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Monday, May 30, 2022

Reel Scary: MLC’s Microfilm Readers

Amy LaFleur
Reference Librarian

Ever wonder what you call that nifty machine all the horror film characters use to crack the curse and save the day? Or perhaps you need help identifying the spirit haunting your apartment. Either way, the machine you need is called a microfilm reader.

This machine works by projecting images stored on microfilm and then magnifying them so that they become readable. The machine is paired with software that allows one to manipulate the projected image in order to better view its contents. For example, there are ways to correct film that appears upside down or backwards. One can also crop out extraneous information from a web capture. MLC’s microfilm software, ViewScan 4T, even allows patrons printing and saving options so that they can have a copy of the information they’ve located once they leave. Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry. This software includes a short tutorial video that covers how to use each of these features.

Despite these useful features, patrons often shy away from the microfilm reader as if it were a red eyed monster with pointy teeth. At one point, MLC’s patrons were justified in feeling this way. See, just as recently as this past January, the Commission was battling a menacing machine that seemed to be guided by otherworldly hands. While I did not experience these creepy happenings personally, I’ve heard whispers from those who did. Alex Brower, Information Services Director, explains how the machine would “screech” when in use and, “At the very end, it had trouble working, the light would come on under the plate but the actual camera wouldn’t show anything.” She also shares how she is “so much happier with the new machines,” because, “they are so fancy!” I think we all know that the word “fancy” here actually means not haunted.

And how great for researchers that these new machines are much nicer! Before the switch, many patrons were missing the sense of reward that follows locating obscure yet helpful information. For instance, some patrons have found useful information they could not access elsewhere regarding loved ones via our microfilm reader. The sources in our collection also have the potential to help researchers with questions about notable local events and legends. For instance, many people might be unaware of Mississippi’s brief brush with extraterrestrials. However, one event often referred to as the 1973 Pascagoula Alien Abduction made national headlines, and MLC’s microfilm collection contains an article from the Clarion-Ledger covering the infamous happenings. See the image below: 

Perhaps local legends are not your thing? No worries! Patrons are welcome to view their own microfilm reels on these machines. Currently, there is no limit to how many reels patrons can bring and view at MLC. I hope more patrons will use this handy resource more often.

***Note*** While we promise that the new microfilm reader doesn’t bite, we make no such promise for the information it unwinds.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Hear Ye, Here Ye! Audiobook Picks from Elisabeth Scott

Elisabeth Scott
Reference and Social Media Librarian

I am a later-in-life convert to audiobooks. When I was a kid, we used to stop at the library and pick up books on tape for road trips. As soon as my parents pushed the cassette into the tape deck, I would pull out whatever paperback I was reading and block out the drone of the story coming from the front of the car. (I'm really good at ignoring whatever else is going on around me when I'm reading.) I've never liked headphones or ear buds; they bug my ears. Most of all, I like to read at my pace. I don't want to depend on someone else to read a book for me. But.

I went on a road trip with family several months back and everything changed. We had recently added hoopla as one of the services offered by MLC. I figured 'no harm, no foul' and we had our first audio picked out and playing before we crossed into Madison County. I was hooked.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

This is the book that launched my new found love of audiobooks! A few of us on the road trip had read the print version of Kate Quinn's The Alice Network when it came out a few years before, so we figured another of her lady spy novels would be perfect for our journey. Boy, were we right. The narration switches back and forth between three main protagonists, spinning this story of female pilots and photographers forward at high velocity. I was afraid that I would get confused moving between the different points of view in an audiobook, but the narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, made the transitions effortless. It was such a success that, as soon as we got home, I searched through hoopla's catalog to find more books to add to my queue.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich's middle grade series had been on my TBR for years, ever since I heard it recommended as a Native perspective of life occurring at the same time and place as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. The first book in the series follows seven-year-old Omakayas as she learns how to tan hides, collect medicinal flora, and bead moccasins. I quickly replaced my morning radio routine with snippets of audiobook, where I learned about the Ojibwe. I loved the emphasis on community, nature, and the connection between the two. The narrator, Nicolle Littrell, had a soothing voice that didn't disturb my immersion into this world so different from my own. Omakayas was in my thoughts for many weeks afterwards, especially since I segued immediately into The Game of Silence.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

This series came to my attention a few months ago when it was announced that Martha Wells was declining her Nebula nomination because "the Murderbot Diaries series has already received incredible praise from her industry peers and wanted to open the floor to highlight other works within the community." Well. That piqued my interest! I dove feet first into the story of a sarcastic, world-weary artificial construct. The entire series is available on hoopla audio, so I found myself fitting in more and more listening time. The narrator, Kevin R. Free, was great at making the voice of each character unique, important in a series with so many players. I found myself laughing out loud in my office as I ate lunch and getting teary-eyed as I did the dishes. Murderbot, you're the best.

I didn't realize that reading audiobooks would mean that I would read more, not less. I still carry around a print book to read when I can't listen to books. (Right now it's Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.) Sometimes I'll read it at night to fall asleep, or in the morning when I'm just waking up. Reading audiobooks, though, has opened a new door into enjoying literature that I didn't think was possible for me. It's a little more leisurely, I've learned how to actually pronounce a few words (as opposed to how I think they should be pronounced), and it allows me to build the story in my head in a different way than print books. You should give them a try!

To learn more about hoopla through the Mississippi Library Commission, give us a call at 1-800-647-7542. Many of our Mississippi public libraries also offer hoopla and other audio services like Libby, so be sure to ask the next time you visit.

Last but not least, keep your ears peeled for our podcast drop June 1. It will feature even more of MLC staff's experiences with audiobooks!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Meet MLC Monday: Erin Morin

Elisabeth Scott
Reference and Social Media Librarian

Meet Erin Morin, Administrative Services Assistant at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Erin, a filing and organization wizard, helps MLC's Administrative Services team with various projects. Some of these projects may or may not involve regularly using the Keurig… you know, just to make sure it’s still working. (She's a wizard at this, too.) Erin holds a Master of Letters in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow – if you Google image search it, you’ll see that she basically went to Hogwarts. (Take a virtual tour of the campus for the full-on Harry and Hermione experience!)

Erin began working at MLC in May 2022. She says she loves being a part of an organization that supports some of our state’s most vital resources. Erin's also a fan of the view from her window; she gets to look out across our lawn to the other side of our gorgeous library. When asked what she thinks about libraries, she says, "I was raised in libraries, and some of my fondest childhood memories involve the programming my local library hosted, from Summer Reading events to holiday craft parties." She added, "Libraries are absolutely vital to the communities they serve and society as a whole. They’re bastions of knowledge, custodians of history, and gateways to other worlds."

Erin is a huge reader. She loves books and says her favorite is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. She's also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and the Harry Potter series (As an aside, she mentions that this is only right, because she's a Ravenclaw millennial.) When she's not at MLC or checking out the newest reads, you can find Erin gaming. She still owns her very first console, a Sega Genesis. She enjoys single-player, story-heavy RPGs (role-playing games) with lots of player choice and multiple endings, as well as good survival games, simulation games and quirky VNs (visual novels).

Monday, May 9, 2022

Cataloging The Unusual

Katie Gill
Cataloging Librarian

When you think of a library’s catalog, what’s the first thing you think of? If you’re older, you might think of pulling out a small drawer and rifling through all the cards to find the specific book you want. If you’re a millennial like myself, you might think of going to a computer terminal in your local public library, typing in a subject or title you’re interested in, and writing down the call number on a scrap of paper. But no matter what you think of when you think of a library’s catalog, you think of books. Searching for books in a database, looking at books printed on tiny little cataloging cards, going back to research because you wrote down the number wrong and can’t find what you’re looking for… Cataloging is an essential job, the art of creating an organized database so that patrons and staff can see what items a library has in its collection as well as where those items can be found in the library.

As libraries grow and expand to help serve all aspects of the community, the catalog also has to grow and expand to accommodate more than just books. It has audio, video, three-dimensional objects, games, seeds, bicycles, kits, and so on and so forth. The list goes on and on—ask three different libraries what non-book material they have in their catalog and they’ll give you three different answers. At MLC, our non-book collection mostly consists of kits, board games, and state documents. And as the cataloging librarian, it’s my job to make sure everybody can find them.

Our cataloging program, OCLC Connexion Client, connects to WorldCat, a library management and collections system used throughout the United States. When I look up a book in Connexion Client, it will pull up multiple catalog entries used by various libraries that also use WorldCat. For example, searching for the title of a book can pull up the physical book, the ebook, the audiobook, and the large print version of the book. Usually, it’s easy enough to find the right catalog entry and copy it for use in our system (in a process called copy-cataloging). But sometimes, with non-book materials, the process can be deceptively hard.

Do you know how many times a classic board game can be reprinted? A lot. And that’s not counting the spin-off versions and reworkings said classic board game might have. When you’re cataloging the board game Labyrinth, it’s important that you’re cataloging the original game Labyrinth and not The Amazing Spider-Man Labyrinth, The Lord of the Rings Labyrinth, Master Labyrinth, Ocean Labyrinth, Secret Labyrinth, Harry Potter Labyrinth, Super Mario Labyrinth, or Despicable Me Labyrinth. It takes a lot of searching, a lot of double-checking, and a lot of complaining before finding the right game. That double-checking is necessary: some editions might have different rules than others. Likewise, the five-year-old obsessed with Minions would be pretty mad if the catalog said we had Despicable Me Labyrinth but we actually had Harry Potter Labyrinth.

But what about things that are created in-house? At MLC, we have some kits that public libraries can check out that we make ourselves. Some of them are easier to adapt than others. Our Story Walk kits and our Book Club kits are based off already-existing books. I can just copy the catalog entry for the BOOK and do some fiddling so that it’s about the KIT by changing the title, description, type of material, and contents, as well as a few other fields.

And then, there are times when I’ve just got to create the catalog entry myself. Whether it’s due to a kit that we make in-house or a state document that nobody else has for loan, there are times when it’s just me and that blank catalog entry. And that’s when I pore over all the cataloging books I keep in my office, looking at all the subjects and terms I can use, wondering how the heck I’m going to translate “a study of the variable depths of concrete in high-impact traffic studies” into a cute and catchy two-word phrase so that people can easily find this academic study.

So next time you’re at your local public library, search a little deeper in the catalog! Check out the videos, board games, seed packets, or other non-book items and spare a thought for the poor cataloging librarian who’s just now realizing she knows absolutely nothing about how roads work.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Meet MLC Monday: Akeyla Harper

Elisabeth Scott
Reference and Social Media Librarian

Meet Akeyla Harper, Patron Services Librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC)! Akeyla serves as a readers' advisor for the Talking Book Services (TBS) department. This includes selecting books to send to patrons and assisting them over the phone with questions about/requests for specific books. She is also involved outreach activities. Akeyla, a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Jackson State University, holds a bachelor’s degree in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.

Akeyla began working at MLC in April of 2022. She loves the services TBS provides to Mississippians. "My favorite part of my job is being able to assist the patrons who we provide this amazing service to. TBS is a great resource for special populations of people who sometimes believe they can’t do things because of a disability." Akeyla has discovered that she really enjoys advocating for listening to books for leisure, as well as introducing new people to the idea of listening to books as a way to improve overall quality of life. She says that these same ideas apply to libraries. "I like libraries because of all the resources they provide, their peacefulness, and the helpful staff. Libraries are a no judgement space filled with books, computers, and more for people to go to for free to open their minds to something new. Libraries are important because they are for everyone."

Akeyla loves to read, but she doesn't have a favorite book, or even a favorite genre. Instead, she prefers to read a variety of stories: fantasy, sci-fi, drama, anime, current events, adventure, mystery, and crime. Recently, she's begun reading more short stories, just for the quickness of them. 

When she's not busy spreading a love of reading at MLC, you can find Akeyla playing board games with her kids and traveling with her family. She also likes listening to music, swimming, and being outside on a warm day in the fresh air and sun. Akeyla enjoys games, especially word search puzzles and phone and video games. She also spends some of her downtime watching movies, anime, documentaries, and crime shows.

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