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Opening the book on National Library Week

Friends of the Library is on a quest to combat illiteracy, and this year’s National Library Week will center around that mission. Second-graders from across the county will have the opportunity to journey to the Lincoln County Library to get their very own library card.

“We’re just so excited about this perfect fit for friends to help the community to help the library,” FOL President Pam Womack said. “I see this as creating a generation of readers. Readers are better students and, more importantly, better citizens.”

Although the field trips will begin this week, the majority will make their way to the library during National Library Week, which runs through the second week of April.

“Last year, Friends of the Library decided to pursue a way to promote literacy in the community.” Womack said. “It didn’t work out, but we were still interested.”

At the January meeting, the Friends group discussed ideas to get children in the community to read. Christy Lee, a Mamie Martin PTA board member, and Pat Lowery, a Brookhaven School District board member, suggested FOL could help them get library cards.

“We decided that second grade was the best because they already know how to read, and they just need to be encouraged,” she said.

FOL presented the idea to Director Henry Ledet, Assistant Director Katrina Castilaw and Children’s Librarian Kasie Brown. They suggested the children get their library card beforehand by sending all the children home with the necessary form.

“We’re counting on the parents to fill out the forms to gain access to the library,” she said.

On the day of their field trip, students will come in to FOL members and library employees wearing Dr. Suess hats with a big banner reading “Welcome second graders.” A story will be read to them, and then FOL will serve as tour guides. Tours will end at the children’s section. They will also watch a movie in the Vernon Room about a boy and his library card.

The goal is to repeat this event every year for all second graders. Insurance Risk Managers has come on board as a sponsor and would like to help make the event an annual one.

Womack said she is so passionate about introducing young students to the library because the library has always been a major part of her life.

“Reading has given me worlds I never knew about,” she said. “We want to share the love of books, the love of reading and the love of the library with these children.”

To kick off National Library Week, FOL and Lincoln County Library are partnering with Ole Towne Church to bring Brookhaven-native Dickie Scruggs to speak about literacy. While in prison for bribing a judge post-Hurricane Katrina, Scruggs began helping fellow inmates complete the GED. As part of his second chance at life after his release, he developed 2nd Chance MS, a program that raises awareness and funds for adult education. On April 8, anyone in the area will be able to hear Scruggs speak about his organization.

Tickets are $10.

“We just want everyone to become a part of the library,” Womack said.

FOL is an volunteer organization that helps promote and support the library. With the library facing budget cuts of 35 percent, FOL has been able to help fill the gap by provide funds for new books and programs.

“Friends of the Library is a wonderful group,” she said. “We all love books. We all love the library. We love being able to give the library a check for a computer or for best-selling books.”

To become a member, dues are just $10 a year, and Womack encourages anyone and everyone to become a member.

“It’s challenging as we get more ways to help the community,” she said. “I’m just one of many who has this dream of helping the community in a big way through the library.

Special report by Julia Miller