Portion of Senate collection will go to Mississippi libraries

Published 7:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

Former first lady Laura Bush was wise to say that “the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.” Our public libraries offer our communities more than shelves of books. They provide access to print and digital resources that can help patrons with a variety of projects, from working on a school assignment to searching for a new job.

In an effort to keep Mississippi’s 235 public libraries vibrant places for research and learning, 

I am working to donate a portion of my book collection as well as raise awareness about the Library of Congress Surplus Books Program. The Library of Congress receives more than 20,000 items every day but retains only about half of the items for its permanent collection. 

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Through the Surplus Books Program, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state and local public agencies can apply to receive these materials for their own collections. The materials – which include paperback and hardback books, audio and video recordings, and maps – cover a number of subjects and interests. To learn more about this program and how to participate, please e-mail my office at wicker_books@wicker.senate.gov.

Mississippi Hosts Second-Annual Book Festival

We are lucky to live in a state with such a world-renowned literary tradition. Last year, nearly 

4,000 people gathered at the State Capitol in Jackson for the first 

Mississippi Book Festival. This year’s festival on August 20 brought in even more visitors and 

authors, including Pulitzer Prize winners Richard Ford and Jon Meacham. As a participant, I was honored to interview author Anne L. Webster, whose book “Mississippians in the Great War: Selected Letters” offers an emotional portrait of war through the eyes of the soldiers, nurses, and relief workers from our state who traveled far to defend freedom. 

Millions of Children Have Received Free Books

We all have a role to play when it comes to promoting literacy. Anyone who takes the time to read to a child is making a difference in these young lives. In addition to our public libraries, public-private organizations like Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), which distributes free books to children in need, are working to change troubling statistics. One such statistic reveals that two-thirds of low-income families do not own any books for their children. 

Reading skills can lead to success in school and later in life, making the work of RIF vital to creating opportunities for our children. Over the past 50 years, the nonprofit literacy organization has distributed hundreds of millions of books to more than 40 million children. My wife, Gayle, and I remain very involved with RIF, serving as guest readers to children across the state. Just this week, I joined 50 fourth graders at West Lowndes Elementary School near Columbus in reading an excerpt from Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.” Gayle has also co-chaired the leadership committee for RIF’s annual event in Washington. I was honored to receive the Book Champion Award last year. 

I will continue to support federal investments in literacy, successful public-private partnerships like RIF, and better collections for our public libraries. Access to books is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children, to our communities, and to our state.

By U.S. Senator Roger Wicker