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Library sponsoring book giveaway

Batesville Library staff members are preparing for the First Regional Library system book giveaway scheduled for the month of July. Children were unable to participate in the popular Summer Reading Program this year, and library staff hope to see many of them come by for a free book. Pictured are (from left) Shavonne Thigpen, Rolanda Chapman, Amanda Tutor, and Allena Wiese. (Glennie Pou)

First Regional Library has offered everyone who participates in the Summer Reading Program the opportunity to pick out their own new book to keep for several years.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, library staff have had to re-envision many popular services and programs, including how these new books are distributed throughout the community.

“When the pandemic reached our communities, it became clear that we were going to have to find alternate ways to keep serving the public,” said FRL Director, Meredith Wickham. “While our doors may have not been open, First Regional Library has never closed. We’ve been offering many different resources during this time, thanks to the resilience and creativity of the First Regional Library team.”

Wickham says planning a Summer Reading Program did present a challenge. “Our main goal every summer is to keep people reading over the summer – especially students who are in danger of not retaining their reading skills levels if they don’t read during the months between school terms,” she said.

“Encouraging reading with fun and educational programs helps us promote reading, and we’ve been having great attendance for our virtual programming this summer. But we still wanted to figure out how to get these wonderful, brand-new books into the hands of our community members.”

According to library statistics, over 3,000 people may pass through the doors of FRL’s 14 branches during a typical day in the summer months. Since the library is abiding by the guidelines and Executive Orders set up by state officials, allowing that many people into the buildings just isn’t possible at this time, but the Library has a plan to get these free books distributed.

“We are painfully aware that many people in our communities don’t have access to home computers and the internet and can’t access our digital offerings and virtual programs,” said Wickham. “Getting these new books distributed to our communities is an essential part of our mission. It’s not just a goal for the summer – it’s our driving force year round to reach all members of the five counties we serve.”

With that goal in mind, FRL will be giving away over 20,000 books between July 6 and July 30.

Each branch will have one day each week for people to come pick out a free book. People with last names beginning A-M should plan to come between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and those with last names beginning N-Z should come between 2:30 and 5:30 pm.

This split schedule is to minimize crowds and ensure that social distancing is possible. Giveaways will be held outdoors to lower the risk of  transmission of the coronavirus. Each day, books will be available for browsing  on a first come, first served basis.

At Panola County libraries, the giveaway dates are:

Como Wednesdays (rain date: Thursday)

Sardis Tuesdays (rain date: Wednesday)

Crenshaw Wednesdays (rain date: Friday)

Batesville Mondays (rain date: Tuesday) 

“On these giveaway days, our staff will be practicing all recommended safety precautions, including the wearing of face coverings, hand washing, and social distancing,” advised Wickham. “We will be directing our patrons to keep a safe distance from those not in their family, and we will be encouraging them to only touch the book they plan to take home.”

For those who are unable to travel to a library, each branch is also working with community partners to distribute the free books at farmer’s markets, food pantries, laundromats, and other locations.

For more information, First Regional Library encourages patrons to call their local branch, or visit www.firstregional.org/freebooks.