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Monday, May 23, 2022

Hear Ye, Here Ye! Audiobook Picks from Elisabeth Scott

Elisabeth Scott
Reference and Social Media Librarian

I am a later-in-life convert to audiobooks. When I was a kid, we used to stop at the library and pick up books on tape for road trips. As soon as my parents pushed the cassette into the tape deck, I would pull out whatever paperback I was reading and block out the drone of the story coming from the front of the car. (I'm really good at ignoring whatever else is going on around me when I'm reading.) I've never liked headphones or ear buds; they bug my ears. Most of all, I like to read at my pace. I don't want to depend on someone else to read a book for me. But.

I went on a road trip with family several months back and everything changed. We had recently added hoopla as one of the services offered by MLC. I figured 'no harm, no foul' and we had our first audio picked out and playing before we crossed into Madison County. I was hooked.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

This is the book that launched my new found love of audiobooks! A few of us on the road trip had read the print version of Kate Quinn's The Alice Network when it came out a few years before, so we figured another of her lady spy novels would be perfect for our journey. Boy, were we right. The narration switches back and forth between three main protagonists, spinning this story of female pilots and photographers forward at high velocity. I was afraid that I would get confused moving between the different points of view in an audiobook, but the narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, made the transitions effortless. It was such a success that, as soon as we got home, I searched through hoopla's catalog to find more books to add to my queue.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich's middle grade series had been on my TBR for years, ever since I heard it recommended as a Native perspective of life occurring at the same time and place as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. The first book in the series follows seven-year-old Omakayas as she learns how to tan hides, collect medicinal flora, and bead moccasins. I quickly replaced my morning radio routine with snippets of audiobook, where I learned about the Ojibwe. I loved the emphasis on community, nature, and the connection between the two. The narrator, Nicolle Littrell, had a soothing voice that didn't disturb my immersion into this world so different from my own. Omakayas was in my thoughts for many weeks afterwards, especially since I segued immediately into The Game of Silence.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

This series came to my attention a few months ago when it was announced that Martha Wells was declining her Nebula nomination because "the Murderbot Diaries series has already received incredible praise from her industry peers and wanted to open the floor to highlight other works within the community." Well. That piqued my interest! I dove feet first into the story of a sarcastic, world-weary artificial construct. The entire series is available on hoopla audio, so I found myself fitting in more and more listening time. The narrator, Kevin R. Free, was great at making the voice of each character unique, important in a series with so many players. I found myself laughing out loud in my office as I ate lunch and getting teary-eyed as I did the dishes. Murderbot, you're the best.

I didn't realize that reading audiobooks would mean that I would read more, not less. I still carry around a print book to read when I can't listen to books. (Right now it's Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.) Sometimes I'll read it at night to fall asleep, or in the morning when I'm just waking up. Reading audiobooks, though, has opened a new door into enjoying literature that I didn't think was possible for me. It's a little more leisurely, I've learned how to actually pronounce a few words (as opposed to how I think they should be pronounced), and it allows me to build the story in my head in a different way than print books. You should give them a try!

To learn more about hoopla through the Mississippi Library Commission, give us a call at 1-800-647-7542. Many of our Mississippi public libraries also offer hoopla and other audio services like Libby, so be sure to ask the next time you visit.

Last but not least, keep your ears peeled for our podcast drop June 1. It will feature even more of MLC staff's experiences with audiobooks!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Meet MLC Monday: Erin Morin

Elisabeth Scott
Reference and Social Media Librarian

Meet Erin Morin, Administrative Services Assistant at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Erin, a filing and organization wizard, helps MLC's Administrative Services team with various projects. Some of these projects may or may not involve regularly using the Keurig… you know, just to make sure it’s still working. (She's a wizard at this, too.) Erin holds a Master of Letters in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow – if you Google image search it, you’ll see that she basically went to Hogwarts. (Take a virtual tour of the campus for the full-on Harry and Hermione experience!)

Erin began working at MLC in May 2022. She says she loves being a part of an organization that supports some of our state’s most vital resources. Erin's also a fan of the view from her window; she gets to look out across our lawn to the other side of our gorgeous library. When asked what she thinks about libraries, she says, "I was raised in libraries, and some of my fondest childhood memories involve the programming my local library hosted, from Summer Reading events to holiday craft parties." She added, "Libraries are absolutely vital to the communities they serve and society as a whole. They’re bastions of knowledge, custodians of history, and gateways to other worlds."

Erin is a huge reader. She loves books and says her favorite is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. She's also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and the Harry Potter series (As an aside, she mentions that this is only right, because she's a Ravenclaw millennial.) When she's not at MLC or checking out the newest reads, you can find Erin gaming. She still owns her very first console, a Sega Genesis. She enjoys single-player, story-heavy RPGs (role-playing games) with lots of player choice and multiple endings, as well as good survival games, simulation games and quirky VNs (visual novels).

Monday, May 9, 2022

Cataloging The Unusual

Katie Gill
Cataloging Librarian

When you think of a library’s catalog, what’s the first thing you think of? If you’re older, you might think of pulling out a small drawer and rifling through all the cards to find the specific book you want. If you’re a millennial like myself, you might think of going to a computer terminal in your local public library, typing in a subject or title you’re interested in, and writing down the call number on a scrap of paper. But no matter what you think of when you think of a library’s catalog, you think of books. Searching for books in a database, looking at books printed on tiny little cataloging cards, going back to research because you wrote down the number wrong and can’t find what you’re looking for… Cataloging is an essential job, the art of creating an organized database so that patrons and staff can see what items a library has in its collection as well as where those items can be found in the library.

As libraries grow and expand to help serve all aspects of the community, the catalog also has to grow and expand to accommodate more than just books. It has audio, video, three-dimensional objects, games, seeds, bicycles, kits, and so on and so forth. The list goes on and on—ask three different libraries what non-book material they have in their catalog and they’ll give you three different answers. At MLC, our non-book collection mostly consists of kits, board games, and state documents. And as the cataloging librarian, it’s my job to make sure everybody can find them.

Our cataloging program, OCLC Connexion Client, connects to WorldCat, a library management and collections system used throughout the United States. When I look up a book in Connexion Client, it will pull up multiple catalog entries used by various libraries that also use WorldCat. For example, searching for the title of a book can pull up the physical book, the ebook, the audiobook, and the large print version of the book. Usually, it’s easy enough to find the right catalog entry and copy it for use in our system (in a process called copy-cataloging). But sometimes, with non-book materials, the process can be deceptively hard.

Do you know how many times a classic board game can be reprinted? A lot. And that’s not counting the spin-off versions and reworkings said classic board game might have. When you’re cataloging the board game Labyrinth, it’s important that you’re cataloging the original game Labyrinth and not The Amazing Spider-Man Labyrinth, The Lord of the Rings Labyrinth, Master Labyrinth, Ocean Labyrinth, Secret Labyrinth, Harry Potter Labyrinth, Super Mario Labyrinth, or Despicable Me Labyrinth. It takes a lot of searching, a lot of double-checking, and a lot of complaining before finding the right game. That double-checking is necessary: some editions might have different rules than others. Likewise, the five-year-old obsessed with Minions would be pretty mad if the catalog said we had Despicable Me Labyrinth but we actually had Harry Potter Labyrinth.

But what about things that are created in-house? At MLC, we have some kits that public libraries can check out that we make ourselves. Some of them are easier to adapt than others. Our Story Walk kits and our Book Club kits are based off already-existing books. I can just copy the catalog entry for the BOOK and do some fiddling so that it’s about the KIT by changing the title, description, type of material, and contents, as well as a few other fields.

And then, there are times when I’ve just got to create the catalog entry myself. Whether it’s due to a kit that we make in-house or a state document that nobody else has for loan, there are times when it’s just me and that blank catalog entry. And that’s when I pore over all the cataloging books I keep in my office, looking at all the subjects and terms I can use, wondering how the heck I’m going to translate “a study of the variable depths of concrete in high-impact traffic studies” into a cute and catchy two-word phrase so that people can easily find this academic study.

So next time you’re at your local public library, search a little deeper in the catalog! Check out the videos, board games, seed packets, or other non-book items and spare a thought for the poor cataloging librarian who’s just now realizing she knows absolutely nothing about how roads work.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Meet MLC Monday: Akeyla Harper

Elisabeth Scott
Reference and Social Media Librarian

Meet Akeyla Harper, Patron Services Librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Akeyla serves as a readers' advisor for the Talking Book Services (TBS) department. This includes selecting books to send to patrons and assisting them over the phone with questions about/requests for specific books. She is also involved outreach activities. Akeyla, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Jackson State University, holds a bachelor’s degree in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.

Akeyla began working at MLC in April of 2022. She loves the services TBS provides to Mississippians. "My favorite part of my job is being able to assist the patrons who we provide this amazing service to. TBS is a great resource for special populations of people who sometimes believe they can’t do things because of a disability." Akeyla has discovered that she really enjoys advocating for listening to books for leisure, as well as introducing new people to the idea of listening to books as a way to improve overall quality of life. She says that these same ideas apply to libraries. "I like libraries because of all the resources they provide, their peacefulness, and the helpful staff. Libraries are a no judgement space filled with books, computers, and more for people to go to for free to open their minds to something new. Libraries are important because they are for everyone."

Akeyla loves to read, but she doesn't have a favorite book, or even a favorite genre. Instead, she prefers to read a variety of stories: fantasy, sci-fi, drama, anime, current events, adventure, mystery, and crime. Recently, she's begun reading more short stories, just for the quickness of them. 

When she's not busy spreading a love of reading at MLC, you can find Akeyla playing board games with her kids and traveling with her family. She also likes listening to music, swimming, and being outside on a warm day in the fresh air and sun. Akeyla enjoys games, especially word search puzzles and phone and video games. She also spends some of her downtime watching movies, anime, documentaries, and crime shows.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What's on my Nightstand?

Alex Brower
Information Services Director

I have a nontraditional “nightstand” where I keep my TBR (to be read) pile. It is a bag that shifts around my house, so I don’t have to deal with the shame of not reading what’s in it. This helps me pretend that it doesn’t really exist and leaves room for other nightstand stuff, like sleep masks, some change, and several bookmarks. Okay, the bookmarks might be several receipts, a sticker that I keep forgetting to stick anywhere, and one Cards Against Humanity card. Once I officially start a book, it goes on the nightstand. Here are three titles that I am currently hiding from myself that will one day (hopefully) make it to the nightstand: 

The City of Good Death by Priyanka Champaneri

I was drawn to this book because I love a good ghost-y, magical realism story. It also has a really pretty cover, which I am a sucker for. The story also talks about beliefs and rituals surrounding death in India, and I choose to learn about new things through fiction. Nonfiction book about something I want to learn about? Ew, no. Fiction book that includes something I don’t know about and there’s a ghost (I think)?! Yes, please!

My Best Friend’s Exorcism
by Grady Hendrix

The main reason I want to read this book is because of the cover. And it’s about an exorcism, which intrigues me. But it’s mostly the cover: it looks like a classic 80s horror book, complete with terrible photoshop and great hair. I’ve read a couple of other books by Hendrix and they are lighthearted enough to balance out the scariness and gore, which I handle terribly. I am still afraid of the Goosebumps cat from the cinematic opus Call of the Cat that I watched in fourth grade.

A House Called Awful End by Philip Ardagh

Even though I've read this book before, I’m still counting it. I remember it being one of my favorite books from when I was a kid and I have been on a kick of rereading books that I used to love. This one is about a young boy named Eddie who comes to live with his aunt and uncle. They have odd rules and keep the company of a stuffed stoat. One of their rules is that children should not be seen or heard, only smelled, and Eddie must wear an onion around his neck. That might be made up, as it has been approximately 10 years since I read it the first time. I remember it being hilarious and filled with misadventures, so I’m excited to see whether it has held up. How could it not?

Those are just a few of the books in the official nightstand-avoidance bag. The contents change as I give up and return books that never draw my attention once they are no longer in the flattering library or bookstore lighting. Maybe one day I will be stronger than the bag and just read all the stuff I bring home, but that would mean there were no new books! And that is, frankly, not a world I want to live in.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Congratulations, Friends!

Lacy Ellinwood
Lead Library Consultant

The Friends of Mississippi Libraries Inc. is pleased to announce the 2022 Margaret Murray Grant recipients. There were 12 applications this year and very competitive for the reviewers. The Friends of Mississippi Libraries, Inc. would like to thank everyone that applied. The next Margaret Murray grant cycle will open in October 2022. Please join us in congratulating these local Friends groups. 

Friends of the Greenwood-Leflore Public Library System:

The funds acquired through the Margaret Murray Grant will be used in the library’s efforts to create and maintain a collection and programming for the Spanish-speaking community of Greenwood, Mississippi. The bulk of the money will go towards buying bilingual and Spanish-language materials with the remainder used to acquire necessary materials for programs specific to the Spanish-language community, such as a Bilingual Storytime. The library noted an increase in Spanish-speaking patrons at the library, highlighting the lack of resources for non-English speakers, and amplified the importance of providing services for them through the library. 


Friends of the Lexington Public Library, Mid-Mississippi Regional Library System:

Funds will be used to purchase a combination of 1st grade reading level books and Wonderbooks. Wonderbooks are printed books with a ready-to-play audiobook inside and include a Learning Mode to keep talking about the book children just read. Wonderbooks give children an edge with vocabulary development, phonics, and comprehension, and encourage deeper engagement with every book. Holmes County children age birth to 5 are at a poverty rate of 61.3% and are considered "high risk" in their Kindergarten Assessment scores. 


Friends of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library System

The funds will be used to bolster inclusive offerings of graphic novels and manga to library patrons. This includes manga and graphic novels by and about BIPOC individuals and those with disabilities. By diversifying the collection, it will appeal to a broader audience and benefit current program offerings to promote cultural competency development, including manga drawing practice, sampling food from various cultures represented in the collection during the Anime and Manga club, and more. The Anime and Manga Club contributed to circulation in this collection with statistics showing a 100% increase from 2020 to 2021. Graphic novels and manga have increased in popularity for their benefits to neurodivergent readers and individuals who value visuals with texts. 

Congratulations to these friends groups on the great work they're doing in Mississippi libraries. It's always a good time to join your local library friends organization, so give your library a call today and ask how to participate!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Hear Ye, Here Ye! Audiobook Picks from Mary Rodgers

Mary Rodgers Beal
Talking Book Services Director

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered how much I prefer audiobooks over standard print books. Not only are audiobooks beneficial for people who are blind or print disabled, they’re convenient for busy people. Listening to audiobooks still counts as reading; in fact, sometimes it’s better. Here are some examples of audiobooks I believe are better than the print version.


Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book is about a fictional (although I could believe it was real) band who goes through the ups and downs of fame. It’s told in an interview format which really helps the reader to get immersed in the story. Daisy Jones and the Six is narrated by multiple actors and I feel like this brings a level of storytelling that you just wouldn’t get while reading a standard print book. Each narrator brings the characters to life by making the character their own. Hearing the narrators reading their parts still allows a reader to imagine what the character looks like and how the actions are played. I loved this book in audio and tell everyone who wants a book recommendation that they have to read this as an audiobook, not a print book.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey

I’ll be honest and put out there that I’m already a big Natasha Trethewey fan. I had to read her poetry for a class in college and I was hooked. This Mississippi native is very talented. Her memoir about growing up and losing her mother at a young age is remarkable. I love a memoir that is narrated by the author and this one does not disappoint.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

This book is also narrated by the author. Even though these are short stories and not a memoir, I’m still a fan because that way it’s even more of an immersive experience into what the author wanted to portray in their book. And who doesn’t enjoy Tom Hanks? He brings his imagination into his writing as well as his narration.

Here at MLC, hoopla or Talking Book Service’s BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) program are great resources to find the audiobook that is right for your interests! If you know of anyone who is eligible for Talking Book Services, contact us at 1-800-446-0892 or If you have an MLC library card, you are eligible to sign up for hoopla. Give us a call at 1-877-594-5733 if you need help logging in. Many of our Mississippi public libraries also offer hoopla and other audio services like Libby, so check them out!

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