The Mendenhall Public Library received Library of the Year honors for the medium branch division of Central Mississippi Regional Library System.
CMRLS is composed of 20 different libraries divided into small, medium, and large branches. CMRLS as a whole was named one of the Star Library Systems by the Mississippi Library Commission and was ranked third out of 50 systems.
The Mendenhall Library has performed exceptionally well, thanks to the support of the community and direction of Branch Manager Rhoda Benton. Benton explained that the library has introduced more programs over the past year. She said there is an activity happening at the library nearly every week. The activities have become more diverse and are created for different age groups. She stated that the library hosts Bingo, Brown Bag and Brush crafts, Movie Mornings, Coloring Classes, and several other activities for anyone interested. The activities are adult and child friendly, and the library hosts a monthly book club and family night.
The Mendenhall Library is being used by the community, which was one of the main factors in helping receive this honor. Three statistics used in measuring the libraries’ performance are circulation, program attendance, and library attendance. Compared to last year, the Mendenhall Library saw at least 17 percent growth in each category.
Circulation, which Benton described as items being checked out, showed an increase of 17 percent. In 2017 the library circulation was 20,919 and increased to 25,296 by the end of 2018. Library visits were up 22 percent. In 2017 the Mendenhall Library had 26,092 visitors and the number increased to 33,616.
The most impressive statistic of the Mendenhall Library came in the form of program attendance, which went up 174 percent from 2017 to 2018. In 2017, 3,240 people attended library programs, and in 2018 the number increased to an impressive 8,881.
Benton explained that this was a focus of the library staff and they thought outside the box to increase the number of programs the library hosted. Benton said, “It’s kind of like the ‘Field of Dreams’, if you have programs they will come. Especially if it’s something they’re interested in.”
The library began hosting more programs geared towards senior adults. Benton said the library wanted to offer them more than just the opportunity to read books, but instead a chance to come out and interact with others. She said the library serves the same role for younger children, and their parents. Through the years several friendships and bonds have been formed thanks to what the library offers the community.
The recent award marks the second time Mendenhall Public Library has won Library of the Year since Benton took over as branch manager. The first was in 2014, and she explained during that time there were no divisions, just an overall winner. Benton said the library plans to keep improving and rising in all categories as they provide more to the citizens. She wants everything in the library to be used by their patrons.
“People are starting to take advantage of what the library has to offer,” said Benton. She believes the more the community knows the more they will participate, so the staff plans to continue to promote events and encourage participation. When asked of the accomplishment Benton said, “It means we are doing our job and doing good. It’s good to know that what we’re doing is helping and we’re accomplishing our goals.”
She described being named Library of the Year as a community award. It was accomplished because people are supporting the library and using their services. She also praised the library staff. Benton said, “Sylvia Kennedy does a great job with the children and is always finding something new and exciting to do with them.” She said, “Susan Cobb is our circulation clerk and she keeps everything out there on the shelves, and recommends books to patrons and helps them find books suited to their interest.” She was thankful for the job that they have done, and also thanked the Friends of the Library and city for their support.
Benton said, “We appreciate everyone coming and taking advantage of our library, and we want them to continue to do so. We have lots of great programming, books, DVDs, and computers.” The Mendenhall Library has something to offer everyone and is dedicated to their mission of providing resources, services, and programs to foster creativity, curiosity, and lifelong learning.
Benton said, “If we don’t have what you’re looking for we can find it.”