CHS library needs public's help with books, renovations

By KIM ROSS MEDDERS,

According to the Mississippi School Library Guide, “The school library should be exciting and welcoming and identifiably different from classrooms. ... It should be aesthetically pleasing and have a barrier-free learning environment that encourages the enjoyment and excitement of reading.”

The Charleston High School library needs help. 

As the new librarian, Mandy Ross Britt realized that she would need to update reading materials and books for her students, along with making cosmetic changes.

In a Sept. 20 interview with SuperTalk Mississippi radio, Britt stated that 1971 is the average copyright year of books that are in circulation at the CHS library. 

In that same interview, Britt stated, “After taking inventory, we have about 450 books on the shelves that we can use. The state Department of Education states that there need to be 10 books per student in each library.  Charleston High School has 450 students, so that means that we need 4,500 books to be in line with state requirements.”

However, as Britt noted in an email, “Books are just the tip of the iceberg. I would like to see new carpet, a fresh coat of paint and upgraded technology.  It is the state department’s belief, as well as my own, that if the library has a fresh and inviting appearance, students will be encouraged to utilize the library, become lifelong library users, and to love books and reading.

“The library should be a place that students want to visit,” she continued.  “If the students establish a love for simply being in the library, an interest in reading, research and all things knowledge-related will form. As a librarian, it is my goal to be a knowledge navigator for the students of Charleston High School. In order to successfully accomplish this goal, it is imperative that this library receives a major facelift.”

Britt said the Mississippi Department of Education recommends that school libraries have sound-absorbent floor coverings.

“Carpets are a must since this is part of the audit list that the Board of Education checks for,” she explained.

In addition, Britt noted that the circulation area of the library has not been painted in “at least 25 years.”

“Because of water damage, the paint is chipping/peeling in areas,” she added.  “Also, water/rust from above the ceiling tiles have caused the walls to be stained. The three study rooms in the library have not been painted since the school was built.”

Dr. Ben Kennedy, superintendent of the East Tallahatchie School District, commended Britt for tackling these issues head-on.

“We are very pleased with the efforts that our new Charleston High School librarian, Mrs. Mandy Britt, is making to improve the school library,” he noted in a statement.  “She is working hard to modernize and to improve the appearance of the library. The improvements that she is making will make the library more user-friendly and should greatly improve the academics of the students.”

Kennedy also had a message for the public.

“We are actively seeking donations to help us buy new books and equipment,” he noted. “Any help that we receive will certainly be beneficial to our efforts and to the students.”

Chris Rankin, assistant principal at Charleston High School, said the school library “and our library media specialist, Mrs. Britt, want to help promote literacy in our community. ... Mrs. Britt has already painstakingly reorganized the library and has even added some lounge areas in order to promote comfort in reading,” Rankin noted. “She is constantly going over her inventory and purging old titles and bringing in new ones in order to drum up the students’ interests.”

Rankin asked that the public play a role in helping to continue the improvements.

“The library still has a long way to go and needs your help to continue to promote literacy in our children,” Rankin said.  “Your contribution can be as simple as reading stories to young relatives, volunteering to read at your local school or donating money and/or unwanted books. Please feel free to contact our librarian or the district office to see what you can do to help.”

Britt said the hope is that an improved library will provide a boost to student achievement, adding that her personal sights are set on that, as well.

“It is my goal to be a positive role model to as many of these students as possible, in order to give them as much encouragement and information as pertains to continuing their education after high school,” Britt noted.
Both Britt and the East Tallahatchie administration are asking the alumni, parents of students, citizens of Charleston and any local businesses “to please make donations of money, materials or time to help with these updates.”

For more information or to offer help, contact Rebecca Bloodworth at 647-5524 or go to www.donorschoose.org and search Charleston, MS.  Britt’s donor page there is entitled, “Help Modernize Our Outdated School Library.”

“Please invest in the future of our Charleston children,” Britt implored.

After some recent donations, there are approximately 998 books in the CHS library.  About 3,520 are still needed.


IN THE PHOTO: A view of Charleston High School is seen in this Feb. 13, 2014, photo.  (Sun-Sentinel file photo by Clay McFerrin)