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Monday, September 19, 2016

Meet MLC Monday: Melvin Smitherman

Meet Melvin Smitherman, volunteer for the Mississippi Library Commission's Talking Book Services Department. Although Mr. Smitherman does not receive monetary recompense for his work, he puts in the same amount of hours and effort of our regular staff. Melvin began volunteer work for Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Radio Reading Service back in 2003. When MLC moved into its new building across the street from MPB in 2006, he started volunteering for us as well.

Melvin receives new books from the four National Library Service's recording studios in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and Michigan. He checks each book when it arrives back at MLC to make sure the book cartridge matches the correct case. This task takes close concentration and a keen eye. Melvin likens it to the story of the lady who claimed she never got bored with her job as a chicken plucker in Jill Conner Browne's Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, "You get a brand-new chicken every thirty seconds!" Melvin is also the moderator for locally recorded books and magazines.

Melvin has been a patron of ours for even longer than his ten-year stint as volunteer. Melvin attended the Mississippi School for the Blind from 1961-1974. He says that one of the reasons he fell so quickly for the Harry Potter series is that he identified with the boarding school setting from his days at MSB. "I have benefited so much from the Talking Books program. I want to see that as many people enjoy it as I have and still do. When you take something for granted, that's how you lose it. This is important enough that it doesn't need to ever go away." Melvin also piled on the praise for MLC itself. "This is a wonderful library! I can download a book from BARD in half the time it takes me at home. It's a nice space, there's no wait for computer access, and it's handicap accessible. I may be biased, but I think it's the best in the state."

Mr. Smitherman is a lifelong reading fanatic. He's especially fond of good speculative sci-fi and enjoys authors like Lois McMaster-Bujold, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournell. Mention a genre, though, and Melvin has an opinion. Westerns? He loves Larry McMurtry and Zane Grey. Action/adventure? Melvin likes the espionage thrillers of Ian Fleming, Alistair McLean, and Tom Clancy. He says, "I like stuff with teeth to it. Give me a good story, any good story, and I'll like it."

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