Deep South travelogue – Culture

We were recently back in the USA and had an absolutely fabulous time traveling across four states. Great food, hospitality, shed loads of culture and history, consistently warm weather – the Deep South has a lot going for it in my view! We didn’t do too much tourist stuff but here a few cultural highlights from Jackson, Mississippi. Foodie highlights coming in another post.

I hadn’t planned on visiting any libraries, but two serendipitously appeared on our programme. And by programme, I mean laid-back mooching around Jackson during the second week of the trip. My dad took us around Jackson State University, a historically African American university where he lectures and we got a tour of their recently refurbished library. The ground floor was revamped to be what would be termed a ‘learning/information commons’ here. They’ve dubbed the space ‘digital intellectual commons’ and it was primarily flexible study areas and zero book stacks (those are upstairs), and also a makerspace and an A/V recording area. Since it was summer it was quiet, but apparently it’s a buzzy atmosphere in term time. I loved all the colourful furniture and though I prefer a quiet study space, it would be great for group work. (Sorry for my poor quality phone photos!)


My sister took us to visit the Carroll Gartin Justice building which houses the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Law Library. The building is a stunning, grandiose neo-Classical behemoth completed in 2006 (for better pictures click here). We took a peek in the beautiful courtrooms (I pretended I was in Law & Order) and we were given a tour of the State Law Library by the Librarian Stephen Parks. He defied all librarian stereotypes by being young, male and super friendly. The library is old school…I’m talking wooden desks, light gently filtering through big windows, brass sconces, and beautifully bound law books everywhere. The library serves all the State Courts, law school students and the general public. Stephen pointed out a framed photograph of a Victorian looking lady and said this was Helen D. Bell, the first female state librarian and, if I remember correctly, the first female state employee. The policy in the 1800s was that a man would be elected law librarian and then appoint a woman to actually do the job – until 1896 when Bell was elected in her own name. Way to go 19th century Mississippi feminists!

Another highlight was meeting Mr. Elbert Hilliard, living legend and director emeritus of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) where my sister works. I saw his signature on many a document when I was volunteering in the MDAH Collections department. And also I have to mention the wonderful Elizabeth Coleman, MDAH volunteers coordinator, and the reason for our visit that day who apparently has some aristocratic relations in the UK! I would love to stay in the family castle sometime, Elizabeth. Just saying.

We also got an aerial view of the two new museums that MDAH are currently building, the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, opening in 2017 to celebrate the bicentennial of Mississippi’s statehood. Exciting times! I can’t wait to visit when they’re open!

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My twin sister and I (can you tell who’s who??) in front of the Museum of Mississippi History (on the left with the columns) and Civil Rights Museum (on the right) linked with that glass bit.

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IAML (UK & Irl) conference 2016 – part 2

Here is part two of my write up of the recent IAML (UK & Irl) conference. For part one click here. I will just quickly mention the two fantastic visits to Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester Central Library and its Henry Watson Music Library. I really enjoyed both visits, especially the recital by two RNCM tutors including a truly astounding Delius violin sonata (manuscript held in the RNCM Library). If you’re in Manchester, definitely visit the magnificent Central library – it was stunning! And teeming with people which was great. The music library was a dynamic place, with people practicing (out loud!) on the electric pianos. They also have a cool little performance space where there are open jamming sessions in term time.

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Credit: ‘Manchester Central Library, March 2010’ by Ricardo (Wikipedia CC BY 2.0).

  • Heather Roberts (RNCM Archivist) – ‘What makes you special: Archives and outreach’

Heather started off with the quip: ‘uniqueness and authenticity are currency’, meaning people are interested in unique and authentic content, i.e. archives and special collections. She talked about supply and demand in regard to their collaborative efforts with e.g. Digital Women’s Archive North (DWAN). RNCM had the supply of archive material and DWAN had the demand and provided a platform to promote their collection. ‘Stories’ was another buzz word and Heather talked about collaborators being the gateway between your stories and the wider community. Her top tips were: think about stories in your collections not just music, and to be open to other people wanting to use your collections for various reasons (not just musical ones!).

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  • Caroline Boyd (Copyright Hub) – ‘Developments in Copyright’

The Copyright Hub is a new organisation jointly funded by the government and industry that aims to make copyright workable in the digital age by seamlessly linking people who want to use copyrighted material with the rights holders. She talked mainly about their browser plug in that uses rights holders’ metadata to connect users with copyright information and license options for the media/information. She said anyone can upload their metadata and make copyright content available in this way.

  • Stewart Parson – ‘Get it loud in libraries’

Stewart formerly of Lancashire Libraries started Get it loud in libraries when he was made redundant from his library job. The idea is to utilize libraries’ spaces for programmes, workshops and gigs. Their target audience is young people in Lancashire and they bring pop artists off the beaten track to rural areas for gigs. Responding to a question about whether their gigs boost library use/participation from this age group, he didn’t have any evidence for this but said the gigs generate good buzz and publicity for the library. An unrelated example of this from the conference was the weekly term time jamming sessions run by music student volunteers at the Henry Watson Music Library, which apparently are very successful.