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Shelf Talk 11: MCLS Initiatives

By Lowell Walters, MCLS Director

This week I decided to give Beth Roberts, our Public Relations Specialist, a break and offer readers an update concerning the direction of upcoming MCLS initiatives. With the continued development and adoption of electronic books, magazines, and other resources on the part of public library customers, library leadership is rethinking the purposes of our service, resources, and facilities.

The busy libraries of today are not those that offer only traditional items and services in a quiet building of formal, upholstered seating accompanying stout, heavy, wooden reading tables and chairs. Most everything in today’s busy libraries is multi-functional, highly adaptable, social as opposed to solitary, and conversational as opposed to silent. This observation is just part of the picture. To grow value and relevance to today’s residents, I have been changing emphases and re-prioritizing attention to certain needs.

Before the Corona Plague hit, the MCLS was experimenting with different types of programming among our six locations. At the Wilson location an infant story time was experiencing steady attendance by mothers of new babies. Wilson also had growing attendance at an after-hours reading group of adult women. Sometimes a program will work at one location but not another. A Family Game Night at Manila didn’t take off, but when we offered gaming at Blytheville, it started to grow. Blytheville customers also started to meet around a common interest in knitting, and that interest group started to grow as well.

Someday, after the Corona Plague dissipates, look for us to continue to experiment with programming. We hope that folks who’ve been social distancing for so long will be eager to socialize at library programming.

Advertising/promotion is more important than ever. Folks in the Manila area may have noticed an MCLS billboard along old Rt. 18 on the east side of town. A new billboard will be going up along Rt. 18 in Blytheville within the next few weeks. Drivers who may not think of the libraries need to be reminded that we are still here. We also will continue to have a presence at community festivals offering information about our services and resources while we handout branded “stuff” such as pens, fans, cups, etc.

The two buildings that the MCLS owns in Blytheville and Osceola have needed attention for quite some time. Last year the roof, skylight, and all HVAC of the Blytheville building was replaced to the tune of around $350,000. The MCLS is paying on a loan with a principal of approximately $280,000. I am in the initial stage of process to upgrade the lighting throughout the building to energy efficient LED technology. If this happens, it will be with the help of Entergy’s Rebate program. Painting or replacement of ceiling tiles is under investigation, as well as landscaping and parking lot renewal.

The Osceola building is set to have its roof replaced by the end of August. The current, flat roof will receive a slight pitch and the metal mansard will be replaced and made to look as close to the original as possible. Fortunately, by being conservative with spending in recent years, the MCLS will be able to pay for this $55,000 project without another loan.

On the other hand, the Osceola building has experienced much trauma due to years of roof leakage. Interior walls, ceilings, and floors are heavily damaged. The building is also severely out of date regarding accessibility to the second floor. The restrooms on the first floor are barely useable while the one on the second floor has not been used for quite some time. The kitchen on the second floor has major upgrade needs. Greater accessibility to the second floor and its restrooms along with a kitchen renovation would allow for increased programming and USDA approval.

I have approached architects to price a building study which would offer “ballpark” figures for major renovations. I anticipate that renovations will be pricey. I hope the MCLS Foundation will be established soon. A Foundation would allow more opportunity to approach industries, grant opportunities, and philanthropists for assistance with property renovations, progressive programs, and more. Contact me at if you’d like to be involved with the Foundation effort.

With adaptive programming and renewed facilities, I hope that folks will have reason to continue to visit and use our things. With increased advertising and promotion, I hope that more people become aware of how the libraries can enrich their life here in Mississippi County.

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