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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Letters About Literature 2017

It's Letters About Literature time again!

Letters about Literature is a state and national writing contest for students in grades 4-12. Each student is encouraged to write a letter to the author of their favorite book explaining how the book changed their life, changed their outlook, or helped them through a hard time. It's a personal letter, not an essay, so students can feel free to express how they feel!

There are three age categories:

Level 1: grades 4-6
Level 2: grades 7-8
Level 3: grades 9-12

Letters from Levels 1 and 2 are due by January 9, 2017. Letters from Level 3 are due by December 2, 2016.

Statewide prizes are as follows:

First place (for each of the three age levels): $100
Second place (for each of the three age levels): $75
Third place (for each of the three age levels): $50

First place winners move on to national judging. National prizes are $1,000 for first place in each of the three age levels and $200 for Honor Winners in each of the three age levels.

Teachers, librarians, and parents, please share this information widely!

2016 Mississippi Letters about Literature winners
The 24th annual writing contest for young readers is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which promotes the contest through its affiliate Centers for the Book, state libraries, and other organizations. Statewide, this contest is made possible by the Mississippi Library Commission, the Mississippi Center for the Book, and the Friends of Mississippi Libraries.

Additional information and entry coupons can be found here. Please send all entries to Mississippi Center for the Book care of Ally Mellon at the Mississippi Library Commission.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

National Book Festival 2016

The 16th Library of Congress' National Book Festival took place this past Saturday in Washington D.C. Tracy and I (Ally M.) went as representatives for Mississippi in the Pavilion of the States.

Every year, each state's Center for the Book sends representatives to man the booths representing their state and educate festival goers about their state's literary culture. Every state selects a children's book and features it at the book festival. This year, our featured book was Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King by Bonnie Christensen. We even had the King at our table in his best gold suit available for selfies!

We had a great time promoting all of the wonderful things Mississippi has to offer. Go here for more information about the National Book Festival and here for more information on the Mississippi Center for the Book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mississippi Public Libraries Host Successful Summer Programs

Susan Liles
PR Director
Mississippi Library Commission

Summer Library Programs have become more popular across Mississippi as a way to keep children's reading skills proficient while away from the classroom. The Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) is a member of the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) which is a nationwide consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for children, teens, and adults at the lowest cost possible for their public libraries.

MLC assists Mississippi public libraries with the costs related to membership in CSLP, and provides the manuals, posters, and other materials. MLC also offers workshops for those libraries interested in participating. Local funding makes up about 96% of the costs related to offering the programs, so the majority of the support is on a community level.

There are four separate manuals to the annual program that include a children's program, an early literacy program, a teen program, and an adult program. Since 2013, public library participation in all four of the programs has risen from 9 library systems to 20 systems in 2016.

The children's program alone reported 164,716 attendees with 7,262,601 minutes read, which is over 21, 043 hours or 5,043 days. There were 8,201 teen participants and 6,506 adults who took part. These total 179,423 participants during the program months of June and July.

Public library participants have been successful in building community partnerships by working with their local parks and recreation departments, 4-H groups, athletic teams, and local businesses. They have recruited senior and tween volunteers to assist with the program and to serve as reading coaches.

Library systems serve many patrons who are from underprivileged areas of Mississippi. Susan Cassagne, Executive Director of MLC, stated, "It is very important for this agency to be able to help public libraries offer this essential program to the residents of their communities. Many of these students were able to start the school year at a higher reading level due to their participation."

For more information on Summer Library Programs, contact MLC Senior Consultant Mac Buntin at

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), offering leadership in library services, advocacy, and training for library professionals and paraprofessionals.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Eahmon Jamison

Meet Eahmon Jamison, Special Projects Officer for Technology Services at the Mississippi Library Commission! He maintains websites for Mississippi public libraries and for MLC, as well as servers and multiple databases like KLAS and DNS. He is also the email administrator and VPN administrator statewide and manages the spam and firewall filters. Basically, if you've ever dealt with a computer or a computer issue within the confines of Mississippi public libraries, you've been assisted by our Eahmon.

Mr. Jamison holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Business Administration from Jackson State University. He has also completed several field specific competency courses and holds certificates in server management, Managing Office 365 Identities, and MCSE, among others. Eahmon started at MLC back in June of 2014 and says he really enjoys his job. "I like being able to help people. I like being able to educate people so that they not only get their problem fixed, but are also able to help themselves out in the future." He says he loves meeting others in his field and learning about new technologies. For instance, he's excited about the upcoming roll-out of Microsoft 365 to Mississippi public libraries. It will make managing distribution lists and email accounts easier because everything will be under the same large umbrella, plus it will save money. Of MLC itself, he says, "I've found a genuine rapport with everyone here and formed lifelong friendships. These are dedicated and hardworking people." Wow, thanks, but you should know we feel the same way!

Eahmon says he appreciates the culture of libraries and how they bring together people from all walks of life. "Libraries are like an open door for our community. Come in, open your mind, and learn new things. Take advantage of the computers, the staff, the other services. They're here waiting for you and they're free!" He says that libraries mirror his philosophy that just because you've finished school, you don't need to learn anything else in life. "Learning doesn't end with a high school diploma. Learning doesn't end when you graduate from college. You can always learn new things and further and better yourself and libraries are the perfect place to learn. For a lot of people in small communities across Mississippi, the public library is the only place they have access to computers, to books, to knowledge."

Mr. Jamison is an avid reader who loves science fiction, like Allen Steele, Peter Tieryas, and Robert Heinlein, and trade journals, like BizTech and Tech Effect. He also enjoys spending time reading with his five-year-old son and his twelve-year-old daughter, so he sees everything from Dr. Seuss to Marvel comics. Eahmon also loves basketball, going to the gym, and biking. He finds jazz relaxing, especially the cool sounds of Miles Davis, and likes to meditate by Mississippi's abundant lakes and ponds.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Melvin Smitherman

Meet Melvin Smitherman, volunteer for the Mississippi Library Commission's Talking Book Services Department. Although Mr. Smitherman does not receive monetary recompense for his work, he puts in the same amount of hours and effort of our regular staff. Melvin began volunteer work for Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Radio Reading Service back in 2003. When MLC moved into its new building across the street from MPB in 2006, he started volunteering for us as well.

Melvin receives new books from the four National Library Service's recording studios in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and Michigan. He checks each book when it arrives back at MLC to make sure the book cartridge matches the correct case. This task takes close concentration and a keen eye. Melvin likens it to the story of the lady who claimed she never got bored with her job as a chicken plucker in Jill Conner Browne's Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, "You get a brand-new chicken every thirty seconds!" Melvin is also the moderator for locally recorded books and magazines.

Melvin has been a patron of ours for even longer than his ten-year stint as volunteer. Melvin attended the Mississippi School for the Blind from 1961-1974. He says that one of the reasons he fell so quickly for the Harry Potter series is that he identified with the boarding school setting from his days at MSB. "I have benefited so much from the Talking Books program. I want to see that as many people enjoy it as I have and still do. When you take something for granted, that's how you lose it. This is important enough that it doesn't need to ever go away." Melvin also piled on the praise for MLC itself. "This is a wonderful library! I can download a book from BARD in half the time it takes me at home. It's a nice space, there's no wait for computer access, and it's handicap accessible. I may be biased, but I think it's the best in the state."

Mr. Smitherman is a lifelong reading fanatic. He's especially fond of good speculative sci-fi and enjoys authors like Lois McMaster-Bujold, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournell. Mention a genre, though, and Melvin has an opinion. Westerns? He loves Larry McMurtry and Zane Grey. Action/adventure? Melvin likes the espionage thrillers of Ian Fleming, Alistair McLean, and Tom Clancy. He says, "I like stuff with teeth to it. Give me a good story, any good story, and I'll like it."

Friday, September 16, 2016

Laser Disk Library

In the fall of 1986 the Mississippi Library Commission purchased a unique computerized interlibrary loan system. This system was developed by Frank Pezzanite, president of Library System and Services Inc (LSSI). The system was part of a laser disk based union catalog, which can be seen being used in the picture. The development of the interlibrary loan system began in 1984 with MLC providing grants to 27 public library systems to buy hardware and the LSSI software. The pilot project began in 1985 and was considered a success. This new system allowed libraries to process requests within two to five days, which was less than half the time it originally took.

To learn more, visit The Packet Volume 19 No. 4 of 1986.
Happy reading!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Amanda Redmond

Meet Amanda Redmond, Reference Librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission! Amanda spends the majority of her time at MLC answering all sorts of reference questions that arrive not only through traditional methods, like phone and email, but also more modern methods, like text and chat. Along with other members of the reference staff, she answers questions and tracks down information on all sorts of subjects, from genealogy and legal forms to phone numbers and help with homework. Amanda started at MLC in April of 2014.

Ms. Redmond received her Bachelor's Degree in English Literature from the University of Cincinatti and her Master's Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She says that she loves to read and loves to do research, so becoming a librarian seemed like a natural fit. "I like tracking down the right answer and finding people just what they need. It's very satisfying to locate the best answer to a question out of all the information swirling around out there." Amanda says that her career choice was a great decision. "I love that the library is not just about books. It's a melting pot of information, free information, that we provide to our community."

Speaking of loving to read, Amanda says she always has a few books she's working on and jokes that her to-read list has gotten a little out of control. Stephen King, Clive Barker, and the Harry Potter series are some of her all-time favorites. In the last few years, she's also become even more of a comic book and graphic novel fan. "I'm excited that MLC has been growing its collection of comic books and graphic novels. They're a fun intersection of art and literature and they're coming out with really great ones these days. I really like that we're able to offer these to our patrons."

In her spare time, Amanda likes going to concerts, like Avatar and AC/DC. She shares a home in the Jackson metro area with three super-intelligent cats.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Talking Book Services Patron Becomes Published Author

by Shellie Zeigler, Talking Book Services

Mississippi Talking Book Services patron Karen Brown has released a moving memoir through Mississippi's Nautilus Publishing Company. Sandpiper: My Journey with Sight and Blindness is about her progression from a slow loss of sight in her early 20s to complete blindness by age 30. Ms. Brown has strong roots here in the Jackson area. She lived in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Louisiana before making her way back to Mississippi for good. She became the director of the Addie McBryde Rehabilitation Center in 2002 and led that organization for seven years.

In her book, Ms. Brown shares the path her life took over the years: from marrying her husband in Germany, to raising their son, to having three different guide dogs, to teaching English in Florida. Karen's book should be categorized as an inspirational autobiography, if only for her strong faith in God and her optimistic attitude that helped guide her through the struggles she faced. Now a patron for 43 years, Ms. Brown stated that one of the first services she received as a visually impaired person was the Talking Book Services at the Mississippi Library Commission. She stated, "Reading has always been such a treasure for me. I never lost that. I started with the record players that the service provided." That service has changed over the years, but we still have the same goal: no one should ever lose the ability to read, regardless of any impairments. Sandpiper is currently being recorded as part of our ongoing effort to make books by Mississippi authors available to our Talking Book Services patrons.

Karen Brown will be giving a reading and book signing tomorrow, Friday, September 9, 2016, at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS at 5 p.m. Her book can also be purchased at

Mississippi Libraries Earn Star Status

By Susan Liles, PR Director

Recently the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) named 12 library systems as Mississippi Library Stars for FY 2015. The concept of Library Stars comes from the national professional magazine, Library Journal. The publication separates library systems into categories by expenditures that they report on the annual Public Library Statistics report that is submitted to the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The star ratings are then calculated by comparing libraries' per capita rates in four areas:
  • Visits per capita
  • Circulation per capita
  • Total program attendance per capita
  • Public Internet terminal uses per capita
While Mississippi does not currently have any national Library Journal Library Stars, MLC has awarded Mississippi Library Stars to the best-scoring libraries in this state, recognizing the three highest-scoring library systems in each of four expenditure categories. Mississippi Library Library Stars were awarded to the following libraries for their performance in FY 2015 (October 1, 2014-September 30, 2016):

Hancock County Library is a Mississippi Star Library!
$50,000-$300,000 Expenditure Category
Sunflower County is a Mississippi Star Library!

Lamar County Library System is a Mississippi Star Library!
The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal, & Forrest County is a Mississippi Star Library!
The winning libraries received a certificate and a Mississippi Star Library star to feature on their website. For further information on the Mississippi Star libraries, contact Joy Garretson, MLC Library Development Director.

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), offering leadership in library services, advocacy, and training for library professionals and paraprofessionals.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tips on How to Get Outside the Lines, Mississippi

By Mac Buntin, Senior Library Consultant and
Elisabeth Scott, Reference Librarian/Social Media Coordinator
We're pretty excited: Get Outside the Lines week is next week! The 13th annual Librarianship 101 coincides with this special week, so MLC's Get Outside the Lines event will be a literary pub quiz at Hal and Mal's for 101 participants. We can't wait to see what the other fourteen participating Mississippi libraries have up their sleeves. If you're looking to join this year's event, it's not too late; you can sign up here. If you need one or two (or three or four) ways to celebrate the vast array of services available at libraries beyond just books, we've put on our thinking caps and come up with a few good ideas.

We'll be back tomorrow with more ideas to help you get outside the lines!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Get Outside the Lines, Mississippi!

By Susan Liles, PR Director

Congratulations to the Mississippi libraries that are participating in this year's Outside the Lines! We're so pleased that fifteen Mississippi libraries are taking part in this year's events. This worldwide program works for those who are committed to engaging with your community to show the relevance of libraries today!

While many people support libraries, they may not understand that advocacy for libraries requires more than a simple appreciation of services. Library advocacy requires a willingness to tell a library's story and to sue advocacy daily to reach the desired outcome... increased funding and greater support! For those libraries that are on board (and those who are thinking about it!) below are a few tips to use during the week of September 11-17.
  • Get your entire staff involved!
    Passionate librarians are a force to be reckoned with! Get them engaged to post on social media and to share information with patrons.
  • Identify your resources!
    Do you have a great contact at the newspaper? Are you connected with the healthcare community in your area? Plan an event for the elders in your area and involve healthcare providers. Invite the media and make a big day of it! This won't cost you anything but a little time. The rewards are big! This is just an example... anything will work!
  • Look for the small things!
    Even if you aren't having an event that week, look for small moments to capture. A child comes in to get their first library card; someone has great luck with a job application; a student does an outstanding report due to the help of your library... those sort of stories make a huge impact.
  • Spread the word!
    Be sure to let your lawmakers know that you are participating in this week-long international initiative to show the importance of libraries today. Invited them to come in to read for storytime that week and take their photo. Post it everywhere... your social media, your website... you get the drift! Be sure to share it with your lawmakers too. Ask them to share it... and on and on and on.
  • Use the hashtags!
    Make sure that all the other libraries involved know that Mississippi libraries mean business when it comes to telling our story. During that week, whenever you post something to social media be sure to use the hashtag - #getOTL and our Mississippi hashtag - #getOTLMS.
If you need assistance in any way, contact Susan Liles at MLC.

Join us later this week for more fun tips that will help you Get Outside the Lines!

This article previously appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of our enewsletter, On the Same Page, the best place to catch important MLC and MS library news.
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