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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 or email me at 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:

All the best,

Your friendly MLC intern

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