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Friday, June 19, 2020

The Name’s Squatch. Sassy Squatch.

Alex Brower
Information Services Director

The existence of the Sasquatch has been the source of many arguments, both familial and scientific. There have been videos of reported sightings, adamant campers with tall tales, and even college courses that debate or seemingly prove the existence (or not) of this creature. What does the Sasquatch have to do with libraries, one may ask? One daring investigator led the children of an afterschool program on a quest through admittedly fake (or are they?) primary source documents to learn the value of research.

black and white photo of a woman wearing a checked shirt and glasses. She is staring intently of a fuzzy finger puppet on her index finger. Library shelves and carts are in the background.
Tracy Carr, Sasquatch Specialist (left)
Sassy, Sasquatch Puppet (right)

It all started when Tracy Carr, a librarian purportedly specializing in Sasquatches and real-life MLC Library Services Director, was invited to speak at the Neshoba County Library’s Sasquatch Week. A variety of “experts” presented information about various aspects of ‘Squatch life. At the end of each presentation, the adventurous attendees were polled to see who had been swayed towards believing in the beast. Ms. Carr needed to find a way to trick children and teach information literacy, but how?!

Enter Clementine McGillicuddy, Tobias Toole, and the mysterious Carl. These characters featured in four “primary source documents” that detailed the civilian Mr. Toole’s encounter with Carl, a suspected Sasquatch. Ms. McGillicuddy, an FBI agent from the Special Secret Issues Unit, made a sharpish safari to the Greenwood, Mississippi, site, ruining a presumably precious pair of pumps.

The ‘Squatch-seeking schoolchildren were instructed on the difference between primary and secondary sources. For those not in the know, or in the Special Secret Issues Unit, a primary source document is anything created at the time an event occurred. Examples include letters, diaries, newspaper stories, and photographs. Secondary sources are interpretations of primary source documents, like books written using diaries from the Civil War or a textbook written using interpretations of original research.

They were then presented with Ms. Carr’s “primary source documents”: three letters, one including a handy map, and a memo from the Special Secret Issues Unit. The children were tasked with putting them in order and discovering what events took place during the fateful days between February 3rd and May 4th, 1952. (These documents are included at the end of the post). The tale includes Mr. Toole’s original sighting and letter to Ms. McGillicuddy, hints at what may have been seen, and exposes the coverup that keeps Carl from certain discovery. After the students put the pieces together, Tracy had turned two doubting Thomases into totally taken-in Thomases. The investigators also got to make their own Sasquatch puppets.

Black and white photo of a fuzzy finger puppet sitting in a chair and looking at documents. Library shelves are behind it.
Sassy the Sasquatch finger puppet conducting their own independent research.
There you have it, folks. The tale of Tracy’s talk to temerarious tots. Who knew a humble Sasquatch named Carl could help impart so much learning? Your library could be the next Sasquatch research hub, teaching children about the wonders of primary sources and the world of critical thinking. But why stop at Sasquatches? Maybe your fearless fledglings could discover Nessie, or a unicorn, or some local mermaids. The world is your oyster when the topic doesn’t actually exist. Or does it…

Primary Source Documents:

Faked old letter dated february 3 1952 from Tobias Toole to Clementine McGillicuddy Director of the FBI special secret issues unit about the existence of a sasquatch named carl
Letter from Tobias Toole to Clementine McGillicuddy
hand drawn fake map with mountains, a river and carl the sasquatch's location. there are fake waterstains on the page
Map from Tobias Toole, included in letter
fake internal memo from clementine to J B Simo about keeping the sasquatch discovery under wraps and asked to be reimbursed for her ruined pumps
Memo from Clementine McGillicuddy to J.B. Simo
Fake 1952 letter from Tobias to Clementine saying he appreciated her visit and he's sorry she ruined her shoes. He also references the map he included.
Letter from Tobias Toole to Clementine McGillicuddy
Fake redacted letter from Clementine to Tobias. All you can read is thank you for your correspondence of april 14 unfortunately because of while we at the FBI we appreciate again thank you for your letter and please let us know if want to also sincerely
Redacted letter from Clementine McGillicuddy to Tobias Toole
To do your own research using primary source documents, check here:

See your local library for an amazing array of secondary source documents!

Interested in learning more about the Sasquatch and the lengths people have gone to find it? Check out these:

Monday, June 15, 2020

Meet MLC Monday: Abbe Macoy

Meet Abbe Macoy, Reference Librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Abbe started working at MLC in late May and has been busy learning the ropes. Even under social distancing restrictions, Abbe has quickly picked up some of her new job duties: answering reference questions and shelving large print books. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her Honors Thesis was a collection of her own poetry titled To My Room’s Future Tenant for which she won the Honors College Excellence in Creative Activity Award.

3 small picture of MLC at top and at bottom. In middle is a photo of a smiling woman wearing glasses. A wooded area is behind her. Text reads I like libraries because there are so many different worlds on the shelves, and libraries are important because they value, protect, and share these worlds.

Although she's been here such a short time, Abbe has already been impressed by the diversity and harmony of the staff working here. She says the beautiful building is an added bonus. When asked about her interest in libraries, Abbe responds, "I like libraries because there are so many different worlds on the shelves, and libraries are important because they value, protect, and share these worlds." Abbe loves to read; her favorite book is A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. She is also heavily involved in her church, Relate Church, and likes to create Pinterest DIYs.

Join us in welcoming Abbe to the Mississippi Library Commission!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Celebrate Pride Month with Mississippi Authors

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Grenwich Village, New York City as part of an ever-growing harassment campaign against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people. In response, the bar staff, patrons, and nearby residents took to the streets to riot. The Stonewall Inn riots are commonly seen as one of the catalysts of the gay rights movement. The United States typically celebrates Pride Month in June as a way to honor and recognize the Stonewall Inn riots.

Pride Month is a month-long celebration of LGBTQ people, history, and communities. Though most people associate Pride Month with rainbow flags and large parades, Pride Month is also a time for remembering the past and moving to the future. Memorials are held to remember those LGBTQ lives lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS. Likewise, Pride Month is a time when activists shine a light on discriminatory laws and practices that target the LGBTQ community to this day such as bathroom bills, employment discrimination, and youth homelessness.

Many Pride Month celebrations have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the parades may be canceled, you can still celebrate Pride Month from your own home. One way to do so is read a book! In a time where LGBTQ books are some of the most banned and challenged books by schools and public libraries, just reading a book by a LGBTQ author can be a sign of support. We’ve compiled a list of books written by LGBTQ authors from Mississippi or about LGBTQ Mississippians for you to read, discuss, and enjoy.

If you know a LGBTQ Mississippi author we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in purchasing any of these books yourself, we highly recommend purchasing them from a LGBTQ bookstore like Mississippi's own Violet Valley Bookstore. And if you want to explore beyond Mississippi authors, consider the books and resources on these lists.

The Ultimate LGBTQIA+ Pride Book List
The 20 Best LGBTQ Books of 2019 
9 Books About Being Southern and Queer as Hell
17 Books By Queer Asian American Writers
10 Young Black LGBTQ Authors Reclaiming Their Space Through Words
Resources for Parents and Families of LGBTQ Individuals (ALA)
Resources for Families of LGBTQ Youth
5 Resources for Coming Out as LGBTQ
Coming Out - A Handbook for LGBTQ Young People
Older Adults on Coming Out Later in Life
6 Resources Every Trans Person (and Ally) Should Know About
Understanding Non-Binary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive

Monday, June 8, 2020

Meet MLC Monday: Jayson Bounds

Meet Jayson Bounds, Circulation Services Librarian in Talking Book Services for the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Jayson started at MLC at the end of May, so his introduction to library life has been unusual, to say the least. No matter! He is quickly learning the basics of his job: keeping audiobooks stocked on our shelves and sending them out to patrons. He also checks that the digital cartridges aren't defective when they're returned through the mail. Jayson holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Belhaven University.

3 small pictures of MLC Talking book services at top and bottom. In middle is a picture of a smiling man seated outside in front of a tree. Text reads I have always been fascinated by history and libraries hold those books that can act as gates to the past.

Jayson enjoys filling people's audiobook requests because he finds it interesting to see which books are most popular. (It's not always the current bestsellers!) His love for libraries stems from his passion for history. "I have always been fascinated by history and libraries hold those books that can act as gates to the past."

Although he only reads occasionally, recently Jayson was inspired to read his now favorite book, A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, after watching the Game of Thrones series. Sports are his true passion. He likes rooting for his favorite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, his favorite basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and his favorite baseball team, the Atlanta Braves. When he has time, he also likes to play those sports with friends and unwind by playing video games, like The Witcher 3.

Please join us in welcoming Jayson to the Mississippi Library Commission!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Reading Black Lives in Mississippi

Our nation is in turmoil. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by policemen in Minneapolis. His name was added to the seemingly unending list of Black people killed by those in power, and America responded by taking to the streets in protest. If you, too, are appalled by the continued violence against our friends and neighbors, you might be asking yourself what you can do locally to contribute. You can support protesters; Jackson specifically has a protest scheduled tomorrow, but they've been held across the state. You can donate to groups like Black Lives Matter, MS and Mississippi Bail Fund Collective. And you can read.

books are stacked on a small table in front of library shelves. fake magnolia behind stacked books. the books are death of innocence, ever is a long time, native guard, midnight without a moon, on the come up, and granddaddy's gift

As a library worker and book lover, I've been reading about the #OwnVoices movement for several years. #OwnVoices books are diverse books written by those who are members of that same diverse group. If you would like to learn more about the experience of Black people in Mississippi, consider reading any or all of the selection of Mississippi #OwnVoices books below. Most are by Black Mississippi authors, but a few are by Black authors who set their books in Mississippi. (For our collection, we identify Mississippi authors as those who are either born here in the state or have lived here for at least a period of four years. I've kept the same parameters here.) These books address racism, poverty, lynching, murder, and the oppression of Black people in Mississippi. Read them, think about them, and discuss them with your friends and family.

Picture Books
Middle Grade
Young Adult
Adult Fiction
Comic Books
We hope you can learn something new or shift your perspective by reading these books. If you know of a Black Mississippi author who should be on this list, please let us know in the comments. If you  want to explore beyond Mississippi books, consider the books and resources on these lists:
 Thank you as always for reading. Stay safe out there.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Meet MLC Monday: Kayla Martin-Gant

Meet Kayla Martin-Gant, Continuing Education Coordinator at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Kayla, who began working at here at the beginning of March, develops, schedules, presents, and coordinates training and workshops for MLC. Since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in Mississippi, she has worked to develop, locate, and distribute resources to librarians across the state, both for their own professional development and for sharing with patrons. She has even created a Facebook group specifically for Mississippi librarians and staff to share ideas and resources among themselves.

Kayla holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Belhaven University. She will graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi in December with a master's degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS).

3 small pics of MLC at top and bottom. Middle left shows a picture of a white woman with short brown hair and glasses. next to her text reads Meet Kayla Martin-Gant.  To me, libraries aren’t just important, they’re vital, because they’re one of the last places left where the bottom line for the people there is you and your needs, not your wallet.

Researching and finding resources for other librarians to use has quickly become her favorite part of working at MLC. Kayla says, "I love organizing information so that it's easy for everyone to navigate and utilize, and I love helping fellow librarians come up with new ideas, workshop old ideas, and solve problems in their libraries."

Kayla thinks that libraries can be a positive force for everyone. "I genuinely believe that libraries are, or should be, the backbone of the community. Libraries, and the people who staff them, are one of the only places you can go in this country where your existence is all that is required for entry. Librarians work endlessly to educate and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds. To me, libraries aren’t just important, they’re vital, because they’re one of the last places left where the bottom line for the people there is you and your needs, not your wallet."

Kayla is a reading enthusiast, too. A few of her recent favorites include Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, and I’ll Be Gone In the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. She also enjoys writing, creating Spotify playlists and Pinterest boards based on characters/stories/aesthetics/vibes, and taking goofy pics of her dog. Kayla listens to a lot of podcasts and the subjects range from history and true crime to science, society, and culture. (She especially loves it if it's something spooooky.) Fair warning: Kayla lives to spread the news about her favorite shows, stories, and podcasts, so be prepared to add to your to read/to watch/to listen lists!

Please welcome Kayla to the Mississippi Library Commission!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Picking a Video Platform Right for You

During the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed lives worldwide. Video conferencing apps have taken off as work, school, and social interactions have shifted to an online space. But with so many video conferencing and video uploading programs out there, which one would be best for your library’s needs?

Face to Face Video Chats
Face to face video chat apps have sprung up in popularity. The beauty of these apps is the face to face interaction: after staying at home all day, it’s nice to see someone. The downside is that these apps might not be ideal for patrons with limited internet access. While most of these applications do have a chat client, the constant stream of video and audio can cause lagging or delays for patrons with limited internet access.

Zoom has easily become the star of stay-at-home meetings. The video service allows one-on-one calls as well as larger audio and video conference calls. If you have a school-aged child, you might be using Zoom already since classrooms have started to pivot to the app as an essential component to online learning. The biggest draw of Zoom is the number of people it can hold—free meetings can last up to 40 minutes and can hold up to 100 people without restricting any app features. The biggest problem with Zoom is it’s lack of privacy features. Likewise, as the app grows in popularity, so has “zoombombing,” where people hijack a video call and post hate speech and offensive images. Make sure to check your privacy settings before starting a Zoom call.

Google has two video chat solutions. Google Meet (also known as Google Hangouts Meet) is a video conferencing tool that can hold up to 250 people at the highest price point. The app was designed for businesses and offers many features that are useful for a large, corporate-style video conference. However, it is linked to the paid G Suite program and the lowest price tier is $6 a month. Google Hangouts is a free video-calling app that supports up to 10 people. The app is very basic; you can share video screens and add text messages and that’s about it. It’s a quick and easy solution without many other bells and whistles attached. While Google Hangouts works right now, it will not be an ideal long-term solution: Google is starting to remove features of the Hangouts video chat as it focuses more on Google Meet.

Facebook Messenger
For smaller, more personal meetings, Facebook Messenger is a useful option. As most modern Americans have a Facebook, it’s a platform most people are used to already. When opening up a group chat in Facebook Messenger (either on the desktop or the Messenger app), simply hit the video icon to start a video call. Since Facebook Messenger is based off of an already existing group chat from existing Facebook accounts, it isn’t an ideal situation for any chat involving a lot of people or that will be open to the public and the person who starts the Facebook Messenger video chat must be friends with everyone in the chat. Likewise, as this is a Facebook program, expect the same level of privacy (or lack thereof) compared to other Facebook applications. Facebook Messenger could be best used for a small book club meeting or a chat with a Friends group.

Presenter & Audience Platforms
But what if you have a program where you DON’T want people to be able to respond via video? With programs like story time, author chats, or anything involving an audience of over 100 people, a little more audience control might be ideal. Twitch, Kast, and Facebook Live are video platforms where one person can stream video from a webcam and viewers can react, offer feedback, or respond to the video in a chat platform. These services offer more of a ‘performer-to-audience’ type of relationship than a ‘person-to-person conversation.’ None of these services require the audience to download an application, though they do require a little set-up or downloading an application on the presenter’s end.

Facebook Live
Facebook Live is probably the easiest of these presenter and audience platforms to manage. If your library has a Facebook page, you can easily “go live” and stream live video directly from the Facebook page. If your library has a robust Facebook presence, this can be a good method to get information or content out to as many users as possible, as Facebook Live gives you the option to save recordings after going live. However, this platform is less good for immediate, real-time feedback. There is no way to tell who’s watching a Facebook Live program unless that person is on your friends list. And like I mentioned with Messenger, keep in mind Facebook’s privacy settings before recording.

Twitch already has a wide, pre-established community that is easily sorted into various categories. The site is best known as a hub for people streaming computer games and tabletop RPGs but the site’s broad category system can support anything from live music to educational talks. Tapping into Twitch’s infrastructure and properly tagging your content under the right category (ex: “Special Events”) could help boost your events past a local community. Likewise, Twitch gives you the option to save broadcasts for rewatch capabilities. The problem with Twitch is that it requires a lot of back-end setup if you’re streaming from a computer: you will also need to download a streaming software like OBS in order to properly stream video.

Kast brands itself as a “watch party” app. One person can stream a window or an application to anyone who’s entered the chat room. Kast’s biggest benefit compared to Facebook Live and Twitch is the ability to set up a private room: anyone who wishes to enter the chat room must be approved by the room’s creator. Likewise, streaming to Kast involves a lot less behind the scenes set-up than streaming to Twitch. The downside is that Kast has a relatively small pool of users compared to other streaming apps like Twitch and is much more prone to lagging or outright not working. While this small user base and private room function might seem a little counter-intuitive for public events, this makes Kast a viable option if you have something you wish to share with a small group of people, such as a webinar for virtual staff training.

Finally, don’t discount YouTube. This video platform stalwart has one factor in which it’s head and shoulders above the other platforms I’ve listed here: permanence. Once you upload a video to Youtube, you can go back and watch it as many times as you want. While this is relatively unhelpful for real-time virtual communication, it is exceedingly useful for uploading talks or webinars that you know will be referred to time and time again.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a ‘one size fits all’ video app that’s perfect for hitting every single one of a library’s needs. Use your best judgement in examining the pros and cons of each video service before deciding which one fits your library’s needs. And remember: this is an uncertain time. Both librarians and patrons are adjusting to new situations and new experiences. No matter what video app you use or how you do your outreach, the important thing is that you’ve attempted the outreach services to begin with.
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