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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Library Stories: Mississippi's Congressional District 1

Recently, we posted a story about representatives from Mississippi attending the National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. to advocate for libraries on a federal level. For those of you who are not familiar with this, the agency's funding comes not only from the Mississippi Legislature, but also receives support from the federal government. Each year, over 2,500 Grants to States projects support the purposes and priorities outlined in the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Grants to States funds have been used to meet the needs of children, teenagers, adult learners, senior citizens, and others across America.

When she began planning her trip to Washington with members of MLC's Board of Commissioners, Susan C.asked me to put together a brochure for the group to take with them to share with Mississippi's members of Congress. I couldn't wait to get started! She chose a few of the projects funded by LSTA grants from each of the four Congressional Districts and my work began. Showing our members of Congress what these funds mean to their communities here in Mississippi made the task even more exciting. As I began to contact the libraries of the selected projects, I was incredibly moved by the stories I was told about what these funds are able to help libraries achieve. Once our officials have a chance to review the projects, we hope they will push for greater funding for us on a federal level.

Mississippi Congressional District 1
I've always found the workings of our government on a state and national level to be a bit daunting and hard to understand. Once I began my public service career over 10 years ago, it all started to make more sense. On a national level, Mississippi has two senators: The Honorable Thad Cochran and The Honorable Roger Wicker represent the entire state. On the House of Representatives side, the state is broken down into four districts, with one representative from each district.

Congressional District 1 is in the northeast corner of Mississippi and includes the communities of Columbus, Oxford, Southaven, and Tupelo. The Honorable Trent Kelly of Saltillo represents this district in the House of Representatives. Libraries in Congressional District 1 have accomplished a great deal with their LSTA grant funds.

The Benton County Library System used their 2015 LSTA grant funds to purchase new books for their young adult collection. This group of preteens and teens is a vital part of their library family. The young readers were excited to have the expanded, updated collection and were thrilled with the new selection of choices. They began to visit the library more often and the library realized an eight percent increase in visits from this group. Shannon L., age 14, read approximately 45 of the new books over the summer.

The LSTA grant allowed the Yalobusha County Public Library System to address specific development gaps in their collection. Materials for children and large print books for adults were their focus and they were able to acquire 37 large print titles and 60 children's titles. The new books in their collection were a very welcome addition. Library system director Patty Bailey stated, "Our library system is small and underfunded. Without LSTA grant funds, we could not keep up with the local need for books and materials. The funds give us a much-needed boost so we can provide better materials for our patrons."

Stay tuned for more great LSTA grant projects happening in Mississippi libraries!

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