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Friday, November 18, 2011

Team USA!

It’s here! It’s here! The 2012 Guinness World Records is here!

I’ve written before about how much I loved the Guinness Book of World Records as a child, and I have to admit: I’m still pretty enamored. The format is much different now—instead of a thick paperback, it’s now a glossy magazine-type book with colorful pictures. And yes: while I suppose it’s interesting to read about the sports records (Rob Kish once cycled from California to Georgia in 8 days), the most expensive book sold at auction ($11.4 million for Audubon’s Birds of America), and the tallest bridge (Millau Viaduct in France is 1095 feet, four inches high), what I’m after is the gross stuff.

You know what I’m referring to: the fingernails.

Chris “The Dutchess” Walton, an American, is the proud owner/maintainer of nails that are 10 feet, 2 inches on one hand and 9 feet, 7 inches on the other. That would be 19 feet, 9 inches of fingernails. However, before The Dutchess gets too full of herself, I should point out that she doesn’t hold the all-time longest fingernails. For women, it was Lee Redmond, who had a total length of 28 feet, 4.5 inches. Here is a direct quote from the book: “Unfortunately, Lee lost her nails in an automobile accident in early 2009” (82). I will say no more. The longest fingernails on a man were on Melvin Boothe, whose nails totaled 32 feet, 3.8 inches. Both Redmond and Boothe were American.


Tune in next time when I tell you who won the Longest Beard on a Living Person (Female) award.

Guinness World Records 2012. London: Guinness Word Records Limited, 2011.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beware The Black Squirrel

Mississippi had a rich Native American culture before the 1800s. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, and other agreements between the Native American tribes of Mississippi and the government, served to change all of that:

When the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, there were over 19,000 Choctaws in Mississippi. From 1831 to 1833, approximately 13,000 Choctaws were removed to the west. More followed over the years. Those who chose to stay in Mississippi are the ancestors of today's Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. -Choctaw Indians in the 21st Century
Whilst skimming Mississippi, As a Province, Territory, and State (the book was first published in 1880; words like "whilst" are used a lot!), I ran across a few Choctaw nuggets which were too fascinating to let escape.

    Black squirrel, sun eater
  • The Choctaw believed that an eclipse was caused by black squirrels attacking and eating the sun. If the black squirrels were not driven away, the Choctaw thought that they would eat the entire sun. During an eclipse, the tribe would emit a loud clamor, with some even shooting at the sun. This would last until the squirrels had been frightened away or the eclipse ended (Claiborne 524). There can't have been too many eclipses, though, because the squirrel population in Mississippi seems to be thriving to this day.
  • The Choctaw language is at once foreign and familiar to Mississippians. For example, Sha-ko-loke-o-kah-hick-ki-a-bogue means cypress standing in the water creek (Claiborne 525). Really, that isn't much different than Shuqualak (hog's wallow) or Bogue Chitto (big creek)! (Brieger)
  • The Choctaw had an interesting take on capital punishment. A murderer was expected to turn himself in at an appointed time and place to be put to death by one of their family members. He could, however, ask for a short stay of execution in order to attend previous engagements. Once the time was up, the only honorable thing to do was turn oneself in with no shirking. On rare occasions, an older family member would stand in for a youthful murderer (Claiborne 488).
  • Tom-ful-la was a favorite dish made of corn soaked in lye and then boiled. It was seasoned with bear oil, deer tallow, and nuts (Claiborne 501). That actually sounds pretty good! (Bear oil and deer tallow taste like butter, right?)
If you would like to know more about the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, try their website, or stop by the Mississippi Library Commission and check out a book!
Breiger, James F. Hometown Mississippi. Historical and Genealogical Association of Mississippi, 1980. Print.
Claiborne, J.F.H. Mississippi as a Province, Territory, and State. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, Publishers, 1978. Print.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Library Association Names Prominent Award Recipient

Kathy Buntin
The Mississippi Library Association (MLA) recently awarded the 2011 Peggy May Award to Kathy Buntin of the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) at their annual conference held at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Jackson. The Peggy May Award, named for Peggy May, a true champion for libraries throughout this state, recognizes an individual who exemplifies outstanding achievement in library development and/or recruitment of personnel into the library field.

Dr. Melissa Wright, a former MLC co-worker, nominated Buntin. In her nomination, Wright wrote, “When I finished my MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science degree) and got my first job at the Mississippi Library Commission, I was well grounded in the basic library principles, but otherwise clueless! While my library science coursework gave me a good foundation, this year’s winner of the Peggy May Award made me a librarian. She took me under her wing and answered my questions, introduced me to people around the state, and helped me hone my library skills. Kathy embodies everything that a librarian should be: she is hard working, innovative, service-oriented, and is always willing to go the extra mile to help a librarian in need.”

Buntin received her master of library science degree from the University of Alabama, served as director of the Tallahatchie County Library for four and one-half (4½) years, and was hired by the Mississippi Library Commission as special projects officer in the Grants Services Department. She currently serves as Senior Library Consultant in the Development Services Division of MLC.

When asked what her thoughts were about the nomination, Buntin stated, “I am honored to be awarded the 2011 recipient of the Peggy May Award and thankful that my parents and friends were able to share the moment with me. Never have I envisioned myself nominated by a peer, former co-worker and friend for inclusion in this group of librarians whom I have admired as role models in the profession. It is humbling. Being a librarian is more than a job, it is my career and an integral part of how I see myself. It is hard to imagine receiving this award for doing something that I love. The support of family and friends has been crucial in my professional development and I hope that I am able to continue to serve the State of Mississippi and especially Mississippi librarians for years to come.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stay or Go: Romanov Edition

Kudzu, the Mississippi weed

One of the never-ending tasks of a librarian is to "weed" the collection. That means exactly what it says: like a massive growth of kudzu, bad books are trying to take over the library. Librarians continuously cull to make sure that the best books are available for their patrons use. It's hard. I love books, and I think that each and every one of them is valuable in its own right--or at least was at one point in time. That said, no one wants to go to the library and find crumbling, moldy, mildewed books. Books that are no longer relevant (think travel guides from 30 years ago or a history of Europe that ends in 1985) aren't popular either. A website called Awful Library Books is devoted to promoting good library books and to removing the baddies from the shelf. A clever acronym has even been coined to help in the weeding process:

  • M - Misleading
  • U - Ugly
  • S - Superseded
  • T - Trivial
  • I - Irrelevant
  • E - Found Elsewhere
Let me tell you, MUSTIE has helped me out in a pinch when trying to decide if a book should stay or go.

Alexei Romanov
Last week, I watched Russian Revolution in Color, which was excellent. Later, I was browsing the shelves for books to put in a display and ran across The Escape of Alexei, Son of Tsar Nicholas II: What Happened the Night the Romanov Family Was Executed. (This is always dangerous. I also managed to pick up Rising Tide and Marooned: The Strange but True Adventures of Alexander Selkirk, the Real Robinson Crusoe. I have too many books to read!) Wanting to stay on my Russian history kick, I took Alexi home and was looking forward to reading about this theory. I'd never heard a tale about the Tsar's son surviving, only Anastasia. The book wasn't a bad read, but it presupposed knowledge of tiny details of the Russian Revolution. Even my recent viewing of Russian Revolution in Color wasn't helping. And the NAMES! They're enough to make you want to run screaming from the library! (For example, Konstantin Alexeyevich Myachim also went by Vasily Vasilievich Yakovlev. That's quite an alias.)

Taking a break, I decided to do a small web search in order to update my Romanov savvy (And to take a break from the names! Yes, I struggled when I read War and Peace.) I hit Wikipedia and then moved on to some of their external links (This is one of my favorite at-home search methods.) I came across some interesting sites, like this one, and this one. Imagine my disappointment to find that the two bodies that had been missing when my book was published in 1998 had been found and identified in 2007. I don't know how I missed that news flash. My impromptu research made my interest in Alexi completely fizzle.

I'm recommending that this particular book leave our collection. I now consider it contaminated with a great big "M". (That's misleading, remember?!) It would be perfect for a library that has a special collection on Russian history or the Romanovs, but not the Mississippi Library Commission. I checked our collection (You can do that here!) and found that we don't have anything that has been published in this area in the past several years. My next step is to find an up-to-date volume that covers this time frame in history. I'm leaning towards one of these two: The Resurrection of the Romanovs: Anastasia, Anna Anderson, and the World's Greatest Royal Mystery or The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. Now, that sounds better, doesn't it?
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