LENA MITCHELL: Libraries open minds and doors to new worlds and opportunities

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

National Library Week as designated by the American Library Association officially ended yesterday, April 11-16.
As far as I’m concerned, though, library week is every week of the year.
And it seems many other library users agree with me based on reports of steep rises in library usage during the past few years.
Families are limiting their entertainment budgets, and library resources are free or low-cost. Not only do librarians work to keep best sellers, high-interest and popular books on their shelves, but many branches have used books for sale at a nominal cost. DVD and video collections have expanded dramatically and can be checked out. And it seems none of the library branches have as many computer terminals as they could use to keep up with the demand.
In addition to regular programs for young children to teach them the value and joy of using the library, adults can learn basic computer skills through free workshops.
I was fortunate to have a grandmother – an avid reader – who introduced me to the public library the summer after my fourth grade.
A poster at the Ripley library says “Books Open Doors to New Worlds,” and it only took reading my first full-length book to recognize the truth of that slogan. The library gave me a chance to explore any and every interest to my heart’s content.
How else could a child from a family of 11 kids, whose first four years of school were spent in one room of a two-room schoolhouse, win a four-year scholarship to an Ivy League university?
The library became even more significant to me during college.
Two of my sisters lived in Philadelphia where I was in school, about a 45-minute subway ride away. My sister Blanche was working on her master’s degree in library science at Villanova University, and we’d meet on Sunday afternoons at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She’d work on her week’s class assignments while I did research for papers or other studying, then we’d have dinner together in the cafeteria on the library’s top floor. Many times this was our only chance to see each other during the week.
With a history that spans more than 5,000 years, the central importance of libraries to communities is well established.
Last week the Lee County Library hosted its annual Helen Foster Lecture Series which often brings national and international figures to Tupelo to speak on current topics.
Each month many Friends of the Library groups at different branches offer lunchtime learning events to spur wider use of and support for the library.
Branch libraries regularly display individual collections, host art exhibits and book discussion groups for adults as well as regular and special programs for children. And the list goes on.
While covering news events in four counties for the Daily Journal, libraries in Corinth, Ripley, Booneville and Tupelo are my regular hangouts. The library provides me with a quiet place to do online research, write articles and check email when I’m on the road.
Many of the people who have become regular patrons at area libraries are there to use the computers or the library’s free Wifi access with personal laptops.
Whatever the reasons that draw individuals to the library, we can be assured that this institution is well-used and the money to sustain it is a wise investment.

Contact Lena Mitchell at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@journalinc.com.