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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Reading Widely: Comics, Part 1

Here at MLC, we love comics. We're constantly adding them to our collection, and we also trade our personal ones among the staff. We're huge comics fans. If you like comics as much as we do, here are a few comics/graphic novels that will help you read widely.

(Please see our collection development webinars on our continuing education page if you're curious about the ins and outs of comics, including the difference in issues, trade paperbacks, and graphic novels.)

Power Up is an all-ages comic about four very different beings that kind of accidentally get powers that will help them lead the universe.

Except those four beings are a mom with a minivan, a construction worker, a young woman whose employment status is constantly in flux...and a goldfish.

Sci-fi, humor, and slice of life mix to make this one great! Also interesting is Leth and Cumming's playing with gender roles and expression.

Written by Kate Leth, Illustrated by Matt Cummings

(Six issues contained in one trade paperback)

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a Marvel series about genius and preteen Lunella Lafayette who is spending her life trying to convince the adults in her life that they need to be more concerned about the fact that she has latent Inhuman genes that could be activated at any time. During her science adventures, she meets up with Devil Dinosaur, and the two of them become fast pals.

Lunella is a brilliant addition to the Marvel canon, and seeing a black preteen genius on a comics page is novel and wonderful. Suitable for middle grade and young adult readers.

Written by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare, Pencils by Natasha Bustos

(Ongoing series, one trade paperback as of August 2016)

Zodiac Starforce is a great magical girl comic focusing on teen girls but fun for all ages! The Zodiac Starforce hasn't been needed to fight dark creatures in two years and they've been laying low and doing the high school thing.

But when an alien force infects their team leader, Emma, they have to jump back into the game and save the world from evil! They run into trouble but collect some new friends along the way.

A racially diverse cast of characters and on-page queer representation make this a book for everyone. Aimed at young adult readers.

Written by Kevin Panetta, Illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau

(Four issues, one trade paperback)

With a tagline like "yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish Girl," how can you resist?!

Mirka lives what she thinks is a pretty normal life with her Orthodox friends and family. But when a mysterious witch promises her the thing of her dreams: a dragon-slaying sword. The only catch is that she has to defeat the troll that's got it! Written for middle grade readers, this graphic novel will delight everyone.

Written and Illustrated by Barry Deutsch, Colors by Jake Richmond

(Graphic Novel, three books in the series as of August 2016)

Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, Marvel's first Muslim superhero! Kamala, who is Pakistani-American, finds herself with new powers and the entire delightful series is about her work to try and balance school, saving Jersey City from sinister villains, family and mosque commitments, and hanging out with her new superhero buddies.

Young Adult, but with major adult crossover appeal.

Written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona

(ongoing series, four trade paperbacks as of August 2016)

I'll be back next month with EVEN MORE comics recommendations!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Megan Sills

Meet Megan Sills, Collection Management Librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission! Megan spends her days adding monographs and state-published documents to our collection. Sound dull? She also gets to add all sorts of things that you might not normally think of libraries owning, like board games, puppets, Lego sets, and book club kits. Add to those duties the creation of an index of cataloged documents, the removal of items that are too worn or damaged for use from the catalog, and acting as a backup for the Reference Desk, and you can see that this lady stays pretty busy. She's been at it since February of 2015 and we love having her here.

Sills has an Master's Degree in Library and Information Science from Long Island University and is almost done with her Master's Degree in Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian Studies from New York University. She received her Bachelor's Degree from Webster University in Religious Studies. Megan is a past recipient of the Laura Bush 21st Century Library Stipend.

When asked her favorite part of her job, Sills jokingly replied, "Getting first dibs on all the new books!" Laughing, she points out that she was only kidding, but that she really does enjoy looking through all the new materials she adds to the collection. "I like the challenge of writing accurate and concise cataloging. I like the structure and complexity of classification systems. I like the process of building call numbers and applying subject headings." Of the Mississippi Library Commission itself, she says, "Everyone here is so dedicated to their jobs. It's a beautiful thing, seeing such care being given to every task. The people who work here genuinely love their jobs and care about the services they provide."

On the subject of libraries, this lifelong library lover said, "Libraries have a certain ambience to them that I find very appealing. They are peaceful. They are book havens and refuges for book lovers and information seekers. Plus, libraries offer materials and services to everyone free of charge. They provide access to so many things that are not readily available elsewhere to the general public" Megan loves to read, so much so that she usually has at least three books going at the same time. She  has no idea what her favorite book is and she doesn't think she would ever be able to choose, but her favorite genre is fantasy. The last book she read and enjoyed was The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.

Megan spends most of her spare time reading and collecting books. She also likes traveling, making lists, petting cats, finding and watching cute animal videos, and dancing. She, her husband, and their cat Charles live in Simpson County, Mississippi.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Flight of the Hummingbirds

Way up in Holly Springs lays a natural treasure many Mississippians may not be aware of. The Strawberry Plains Audubon Center is a 2500-acre tract of Marshall County land left to the National Audubon Society by Ruth Finley and Margaret Finley Shackelford, sisters whose ancestors acquired the land in the 1830s. The sisters were raised with an appreciation of nature, especially of birds; their mother's pet parakeet could say his name and phone number: "Chuckles Finley, 63" (McAlexander).

That love of nature and birds is evident at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center today, where visitors can attempt to check almost 200 different birds off the Bird Checklist. One bird that visitors will be certain to see in September is the ruby-throated hummingbird; as the hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, they stop to refuel on the various tasty delights cultivated for them at Strawberry Plains. From "Feeders and an abundance of native plants that provide nectar and insects help the hummingbirds pack on the required weight for the 22-hour Gulf crossing." (22 hours?!) You can observe this pit stop firsthand this year at the Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration, held September 9-11 from 9 am-5 pm. The festival features speakers, wagon rides, a native plant sale, and all the hummingbirds you care to admire.

For more information on Strawberry Fields, the Mississippi documentary film company Blue Magnolia Films has produced a gorgeous film about the center and its commitment to conservation.

Also, Hubert H. McAlexander's Strawberry Plains Audubon Center: Four Centuries of a Mississippi Landscape provides the history of the land itself-from Cherokee Indians, to the slaves that worked the land, to the family that donated it so that its treasures could be preserved and enjoyed.

Happy hummingbirding!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mississippi Book Festival Wrap-up

The second annual Mississippi Book Festival is in the books and, boy, was it a blast! The whole shebang kicked off at 9:30 with Newbery winning author Kate DiCamillo, who immediately opened the floor to questions.We loved her writing advice to prospective authors, which was, "The only wrong way to write a book is just to not sit down and do it."
There were a multitude things to do to fill the day between DiCamillo and the final panel at 5:30. It was definitely a day of hard decision making. How do you choose between seeing a panel with Ellen Gilchrist and one with Michael Farris Smith? Or Trent Lott and Jeff Zenter? Or even Julia Reed and Jesmyn Ward? If you were equally stumped, you can catch up on some of the events you may have missed. C-Span has some of the panels available to stream online:

Panel Discussion on Race
Panel Discussion on Education
Panel Discussion on Civil Rights History
Panel Discussion on Mississippi History
Panel Discussion on Civil Rights
Panel Discussion on Campaign 2016

There were a number of things to do outside of author panels and interviews. We spent some time meeting indie authors on Authors Alley. We also indulged and bought a few books from Lemuria Bookstore. Getting your favorite author's signature can be quite a rush!

Talking Book Services shared a booth with the Mississippi Center for the Book. TBS Director Shellie Zeigler declared this year's event even better than last year. She said she spoke with a record number of people about the service, even a few who didn't realize that they or their family members were eligible to receive the free service.

Our 3D printer was a huge hit again this year. A continuous line of legislators, authors, students, librarians, grandparents, parents, and kids all stopped by our display area on the second floor to learn more about 3D printing from Library Development Director Joy Garretson.
If you had a ball at this year's festival, be sure to take a moment to reply to the Mississippi Book Festival's survey. Feedback will only improve next year's festival. By the way, you can go ahead and mark your calendars for that. The third annual Mississippi Book Festival is August 19, 2017.

We look forward to seeing you at next year's Literary Lawn Party, the hottest event of the year!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Plan Your Day at the Mississippi Book Festival

We've had the hardest time deciding who to see and what to do at the 2nd annual Mississippi Book Festival. There are so many great authors and panels this year, plus children's activities, book signings, book sales, and book related booths. How to narrow down all that goodness into just one day's worth of activities? After much agonizing, we came up with several possible #LiteraryLawnParty lineups from which to choose.

Of course, you may want to spend the day having old photos digitized by the Mississippi Digital Library... Or checking out the Mississippi Library Commission's 3D printer... Or collecting books and authors signatures on the south lawn. Click here for a complete printable list of activities; we wish you the best of luck planning your literary day. We'll see you at the Mississippi Book Festival!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Get Your Library On at the Mississippi Book Festival

The Mississippi Library Commission and its staff will be out in force during the second annual Mississippi Book Festival this Saturday, August 20, 2016. The Mississippi Center for the Book and Mississippi Talking Book Services will be exhibiting in the Rotunda. We have some fun activities prepared, like filling out Mississippi Mad Libs and picking up some cool schwag. You'll be also able to vote for your favorite Mississippi author and discover the secret to becoming the next great Mississippi author. As a special bonus, you can learn how those with visual or physical impairments can get audio books (by both Mississippi and other authors!) mailed to their homes free of charge.

Upstairs in room 204 (from 10 am-3 pm) you won't want to miss MLC's 3D printer on display. MLC's 3D printers travel to public schools and libraries to enhance STEM understanding. MLC will share space again this year with the Mississippi Digital Library, who will be digitizing photos for the public--for free! (That's just how they roll.) All they ask is that the photos be ready to be scanned (already out of their albums, etc...) There's a 30-minute limit on how much MDL can scan if there's a crowd.

"We had a great time participating in the book festival last year and are delighted to be back," says Tracy Carr, MLC's Library Services Director. "Our agency is in the business of books, so being a part of the Mississippi Book Festival is the right fit for us. We support their efforts one hundred percent."

We can't wait to see you Saturday at the Capitol. Until next time, happy reading!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Library Stories: Mississippi's Congressional District 4

The fourth Congressional District in Mississippi reaches across the southern region of the state and includes all of the Gulf Coast, stretching 90 miles between the Alabama border and the Louisiana border. It also extends north into the Pine Belt, and includes three of Mississippi's four most heavily populated cities: Biloxi, Gulfport, and Hattiesburg.

The residents of this large area are represented by Representative Steven Palazzo of Gulfport. Did you know that Senator Thad Cochran represented the area from January 3, 1973 to December 26, 1978? He resigned to take his seat on the United States Senate and continues to serve in that capacity today. His fellow senator is Senator Roger Wicker.

As we visit this district, the last in our series, I am reminded of what a beautiful and diverse area of the state it covers. From the Piney Woods to the Gulf Coast, it is one of the most visited areas in our state. Many outstanding libraries with a vast list of services cater to the needs of the citizens of this area.

Two of the projects from libraries included in the brochure I put together for our Washington "Library Advocacy Day" travelers were from this district. The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal, and Forrest County is one of the most beautiful libraries in the area. With its expansive space and beautiful artwork, it is a testament to the dedication of this community to providing outstanding library services. One of the projects they completed with LSTA funding was something that is crucial to the success of our children: providing ample computers so that they may conduct research, complete homework projects and reports, and improve their digital skills.

The Jackson-George Regional Library System also used their LSTA funding to impact the lives of children in their area. The Vancleave Public Library is now equipped with an Early Literacy Station to help children ages eight and under learn about digital literacy through a variety of interactive and entertaining programs. The station is also used by a group of older special-needs students from Vancleave High School.

Now that you've seen the great benefits of LSTA funding in this series of stories, you hopefully have a better understanding of the importance of federal dollars for our state's libraries. Please take a moment to email, call, or write your United States Representative, as well as Senators Cochran and Wicker, to let them know that these funds are being put to good use in communities across Mississippi. Stay tuned for more important Mississippi library advocacy tips, news, and stories!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Join the MLC Team

Would you like to work for a team of enthusiastic knowledge lovers? Does your dream job involve a lovely library in a gorgeous setting? Look no further! We have the perfect job for you.
The Mississippi Library Commission has opened the following position for recruitment:

Systems Administrator I
Open until 8/25/2016
This position is located within the Technology Services Division of the Mississippi Library Commission. This position may require expertise in any of the following areas:
  • Website design and development (i.e., Wordpress)
  • Knowledge and understanding of local area network (LAN) and/or wide area network (WAN)
  • Software/hardware installation and support (i.e., Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe products
  • Microsoft Office 365 migrations
  • Database creation and support (i.e., Structured Query Language (SQL) and Access)
  • Training classes
  • Creating and delivering presentations  (i.e., presenting to board, directors, staff, and librarians)
  • Project planning
  • Communication and time management skills
Experience is not required in all of the listed areas as some training will be provided.

Applications for this position must go through the Mississippi State Personnel Board. They are available on the job opening page on their website. We can't wait to have you working with our team!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Margaret Smitherman

Meet Margaret Smitherman, Readers Advisor at the Mississippi Library Commission! Margaret is an integral part of the Talking Book Services department at MLC. She is part of the new patron intake process, creating a record and conducting a personal reading wish list questionnaire for each new patron using KLAS. Speaking with dozens of patrons each week, she hones these lists and making sure that each person is receiving the materials they want. Smitherman also provides hands on technical support for BARD, Braille and Audio Reading Download. Margaret is in a unique position to assist her patrons: she has been legally blind since birth. She was born with congenital cataracts, a condition that is usually successfully treated nowadays but wasn't when Margaret was born.

She holds a Bachelor's Degree in English with a minor in Library and Information Science from the University of Southern Mississippi. Smitherman also completed MLC's Librarianship 101 and Librarianship 201 academies.

Margaret joined the MLC team in April of 2006 and says she has really enjoyed her ten years at the agency. "I love helping people. I love making a positive difference in another person's life, especially for these people who otherwise wouldn't be able to access books." She says that this is her dream job. "I like to live by example. I want to be an inspiration to those who think their life is over just because they can't see. I will not limit myself just because I can't see. I don't think anyone should." Libraries are an essential part to Smitherman's life at work and at home. "Libraries are for anyone to use, even someone who is blind, even someone who has a physical impairment. Anyone." She is passionate about reading and is a particular fan of hard science fiction and fantasy books. Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Sage is a favorite series, as well as Ursula K. Le Guin's books. When she isn't reading, Margaret spends her time creating beautiful beaded jewelry. She also likes container gardening. She lives with her husband and two cats in the Jackson metro area.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Stories from the Road - One Wild Trip!

Heading south on Highway 49 the other day my traveling buddy, Mac Buntin, said "You know there are going to be animals here today, right?" Covington County Library System's Library Director James Pinkard had invited him to their Summer Reading Program's final event, the Nature's Olympians program. I was all fired up to go with him, but little did I know it was going to be such a "wild" trip. Having worked at a real zoo for many years, I'm always up for anything related to critters. I was excited for what was ahead!

We pulled up to the library in the quaint town of Seminary. I had never been to this pretty community and it was such a treat. I felt like I had stepped into the pages of a book about the authenticity of small town Mississippi life.

The Conner-Graham Memorial Library is such a warm and inviting place. It felt as if it should smell like homemade chocolate chip cookies--welcoming and cozy. The library was filled with people checking out books and using the public access computers. A large crowd had gathered in the meeting area, and there were nearly as many expectant parents and grandparents patiently waiting there as there were children. All the kids began to gather round with the glow of expectation and excitement on their small faces. 

As John with Animal Tales began the program, you could almost hear a pin drop. He hinted that he might have a dolphin in his bag and I have never seen eyes grow that big or mouths open that wide. To the kids dismay, he didn't actually have a dolphin, but he had brought along some other wonderful animals they were thrilled to see. He was quick to tell them that he learned all about animals from reading books at the library. It was a very well-done program and I even learned a few things myself.


A special thanks to James and all the folks at the Conner-Graham Memorial Library for bringing back memories of one of the "wilder" times in my career. They do a great job, and if you're in the area, you should stop by and visit this library gem. My camera and I will be heading out on the road again soon to visit another Mississippi library. The road is calling, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Connie Jones

Meet Connie Jones, Serials Librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission! Connie's work at MLC covers everything to do with periodicals--that is, magazines, journals, newspapers, etc...--and she spends most of her days checking them in, creating and maintaining records for them, issuing claims for items not received, and "weeding" them as needed. She also helps process MLC's substantial large print collection and serves as secretary of MLC's Celebration Committee. Connie is actually a co-founder of our Celebration Committee; she and a co-worker started it back in 1992 as a way to do something nice for staff. "We wanted staff to be able to celebrate all our hard work together and to have time to fellowship with one another. It's been a huge success." She started work at MLC back in 1988 and worked in the Talking Book Services for four years before moving to the serials section.

Ms. Jones says that she loves her job and finds it to be both challenging and rewarding. "Some of it is routine, but a lot of the periodical information changes quite a bit. You have to pay close attention. It keeps me on my toes!" When asked her opinion of libraries after working in one for nearly 30 years, Connie had the following to say, "Libraries are a great way for people to connect with the outside world. They have books and information on every subject and they'll get you what you need if they don't have it. You can travel across the entire globe without ever leaving the library." She added that many people don't realize that libraries provide such great services. "Free computers! And Interlibrary Loan! These are perfect for people on a budget."

Connie loves to read, her favorite subject being fiction and nonfiction books about Christianity and religion. She's currently studying the book of Ephesians and supplementing her learning with books owned by MLC. Ms. Jones enjoys spending time with her three children and six grandchildren, many of whom live here in the Jackson Metro. She also likes to attend church, and when time permits, sings with the choir and is involved with other church activities.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Techie Teens!

Getting teenagers to focus can be challenging. They have so much to learn and so much potential, but they are convinced that they already know everything. Even though those times are long gone at my house, I still remember the day to day reminders, the suggestions on how to stay focused, and the constant griping (from my teen, not me!)

Jason and Tiffany from the Rebecca Baine Rigby Library in Madison stopped by the Mississippi Library Commission recently and talked about their upcoming Teen Tech Expo. I knew I had to be there! I love techie things and wish I were more inclined that way.

On the afternoon of the big event, I headed north toward Madison not really knowing what to expect. When I arrived the kids were already immersed in all things techie. Jason, the Madison County Library System's Programming Coordinator, said he was always looking for ways to increase teens' literacy skills while still making programs fun and engaging to the children through the use of technology. The kids worked on creating short "superhero" film clips of each other on iPads, which encouraged them to work together as teams. It was a lot of fun watching them brainstorming and laughing together.

After much hilarity as they watched one another transform into superheros, the group moved on to a new project. With the help of a Makey-Makey kit, an electronic invention tool and toy that allows users to connect everyday objects to computer programs, the kids were able to use aluminum foil to create a board game. It was way over my head, but they loved it!

With a little ingenuity and research, libraries can transform their space into a creative lab for teens to learn, laugh, grow, and work together. What could be better? Way to go all of you at Rebecca Baine Rigby Library for a job well done and for helping me remember what it's like to be around teenagers. I didn't realize how much I missed it!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Anitra Townsend

Meet Anitra Townsend, Administrative Services Administrative Assistant at the Mississippi Library Commission! Anitra helps the administrative staff with a variety of tasks, filling a medley of roles as she assists where she is needed. She started with us July 5, and although she has only been here for a short time, she says that she loves her job. "I like that I'm not tied down to one particular spot. I'm learning so much about the library because I work with so many different people on so many different things." Townsend is currently working on her Bachelor's Degree in Professional Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Human Resources from Jackson State University.

When asked why she thinks libraries are important, Anitra responded, "I've had a library card for as long as I can remember. For me, the library provides an essential community service with access to services I wouldn't otherwise have or be able to afford." She says that her local public libraries have always been a great place to visit, whether to just check out books, or to go to study, like she did at Eudora Welty Library when she was younger, or to watch a movie they were showing, like she would do as a young mom at Charles W. Tisdale Library. "If I couldn't find something I needed, those helping hands were the best. It was like having my own personal research team."

Townsend loves to read. Two of her all-time favorite books are Jubilee by Margaret Walker and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. She really enjoys fiction by African-American authors, but says a new goal is to read more Mississippi authors in general, particularly Eudora Welty. "I'm a Mississippi girl. I want to know what's going on in my backyard. As an adult, I enjoy that connection a lot more than I did as a girl. Being here has really ignited my hometown love."

Anitra used to love ballet dancing and spent many years practicing the difficult technique. Now, though, she jokingly says that her children are her hobby. With two in high school, one in elementary, and one in pre-K, her days are busy and rewarding. When she talks about their achievements and goings on, her obvious pride in them shines through. "Family is very important to me. I'm really looking forward to making MLC a part of my family, too."
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