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Friday, June 24, 2016

Stories from the Road

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the road?  I think I have, repeatedly, in previous blog posts. What can I say? I like seeing new things and meeting nice people, and in Mississippi there is never a lack of either!

Recently Mac Buntin (MLC Consultant) and I hit the road to visit Patty Furr, Director of the Jackson-Hinds Library System located right here in our own backyard. Pulling into the Eudora Welty Library on State Street in Jackson, I was flooded with memories of my childhood. The building used to house a Sears Department Store and was where my mom and I shopped in those days. I remember well the wonderful aroma of peanuts as you entered the door... it drifted through the first floor from the famous nut counter.

Now the building houses a great collection of books and wonderful services to those in the capital city. Upon entering, I loved seeing Miss Welty keeping a watchful eye over the first floor. I have a feeling her spirit probably still spends some time wandering around between the stacks.

We visited with Patty and she talked about the great things going on, like plans for a new teen center and plans to divide computer space into areas for training and areas for general use. Then we had our own special tour of the library. It's exciting to see the new Museum of Mississippi History going up at the back door of the library and to think about what this new facility will mean to Jackson.

After our visit with Patty, we decided to make a day of it and jumped in the car to check out some more of the Jackson-Hinds's libraries... Edwards here we come!  

Mac Buntin and Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss, Branch Manager at the Lois A. Flagg Library, greeted us warmly and was excited to show us around her special space. One of my favorite features was the really neat meeting room. It's a long space with carpeted risers against one wall; it's perfect for summer library programming and other events. The library plays an important role in the small community of Edwards and we congratulated Patricia on a job well done. If you have never been to Edwards, it has the best bridge around; trust me, it is worth a day trip just to check it out!  

Lois A. Flagg Library in Edwards

After Edwards, we traveled onward to Bolton. We were excited to visit with Branch Manager Alfenette Robinson and to see what big plans she has in store for her library, the Annie Thompson Jeffers Library. The library was full and every single computer was in use during our visit. This library is an essential community service for the town and is a great space in the heart of downtown Bolton right next to Congressman Bennie Thompson's office.

Annie Thompson Jeffers Library in Bolton

The library, although small, was bright and cheerful and ready to welcome kids for their summer library program. We spent some time visiting with Alfenette and then said our farewells.

Be sure and stay tuned for my next adventure in Mississippi libraries! In the meantime, check out a Mississippi library for yourself--you won't be disappointed. Maybe you, too, will fall in love with the road and your local library!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Lorietha Myers

Meet Lorietha Myers, Library Development Administrative Assistant at the Mississippi Library Commission. Lorietha performs a number of essential duties at MLC, including preparing our meeting rooms for workshops and meetings, assisting with continuing education workshops, and general office work. She also assists MLC's consultants and Library Development Director when needed and serves on the agency's celebration committee. Myers has been with MLC nearly 25 years; she joined the team in February of 1992. Lorietha holds an ASCP (Administrative Support Certification Program) certificate from the State Personnel Board.

Lorietha says that one of her favorite parts of her job is meeting with and helping library directors when they come to the Mississippi Library Commission for workshops or to meet with consultants. She loves hearing all about the new activities and programs the local libraries are developing and offering to their communities. About public libraries in Mississippi, Myers says, "I think libraries give each individual a chance to learn more. People don't necessarily own a lot of tech at home; a lot of people can't afford to get the newest devices every year. Libraries are a great equalizer. They let people stay current with the 21st century. Otherwise a lot of people, children especially, would fall way behind in digital literacy. For some, libraries are their only means of accessing information."

Lorietha loves to read. "Books charge your imagination. You can take a trip anywhere you want!" She especially enjoys reading romance novels and children's books. You can read her review of one her latest reads, Want, Need, Love here. Lorietha also spends some of her free time cooking, which she loves, and attending concerts. She saw Fantasia and Anthony Hamilton when they came to Jackson last month and had a fantastic time.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Literary Father's Day Tribute

In light of Father’s Day rolling around again this weekend, I have been thinking lately about what being a good father means. There’s no right answer, per se, but there are many characteristics that a good father embodies. As a book lover, I look to stories for examples of great dads, and there’s one literary dad who immediately comes to mind. He’s not a traditional father, in that he and his co-guardian are a brother and sister team instead of a partnered couple, but his love for his adopted daughter shines very brightly all the same. Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables is fatherhood personified, in my humble opinion. Indeed, Anne feels the same love for Matthew as he does for her. She tells Marilla: “I think he’s lovely... He is so very sympathetic... I felt that he was a kindred spirit as soon as ever I saw him.” Elsewhere, the book says about their relationship that they were the best of friends.

How exactly does Matthew embody the characteristics of a good father? One would think that Anne and his relationship would have gotten off to a rocky start considering Matthew and Marilla had thought to adopt a boy but ended up with Anne instead. However, from the very beginning, Matthew and Anne have a special relationship. Matthew has an intense fear of interacting with women and girls, but on the drive home after he picks Anne up from the train station:
Matthew, much to his own surprise, was enjoying himself. Like most quiet folks he liked talkative people when they were willing to do the talking themselves and did not expect him to keep up his end of it.

When he arrives home with Anne instead of the boy they were expecting, Marilla is understandably annoyed. Matthew wants to keep Anne and tells Marilla, “Well now, she’s a real interesting little thing... You should have heard her talk coming from the station."

After Marilla and Matthew finally decide to keep Anne, they discuss her upbringing. Marilla comes to love Anne in her own way, but Matthew has already recognized how special she is. Marilla tries to keep the upper hand:
Matthew, you're not to go interfering with my methods. Perhaps an old maid doesn't know much about bringing up a child, but I guess she knows more than an old bachelor. So you just leave me to manage her. When I fail it'll be time enough to put your oar in.
Compassionate Matthew understands how much Anne needs them and replies:
There, there, Marilla, you can have your own way... Only be as good and kind to her as you can be without spoiling her. I kind of think she's one of the sort you can do anything with if you only get her to love you.

As Anne stays with them longer and longer, Matthew comes to understand how little good Anne has had in her lonely life. Even though he said they were not going to, he goes ahead and spoils her a little himself. He is thankful he has nothing to do with her upbringing and thinks to himself:
Surely it would do no harm to let the child have one pretty dress--something like Diana Barry always wore. Matthew decided he would give her one; that surely could not be objected to as an unwarranted putting in of his oar.
Matthew is so shy that he has trouble pulling off his plan to get Anne a pretty dress, but he is determined to do this nice and generous thing for her. He asks the only other woman in his life he feels comfortable with to help him follow through: his neighbor Mrs. Lynde. When he gives Anne the dress, Matthew sees his efforts have paid off when she takes the dress and looks at it “in reverent silence.”

Matthew is a good father not only because he likes listening to Anne and is generous with her, but also because he is supportive of her and believes in her. When Anne’s school decides to put on a concert, Matthew invites Anne to practice her recitation piece for him. He also tells Anne, smiling down at her, “Well now, I reckon it’s going to be a pretty good concert. And I expect you’ll do your part fine.” Most of all, Matthew is proud of Anne, and he tells her so. After Anne wins a scholarship at school, he tells her:
Well now, I'd rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne... Just mind you that — rather than a dozen boys. Well now, I guess it wasn't a boy that took the Avery scholarship,was it? It was a girl — my girl — my girl that I'm proud of.

Matthew is a good father to Anne for many different reasons, but some that stand out from these examples are: how her happiness is important to him, how he listens to her, how he supports her, how he is proud of her, and, most of all, how much he loves her. Anne’s time with Matthew is limited, but she never takes him for granted.

Matthew Cuthbert wins my vote for all-time favorite literary dad. Who is yours? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

This Father’s Day, don’t forget to tell your dad or whomever how much you appreciate them!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Postal Carrier of the Year Announced

By Shellie Zeigler
Talking Book Services Director
Mississippi Library Commission

Each year, the Mississippi Library Commission's Talking Book Services asks their patrons to nominate postal carriers they feel have gone above and beyond the regular duties of their jobs. The patrons of this service live all over the state of Mississippi. Brandon Postal Carrier Marcy Shanks was honored as the 2015 Postal Carrier of the Year by the Talking Book Services of the Mississippi Library Commission. (We are always a year behind because we ask our patrons to nominate people after the year is completely over.) We celebrated Marcy Shanks and the patron who nominated her, Brandon resident Ralph Smitherman, on June 7 at the Brandon Post Office. Ms. Shanks was presented with a plaque, as well as a cake that was shared with her fellow employees.

Talking Book Services provides library services to anyone in the state of Mississippi who has a physical impairment, a visual impairment, or a learning disability. We are part of a national network of libraries that partner with the Library of Congress's National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Anyone in the United States and the Virgin Islands can receive this free service. We provide digital audio books and magazines (that are played on a special digital player that we provide), Braille books and magazines, downloadable books, and an app to download books to your smartphone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reading Widely: Pride Month

June is LGBT+ Pride Month. If you're interested in the origins of Pride Month, you can read this post from our very own blog from last year!

Below are a few suggestions to add to your Pride Month reading list. Each title featured below corresponds to a letter in the LGBTQIA acronym!

L--Lesbian: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Adult historical fiction
Nan King is a normal girl who makes her living shucking oysters. But then she sees musical hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator. She soon meets her idol and becomes her dresser, and as their careers begin to race toward stardom, their relationship changes and deepens.

G--Gay: My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Young adult contemporary fiction
TC and Augie are best friends, so close they call each other brothers. They think they have the world figured out, until they both fall hard: TC for new girl Ale, and Augie...for a boy? It's not so clear to him, but everyone in his life can see it. This adorable story is about friendship, family, baseball, and Mary Poppins.

B--Bisexual: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Young adult mystery
Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, Mina does not. The police call it a drug deal gone wrong, and force Sophie into rehab. When she returns, everything is different, and Sophie realizes that she's going to have to find Mina's murderer all by herself, digging up all her secrets in the process.

T--Transgender: George by Alex Gino

Middle grade contemporary fiction
When people look at George, they see a boy. But George knows she's a girl. When George's class puts on a production of Charlotte's Web, George wants to be Charlotte, but her teacher says that she can't even try out for the part...because she's a boy. George enlists the help of her best friend to come up with a plan: so she can be Charlotte, but also so she can be herself.

Q--Queer/Questioning: Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry

Young adult contemporary fiction
Brooklyn is off to Allerdale to do a theater summer apprenticeship where no one knows her super-famous performer family so she can find her own place. She immediately hits it off with her roommate Zoe, and their relationship turns into something more. But as her relationship deepens, so do Brooklyn's questions and doubts: is she happy because of Zoe? Or because she's figuring out who and what she wants to be?

I--Intersex: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

Young adult contemporary fiction
Kristin is homecoming queen, a champion hurdler, and has the perfect boyfriend. But her life changes with one doctor's visit: Kristin is intersex: she's outwardly female, but she has male chromosomes, and maybe even internal male parts. Dealing with this is hard enough, but when her secret is leaked to the entire school, she has to come to terms with her identity, and quickly.

A--Asexual, Aromantic, Agender: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Adult fantasy
Nancy has ended up at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. Her parents think she was kidnapped and is traumatized by the experience. But she knows the truth: she tumbled into a different world. This happens to children sometimes: they fall or trip or step into somewhere else. And everyone under Miss West's Care is trying to get back to the world they came from. But in the meantime, tragedy strikes and darkness threatens to overtake the school. Can Nancy and her schoolmates get to the bottom of the trouble?

For more LGBTQIA recommendations and reading lists, see

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Library Stories: Mississippi's Congressional District 2

Congressional District 2
Jackson area highlighted
Covering much of western Mississippi, Congressional District 2 is over 275 miles long and 180 miles wide with the Mississippi River as its border. It encompasses Jackson and much of the Delta region of the state, and is home to four public colleges and universities. Representative Bennie Thompson serves the interests of this region in Washington, D.C., along with Senator Thad Cochran and Senator Roger Wicker, who represent the entire state.

A few weeks ago, I talked about the fantastic work being done with LSTA grant funds in libraries in Congressional District 1. These folks are doing great work and I continue to be amazed at what they accomplish for their patrons. This week I'd like to highlight some of the terrific projects in Congressional District 2 that are funded by the Grants to States program. Grants to States projects support the purposes and priorities outlined in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

The terrific projects in this district have made a huge impact on their communities. Copiah-Jefferson Regional Library System wanted to expand their services and introduce Urban Fiction and African-American subject matter in sufficient quantities to meet the demands of their library community. They were able to purchase over 300 books on these subjects and have seen a 53% circulation rate of the new materials.

A patron enjoying one of the new books.

The Sunflower County Library System focused on the needs of their senior adult patrons by offering a basic computer training class to help these members of their library family acquire skills in word processing, basic internet searches, and keyboarding. One of their classes decided to put together a group of recipes and shared them with each other as their final class project!

Senior adult computer class graduates in Drew, Mississippi
These important projects are just part of what makes Mississippi's libraries vital to communities across the state. Our libraries are changing lives. Next time, learn about what great projects are happening in Congressional District 3!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Puppet Kits

In response to a Nancy Renfro Puppetry Workshop held in early 1981, the Mississippi Library Commission created puppet kits as a new service for public libraries. Each kit included puppets and scripts for each puppet. The puppet characters included: Wooser Witch (our favorite witch name ever), Henny Penny, Goldilocks, the Three Piggies and Little Red (Riding Hood). You can learn more about the Puppet Kits in volume 14 issue 5 of the 1981 Packet.

Puppet fans, rejoice! By the end of summer 2016, we'll be rolling out brand new puppet kits for the Mississippi Library Commission's collection. The coming puppet kits will include nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters, a wide variety of animals, mythical beings, and family kits featuring African-American, Caucasian, and Latino people puppets. Finger puppets will be available for some categories. The puppets will be available for checkout as a set with related books for story times.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Accessibility for All

One of the many beneficial programs offered by the Mississippi Library Commission is our Talking Books Services. Mississippi residents who are unable to read standard print due to a visual, physical, or organic reading disability are eligible for this free public library service. The National Library Service administers the program nationwide and has created this nifty video of their patrons talking about using the service.

If you live in Mississippi and you or someone you know would benefit from the service, please call us at 601-432-4116 or toll free at 1-800-446-0892. If you live outside Mississippi, don't despair! You can call the National Library Service toll free at 1-800-424-8567.

If you haven't had a Coca-Cola in the past year or so, you might have missed seeing your name on a can. (Their Share a Coke campaign still hasn't printed a can with Elisabeth on it, but I've made my peace with that.) In Mexico, they realized that the visually impaired population was missing out on the fun, so they got to work. Check out the charming video below to see these unique cans.

Another neat way people are making the world more accessible for the visually impaired is a new Twitter feature. People using their IOS and Android apps can now add descriptions, also known as alternative text, to pictures they post on the app. Screen readers and Braille displays pick up these descriptions, opening up a previously unseen part of the internet for those who can't see.

BlindNewWorld is a fantastic new campaign aimed at changing the way sighted people intentionally or unmeaningly marginalize the blind. Started by the mother of a blind man, it challenges peoples' misconceptions and stigmas about the visually impaired.

We hope we've opened your mind to new ideas in accessibility for the visually impaired. Until next time, happy reading!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Susan Liles

MLC's new logo
Meet Susan Liles, Public Relations Director at the Mississippi Library Commission. As you may have inferred from her title, Susan is the go-to person for all things PR at MLC. She recently led the agency's rebranding, which included a new logo and new promotional materials. You've got to admit, that's one gorgeous logo! Our quarterly newspaper received a much needed update as well. (You can check out On the Same Page on our website.) Susan also travels the state with our staff so that she can learn more about public libraries across Mississippi and their needs. She has quickly become an indispensable contact for local libraries to use in their own PR efforts. Liles has been instrumental in the budding library advocacy push in Mississippi, including the recent Legislative Lawn Party. Last but not certainly not least, Susan assists with MLC's bimonthly art shows, popular events for folks who love seeing work by Mississippi's talented artist community. This is all rather extraordinary when you realize that Liles has been at the agency for less than a year. She began working at MLC in September 2015 after ten years in PR at the Mississippi Arts Commission.

One of Susan's favorite aspects of her job is when she travels to other parts of the state to visit public libraries. "I love having the chance to see all our wonderful libraries and to meet all the great staff who work at them." When asked why she loves libraries, she says that, "Libraries are the heartbeat of every community and the door to knowledge."

Susan enjoys reading within a variety of topics. For the past several years, she has been on a self-help journey via books, finding treasures by such voices as Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle. "The Power of Now is the best book I've ever read. It changed my life," says Susan. She also loves books that focus on specific points in history, like the Tudors. She's currently reading Outlander and A Game of Thrones. (Yes, she's a fan of both shows!)

Susan is an award winning filmmaker and a published photographer. She and her husband are avid campers and Harley riders. They also love to garden on their one acre of property. Susan is an avid birder and loves adding new birds to her list of ones she's spotted. For instance, she spied some pileated woodpeckers on her latest camping trip to Tennessee and Georgia.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Camp Kudzu: Part Two

Earlier this week, we told you about our escapades at Camp Kudzu and promised you a sequel. Without further ado, we give you the further adventures of the Camp Kudzu campers. Drum roll, please...

We ran across this book holding contest online and thought it was too much fun to pass up. Basically, the rules are to "hold" as many books as possible with the covers showing. As you can see, we had varied results.

Campers spent time learning about one of our favorite pieces of tech, our 3D printer, and created bracelets emblazoned with Camp Kudzu. Remember, Mississippi public libraries can check out one of our 3D printers for programs and other activities. Contact Joy Garretson for more information.

Last, but definitely not least, our campers participated in a grueling relay race. The course was rough, but they soldiered on until they reached the finish line.

With thoughts of summer reading in their heads and fond memories of Camp Kudzu in their hearts, our campers headed home. We're sure they're already looking forward to next year's camping fun.

Until next time, happy reading!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Letters About Literature 2016

Nine students across Mississippi won awards in this year’s Mississippi Letters About Literature writing contest. Approximately 50,000 young readers across the country participated in this year’s Letters About Literature competition, a reading promotion program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The Friends of Mississippi Libraries were a partner on the state level.

To enter, young readers write personal letters to authors, explaining how their work changed their view of the world or themselves. Readers can select authors from any genre—fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic. The contest theme encourages a young reader to explore his or her personal response to a book, then express that response in a creative, original way.

In Mississippi, approximately 500 students competed across all three competition levels; only 50 letters advanced to state semifinals. From those, 30 were selected to advance as state finalists for judging.

The Mississippi Library Commission hosted an awards ceremony and reception on April 29 to honor state semifinalists, finalists, and winners. After a welcome and remarks by Mississippi Center for the Book Coordinator Tracy Carr, the nine state winners were invited to read their letters aloud. The students then received their awards, and afterwards light refreshments were served.

The first place state finalist for competition Level I (grades 4 through 6) was Isyss Jones of Newton for her letter to Rachel Renee Russel. The first place state finalist for Level II (grades 7 and 8) was Kyran Williams-Roberts of Starkville, who wrote a letter to J.K. Rowling. Victoria Kinsey of Pontotoc was the first place state finalist for competition Level III (grades 9-12) for her letter to J.R.R. Tolkien. Mississippi first-place finalists each receive a $100 cash prize and their letters move on to the national competition.

State winner Victoria Kinsey’s letter also moved on to the national semifinals.

Other state winners include: Peyton Burton of Pass Christian (second place, Level I); Catherine Li of Starkville (second place, Level II); Denis Martinez of Ecru (second place, Level III); Darron Griffin II of Clarksdale (third place, Level I); Sophie Lanier of Pass Christian (third place, Level II); and Skyler Turner of Ecru (third place, Level III). Second-place winners receive a $75 cash prize and third-place winners receive a $50 cash prize. All state winners receive a medal inscribed with their name and ranking; all state semifinalists receive a certificate of achievement.

Megan Bryant, a teacher at Pass Christian Middle School, won the Educator of the Year award for encouraging the most students to submit letters.

The Mississippi Center for the Book is one of 50 state affiliates of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. The Center's mission is to promote books, reading, libraries and literacy in society. The Center for the Book was established in 1977 as a public-private partnership to use the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading. More specifically, Mississippi's Center for the Book is devoted to promoting and exploring Mississippi's rich literary heritage through statewide activities.

For more information, contact Mississippi Center for the Book Coordinator Tracy Carr at or visit
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