By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Millington Public Library is remembering it’s past, showcasing it’s present and looking forward to it’s future.
The future arrived on April 6 when new Director Arlene Griffin spent her first day on the job at 4858 Navy Road. Griffin, the Library Boosters, Board and Associates are now ready to get summer programs off and running for the public. And the biggest event from the MPL will kickoff on June 1 with the Fourth Annual Millington Library Great River Reading Race in the memory of Jo Griffin-Peel.
Griffin-Peel, who passed away in February, was one of the area’s biggest advocates of reading, especially among the youth. She was involved in the Millington Book Club AND Friends of the Library among several civic organizations.
“She was someone who came in and was interested in what we did here,” Library Associate Dorothy Chancey recalled. “Here brother Otis Griffin is a great supporter too. They both tried to encourage people to come and use the Library with programs and other things here.
“When she passed on, we were very saddened by it,” she continued. “And we miss her. Wanted to honor her. That’s why we did it because she was our friend.”
Attaching Griffin-Peel’s name to the annual summer reading event is a way to pay tribute to her and keep her memory alive in one of her main focuses in her community involvement.
“We’re trying to encourage more children and teens to come,” Chancey said. “We’ve expanded some of the programs we do in the summer. We’re doing more programs, different programs. We’re mixing up with what we do here with guest and their programs. We have different types of prizes and ways of measuring reading.”
The Summer Reading Kickoff will be held June 1 starting at 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The goal of the program is to help 500 children in the community to build their reading skills this summer. The program is sponsored by a dozen businesses and organizations like Rosemark Masonic, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club and Optimist Club.
There will be several special guests at the event including Millington Mayor Terry Jones, Commissioner Terry Roland, local businessman Dr. Geroge Flinn, Sheriff Bill Oldham, Senator Mark Norris and Millington Chamber President Charles Gulotta.
It’s been the support of these individuals and local intities that have kept the MPL going. But it’s been the staff on site that has kept the MPL functioning after the departure of former Director Brian Miller on Dec. 4.
Before Arlene Griffin arrived in April the staff of Chancey, Alex Harris, Rachel Stroud, Jesse Yancy, Ken Lyles and Judy Koehl were on the front line answering the public’s concerns and opening up the Library on it’s regular schedule.
“It was tough,” Koehl acknowledged. “There a lot of times I would put on my happy face to go up front and do my job to the best of my knowledge. Then I would go to the back (ready to scream). It was very, very stressful. But we managed. We knew what we had to do and we did. Our programs were never stopped and everything ran.”
Lyles said it took a strong bond among the Library associates and a Higer Power to get through the four months before Griffin’s hire.
“I know we depended on each other,” he said. “Each one of us has our strong area. Each one of us stepped in and helped take care of things. All it was, taking what we were taught along the way and try to keep things together. It was the good Lord the whole time. We were consistently praying and asking the Lord Jesus to give us the strength to keep going and keep functioning.”
Lyles said he likes the direction of the Library under Griffin. Along with the summer reading program, the MPL will conduct free weekly programs for the whole family including pre-Civil War camp reenactment on June 13 on the Library lawn with Gene Smith. There will be a UT Health teen cooking class, puppet shows, teen art classes and pajama story time.
The MPL will highlight those upcoming events and new director this Thursday from 4-6 p.m. with a special reception. During the reception, the Library Booster and Board will also shine the spotlight Koehl and Lyles for being named Employees of the Month for February and March respectively.
But the featured guest will be Griffin. After 10 years in the library field, Griffin made her way to Millington from Jackson.
“We have a very good staff that knows how to run a library,” she said. “They know how to serve the patrons’ needs and they maintained things. I am more than well-pleased.”
Griffin said she is happy to be in Millington and is enjoying becoming a part of the city’s fabric through the Library. She is ready to give back starting with the summer programs and the Great River Reading Race in honor of JO Griffin-Peel.
“Children might not come to the Library and we want them to come,” she said. “This is a great way for them to keep up with their reading. Studies have shown that children who haven’t done any reading over their summer break actually backtrack. So this keep their reading ability up to date and gives them a boost.
“I’ve already met quite a few people from the board directors to the boosters,” Griffin concluded. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s always been my philosophy that the Library should reflect the community it resides in. And that’s what I’m striving for as far as the Library goes here. So everybody could come in and enjoy it, use it, participate in the programs and use the meeting room. Whatever their needs are, that’s what we’re here for.”