JFOL Relaunches With Event and New Fund at CFM

Jackson Friends of the Library board members (left to right) Hunter Evans, David Long and Emmaline Smith.
Jackson Friends of the Library board members (left to right) Hunter Evans, David Long and Emmaline Smith.

The Jackson Friends of the Library (JFOL) is relaunching after a hiatus, including the creation of a new fund, the Jackson Friends of the Library General Fund, at the Community Foundation for Mississippi to support their growth. CFM recently talked with JFOL board member Emmaline Smith to get the skinny on their relaunch and their kick-off event, A Night with Wright, on June 1 at The Cedars.

Why did you get involved with JFOL? What does it mean to you?
I began to regularly visit the library with my kids 5 or 6 years ago through storytime at the Eudora Welty Library downtown. I’ve had some wonderful connections with staff over the years and my kids and I have discovered so many wonderful books through regularly visiting the library. Once I decided I was going to be a regular, I wanted to get involved in the Friends group. I emailed them and didn’t hear back. A few years went by and once again after a visit to the library, I felt strongly that I wanted to get involved to help our libraries thrive. I learned that the group had become inactive and eventually I joined up with a few friends to help relaunch it. I think libraries are such a vital part of a healthy community. They provide access for literally every citizen to ideas, information, inspiration, space to create and connect with others and so much more. Supporting that seems so worthwhile.

What is JFOL hoping to do this year with the relaunch?

Our first order of business is throwing a party, naturally. It’s going to be an amazing event on June 1 to celebrate our relaunch, raise funds for our group, and also invite people to get involved. We want to build a support network of volunteers, corporate partners and funds to support and enhance our Jackson libraries. We would also love to expand our board. Beyond the basics of just getting the organization back on its feet, the summer reading program for kids is something the Friends group has been able to support in the past and we want to continue that. Additionally, we have applied for a grant through the Mississippi Arts Commission (and secured a corporate partner to match the grant) to create a beautiful art installation in one of our city branches. We have met with Floyd Council, the Director of the Jackson-Hinds Library System (JHLS), as well as Peyton Smith, the Chairmen of the Board of Trustees for JHLS. Both have been very enthusiastic about the support of the Friends and have shared a variety of ways we might plug in and help them reach their goals.

How can people get involved with JFOL?
Come to our kick-off party! Everyone who buys a ticket automatically receives a membership in JFOL for a year.  If you can’t make it, you can still join through our fund at CFM and your membership dues will go toward helping our libraries thrive. As a member, you’ll also be in the loop on other ways you can help and volunteer.

Are there upcoming plans people should know about?
We know the library board has some exciting ideas around a mobile library or at least some pop-up library events around the city, particularly targeting neighborhoods where the library branches haven’t been properly maintained by the city and have had to close. The Eudora Welty Library downtown doesn’t have air conditioning, so its hours are inconsistent and it will likely not be open this summer. Charles Tisdale Library on Northside Drive had to be torn down this past year. Richard Wright, a beautiful branch on McDowell Road, has been closed for multiple years due to a roof issue that hasn’t been dealt with. Medgar Evers Library is also suffering from air conditioning issues. That’s four out of eight libraries in our city. That’s frustrating and sad, but we believe our Friends group can help be part of the solution.

Tell me more about volunteer opportunities. What should people do if they want to get involved with the event and in general?
If you’d like to help with our kick-off event on June 1, we could use some help setting up beforehand and we would love to have you! If you are interested in getting more involved with the group in general, we’d also love to have you! Email us at jxnlibraryfriends@gmail.com and let us know of your interest. Following us on Instagram (@jxnfriendsofthelibrary) is another way you can stay in the loop on what’s going on and ways to help and get involved.