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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Camp Kudzu: Part One

Welcome to Camp Kudzu! Nestled amid soaring stands of pine trees in the heart of Jackson, Mississippi, you'll find this haven for summer readers. While the wildlife prowls about outside--we've spotted deer, foxes, bats, birds, snakes, and nearly a million squirrels--we've been beating the early summer heat with our mock summer library program, which we've dubbed Camp Kudzu.

The Collaborative Summer Library Program's slogan this year is "On Your Mark, Get Set... Read!" with a theme centered around wellness, fitness, and sports. With Camp Director Mac and campers Charles, Tracy, Elisabeth, and Jennifer, we took aim...

and hit the bull's eye! By the way, the roaring cardboard campfire is available for loan to Mississippi public libraries. Contact Ally Mellon to set it up.

We found that we've outgrown pillowcases for sack races (even the king size!) but sleeping bags made a great substitute.

After our exertions, we settled down for spooky stories around the campfire, read by none other than our Camp Director Mac.

There's nothing like the taste of roasted marshmallows to round out the perfection of a good book.

After a full day of Camp Kudzu fun, we snuggled into our sleeping bags for a good night's sleep, ready to see what bookish fun awaited us during our next day of camp. Well, most of us went to sleep. There's always that one camper who stays up past bedtime...

Catch us later this week with Part Two of our Camp Kudzu adventures. Many library systems across Mississippi offer summer library programs; don't forget to register!

Until next time, happy reading!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Library Stories: Mississippi's Congressional District 1

Recently, we posted a story about representatives from Mississippi attending the National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. to advocate for libraries on a federal level. For those of you who are not familiar with this, the agency's funding comes not only from the Mississippi Legislature, but also receives support from the federal government. Each year, over 2,500 Grants to States projects support the purposes and priorities outlined in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Grants to States funds have been used to meet the needs of children, teenagers, adult learners, senior citizens, and others across America.

When she began planning her trip to Washington with members of MLC's Board of Commissioners, Susan C.asked me to put together a brochure for the group to take with them to share with Mississippi's members of Congress. I couldn't wait to get started! She chose a few of the projects funded by LSTA grants from each of the four Congressional Districts and my work began. Showing our members of Congress what these funds mean to their communities here in Mississippi made the task even more exciting. As I began to contact the libraries of the selected projects, I was incredibly moved by the stories I was told about what these funds are able to help libraries achieve. Once our officials have a chance to review the projects, we hope they will push for greater funding for us on a federal level.

Mississippi Congressional District 1
I've always found the workings of our government on a state and national level to be a bit daunting and hard to understand. Once I began my public service career over 10 years ago, it all started to make more sense. On a national level, Mississippi has two senators: The Honorable Thad Cochran and The Honorable Roger Wicker represent the entire state. On the House of Representatives side, the state is broken down into four districts, with one representative from each district.

Congressional District 1 is in the northeast corner of Mississippi and includes the communities of Columbus, Oxford, Southaven, and Tupelo. The Honorable Trent Kelly of Saltillo represents this district in the House of Representatives. Libraries in Congressional District 1 have accomplished a great deal with their LSTA grant funds.

The Benton County Library System used their 2015 LSTA grant funds to purchase new books for their young adult collection. This group of preteens and teens is a vital part of their library family. The young readers were excited to have the expanded, updated collection and were thrilled with the new selection of choices. They began to visit the library more often and the library realized an eight percent increase in visits from this group. Shannon L., age 14, read approximately 45 of the new books over the summer.

The LSTA grant allowed the Yalobusha County Public Library System to address specific development gaps in their collection. Materials for children and large print books for adults were their focus and they were able to acquire 37 large print titles and 60 children's titles. The new books in their collection were a very welcome addition. Library system director Patty Bailey stated, "Our library system is small and underfunded. Without LSTA grant funds, we could not keep up with the local need for books and materials. The funds give us a much-needed boost so we can provide better materials for our patrons."

Stay tuned for more great LSTA grant projects happening in Mississippi libraries!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Lil' Darlin'

In 1985, the Mississippi Library Commission gained an unusual new employee, Lil’ Darlin’ the Yorkshire Terrier. Lil’ Darlin’ was a trained Hearing Dog and was one of the first in the state of Mississippi. Her job at MLC was to assist Sherry Dixon, a Reference Librarian in the Information Services branch. Ms. Dixon had progressive hearing loss since birth; with Lil’ Darlin’ by her side, she was able continue her duties at MLC.  

To learn more about the first trained Hearing Dog at MLC, visit volume 18, issue 3 of the 1985 Packet. Until next time, happy reading!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Reading Widely: Religion in YA

Welcome to our new Reading Widely series here on the MLC blog!

I’m Ally, a Library Consultant here at the Library Commission, and I'll be writing this series. It'll focus on topics, characters, and perspectives that maybe don’t get as much attention but that patrons need to see in their libraries.

Recently, I did a presentation with librarian Karen Jensen of Teen Librarian Toolbox about a year-long project we coordinated focusing on Faith and Spirituality in Young Adult Literature. You can read the recap of the program here. Our entire project hub can be found here.

Libraries work to fill the needs of religiously diverse communities, so here are a few YA titles about religious communities that may be underrepresented in library collections.


Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Dimple Lala doesn't know what to think. She’s 17 years old and she’s spent her whole life side-eyeing her strict parents’ rules and traditions. She’s super startled when her parents arrange for her to meet a “suitable boy.” It doesn’t go well. Until she meets him in another context. And then it’s maybe his unsuitability that makes him suitable?


The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Source: Goodreads

Caro’s much older sister left home when she was eight, and she hasn’t seen Hannah in years. But suddenly she’s back, and Caro’s life is completely changed. Why did Hannah even go away and why is she back now? Distressed by the changes and secrets in her life, Caro resorts to lying to friends and her new boyfriend and the consequences confuse her even further. This book also features Caro’s very healthy and important relationship with her priest, and her spiritual and familial growth.


Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Source: Goodreads

Scarlett is a sarcastic, kick-butt, Veronica-Mars style private detective. She’s also 17 and Muslim. Her newest case gets her caught up in magic, ancient curses, genies, and the mysteries of why people in her town are acting so weird.

Representation is important, especially in books for children and teenagers. It’s important for people to see themselves in the media they consume, and it’s important for other readers to learn empathy by seeing people different from them.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Elisabeth Scott

Meet Elisabeth Scott, Reference Librarian and Social Media Coordinator at the Mississippi Library Commission. Ms. Scott is one of three reference librarians at the agency and one of her main duties is to answer a variety of questions for other state agencies and their staff, libraries and their staff, and the general public. She also coordinates social media for the library and serves as backup for interlibrary loan services. Elisabeth celebrated her ten year anniversary this past March.

Ms. Scott says that her mother, who retired a few years ago, was at different times a public librarian and a school librarian. "I sort of grew up in libraries." She is an avid reader and loves talking about books and libraries. She says, "Yes, libraries have books, and books are very important, but libraries are so much more than just books. Libraries serve as community centers and as makerspaces, as learning centers and as emergency centers, as places to learn and as places to celebrate. Libraries are the heart and soul of our communities."

Elisabeth is a huge fan of children's books. She recently attended the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival in Hattiesburg for the first time. "Other people idolize rock stars and actors. I just saw Jacqueline Woodson and Lois Lowry in person! It was a huge fangeek experience for me." Ms. Scott currently serves on the YA Selection Committee for the Magnolia Children's Choice Awards. She is also participating in the annual YALSA's The Hub Reading Challenge. Recent favorite books include Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, and Girls Like Us by Gail Giles.

Ms. Scott lives in Jackson with her gamer-geek husband and three ridiculously lazy cats.

Friday, May 13, 2016

I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride My Bike

Bicycle or bike, these two-wheeled transporters are loads of fun. (Never you mind that I seem to fall off immediately after hopping on every single time I try to ride!) It turns out that bikes have a closer relationship to books and libraries than you might first think.

Bikes outside Harrison County branch library, 1959
One of our favorite recent videos is this one of Afghani Saber Hosseini. He saw the need for a library in his area, so he's started his own and bikes the books to the people who want to read them. If you'd like to read more about Hosseini's project, check out this article.

Next up? In Buffalo, NY, they're experimenting with bookbikes. (I think they should call them bikemobiles. Bookmobile, bikemobile--get it?)

I couldn't finish write about bikes and libraries without mentioning this group, Cycling for Libraries. An international "un-conference" of librarians and library lovers, the organization advocates for libraries while biking. If I could ride a bike without falling off, these would be the people with whom I'd want to bike.

Bikes outside Shaw Public Library, Bolivar County, date unknown
I'm off to practice my cycling skills. Until next time, happy reading (and biking!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mississippians Participate in National Library Legislative Day

May 2 and 3 marked the annual advocacy gathering of hundreds of librarians and library supporters in Washington, D.C. for National Library Legislative Day. A diverse group of Mississippi Library Association librarians--from public, school, academic, and state libraries--made the trip: Dr. Glenda Segars, Jolee Hussey, Pamela Pridgen, Suzanne Poyner, Ann Marsh, Susan Cassagne, Jenniffer Stephenson, Erin Busbea, and Cecelia Parks were in attendance.

Out and about in Washington, D.C.

The librarians spoke with our legislators about a variety of issues and programs happening in libraries in the United States, including these, which are especially important for Mississippians:
  • The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is the only federally funded program for libraries. Mississippi libraries have used this funding on a variety of programs and projects. To name just a few, they've implemented innovative autism resource centers, bought new computers for public use, and now offer much-needed computer classes for students, seniors, and job seekers. Stay tuned--we'll be sharing Mississippi's LSTA success stories on this blog in the coming months.
  • Innovative Approaches to Literacy Funding is an important program that assists with books and literacy programs in our school libraries.
  • Programs that keep us up-to-date and competitive in areas where we are technologically deficient, including support of public WiFi access, network neutrality, and the Lifeline program, which would help fund broadband.
  • The Marrakesh Treaty affects over 107,000 Mississippians with print disabilities. It will make print materials available in accessible digitized formats.

The Mississippi contingent

Sessions were hosted by the American Library Association

Planning the day

Waiting in Senator Roger Wicker's office to meet
with his Legislative Assistant, Sarah Lloyd Stevenson
MLC Executive Director Susan Cassagne said of the conference, "It is always an honor to represent Mississippi's libraries and visit with our congressional delegates.The visits give us the opportunity to tell the stories of how the services our libraries provide and their services are positively impacting citizens and communities across our state. Libraries do transform!"

Monday, May 9, 2016

Large Print for Everyone

As you may know, the Mississippi Library Commission's collection contains a plethora of large print books that are available to supplement Mississippi's local library collections. Have a patron who wants to read the latest John Grisham or Danielle Steel, but can't see to read the fine print? Check our catalog here. Remember, just because someone's eyes aren't reading at 20/20 doesn't mean they can no longer read!

Did you know, though, that MLC also has large print books for teens, middle graders, and even elementary school readers? Plus, not only do we lend large print books to children with visual impairments, we also send books to children with physical and organic reading disabilities. For example, studies have shown that it's easier for dyslexics to process large print.

Librarians at public, school, academic, and special libraries across Mississippi can request these books for our normal checkout period (six weeks) or apply to participate in our special LP Extended Loan Program. Those who choose to use the latter service keep their books for six months. Books travel to and from the Mississippi Library Commission in special mailer bags at no cost using the free Library Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped program.

Today we're featuring some easy readers from our collection:

Choose books on muscle cars to tempt your mechanically inclined kiddos and NASCAR buffs.

Horse lovers will love this set of equine books.

These books introducing early math skills make learning fun!

Share these dinosaur books with your budding archaeologists and kids who loved Jurassic Park.

Get ready for the holidays with these books that focus on a wide range of special days.

We have many more large print books for juveniles just waiting for your collections. Check our catalog now to see if we have the subject area you need. Until next time, happy reading!

O'Brien, Beth A., J. Stephen Mansfield, and Gordon E. Legge. "The Effect of Print Size on Reading Speed in Dyslexia" Journal of Research in Reading 28.3 (2005): 332-349.

Zorzi, M., C. Barbiero, A. Facoetti, I. Lonciari, M. Carrozzi, M. Montico, L. Bravar, F. George, C. Pech-Georgel, and J.C. Ziegler. "Extra-large Letter Spacing Improves Reading in Dyslexia." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109.28 (2012): 1455-1459.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Staff Reads: Picture Book Bios

I've been reading a lot of children's books lately. Middle grade and YA books can be a lot of fun, but picture books might just be my favorites. The illustrations pull me in and the simple stories keep me coming back for more. I'm especially fond of picture book biographies. I've always been a bit of a history nerd and I learn great little tidbits about people I've never heard of (or don't know enough about.)

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton was written and illustrated by Don Tate. (He illustrated another of my recent favorites, a wonderful picture book biography about Mississippian John Roy Lynch.) Poet follows the true story of the first African-American to be published in the South. Horton taught himself to read as a child; as an adult, he began writing beautiful, heartbreaking poems that spoke against the institution of slavery. He was in his 80s when he finally became a free man because of the Civil War. It's a powerful tale and the illustrations are just as powerful. It won the 2016 Ezra Jack Keats author award. Grades 2-5.

One civil rights activist that I truly admire is Mississippi native Fannie Lou Hamer. I was very pleased to see her story told in Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer. The author, Carole Boston Weatherford, is actually slated to be at this summer's Mississippi Book Festival. The illustrator, Ekua Holmes, created amazing mixed-media collages which perfectly capture the rhythm and themes of Weatherford's poetic tribute to Hamer. I was particularly taken by this quote:
I was so hungry to learn. My mother drilled this into me. When you read, she said, you know--and you can help yourself and others."
The book was named a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book. Grades 6 and up.

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was particularly satisfying. I'd never heard the story of this Ghanaian who, though born with a deformed foot, mastered bicycling at a young age and went on to bike across his country. He raised awareness for those with disabilities in Ghana and is invested in furthering the education of the children of his country, abled and disabled.
He knew her last words had been a gift. He would honor them by showing everyone that being disabled does not mean unable.
The text by Laurie Ann Thompson paints evocative pictures of Ghana, while the illustrations by Sean Qualls are exceptional. The book won the 2016 Schneider Family Book Award for children. Kindergarten-2nd grade.

The children's book market has exploded since I was a child. The plethora of picture books available now is a little daunting. Sometimes I feel like I'll never be able to read all the great new books out there, but I'll certainly give it my best shot. Until next time, happy reading!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Gift of Teaching

I've always admired teachers. It amazes me how they make sharing their knowledge look so effortless. When my daughter was in school, it was a steady battle with homework and assignments, because I just didn't have it in me to help. In my opinion, good teachers are our greatest and most underrated assets.

I recently traveled (on the road again!) to Brookhaven with my colleagues Joy Garretson and Jennifer Nabzdyk Todd. These two ladies were asked to teach librarians about Microsoft Office, MAGNOLIA, and customer service. I really enjoy going along on these trips, because not only do I learn something myself, I also get a chance to visit the outstanding libraries across Mississippi.

Joy and Nabz, as we affectionately call her, were outstanding and personify the term "teacher" in every way. Along with the participating librarians, I learned a great deal that day, too. MLC is so fortunate to have them sharing their knowledge with those who are serving communities in libraries across the state.

Kudos to the Brookhaven Library; you guys are doing outstanding work in your community. Not only is your newly renovated space beautiful, but your team is a testament to your dedication to providing the best possible services to those in your area.

Here at MLC, we will keep teaching, sharing, and serving as we travel Mississippi's roads. It's what we do and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Veronica Dunning

Meet Veronica Dunning, Purchasing Specialist at the Mississippi Library Commission. Mrs. Dunning takes care of the day-to-day operations of purchasing at MLC. Working internally with other staff and externally with vendors and manufacturers, Veronica determines the most efficient way for the Mississippi Library Commission to spend Mississippi tax dollars. She also deals heavily with purchase orders, service contracts, and agency inventory. She has been with MLC since February 2011. Veronica has her Associate Degree, and is working toward a Bachelor Degree, in Business Administration. She is also a Certified Mississippi Purchasing Agent, has her Administrative Services Certification, and is working toward becoming a Certified Public Procurement Buyer.

When asked what she loves about libraries, Veronica responded, "Libraries are the doors to the world. Come in our front door and get the tools to accomplish more things than you can possibly imagine: books, of course, but also information on patents, trademarks, and copyrights, access to computers, the internet, and WiFi, services for the visually impaired, assistance with questions you need answered... The list goes on and on."

Mrs. Dunning used to be a huge mystery fan, but finds she enjoys comedies and romances more these days. A recent favorite book was Big Girl Panties. Two of her all-time favorite authors are Danielle Steel and Mississippi's own John Grisham.

Veronica likes to bake and cook, but her favorite hobby is photography. She has even developed this hobby into a part-time business. An active member of the Greater Deliverance Church of God in Christ, Veronica is married, the mother of two children, and the grandmother of one exceptional grandbaby.
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