As many will remember, on February 24, 2018 a tornado severely damaged the Keiser Public Library. On January 22, 2019, the renovated building was re-opened with a ribbon cutting, which was orchestrated by the Osceola/South Mississippi County Chamber of Commerce.
Over 60 people attended the ribbon cutting, where comments were made by County Judge John Nelson and Arkansas’s State Librarian, Carolyn Ashcraft. Judge Nelson commended the residents of Keiser and surrounding area for the community spirit which they exhibited during recovery immediately following the disaster, and during the months that the library was being reconstructed.
Of note, First Baptist Church Keiser offered its facilities to host the Library System’s 2018 Summer Reading Programs. Several local businesses, including Kennemore Construction, W.B. Construction, and Hubbard & Hoke Furniture, offered discounted materials and/or labor to the Library.
Ashcraft emphasized the important role that small, rural libraries continue to play in communities, citing a statement that was recently made by federal Senator John Boozman comparing the role of today’s public libraries with that of the front porches of years past.
I drew attention to the fact that the building is a miniature model of what the MCLS would like to offer at the other five facilities throughout Mississippi County. Public libraries are no longer just warehousing space for a community’s collection of books.
One of our on-going goals is to continue to develop programming for people of all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds and settings. We aim to encourage people to interact with, critique, and apply the information, perspectives, instruction and/or recreation available via the resources we offer.
As I wrote three months before the Keiser tornado in the MCLS newsletter of November 2017…
“The library can be a comfortable, non-threatening place where people may come together to address changing, life-long learning needs such as basic computer skill development, self-education/research ability, technology fluency, and/or media literacy; to conduct civic business; to support small business development; to study and complete work required for online degree programs; to discuss recreational reading interests; to develop skills associated with avocational interests such as those needed to enjoy certain hobbies and crafts; or to converse about a life changing event over a cup of coffee. These sorts of functions can bring together people of all ethnicities, religious beliefs, cultures, and interests.”
Library facilities throughout the County need to be upgraded to provide welcoming, accessible, comfortable, and functional environments that advance the cultural enrichment of residents. Regarding the Keiser building, four bay windows have replaced narrow windows that had been on the east and west sides allowing for more natural lighting. Most of the interior walls were removed to provide increased shelving capacity and spaces that are more adaptable to varied programming activity.
The building offers a cozy reading area with upholstered seating and an electric fireplace. A coffee/snack service counter has been added to a kitchenette. Special riser seating has been constructed for the kids’ corner, and a PlayStation gaming area has been added beside the service desk.
Located beside the Keiser Post Office on East Main Street, Keiser Public Library is open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 1:00-5:00. I encourage you to stop in to experience the new environment and to greet Library Manage. We look forward to seeing you there.