlich.

A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanne Slade and Veronica Miller Jamison is a biography about NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, from her childhood love of math to her experiences in working on the first manned mission to the moon.

How Emily Saved the Bridge by Frieda Wishinsky and Natalie Nelson focuses on architect and engineer Emily Warren Roebling and how she helped build the Brooklyn Bridge.

Muddy by Michael Mahin and Evan Turk is a lushly illustrated biography of the Mississippi blues musician Muddy Waters.

Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim and E.B. Lewis is a boyhood story of U.S. Congressman John Lewis as he practices his oratory skills at his family’s farm.

Shark Lady by Jess Keating and Marta Alvarez Miguens is a biography of scientist and biologist Eugenie Clark and the start of her lifelong fascination with sharks.

Overall, the program was a massive success. Each story routinely got likes, comments, and shares in the double digits. Each broadcast had over 350 views, with one book in particular topping out at a whopping 1,200 views! That book was Shark Lady, read and broadcast on Shark Awareness Day.

It was wonderful to partner with the Eudora Welty House and Garden for this storytime project and we hope to partner with them again in the future! The Eudora Welty House is currently offering tours, Tuesday-Friday, at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Reservations are required, so please call or email ahead of time.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

No Strings Attached

Alex Brower
Reference Manager

While in-person programming is on hold right now, librarians have had to find new and exciting ways to connect with their patrons. Virtual story times are one of the most popular programs that libraries can provide safely, and how better to take your story time to the next level than puppets?!
I get it. You don’t want to use some strange, unfamiliar puppet in your story time. It might throw off your game. So let me introduce you to a few of MLC's favorite puppets. That way, when you check one out, it’ll be like having an old friend there reading along with you. One who doesn’t require a mask!

The first puppet I’d like to introduce is Romeo. A family man (meaning he is part of a family set), he enjoys poetry, green Jell-O, and lazy Sundays. When asked why he dislikes aye-ayes so much, Romeo brought up their weird long fingers. We have to agree; they're pretty weird.
Romeo also loves to travel, so why don’t you invite him and his family over for a program or two? He’s a great listener.  

Our next puppet is a sweet little dragon called Linda. Linda loves flowers. She loves smelling them, growing them, and eating them! She makes a mean arrangement (if you ask her nicely). April is already a great month, but if you ask our favorite anthophile Linda, April 25th is just the perfect date! If only dragons needed a light jacket… As for her dislike of hobbits, apparently Linda’s ancestor had a nasty run-in with one in the past. Something about dwarves and stolen gold? We couldn’t make it all out, since she got pretty heated (ha!).

Our final puppet on show is a possum called Blossom. Blossom is a trash connoisseur and devoted mother to her baby, Delphine. In her free time, she enjoys solving the world’s lupus problem, one tick at a time. Fun fact: possums eat approximately 5,000 ticks each season, according to MDWFP (link below). Don’t ask her about Gary unless you want to be hissed at, which we don’t recommend. We think her dislike of sad songs may be tied in some way to Gary as well, but we were afraid to ask. She did promise not to get into the library’s trash if she was invited to story time, which is a big ask for a possum.

To see a complete list of puppets available for checkout through MLC, visit this link: To check out any of the puppets featured here or any of our other puppets, contact Charlie Simpkins, MLC’s Digital Consultant. His email is and his phone number is 601-432-4498. 

For more information about how possums are helpful, tick-eating friends, visit this link:

Monday, August 17, 2020

Meet MLC Monday: Miranda Vaughn

Elisabeth Scott
Reference Librarian/Social Media Coordinator

Meet Miranda Vaughn, Reference/Archives Librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Miranda, who began working at MLC at the beginning of August, answers reference questions and conducts archival projects. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the Mississippi University for Women and is currently a student at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she’ll graduate this December with a master's degree in Library and Information Science with a graduate certificate in Archives and Special Collections. 

When asked what she likes about her job, Miranda answers, "I love the research aspect of this job. When a patron sends in a reference request for me to answer, I get to learn right along with them. Every day is a new adventure." She adds, "I love the environment at MLC. It fosters creativity and growth. You never stop learning."

Miranda knows about the importance of libraries firsthand. She says, "I grew up in a rural area, so the local library was sort of my window to a world outside of my little bubble. I think libraries are important especially for people who live in rural, often impoverished areas. Libraries offer free access to all kinds of resources that a lot of people can’t afford."

Our newest employee says she reads mostly non-fiction, but tries to add some fiction into the rotation. She's currently reading Barracoon by Zora Neal Hurston. Miranda is a huge fan of memoirs, especially those from female comedians like Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling, because they write with such honesty and humor. When she's not busy at work or relaxing reading, she's fulfilling her new duties as a plant mom, a new role since quarantine. She quips, "Only a few of my plant babies have survived though, so I’m literally killing it." Miranda also enjoys exploring old cemeteries and has a cemetery bucket list. She was able to check the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta off her list, as well as some of the amazing cemeteries in New Orleans.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Smoothest Sharks in the Library

Kayla Martin-Gant
Training Coordinator

Overview of the ocean with a search engine box laid over it and the words SHARK WEEK inside the search box.
Ah, sharks. Whether you’re one of the unlucky millions who was instantly traumatized once the credits of Jaws began to roll or a beleaguered parent on their hundredth unwilling listen to a bop about a baby shark (do do do-do-do-do~), these sea-dwellers have been striking terror and awe into our hearts for generations. 

We know them. We love them. We love to fear them. We can’t get enough of them, which is why we have a whole week of television & media programming spanning multiple channels dedicated to them. 

There’s something that many people still don’t seem to realize, though.

Sharks? Are really, really weird. And cool! But…weird.

Allow me to elaborate with eight very cool and weird shark facts from a variety of sources, including The Best Book of Sharks by Claire Llewllyn, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NatGeo

  1. They’re boneless! Though they can fossilize, sharks have cartilage in place of bone, which means that structurally, they’re what your grandma would call “gristle.”
  2. Their skin is like sandpaper*. This is due to their skin being made of placoid cells, which are tiny, teeth-like structures that help reduce friction in the water.

    What smooth shark connoisseur Branson Reese's critiques for 
    The Best Book of Sharks would look like, probably.

  3. They’re the trees of the ocean. This admittedly flimsy analogy is true in two ways, the first being that sharks are old. Like, possibly over 450 million years old. Also, scientists can figure out the age of a shark (or a shark fossil) by counting the rings on their vertebrae, much like how we age trees.
  4. Different species of shark often have wildly different dental structures. Some, like great white sharks, have 7 rows of them—that’s about 300 teeth, just so you know. Others, like bull sharks, have 50 rows of teeth (I don’t know how many teeth that is, exactly, other than that it is too many).
  5. Sharks lose teeth during every meal. Not only do they have hundreds, sometimes thousands of teeth, but they lose them constantly—up to 300 per day in some cases.
  6. They don’t actually want to eat you. For real! Sharks would much rather munch on other fish and marine animals, and they don’t often attack humans unprovoked. Moreover, the areas with the highest rates of shark attacks are, of course, areas like Hawaii, Australia, and other highly trafficked coastal areas that are likely to have more sharks to begin with.
  7. Many species are endangered. Jaws was a great movie, but it caused a huge increase in fear among the general populace. This has led to illegal hunting, overfishing, and other human activities that have drastically decreased certain shark populations, like that of the great white shark, which is on the IUCN Red List. “Shark infested waters?” Seriously? They live there!
  8. They’re probably better at meditating than you are. Sharks can go into a trance called tonic mobility when they’re flipped onto their backs, which is why you often see them in this position when they’re being tended to by scientists.

Want some more sweet, sweet shark content? Look on Discovery’s website for special Shark Week posts, including 5 Ways Sharks Make Your Life Better and incredible photos from Shark Lockdown, and be sure to check out the books, movies, or digital resources from your local library! 

*This fact has been vehemently and hilariously disputed by Branson Reese. If you haven’t seen the utterly farcical Smooth Shark Twitter Debate of years past, you’re missing out. 

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