Reality and the Jackson-George Regional Library System

6 Aug

I live in a fairly conservative county in Mississippi, right on the Gulf Coast.  Our public library system includes two counties…Jackson & George counties.  The branches located in Pascagoula and Moss Point are very nice branches with very nice staff.  I love that I can reserve materials online too, and then just go pick them up.  It makes it so much easier for me to coordinate things when my brain is in hyperdrive and going 17 directions at once.

I have to admit it, I could kick myself when I end up with book fines because I was overdue in returning the books.  I wish those book fines would apply towards the purchase of new books, but I’m sure that they have a lot of operating costs to cover, and like most public offerings, is struggling for funds.

But I’ve discovered something in the last few months when I’m doing research.  They don’t have much in the way of books.

I know they lost books to Katrina.  Moss Point and Pascagoula lost a lot of things to Katrina, but the non fiction (the most important portion of the library to me!) section of the library is as sparse as leaves on a tree in Iowa in December.  Paranormal and metaphysical topics? Virtually nothing.  Alternative religion material?  Same thing.  Want something by Martha Stewart?  Afraid not…

Outdated books, limited offerings, shelves that should be over flowing…and they are empty.  I don’t think they have a single copy of a book by any author I have ever interviewed, and I don’t mean the two branches located near me…but in two COUNTIES.

I’m not sure what is located in the juvenile non fiction and fiction areas–they haven’t been inspected by me for the simple reason that I’m looking for adult non-fiction materials.  I suspect that it is in much the same condition–starved for topics to interest the young mind and tantalize their quest for knowledge.

I remember my own “prizes” from my pre-teen years.  Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and the books by Erik von Daniken.  The reason I am on the radio and blogging about crazy stuff is really all their fault.  They planted a seed in my mind that dared me to continue to “fail to conform”.  Even earlier, in elementary school, I was thrilled by books by Jim Kjelgaard and Marguerite Henry, among others.  These books came to me through the library, which fed a voracious appetite for reading.

Today, I don’t read as much as I would like to, and rarely have time for a novel anymore, but I still read a lot.  Books are still important to me.  I read them for research and entertainment and knowledge.

Sometimes, I am thrilled to find that vintage book–not all things I’m looking for are necessarily “new” books or “new” topics or “new” treatment of a familiar topic.  Some non fiction books are timeless too.  Other times, I’m looking for a book that will be up to date, with information I can use now.

Sometimes I wonder…what will happen to libraries as we move to digital books.  How will that impact the services they deliver?  Will I be in a situation where I can only read what I can afford to pay for access for?  It just might be so.  Considering the average novel takes me 4-6 hours to read, that could get very expensive for a rainy weekend of marathon reading.

In the meantime…what about our libraries?  Are they relics of the past, doomed to go the way of Alexandria’s Great Library?  I hope not, there are a lot of kids out there that really should have a chance to discover Big Red and Misty and Bright Angel still.

And while most of the USA makes fun of Southerners, as they cling to familiar ways, and too many fail to realize their full potential in terms of their own education…

We need our libraries.  We need them to have books, books on all kinds of topics, from all kinds of authors.  Books that expand our horizons, and let us see the world from different points of view.

So, I inquired.  I often receive copies of books from authors to read and/or review.  I guess it’s time for me to really get busy with the reviews…because I was told by library staff that IF the copy was in very good condition and a topic/title that they did not have in the library system, they would retain donated copies for the library.  I’m also going to call the main branch and check to see if they would accept copies from authors as well.  It seems that I have a hard time giving away copies on the air during the show, and if I ask…many authors may be willing to donate a copy of their book to a two-county library system, right?

Let’s get our ducks in a row.

I can’t do much in terms of improving the world, but I can start by planting a few flowers in my own corner of the world, can’t I?

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