Week Eight: And Off I Go

This week, I worked on preserving the 295 library floor plans I uncovered earlier in my practicum. The Mississippi Library Commission does not currently have any open flat file drawers to house the floor plans, but Miranda found an archival quality box that was the perfect size for them to lay flat in. Hopefully, this will be a safe, temporary home for them. Many of the floor plans are originals, their dimension draw in pencil, and we were concerned that the sketches would rub against other floor plans, smudging and ruining the work. Miranda located some Mylar film for me to create little pockets for the plans.

First, I created pockets for each library’s penciled, original floor plan separately. Some libraries, like Biloxi and Vicksburg, had to have multiple pockets for the originals as some libraries have a floor plan for each of their multiple floors.

Then, I created another pocket for the original’s pocket to sit securely in with photocopied duplicate floor plans. So, not only were the originals safe, but each library now has its own pocket of floor plans and can be added to for any updates and additions.

The final result

After finishing preserving the floor plans, the rest of the week was mainly focused on wrapping things up: fine tuning the finding aid, assisting Miranda with other archives projects, and writing a blog post for MLC, which can be found here.

I learned a lot during my time at MLC, but I think my greatest takeaways were to always be resourceful with what you’ve got on hand and to make everyday tasks fun and creative. I got to see how a library functions from the inside and this will definitely help me to be prepared after I graduate.

I took many more photos while at MLC and have added the best of them to the gallery found on the sidebar of this blog. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

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Week Seven: End of an (Archive-Quality Box) Era

I completed processing the Mississippi Library Commission’s County Files Archives project! The first box I processed and rehoused was numbered 21 and the last box I processed was numbered 106. It felt like such an accomplishment, but I’m not quite done yet. I’ll need to take the information I’ve entered into the finding aid spreadsheet and create a complete public finding aid for this collection, as well as assisting in creating detailed labels for each box.

Since the vast majority of the items contained in the boxes were from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, it was really interesting to watch the correspondence to evolve from being either being handwritten or typed on typewriters and carbon paper for copies, to being typed on computers and printed out on the items that were from the 90s.

Taking a break from finishing up the Archives project, I worked on identifying a box full of stereotypes.

The reason there are so many stereotypes in the archives is because MLC produced Mississippi Library News, a newsletter started in 1936. The newsletter became the Mississippi Libraries journal in 1979 and began to be produced by the Mississippi Library Association. I was tasked with looking through each newsletter to identify the person or scene pictured on the stereotype. MLC has each issue bound in book format or in the original newsletter format, so I didn’t have to look through the microfiche. The last issue is dated 2012 as the journal became an open access, online only format in 2013.

This was only half of the bound newsletters I looked through. I really had my work cut out for me.

It was really fascinating to see things that happened long before I was born, such as the dedication of the Cook Library at the University of Southern Mississippi and the Carnegie Public Library of Clarksdale and Coahoma County’s book wagon.

Next week is my last week at MLC and I can already tell I’m really going to miss working there. I’m going to miss finding new and neat things everyday and miss the camaraderie with my colleagues.

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Week Six: Insightful Correspondence

I really enjoy this anonymous letter writer’s nom de plume.

Amongst the day-to-day correspondence, reports, and working of building and maintaining libraries, are correspondence of another nature. With libraries being built around the Civil Rights era, I was bound to find conflicting opinions from both the populace and the librarians.

I found two letters of correspondence, ten years apart, that gives flavor and insight into the minds of people during those times. It also shows a change of views over those ten years. I have transcribed these here as the articles I’m transcribing from are thin, carbon paper copies of the original correspondence, which don’t make for the most easy to read pictures with their delicate nature and tiny print.

In 1956, a strongly worded letter from a gentleman in Strong, Mississippi, was sent to the Mississippi Library Commission, which spawned a chain of letters back and forth. (I have corrected any spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. I tried not to alter the wording of this letter, even if a word was used incorrectly, as I felt it would change the intent of the author.)

“Please see that this letter is read by the proper parties. – Thank you –

At a directors meeting of the Monroe County Citizens Council, I was instructed to bring to your attention the fact that our public libraries contain some books and other literature which are contrary to our beliefs and way of life in Mississippi. If there is anything that you can do to remedy this situation, we would greatly appreciate it.

The book situation in our public libraries is shocking and tends to be a Trojan Horse in our midst as far as the segregation of the races is concerned. Why teach your children the values of segregation and then they go to the public library and the books are filled with the thoughts and pictures that integration and brotherly love is the only Christian way to live?

You keep pornography out of the library? Certainly! Then why can’t you keep out this trash, which is passed on as good literature by the American Library Association? They are only trying to undermine, in their insidious and Communist-inspired way, our way of life in the South which is also going to destroy the white race through amalgamation.

Maybe you don’t know about the type of literature which is coming in for our children to read and also pictures for the smallest ones to look at – it’s later than you think!

It’s time to be alarmed and to take a firm stand and say, “Thou shalt not pass,” to all literature which even hints at integration.

You might say, “Well, that takes in nearly all of the book they send,” or, “This is a public library.” There were plenty of books to read when we were youngsters and there was never anything about integration in any of them. Personally, I had rather my children read one book that was decent then ten books preaching the love of integration.

A public library? Who are the ones who use it most? Our children, of course. I don’t want mine to be indoctrinated with this vile and vicious plan. Do you?

You say that you are for segregation? So am I. Yet, we complacently sit by while book after book is put before our children who are in the most formative period of their lives. You know as well as I that little children believe anything they read.

You destroy arsenic or any other poison to the body, why not destroy this poison to their minds.”

That letter was painful to transcribe.

In 1966, a librarian in Anguilla, Mississippi, wrote to MLC about various events at their library, funding for more books in their circulation, and their anticipation for construction. Included was a mention of being “integrated,” which I transcribed.

“We have been ‘integrated.’ A colored man here who listed his occupation as ‘County Organizer’ escorted, I believe, three women in for books. He took none, just supervised. Then, Saturday morning, two women came in alone and got books. Mrs. Seals was not disturbed at all and things went just all right. She said she thought the last two were more intelligent and really wanted something to read.

I see no reason for us to have any trouble and heaven knows, if they want to read, I hope they come.”

It seems libraries have always been at the forefront of being progressive!

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Week Five: “A few women can’t do it.” Yes, they can.

Dr. Robert Phillips, Mississippi Writers in Context project director, Cicely Tyson, and Dr. Joseph Stockwell, Mississippi Writers in Context project director

I stumbled across quite a few interesting things over the past few weeks, but some of them had to be saved until I did a little research for context and clarity. For instance, I came across a small stack of photograph, the above photo being the clearest. It is a photograph from A Climate for Genius, a six-part TV series funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Mississippi Library Commission. It was hosting by Cicely Tyson and the topics covered literature, race, and ethnicity.

In addition to photographs and ephemera, there’s a mountain of correspondence. The correspondence is not just between the libraries in Mississippi and MLC, but also between Mississippi’s citizens and MLC. I came across a letter written to one of MLC’s employees from a woman (who I am keeping anonymous) that referred to a museum in Taylorsville, Mississippi, in 1972. And while she seemed very proud of it, she referred to is as “the hardest, most frustrating thing” she has ever worked on due to the “do nothing attitude of certain officials.” My interest was piqued when she wrote “…and get some power behind it. A few women can’t do it.” I had to know what she was referring to. I found this website for the Watkin’s Museum after a quick search with the information I had and I’m going to have to disagree with her about a few women not being able to do something. Per the website, several women of the Taylorsville Garden Club turned the old Taylorsville Signal newspaper office into a museum of the town. Certainly seems like a few women were able to do it.

I also came across some correspondence and newspaper clippings regarding a library opening in Columbia, Mississippi, in 1963, that would provide service to the black communities of Columbia and Marion County. MLC, Columbia city officials, and volunteers worked together to build and supply this library. After doing a cursory search online, I could not find much about this library, so this was a real treasure to find and learn about.

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Week Four: Processes

This week, I sat down with Katie Gill, digital documents coordinator, and Charlie Simpkins, digital consultant, and discussed the Mississippi Library Commission’s digital collections and metadata. Katie gave me a brief overview of the programs and processes that are used to showcase and maintain MLC’s digital collections and the protocols that are utilized to make searching easy and intuitive for researchers. Charlie demonstrated how all of the metadata from the items, photographs, and ephemera I’ve been cataloging and rehousing will be added to the digital collections and what will be used so that searching will provide the most relevant results.

I spent this week inputting bits of metadata into a spreadsheet for it to be uploaded with scans of items at a later date. As such, there isn’t too much to talk about, but I do have quite a lot of really neat pictures. What’s really unfortunate is that not all of the items I come across, mainly pictures, have details listed to put a date and/or location go along with them. Such as this picture.

This photo did not have anything written on the back, nor any notes to go along with it. I am thinking that perhaps this is a ribbon cutting of the Jackson Metropolitan Library, years before it was moved across the street and renamed the Eudora Welty Library.

This is a photo from the TV series Tomes and Talismans that was shown on the Mississippi Public Broadcasting channel that MLC helped with.

I loved coming across all of these Kodachromes. I found a box almost entirely filled with them.

Next week will be filled with more metadata entries, but hopefully I’ll come across more interesting finds.

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Week Three: Everything Finding Its Place

This week, I found a large stack of wayward library floor plans. They were sitting on top of a large amount of folders in a box and are in remarkably good condition. Miranda found an archival-quality box that was the perfect size to house and preserve them. In total, there were 295 floorplans between 86 cities/branches. It’s pretty amazing to see all of the different designs and layouts. I showed the Vicksburg library floor plan to one of the reference librarians who frequented it a lot in her childhood and she said, “Yup, just like how I remember it.” I used to frequent the Southills, now the Richard Wright library while in high school.

A large portion of the documents I’m rehousing are related to the construction and additions to libraries within the state of Mississippi. Among the contracts, blueprints, and fabric swatches, are correspondence between the librarians and citizens from various towns/cities and the folks at MLC expressing their interest, concerns, and generally fighting the good fight to ensure that their communities are serviced by adequately stocked and sized libraries. And, in order to do so, they request funds and assistance from MLC and from their communities, and will not stand for when anyone – be they city official or private citizen – disparages all of the work that was done. For example, a private citizen took a mayor to task for his misinformed comments and opinions about librarians dragging their feet to explain why construction of a library took years to finish. This mayor threw the librarians under the bus, so to speak, and this citizen made sure to let him, and all the patrons, know that it was the city officials that were the ones dragging their feet.

Reading over all of the correspondence at times leads me to research what the writers were discussing, leading down several rabbit holes of research. But sometimes, it’s the items found with the correspondence or documents that lead me to do outside research.

This blue vinyl disc goes to a grey audograph machine. Per Wikipedia, the grey audograph is a dictation machine that recorded sound onto these soft, blue vinyl discs. These discs were used to record programs during a conference.

The library director has changed the format of the finding aid to be even more accessible, allowing researchers to locate items based on city, county, and library system. In addition to refining the entries I have already made, I’m also going to shown some of the inner workings of MLC next week. I’m super excited!

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Week Two: “…but those swatches will live on forever”

This week was filled with boxes stuffed with proposals, applications for construction funds, and the many working parts that comes with the construction or remodel/update of a library. Going through these boxes, over a dozen this week alone, really brought home the idea that libraries don’t just spring up because someone thinks it would be beneficial to have one built. There are a lot of moving parts to consider: the focused community’s need for a library, funds for construction (and how to obtain them), various forms of insurance, zoning and fire codes to follow, flood precautions (this is a huge consideration on its own, especially in Mississippi), interviews and payroll for construction workers, funds for furniture, and many, many more things that I haven’t even considered. Each detail must be decided – right down to the upholstery.

It seems they were not fans of the blue/red scheme

Businesses are tasked with keeping records for a certain amount of time. It turns out that anything that is in regards to, or related to, the construction of Mississippi libraries has to be kept and stored by the Mississippi Library Commission indefinitely. It was explained to me as: we will all pass on one day, but those swatches will live on forever.

I found a handful of architectural/construction stereotypes, or stereoplates, for proposed libraries and remodels within the folders and boxes. Stereotypes are printed plates created in relief and used for printing. Given the other meaning of the word ‘stereotype,’ it was awkward at first to find information about these. I found this blog that provides a brief history of stereotypes: The Printed & The Built.

Stereotype for Fulton Library
Stereotype for Yazoo City Library

Due to age, many folders are missing their labels, so I get to determine what a folder contains and label the folder appropriately. It seemed intimidating at first, as I am still learning and training. Some folders are easier to label than other. For example, it will not be hard to title a folder if it is filled with payroll forms for the construction of a certain library. But, others are a bit more nebulous, so determining what library the folder is for or what the main focus of the folder is requires some digging. Additionally, there are folders filled with a great amount of ephemera, but at times are no details or determining factors to point out which library the items are from or what their date of creation is, thus making it difficult to determine when or where a particular event or photograph took place. At times, the photographs provide the missing evidence I need.

On Friday, I found a box containing a folder regarding libraries in Appalachian areas in Mississippi. I had no idea such an area existed. Sadly, according to the correspondence I found, this area is one of the most disadvantaged areas in the nation. The documents discuss funds specifically set aside for new and current libraries in these areas and how they are to be used to help improve service and assistance to the Appalachian area residents.

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Week One: Treasure Trove

Hello! My name is Rose and I am currently working on my masters in Library and Information Science and a graduate certificate in archives and special collections at the University of Southern Mississippi. Let me welcome you to my informal weekly blog about my experiences during my archival practicum. The practicum acts as a micro hands-on experience in the field before graduating. The facility hosting my practicum is the Mississippi Library Commission located in Jackson, Mississippi. I’ll be working closely with Miranda Vaughn, reference and archives librarian. Miranda is very enthusiastic about me assisting her. In fact, I’m her first intern/assistant. What an honor!

I had never seen an old telegram before, this was really neat.

In addition to assisting and learning from Miranda, my main duty will be to organize and create a finding aid for the County Library Archives files, over a hundred boxes of various files, correspondence, blueprints, and photographs detailing the construction, remodels, events, and publicity of various libraries in Mississippi. The Mississippi Library Commission, or MLC, is in charge of archiving and storing these items, but, during the many moves of MLC, files are not quite in the same order as they were before or were perhaps dumped into whatever moving boxes were available. What’s written on the outside of the box is not necessarily what’s inside the box. Nearly every box is a surprising treasure trove to dig through. Once the finding aid is complete and the boxes have been documented, various items, especially the photographs, will be digitized.

One of the main goals of organizing the County Library Archives files, or CLA files, is moving the articles out of standard cardboard moving boxes to Gaylord archival quality boxes. However, I have been expressly told not to remove paperclips or staples. On one hand, I can understand not removing the paperclips or staples as the removal may damage the paper underneath. But on the other hand, you can see where some paperclips and staples have begun eating away at the paper. Some documents were stored in Acco binders, which have already begun to fade and turn, bleeding into the documents and photos contained within.

I was told that I was welcome to make recommendations as I worked through the boxes. My recommendations so far are: to purchase sleeves for the tons of negatives found, move items to archival quality folders as the folders they are currently stored in are bleeding or fading, and remove newspaper articles and scan them for digitization.

At one point this week, I found some empty badge holders. They are clear plastic with metal pins on the back. Miranda and I determined that they didn’t carry any significance and there were no discerning features about them and I did not find the paper badges within the folder, or even the box, they were found in. We removed them from the box not only because there seemed to be no archival significance to them, but also for safety sake. Not only would the metal have begun to turn at some point, but also one of the badges’ pins wasn’t closed all of the way and could have injured anyone reaching into the box unknowingly. I’m surprised that I didn’t injure myself when I found them.

Can’t wait to see what I find next week!

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