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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

On the Road with MLC: Mid-Mississippi Regional Library System

Small towns in Mississippi are like brilliant gems. They are filled with bits of times-gone-by, but also the promise of great things to come. It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to visit such places and feel the commitments of the residents to their little community.

Recently I hit the road with Library Consultant Louisa Whitfield-Smith. Even though it was our first trip together, I knew we our library visits would be fun because we share mutual thoughts and ideas. We were headed to Mid-Mississippi Regional Library System (MMRLS) to meet with their director Josh Haidet. I visited the Kosciusko Library a year ago, but never had the opportunity to see the other twelve branches.

We started at the Attala County Library, the headquarters of the system, and Josh gave us a great tour of the library. The building is filled with light and has all the components of a great library, like a teen area, a children's area, and an outstanding genealogy department.

After a wonderful visit with several staff members, we headed to the Winston County Library in Louisville. The county seat of Winston County, Louisville has over 6,000 residents. Hard hit by a tornado in 2014 when ten residents were killed, the community has bounced back and is going strong. The library has a lovely space, an accomplished branch manager, Beth Edwards, and highly qualified staff.

Beth showed us around the library and told us about some of the neat things they do. She is a big believer in public relations (a lady after my heart) and showed us Thank You cards the children's librarian has drawn. Kids who visit the library or participate in library activities sign them. Then the library sends them to local businesses that fund programs and projects... how clever!

Our next stop was the Carthage Library in Leake County. This community boasts a population of over 5,000. The library has a wonderful children's area with new Playaway Launchpads purchased with funds from an Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) LSTA grant. These easy-to-use tablets have preloaded content for kids that help them learn while they're having fun.

The final stop that day was the Walnut Grove, also located in Leake County. With a population of almost 2,000 residents, this community has a relatively new library that is incredibly cozy.

Located next to a walking track that features workout stations, this awesome library is brimming over with great books and programs for the residents of Walnut Grove. Of course, we had to take advantage of the location before heading back to Kosciusko!

I got some really great ideas from visiting Mid-Mississippi that day. They create an annual "scrapbook" at each branch that includes visitors, programs, events, and all the rest of the fun stuff going on in each library. What a great tool to share with potential funders so they can see how monies are spent! Also, each branch hosts "Souper Tuesdays"; homemade soup is made available to all patrons and the recipes are shared right along with the hot food. What a great idea for a cold, wintry day!

We have several more libraries to visit at MMRLS and we're excited for our return trip. Thanks to Josh Haidet and all the folks who made us feel so welcome!

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