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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

New to Book Clubs? Not for Long!

Charlie Simpkins
Digital Consultant
 
Have you ever considered joining or starting a book club? There are so many benefits for participating in them! First, they help promote a love of literature and learning in a safe environment. Second, they allow you to gain new perspectives by nudging you out of your comfort zones of preferred subjects or genres. Third, they promote a sense of community by bringing together participants with varied backgrounds to discuss nuanced, complex issues with different insights. So, how can you participate in a book club, especially when a pandemic has limited in-person meetings?

 
MLC had a short-lived book club in 2016, so by October of 2020, a group of MLC staff was ready to start it up again. It was going to be a bit different, though, since we could not meet in person. We opted to meet via the cloud-based video conference software called Zoom, and we chose a date that worked for everybody. I’ll give you some pointers from what we learned while getting our book club going.

One main thing to remember when starting or joining a book club is that each group and meeting is different. Some book clubs like to stick with a specific genre or subject matter. Others prefer to pick a theme for each meeting, and members can read anything related to it. Some even like to choose a specific award, such as the Pulitzer Prize or the Hugo Awards, and work together towards reading all the winners. In a similar vein, some like to work through a reading challenge, such as the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge or Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, together. Our book club uses Google Forms to vote on what to read next with a wide range of choices to pick from each time. If you are interested in starting a book club, talk with the potential members and see what type of books they are interested in and when/how often they are willing to meet.

From our first meeting in November 2020 to our most recent in June 2021, we have discussed seven books. You may think to yourself, “But wait. That’s eight months. Shouldn’t y’all have discussed eight books?” If we met every month, then yes, we should have already discussed eight books. But we skipped the month of December because of so many people taking time off and holidays and whatnot. This is perfectly fine. While a book club is a way to expand your view and learn new things, please remember to be flexible, as it still needs to be fun and low-pressure.

Also, remember everybody is not going to love the book that is being discussed. Some may not even finish it. For example, two books that come to mind that we have discussed are Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead. Some of our participants had already read these works and loved them. Some, on the other hand, could not get into either book. That’s okay. It may have simply been that it wasn’t the right time for them to read those books. However, listening to the discussion might inspire them to read them in the future.

There may even come a time when no one in the group reads the selected book. This is what happened to us once. Everyone in the group kept putting off reading it until it was a week before the meeting. We all decided to forgo the selection (for the time being). Instead, we decided to meet, but people who wanted to talk could discuss any books they have recently read and enjoyed. To show how varied our group’s reading interests are, titles that we discussed included the wonderful picture book Nia and the New Free Library by Ian Lendler (illustrated by Mark Pett), the nonfiction work Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton, the magical realism novel The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, and the literary fiction novel Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. (There may be an unofficial Taylor Jenkins Reid fan club in our group.)

As I mentioned before, we take turns making book suggestions, and then we vote on the selection for the next meeting. Because of our diverse tastes, our book club has sampled a wide array of genres. We’ve read (well, most of us) a classic in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. We’ve also read contemporary fiction with Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette and John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead, who won a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for The Underground Railroad. Even though some of our group members are more comfortable with fiction, we’ve read two nonfiction titles that everyone enjoyed. One was Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. The other was A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which we selected to coincide with PBS’s new three-part, six-hour documentary film Hemingway, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. We’ve even dabbled in horror/science-fiction when we read Megan Giddings Lakewood, which has been my favorite book club selection so far.

By now, my words should have you yearning for a great book and an even better discussion about it. But where can you join a book club? Try your local public library. They may already have one established. If not, they may be willing to work with you to get one started. Once you have picked a time, a place, and a book, you are ready to read. But what if everyone wants to read the same book, and you are having trouble finding enough copies of the same book? MLC has book club kits Mississippi libraries can check out for three months. Each kit contains ten copies of the same title and a discussion guide. At the time I’m writing this, MLC has over 150 Book Club Kits to choose from! If you are interested in finding out more details, visit https://mlc.lib.ms.us/programming-hub/ or email me at csimpkins@mlc.lib.ms.us. Here are some of the newest selections I’m most excited about: 

I have enjoyed my time participating in a book club and hope you can benefit from the same joy. Best of luck with your readings. Which book do you think would be a good selection to discuss and why? Sound off in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Letter from your Friendly MLC Intern

Rose Pendleton
Archives Intern
 

Dear Reader,

My name is Rose and I am currently working towards a master's degree in Library and Information Science and a graduate certificate in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Southern Mississippi. As part of the program, I had to do an internship at a library with a special collection or an archival records repository. For my internship, the Mississippi Library Commission was gracious enough to be my host facility. 

These blue vinyl discs were used with a Gray Audograph
machine to make recordings. They were introduced in 1945.
 

The staff was very friendly and generous with their time and assistance. I learned a lot about processing and handling archival items on both a physical and a digital scale, preparing metadata to be accessed by digital collections, and even a little bit of cataloging! I found a lot of amazing photographs and correspondence, from photos of Cicely Tyson and Eudora Welty, to early printing and recording items like stereotypes and audographs.

The project I worked on during this internship was to identify, document, and rehouse correspondence and construction documents that were kept in-house in the archives. In the end, there were 106 boxes in total. I felt very accomplished to be able to finish such an undertaking during my time here. One of my favorite parts of working on this project was to be able to watch a library grow on paper: from humble beginnings as a plot of land to a fully realized and constructed library!

As part of the curriculum of the class, I was tasked with maintaining an online blog with weekly update posts about my progress and what I found that week. You can check it out at: hurricanerose.wordpress.com.

All the best,

Your friendly MLC intern

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Be Joyful and Read How You Like

Shellie Zeigler
Library Consultant

There is a debate going on about how we read that seems to be a competition of sorts. You have your purists that swear by the standard paper print book. Then you have e-book readers, who swear by the convenience of having 20+ books in their hand at any time. In come audiobooks, which happen to be the fastest growing market in the publishing industry. However, that’s only for digital audio: readers love the convenience of downloading their audiobooks onto their phones and other devices. I say: isn’t there room for all of us? Aren’t we all readers?

All of us love the power of the written word. All of us would rather be reading a well-written novel than watching some bad television (Note: there is some really good television out there that I would not want to miss). Why do we have to squash fellow book lovers who prefer to read in a different format?

I personally am a reader that transcends the lines—I’ll read print, audio, or e-books…it depends on the type of book and it very much depends on my mood. I’m willing to bet there are many readers out there just like me. A good thriller on audio is a perfect pairing, but a slow burning literary novel might be best in print or e-book—for me. Reading is a very personal, solitary activity.

June is National Audiobook Month. I have noticed that some readers feel the need to make a distinction when discussing a book as to whether they read a print copy or listened to the audio version. Did your brain not receive the same information? Why is there a “lesser than” stigma attached to audio readers? I see articles online and questions posed on social media with the underlying question, does the book count if I listened to it? You comprehended the story. If your brain is processing the plot, the characters, the dilemma etc., how does an audiobook not count? Just because you processed the information with your ears and not your eyes does not mean that the book doesn’t count. It does not mean that your soul doesn’t rage just as much at the social injustice depicted in To Kill A Mockingbird as the person who read the print version. I feel that saying an audiobook “doesn’t count” is just as much a slight against the book being discussed as the person listening to the book.

So please enjoy the books that you love in any format that is most convenient for you. And let’s stop judging others for their reading choices.

Happy reading, my friends!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Beginner's Guide to Manga: Single Volumes and Short Series

 

How much do you know about manga? Translated literally, ‘manga’ simply means comics. However, in America the term has come to be associated with black and white comics published in Japan, usually read in a right-to-left format.

Manga is popular. One-third of the entries on the New York Times Best-Selling Graphic Books and Manga list for May 2021 were manga. Demon Slayer: Infinity Train, a movie based off of the manga Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, has grossed over $499 million dollars worldwide. Many American apparel and hobby stores sell figures, clothes, and other products featuring characters from manga. For millennials and Gen Xers, some of your favorite children's cartoons might be based off of a manga! Remember Yu-Gi-Oh, Dragonball, or Sailor Moon? All based off of manga. Manga also has a reputation for being long-running. Iconic series can (and often) run for over twenty volumes. Some series can run even longer: the pirate series One Piece has released 97 volumes in English, a number that puts prolific writers like John Grisham to shame. 

But while the sheer length of the most popular manga series can be intimidating, there are plenty of smaller series or stand-alone manga that would work wonderfully as an introduction to the form. This blog post will highlight manga series, all three or fewer volumes, that could be a wonderful starting point for your library's collection or just a good point for someone who doesn't know much about manga to learn about it. The works are divided into age-appropriate categories: all ages, young adult, and adult. 

As a note, the line between ‘young adult’ and ‘adult’ is often blurred in the manga world. Many of the adult titles would be suitable for teenage readers as well. I’ve decided to place them in the adult category due to some mature themes, graphic content, and language.  

All Ages 

Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix, by Shiro Amano. Two volumes. A young boy named Sora, a court wizard named Donald, and a captain of the guard named Goofy team up to find Sora’s missing friends as well as King Mickey, king of Disney Castle. This manga is based on the popular video game series that places classic Disney characters (such as Ariel, Donald Duck, Jiminy Cricket, etc.) in a fighting game setting. You’ll want to pay close attention to the title for this one: there are a LOT of manga with different titles in the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Ironically enough considering the title, Final Mix is the one you’ll want to start with: it is an adaptation of the first Kingdom Hearts game, with a few manga-exclusive bonus chapters as well. 

Little Witch Academia, by Yoh Yoshinari, Keisuke Sato, Studio TRIGGER. Three volumes. Atsuko “Akko” Kagari has been accepted to the prestigious Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy! But as the only student from a non-magical family, she’s got a lot of catching up to do, especially if she wants to get on the same level as her idol, a magical showman named Shiny Chariot. The series details Akko’s quest to learn magic and make friends, proving all her doubters wrong along the way.

Manga Classics: Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, Crystal Chan, and Kuma Chan. One volume. Manga purists may scoff at this entry as this is an adaptation of a Canadian book made by a non-Japanese company. But for those people new to manga, an adaptation of a familiar property might help ease them into the form's style. The story follows Anne, a bright and spirited young orphan girl, who's plucky presence impacts and changes the town of Green Gables. If Anne’s adventures aren’t to your taste, Manga Classics has also adapted other classic books and plays in a manga format, such as Hamlet, Les Miserables, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  

Swans in Space, by Lun Lun Yamamoto. Three volumes. Corona and Lan are new recruits to the Space Patrol, an agency dedicated to helping those across the galaxy. With their trusted instructor named Instructor, the girls are off to explore new planets! Swans in Space is a charming series, fit for those of all ages. And, most notably, the series is published in full color! (Most manga are published in black and white)  

Young Adult  

Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale, by Kikori Morino. Three volumes A young girl named Nabi and her giant spider friend live together in the mountains, by themselves, after the apocalypse. This absolutely charming manga is one part slice-of-life, focusing on Nabi and her spider friend as they explore the world around them, and one part recipe blog, as the manga features detailed recipes for the meals that Nabi and the giant spider eat. It’s a remarkably charming manga despite it’s large arachnid protagonist.  

Go For It, Nakamura! by Syundei. One volume. Nakamura has fallen in love with his classmate, Hirose. There are just a few problems: Hirose doesn’t know Nakamura exists and Nakamura is way too shy to confess! This comedic manga is about a boy trying to confess his love to another boy and all the pitfalls that ensue. Don’t be put off if you see the term “boy’s love” being thrown around in reviews: that doesn’t mean it’s sexual! “Boy’s love” is simply the Japanese term for books that feature men falling in love with other men. Go For It, Nakamura! focuses more on the heart-stopping feelings of first love than anything more explicit.

Kageki Shojo!! The Curtain Rises, by Kumiki Saiki. One volume. Two girls join a prestigious all-girls theater school for two different reasons: the loud and brash Sarasa Watanabe dreams of playing her favorite roles on the stage and the quiet and reserved Ai Narata simply wants to live in a world where she doesn’t have to deal with men. The two girls might have different personalities, but they work towards the same goal: standing on the stage as stars. This series is the prequel to another series, just titled Kageki Shojo, and will be receiving a televised adaptation in the next few months!  

Magic Knight Rayearth, by CLAMP. Three volumes. Three girls are brought to the magical land of Cephiro and tasked with becoming Magic Knights to save the land’s princess. Stories of teenagers from our world being brought to fantasy worlds to save it via swords and sorcery are a very popular manga trend right now. Magic Knight Rayearth serves as a short yet solid introduction to the genre, with the bonus of some giant robot fights near the end. The series has a sequel series, also three volumes.  

Uzumaki, by Junji Ito. Three volumes collected in one book. Most of Junji Ito’s work would fit wonderfully for this entry: the man is a master of horror and has published many short manga and short story collections. But out of all of them, one of his best-known works is the chilling horror manga Uzumaki. The story focuses on Kurouzu-cho, a town obsessed with spirals, and the two teenagers who try to figure out the mystery behind it. Ito’s works are not for the faint of heart, and Uzumaki is no exception. It’s a delightfully dark and macabre mystery, with a new horror in almost every chapter.  

Adult 

All You Need is Kill, original story by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Storyboards by Ryosuke Takeuchi, Original Illustrations by Yoshitoshi Abe, Art by Takeshi Obata. Two volumes. Each day, Keiji Kiriya dies on the battlefield only to be revived the next day to go off and fight again. This continues for ages until he gets a message from a mysterious female ally that might lead to his salvation. All You Need is Kill is a tight, dramatic action-packed manga, adapted from the novel of the same name. And if the premise sounds familiar, that’s because the series inspired the Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow.  

Claudine, by Riyoko Ikeda. One volume. Claudine follows the titular Claudine, a trans man in early 20th century France. The story focuses on Claudine’s life, his pain, and the women he loves and loses along the way. Even though this is a manga from the 1970s, Ikeda's portrayal of Claudine is sympathetic and never transphobic—in fact, the psychiatrist that Claudine sees is accepting of his gender. As a note, Riyoko Ikeda is best known for an intense, soap opera style, of which Claudine is no exception. Ikeda’s style colors the entire work, making it delightfully dramatic.  

Devilman: The Classic Collection, by Go Nagai. Two volumes. Hordes of demons have descended upon the Earth! Mankind’s only hope is Fudo Akira, a soft-hearted crybaby who has been given the powers of a demon to fight back. With the powers of a devil but the soul of a man, Akira fights back the demons as Devilman. This is a collection of re-printed Devilman manga from the 1970s, given a new translation and lovely binding. Devilman is a horror manga is gritty, gross, and not for the faint of heart. It’s also an absolute classic. Go Nagai is a titan of the manga industry, and this is Nagai at his absolute best.  

Haru’s Curse, by Asuka Konishi. One volume. After her sister Haru dies, Natsumi agrees to date Haru’s fiancée, Togo. But as Natsumi and Togo try to make their relationship work, the memory of Haru looms over every interaction. Natsumi and Togo have to sort out their complicated feelings towards Haru and towards each other. Haru’s Curse is a dramatic yet sad story, touching on grief, familial love, and two people brought together by tragedy. If you want a page-turner of a manga, this is the one for you. 

Olympos, by Aki. One volume. This manga retells the Greek myth of Ganymede, a man so attractive the gods brought him up to Olympus. The story can get a little simple and a little philosophical at times, but the artwork more than makes up for it. Aki’s gorgeous artwork is easily the highlight of this book, which provides a sensual feast for the eyes. 

Of course, there’s more short manga than what I’ve listed! I’ll close this off with links to articles listing short series or single-volume manga.  

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.

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