The sun was shining, balloons were flying and a crowd of eager readers enjoyed the ribbon-cutting Tuesday for the Little Free Library at JSU’s e-City Center.
“Today’s a great day the Lord has blessed us with,” said Patty Patterson, community activist, owner of Repurposed Projects, and JSU Women Entrepreneurs Day Inspirational Award-winner who welcomed the crowd.
Her son is in New York City, where a blizzard is bearing down. But, “this day is for you,” she said, pointing to about a dozen Blackburn Middle School students who attended the ribbon-cutting. “This is for the community.”
“I’m honored this is here, because, West Jackson, we’re on the move!”
Master of ceremonies Jason Brookins, director of JSU’s Center for University-Based Development (CUBD), said the Little Free Library “looks like a birdhouse or very small dog house,” but it has an important purpose: to increase literacy and reading.
“It’s little, it’s free, and it’s a library,” said Heather Wilcox, CUBD Neighborhood Development assistant. It’s available for area residents — young and old — to take a book and return a book, so that books are constantly being exchanged.
This is the first Little Free Library in West Jackson, and only the third in the city, but many more are planned, she said.
Several dignitaries were on hand, including Ward 5 Jackson City Councilman Charles Tillman, chairman of the Council’s Education Committee.
“The city of Jackson is really concerned about education,” Tillman told the crowd. Part of that, he added, addressing the Blackburn students, is ensuring that young people are groomed for leadership as well-read citizens.
Dr. Mary M. White, interim vice president of JSU’s Division of Institutional Advancement, shared with the students that she was an avid reader when she was 15 years old, and that helped prepare her to go to college.
“I’m just very, very proud of the young people here,” White said, “because you are our future.”
Jaylin Thornton, 11, a Blackburn 6th grader, said he’s excited about the Little Free Library. “When my mother picks me up from school, I’ll pick up a book!” he said.
He said that he expects to read a lot more since the books are available.
“If you have little brothers and sisters, we encourage you to invite them to come read,” Dr. Fran Bridges of the West Central Jackson Improvement Association, and one of several neighborhood association representatives, told the students.
Dr. Kimberly Hilliard, executive director of JSU’s Office of Community Engagement, introduced the idea of having the Little Free Library in 2013, Wilcox said. JSU’s grant application was accepted in 2014, paving the way for the project.
“The ribbon cutting is symbolic,” Brookins said, “cutting away all the barriers and hindrances to what we’re trying to do.”
Call Me MISTER JSU Chapter President Larry Strickland read to the students afterward a selection from Pathblazers: Eight People Who Made a Difference by M.K. Fullen and Selma Waldman.
The JSU MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program promotes educational attainment among black youth.
Among the books currently available at the Little Free Library is Jubilee by the renowned author and late JSU professor Margaret Walker, Wilcox said. Jackson State University and the Jackson Hinds Library System are celebrating what would have been her 100th birthday with a yearlong slate of literary events.
Books have been donated by the Jackson State University Mississippi Learning Institute, the Interdisciplinary Alcohol and Drug Studies Center, the College of Education & Human Development and the Jackson Hinds Library System.
For more information, or to donate books, call Wilcox at 601-979-5828.