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Shelf Talk 12: Enrich Your LIfe

The important things in life are worth fighting for. Raising a child, building a marriage, running a business, caring for an aging parent, standing up for a just cause: these are the things that give life meaning, that keep us grounded amid a swirl of hectic schedules and cluttered to-do lists. Ours is a society that equates progress with production and success with busy-ness; we’ve forgotten how to find beauty in a pause. But the COVID19 pandemic has forced us all to pause, to reexamine our priorities, to decide what it is we are fighting for. At the Mississippi County Library System (MCLS), we’ve used this pause to reflect on our mission and our shared values, and to develop programming and enrichment opportunities based around these core principles.

We believe these values are worth fighting for:

Physical safety of customers and personnel. We are prioritizing safety through refurbished buildings and grounds. Over the last year, the Blytheville library has replaced a leaking roof and skylight, installed a new HVAC system, and cleaned its collections and shelves. The parking lot will be sealed and painted this week, allowing for safer traffic flow. The Manila library has reordered its collection, providing more space in the aisles and clean, bright areas to read and play. All MCLS branches have rearranged furniture and computers to allow for social distancing, provide hand sanitizer and disposable masks to customers (while supplies last), and require all staff and customers to wear masks while in the public areas of the buildings. We even have quality MCLS masks and hand sanitizer spray available to the public for an $8 donation!

Life-long learning and skill development. We know that many families in our county are choosing to homeschool this year. Many others are choosing the virtual schooling option offered by public schools. MCLS wants to support these families with reliable, freely accessible high-speed internet access and high-quality digital resources that can easily integrate into a virtual learning environment. Watch for upcoming announcements about free online resources that will support young learners in preschool and grade school, older learners preparing for the ACT, SAT, or GRE, and adult learners prepping a resumé or conducting a job search.

County-wide, rural, egalitarian access to physical resources, facilities, and in-person services. We know there is a technology divide in Mississippi County. Nearly 40% of households do not have internet access. These families deserve libraries that provide them with the resources they need to bridge the gap, and that are open when families can visit. Watch for extended evening hours at some MCLS branches, along with reserved access to clean computer stations and school supplies.

Exposure to new thoughts and technologies. Libraries are not just repositories for books. In addition to computer technology and digital access, MCLS is developing a Library of Things, making unusual items like toys, games, learning kits, cake pans, and more available for checkout. MCLS is also developing programming designed to help customers interact with each other and the world. Watch for tinkering stations and coding opportunities that help develop computational thinking, problem solving skills, and creative communication.

Inclusive resource selection and access. This year, look for displays and conversations that highlight our community’s minority voices and history, starting in August with a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. Because of suffragettes, women have the right to vote in America. To commemorate the centennial, Governor Hutchinson sent a rose bush to each county; we are honored to have it planted at the Blytheville library. Visit us in-person or online for books, articles, and resources covering a variety of topics and perspectives.

The MCLS mission reads, “We bring people, ideas, collections, services, and technology together to advance a rich quality of life in our communities.” We like to use the tagline “Enrich Your Life” because we believe that libraries offer a unique opportunity to do just that. If you have suggestions on how we can better live into our values or would like to partner with us to enrich the lives of our community, don’t hesitate to reach out. Together, we have a future worth fighting for.

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