The interim director at the Carnegie Public Library from April through June had her interim tag removed July 1.
JoAnn Blue has been serving as the director of Clarksdale’s public library for the past month. She has been with the Carnegie Public Library for four and half years and had been serving as reference librarian prior to being appointed director on July 1.
Blue earned her master’s degree in library and information science from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 2000. Her background is in corporate special library services. Before moving back to Clarksdale in 2013, Blue managed a library in an education research firm in Washington.
“My past library experience was within the special education research field. I worked in a for-profit environment,” she said. “However, transitioning to the public library setting was not difficult because providing access to information is the one commonality all libraries share.”
In observing the work and services being offered at the library, Blue said she believes the library’s mission is still on track.
“Our purpose is to provide opportunities for information, education, culture and recreation through books, computers, digital resources, audio and video materials, and through adult and youth library programming and services to the people of Clarksdale and Coahoma County,” Blue said in a press release.
Some of the services provided at the library and out in the community include an outreach children’s reading program at area daycare centers, genealogy assistance, a reading room and study area, up-to-date large print books, internet access and wireless connection, and e-books.
There is a large meeting room at the library, which also hosts book signings and book clubs. Children and teens participate in the library’s summer youth and summer reading programs/activities each year.
Last year, over 62,300 patrons and visitors were served. The library circulated 36,200 adult printed materials and 13,100 youth materials. Computer usage was significant; over 16,000 computer logins and 1,250 chrome laptops were checked out.
“Patrons of all ages use the computers,” Blue said. “Some take online classes, some check email, and some apply for jobs.”
Audio/CD books and videos were favorites, too; approximately 2,300 audio books and 9,800 videos were checked out.
And almost 400 individual users accessed the library’s new online digital archives and that number continues to grow as the library includes more items.
“There are sentient beings behind these successful statistics,” Blue said. “Community support for the library is remarkable. Carnegie receives tremendous backing from local officials. Each year, the mayor, the commissioners and supervisors work hard to ensure that funding allocations are adequate so the library can continue to provide major segments of our population with outstanding services.”
There is a Board of Trustees that oversees the library operation and there is also support from the Friends of the Library group, which is comprised of community members.
“Without them we would not be able to provide summer youth programs and purchase items such as computers and various other needed items,” Blue said.
“In addition, patron and volunteer support is incredible. The patrons we serve are just as diverse as the services we provide. We know them by name and they are wonderfully loyal. Our volunteers are excellent – both from the community and past library staff.
“Without the assistance and expertise of former Director Missie Craig and past librarians Linda White and Charlotte Huddleston, the library would not have moved forward on a couple of recent projects.” She said community volunteers are equally important. The library has devoted, dependable senior volunteers Gloria Himelstein and Christine Williams.
“Both have met each technology challenge with enthusiasm and adaptability,” Blue said.
Dr. Claudette Williams, of Whitley Research Service, is a volunteer doing research on a plantation project and she and Blue collaborate a lot.
The new director was also quick to praise the staff at the library.
“I am fortunate to work with a staff that is dedicated, capable and supports the library’s service mission,” Blue said. “All of these people components are crucial in accomplishing the mission and goals of Carnegie.”
As Carnegie’s new director, Blue’s goal is to continue to provide excellent services for the community and looks forward to developing even more.
“My special interest lies in digitizing and preserving our collections. I want to help patrons meet their digital information needs,” Blue said.
Over the last three years, former Director Sarah Crisler-Ruskey and Blue helped Carnegie receive $14,500 in grants specifically for digitizing. In addition to the grants, the library received staffing hours and training from Mississippi Digital Library, who hosts the library’s collection for free.
The combined grants allowed the library to digitize a significant portion of its printed materials to go online. It is easier now for patrons and others elsewhere to more quickly access items locally and worldwide.
Blue says Carnegie’s digital archives can be accessed through the library’s website at cplclarksdale.lib.ms.us.
As for future goals at the library, Blue said, “The directors and librarians before me have left the library healthy and thriving. They have worked hard over the years to introduce newer technologies and keep Carnegie strong and current.
“I, too, want to be among these and other library leaders who are forward thinkers – those who can conceptualize and implement visions. Striving to provide continued outstanding service will be my number one priority.”