Laurel-Jones County Library: Empowering the Community Through Literacy and Resources

Laurel-Jones County Library: Empowering the Community Through Literacy and Resources

On the front facade of the Laurel-Jones County Library is a colorful mural of stacked books with an Ernest Hemingway quote, There is no friend as loyal as a book. 

There has never been a more accurate statement for those who have a deep love for reading, but we'd be remiss to ignore how technology has changed everything. Social media and online search engines have significantly decreased our dependence on physical resources like libraries. After all, who needs a thesaurus or encyclopedia when you have Google search at your fingertips? 

Libraries have faced an identity crisis, and many have asked the challenging question — what now? 

Thankfully, the Laurel-Jones County Library has an answer. 

While many resist the modern advances of the technological age, the LJC Library has embraced it as an opportunity to become a better resource and staple in the Laurel community. Their goal to improve Mississippi's literacy rates and education levels has remained the same, but they realize their approach must reflect the needs of their community today. 

Director, Karyn Walsh, is a passionate advocate for children's literacy, community-driven events, and creating valuable resources for adults of all ages. Her fourteen years of experience as a certified teacher-librarian instilled a profound understanding that the love for reading and learning is key to a person's success in life.

Karyn says, "It's a proven fact that 89% of female children will only attain the same education as their mother, which is unacceptable to me. It all comes down to reading and having the openness to learn. Instead of being forced to read, people have to fall in love with it."

She continues, "There's a cycle, especially in Jones County and Mississippi, that we're not going to break unless we can educate children about their future possibilities through literacy. I believe it'll create an awareness of other things out in the world. To me, that's what matters most —breaking the cycle of poverty and arming our kids to go out into the world and be successful."

On the latest episode of Home Town, Erin visited the LJC Library to read her new children's book, The Lantern House, at storytime. Erin's love for reading as a child influenced her life's work greatly and gave her the ability to write her own stories. As a parent, she reads to her daughters daily and hopes to instill the same love for reading in them.

Karyn commented about Erin, "She has a passion for books, her work, and for her family. That's so encouraging to see. She knows the importance of reading to children and how formative it is in the young lives to dream big."

The LJC Library hopes to engage with more families through its community-led events and inspire others to read to the younger generation. That was one of Karyn's first initiatives when she became Director.

Karyn shares, "I've lived all over the country, so I've been to many different libraries. When we moved to Mississippi, I was disappointed that the libraries were not the center of the community. Most people forget the library is even there, which is heartbreaking."

"When I entered this role, my goal was to reach out to different parts of the population and encourage others to look to the library for information and resources. We have so much more to offer than just books!"

The LJC Library offers weekly Storytime Playdates for children and families, Summer reading programs to maintain children's skills and interest in reading during school break, and touch screen computers to practice technical skills.

They also provide public computers to library cardholders with internet access, word processing, and other computer resources. They offer e-books, essential government resources, tutoring and test prep, research and adult education, resume and education assistance, and access to health and medical resources.

Karyn shares, "We have a veteran's area exclusive to retired military personnel, whether that be the veterans or their families. We provide resources that will help them learn and evolve. We're starting a teen area to encourage them to be involved and network among their peers. If anyone needs help, I want the library to be their first thought."

This year, the LJC Library has planned a full calendar of events to engage with the community, including a Murder Mystery event, family bingo and game nights, classic movie nights, and much more. 

We're so thankful for the Laurel-Jones County Library's leadership through Karyn Walsh and her team's efforts in the community. Learn more about how you can support their mission and browse their community resources and event calendar at https://www.laurel.lib.ms.us.