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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

A Letter from Your Friendly MLC Archivist

Miranda Vaughn
Reference/Archives Librarian

Dear Reader,

Don’t you just love when your favorite hobbies and interests collide? Today’s letter is all about two of my favorite things: libraries and film.

Movie poster for
The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag

The state of Mississippi is famous for birthing some of the world’s great artists and entertainers, but did you know that our beautiful landscape has been featured in a number of films over the years? One of those films is The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (1992). This movie stars Penelope Ann Miller, who has been in dozens of movies over the years, but who I will always affectionately remember as the teacher and love interest of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop. Miller plays the title character, Betty Lou Perkins, a small-town librarian who finds herself caught up in a murder mystery adventure after she and her loyal Boston terrier discover a gun near the river. This screwball comedy also features well-known actresses Julianne Moore and Alfre Woodard. 

Front page news for The Greenwood Commonwealth

The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag was filmed in Oxford, Greenwood, Clarksdale, and parts of Louisiana. Filming in these areas provided a great opportunity for locals to work in character roles and as extras, as well as work behind-the-scenes. It also provided a great opportunity for the Mississippi Library Commission to feature some our assets as props for the movie. According to an agreement between then Library Services Director, Sharman Smith, and Set Director, Meredith Charbonnet, we loaned the production 

Check out this movie
stationary from our archives.

  • 14 busts of authors
  • 3 dark wood tables
  • 4 metal book trucks
  • 3 wooden book trucks
  • 1 atlas stand
  • 1 CBI stand
  • 1 library ladder
  • 3 kick stools
  • 5 single-faced shelving – 5 sections
  • 1 AV projection stand
  • 8 double-faced wood shelving – 8 sections
  • 2 USPS corrugated plastic mail containers
  • 3 metal rolodexes
  • 3 metal card-size file boxes
  • 10-15 brown cardboard film boxes


In return, In the Bag Productions donated $3,000 worth of microfilm cabinets to the Library Commission. 

Same author busts, same microfilm cabinets? We think so!

To watch the trailer for The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag, click here.

All the best,

Your friendly MLC archivist

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Letter from Your Friendly MLC Archivist

Miranda Vaughn
Reference/Archives Librarian

Dear Reader,

Today’s letter is all about stereotypes and cliches. No, not those stereotypes and cliches. Well, sort of. Let me explain.

A stereotype (also called a cliché) is a plate of metal used for making copies of prints. First developed in the 1700s in Europe, these plates were traditionally used for printing newspapers. Stereotypes were created from a “mat,” which is essentially a papier-mache mold containing the print that is to be turned into a stereotype. The dried mat was then used to cast the stereotype from hot metal. These metal plates were made primarily of lead and tin and were used on linotype machines or “slug-casting” machines to make the newspaper copies. Stereotypes made it possible to send casts to multiple printers, thus making more copies in less time. 

Purser Hewitt was a notable Mississippi journalist who worked for the Clarion Ledger for
47 years and retired as executive editor in 1973. He was appointed Chairman of the Mississippi
Library Week Committee in 1958 as part of the first annual National Library Week. Pictured here
is the mat containing his image, his image as a stereotype, and the final image in the
Mississippi Library News article featuring the announcement of his role as Chairman.

What does this printing technique have to do with the MLC archives? During the mid-20th century, the Library Commission printed Mississippi Library News, a quarterly journal produced by MLC and the Mississippi Library Association. Since stereotypes were commonly used in printing during this time, MLC used this printing technique to make copies of Mississippi Library News in house. Our archive has a number of stereotypes and mats of photographs used in these newsletters. We also have bound copies of Mississippi Library News to which you can compare these stereotypes. Mississippi Library News is no longer in print and has been replaced by the Mississippi Library Association’s Mississippi Libraries journal.

During the 1970s, more modern printing techniques began replacing stereotypes. Today, we are seeing a shift toward digital printing techniques as well. Despite the rapid changes technology brings, I’m sure there are printing and photography connoisseurs out there who can appreciate our little collection of stereotypes. 

I think it’s only appropriate to end a letter about clichés with an actual cliché: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Don’t you agree?

All the best,
Your friendly MLC archivist

Monday, March 8, 2021

Meet MLC Monday: Jason Walker

A photo of a man is in a circular frame. He is wearing a plaid shirt and glasses and smiling into the camera. He is standing in front of a display case holding books, including Me by Elton John. A quote is beside him, the text is Libraries are priceless, in part because they do so many important things. They educate, they let you escape to new places when reading, and they store information for future generations. Jason Walker systems administrator, MLC logo is below. it says Mississippi Library Commission Leadership Advocacy Service
Meet Jason Walker, Systems Administrator at the Mississippi Library Commission! Jason is one of the helpful voices you hear when you call our Technology Services Help Desk. He also assists with the agency's website. Jason holds a Google Professional IT Support Specialist certificate and has a background in software development. He began working at MLC at the beginning of January.

Jason says he likes his new job because of the new people he has the opportunity to meet and help. "I enjoy working at MLC because I get to educate Mississippians on the technology side of their library systems. I basically get to show them all the things technology has to offer us in order to help our communities grow and prosper."

Jason thinks the fact that libraries provide many, many resources one location is key to their success. "Libraries are priceless, in part because they do so many important things. They educate, they let you escape to new places when reading, and they store information for future generations."

Jason loves to read, and he reads pretty much anything and everything. His favorite book is the New King James Version of the Holy Bible. The last book he read was Introduction to C# for Beginners. In his spare time, Jason spends most of his time with his family and church community. He also likes coding, and is a professionally sponsored RC (remote control) race car driver.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Star Library Status Awarded to 12 Mississippi Public Library Systems

The Mississippi Library Commission recently named 12 public library systems as Star Libraries based on their statistics for fiscal year 2019 (October 1, 2018-September 30, 2019). The library systems are separated into four categories by expenditures that they report on the annual Public Library Survey, required by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. MLC then compares libraries’ per capita rates in these four areas:
  • Mississippi Measures – this is a combination of interlibrary loan use, statewide database use, number of registered users, and items withdrawn.
  • Circulation per capita
  • Total program attendance per capita
  • Public Internet terminal uses per capita

Star Library status is decided by recognizing the three highest scoring libraries in each of the four expenditure categories. Star Library status is awarded to the following libraries for their FY19 statistics:

Under $300,000

$300,000 - $599,999

$600,000 - $999,999

$1,000,000 and above

The winning libraries received a certificate and a digital Star Library badge to feature on their website. Congratulations to the winning libraries!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Mississippi Talking Books Gets an Update

Mary Rodger Beal, Talking Book Services Director
Sebastian Murdoch, Readers Advisor
a smiling woman poses next to her desktop computer. the computer screen is open to the Mississippi Talking Book services catalog search page.
Talking Book Services Director Mary
Rodgers Beal shows off the updated webpage.
If you're one of our Mississippi Talking Book Services patrons, you may have noticed a few changes in our Talking Book Services online catalog. These changes have been made with your convenience in mind, and we hope you’ll enjoy how much easier it is to navigate our website. 
One new feature? Check which books are waiting to be shipped to you and which books are currently checked out to you!
  1. Log in to your account.

  2. Click on the Account tab.

  3. Click on the Reading History tab.

  4. Browse by Requests, Items Waiting to Ship, or Currently Checked Out Items.

You can also browse recent and popular titles from the main page and order books yourself.

  1. Log in to your account.

  2. Select a book you’d like to order.
  3. At the bottom of the page, click on the Add Book to Your Book Basket button
  4. Click the Proceed to Checkout button.

If you have any questions about how to navigate the site, or if you have questions about becoming a Mississippi Talking Book Services patron, please call our Readers Advisors at 601-432-4151 or toll free at 1-800-446-0892. They'd love to help you!

Call us at 601-432-4151 or toll free at 1-800-446-0892. Two photos accompany this text. One shows a man with a mustache posing next to his desktop computer, the other shows a woman wearing glasses posing next to hers. Both computers are open to the MLC Talking Book Services catalog.
Two of MLC's Talking Book Services Readers Advisors, JD Burns and Sebastian Murdoch

Monday, January 25, 2021

Meet MLC Monday: Margaret Smitherman

We're grateful we can help you get to know our MLC staff better, doubly so when it's our veteran staff. Welcome back to another edition of Meet MLC Monday "Senior Edition"! Margaret Smitherman has been a Readers Advisor with the Mississippi Library Commission's Talking Book Services for the Blind and Print Disabled for nearly 15 years; she started with the agency back in April of 2006. Margaret works directly with Talking Book Services members: assisting with their applications, helping with book requests and suggestions, pointing them in the right direction for other library issues, and, of course, “other duties as assigned”. Some people may not realize this, but our readers advisors are in a unique relationship with their patrons. They talk to many of these library users weekly about books they need and issues they're having. It can become a true labor of love--connecting people with books and the outside world.
Over the years, as Margaret helped people across the state with their book needs, she also helped them adapt to technology and service changes. She says, "When I first came to work here, we had a program called Lobe Library, which was a kind of trial of what our digital book program has become. I was put in charge of this program, where I sent downloaded books from an Audible platform out to a list of participating patrons on a little device that would only hold one book. We did this until the digital book service was well established in 2010."

We asked Margaret a few more tough questions, but she graciously gave us frank answers. We learned that she is a cat-loving early bird who thrives in the warm summer months. She also said that, if she had to hook up two characters from different books, that she would set up David Copperfield with Sara Crewe. "I don’t think there is any danger of them getting married, but I would love to read their letters to each other." Margaret, who is a big fantasy and sci-fi fan, told us about the most famous person she met. She and her husband took a Star Trek cruise with most of the original cast back in 1987. She says, "They were all interesting people to meet, but the one who made the biggest impression on me was Mark Leonard, who played Spock’s father. We got to know him very well, and were even part of an organization that hosted a Star Trek Convention in Jackson with him as the guest in the 1990s."

Stay tuned as we check back in with other long-time MLC staff from time to time here on Meet MLC Monday. Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Letter from Your Friendly MLC Archivist

Miranda Vaughn
Reference/Archives Librarian

Dear Reader,

Today’s letter is all about an archaic little contraption from a simpler time when gas prices were only a few cents and speed limits were a new concept. They started as “traveling libraries,” but you may recognize them by their more common name: bookmobiles.

Before their work with the state government to establish the Library Commission, the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs (MFWC) established traveling libraries across the state. These traveling libraries were meant to reach those who did not have access to public libraries, as much of Mississippi was rural and did not have public libraries when MFWC was first founded in the late 1800s. Once the Library Commission was formed in the 1930s, it was tasked with not only setting up public libraries in every single county, but it also took over the traveling library services. Over time, these traveling libraries came to be affectionately known as “bookmobiles.”

It took several decades to establish public libraries in all 82 counties, so MLC sent out bookmobiles to give a library experience to Mississippians who did not have access to public libraries. Based on memos from the 1950s, it seems that these bookmobiles reached several thousand people in the counties where they were used. Unfortunately, these bookmobiles were in use during times of segregation and often did not offer services to the Black population. However, in some counties they were sent to “Negro schools.” Coahoma County, for example, serviced nearly 3,000 Black students per year at segregated schools in the early 1950s.

Mississippi author, W. Ralph Eubanks, recalls his experience with bookmobiles in rural Mississippi at the end of the civil rights movement in this article. In 1955, an MLC bookmobile began servicing the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. According to a national newsletter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the bookmobile serviced six Choctaw schools in its first visit. The number of books checked out doubled on the second visit. The bureau was ecstatic!

Bookmobiles became less popular as more public libraries were built in rural areas. As rising maintenance cost clashed with available funding, Mississippi libraries began to slowly retire their wheels. By the late 1990s, most of the bookmobiles in the state were out of service. Lee-Itawamba and First Regional library systems kept their bookmobile services going. The Madison County Library System revived their bookmobile service in 2019.

The Mississippi Library Commission has offered a myriad of services over the years, but the bookmobile service is one that has sentimental value to generations of library users. It awakens the same nostalgia that comes from an ice cream truck or county fair – a sense of youthfulness and wonder. It is a book lover’s dream to have a library wherever they go. Maybe these archaic contraptions aren’t so archaic after all. 

All the best,

Your friendly MLC archivist

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