Public library offers wide array of services with limited time and funds

Friday, November 1, 2002

The Marked Tree Public Library is open only 25 hours per week. Librarian Martha Ann Watson is assisted by Sarah Beard, who works on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Even in that short amount of time, Watson and Beard provide noteworthy services to the community, with the assistance of the Marked Tree Friends of the Library.

Watson and Beard read stories to headstart and elementary children regularly. They take a selection of seasonal books to show the children what is available at the library. A collection of seasonal books is always on display in the children's section of the library, Watson said.

Watson also displays the most popular selections in other areas of the library. "We've organized the library so it's not so overwhelming to the patron looking for a specific type of book," she said. Some of the current books on display include western reading and large-print Christian romances. Watson takes strides to involve patrons in book selection by inquiring about their favorite authors as they check out books.

Watson said the Marked Tree Library averages 600 patrons monthly from Tyronza, Gilmore, Joiner, Heifer and Marked Tree. "A man came in this week who was on vacation from California. He had photos on a CD that he was able to email back home of his grandchildren," Watson said. One frequent patron is a Jonesboro resident who teaches in Crawfordsville. The library is convenient for him because he can stop by on his way home from work. Home-schooling parents also bring their children to utilize the library regularly, Watson said.

When asked about particular library services, Watson is especially proud of the audio-book selection the library offers. "We have 12 to 15 new audio-books every three to four months," she said. She was quick to note, however, that nothing is better than reading, but audio-books are great for commuters who would rather enjoy a good book than listen to "today's music."

Also, every three months, the library receives approximately 35 new books. The books are rotated through the Poinsett County libraries. Once the books have been available for a short time at the libraries in Marked Tree, Lepanto, Harrisburg and Weiner, each library receives its own copy. By rotating the limited selection, Watson explained, the new books are available as soon as possible to all the patrons. Books are also available by inter-library loan, meaning if a particular book is not available at their library but is on the shelf at another library, a patron may request that it be loaned to their local library. Because of budget cuts, volunteers are needed to carry these books to the various libraries. There are no funds to pay postage for inter-library loan, said Watson.

The library also obtains books from LIBRI grants through the Kellogg Foundation, which matches funds three to one raised by the Friends of the Library.

The Marked Tree Library receives to at least 25 different periodicals, and more are available thanks to donations from members of the Friends of the Library, patrons and local businesses.

Other library services include copying, faxing and computer usage. Copies are made at the library at a cost of ten cents per copy for the first ten, and each additional copy costs only seven cents. Faxes, incoming and outgoing, cost only one dollar per page.

Children flock to the library after school to use the six computers with Internet capabilities, and an additional computer used only for word processing. Because of the high demand for computer time, patrons are limited to 45 minutes per day. Patrons may print to the library's printer for ten cents per page.

With 36 percent of the area's population living below poverty level, the library is providing services that a great number are unable to afford. In addition to raising money for books and other library services, the Marked Tree Friends of the Library are directly responsible for the building maintenance as well as the telephone bill and janitorial service. Funds raised by this group support the library and its growing needs. Anyone interested in information supporting the library or joining the Marked Tree Friends of the Library may ask the librarian or contact Joan Thompson, president.

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