Several of the libraries in the First Regional Library (FRL) system, based in Hernando, have been named for important people for various reasons.
B.J. Chain identifies the library in Olive Branch, M.R. Davis, the Southaven facility, along with M.R. Dye the library in Horn Lake. The libraries in Como and Crenshaw also bear the names of people with significance to their specific areas.
Friday, the library in the headquarters location of Hernando was added in identifying the one who may be considered the person who was most important in the growth of the First Regional Library System.
As of Friday evening, the Hernando Public Library is now known as the James F. Anderson Library inside the system headquarters on West Commerce Street in Hernando.
An event to make the action official was held that evening.
First Regional Library is a five-county system that serves DeSoto, Tate, Tunica, Panola and Lafayette counties of northwest Mississippi. Margaret Wickham is the current director of the system and she said it was not long after she arrived that she discovered it was time to make a name change happen.
“I’ve been here about a year and four months and when I came on board, it became readily apparent to me and very rapidly, that there was a person in this library system’s past who was instrumental in growing the library and expanding it to its current size,” Wickham said. “I brought this idea before the board, and before I knew it, we were naming the library the James F. Anderson Public Library.”
Wickham first approached the FRL Board of Directors with the idea in May 2018.
The short list of Anderson’s achievements with FRL includes dedicating libraries in Sardis, Senatobia, Lafayette County-Oxford, and Crenshaw. Anderson also led the opening of facilities in Olive Branch, Southaven, Horn Lake, and Como, and dedicated the addition to the headquarters building in Hernando.
Along with that, Anderson is credited with getting library records switched to an electronic public catalog system and all branches brought into using fully automated circulation. That was done nearly 20 years before all libraries in the state were automated.
The library budget over his time, which ended with Anderson’s retirement in 2004, increased by 2,200 percent, or five times the inflation rate for the 33 years he was with FRL.
“We’ve had good staff who worked hard to provide the best library service to people,” Anderson reflected.
“He came here in 1972 thinking it would be a six-month temporary job after he got his master’s degree in literary science,” Wickham said. “He fell in love with this community and with the whole service area. It’s impossible to overstate his impact on the communities that he served.”
In Anderson’s view, Hernando was just starting to experience a strong growth period that he wanted to be a part of.
“You could just see that the growth was coming,” Anderson said. “It started out small, the county was small and primarily agriculture, but you knew that was going to change and you knew this county was going to lead the other counties into greater things. It was a matter of coming here at the right time.”
Friday’s celebratory event included the original architect of the building and former library employees, along with friends, family members and well wishers.
Wickham hopes those who come to the library now named for Anderson acknowledge his efforts to grow literary and information availability in the region.
“I hope they say he’s the man who laid the foundation for the library system that serves 300,000 people in Northwest Mississippi," Wickham said. “It’s a pretty powerful thing that he’s done for so many.”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.