By Michael Stewart / The Meridian Star
For the first time in its 40-year history, Mississippi State University has a library at the university's Meridian campus thanks to a $1.25 million grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation.
On Tuesday, local dignitaries joined MSU officials at the College Park Campus in Meridian for a reception and dedication of the Phil Hardin Foundation Library that opened last month.
Students at MSU-Meridian will be able to access everything at the library available to their counterparts on the university's main campus in Starkville, from books, periodicals, documents and other research materials.
In addition, the library has "a print collection of about 8,000 or so books that are available, including reference materials across all subject areas," said Melanie Thomas, coordinator of library services at MSU Meridian.
There are also 16 public computer workstations, 15 laptop computers, a conference room, microfilm reader print station, and instructional laboratory and teacher station with capacity for 30 students.
"A library is the heart and soul of a university and to be able to have one here in Meridian that's our very own for the first time in the history of this campus is quite special," MSU President Dr. Mark E. Keenum told a group gathered in the Kahlmus Auditorium at MSU-Meridian. "The generosity of the Phil Hardin Foundation made this possible."
Among those in attendance were Phil Hardin Foundation CEO Rebecca Combs-Dulaney and Phil Hardin Foundation Board of Directors President Robert F. Ward.
Ward, who was one of the guest speakers at the dedication, said the library serves as another link in building a better Meridian and Lauderdale County.
"This beautiful facility offers a place for inquiry, discussion and quiet reflection in addition to access to resources that do not exist anywhere else in this area," Ward said. "This investment by the Hardin Foundation stands to return to our community educated and skilled employees, teachers, nurses, business people, and more, and will serve as a catalyst for this university to expand its offerings in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs."
In addition to the new library, the $1.25 million grant will also fund a library in the Kress Building, an MSU-Meridian Downtown Campus facility to undergo major renovations thanks to an $11 million grant from The Riley Foundation in Meridian.
The Riley Foundation grant is funding a new kinesiology program at the downtown campus that is expected to admit students by spring of 2015 and will offer career options in categories such as occupational and physical therapy and related programs in exercise and wellness, rehabilitation, athletics and research.
"So between these two outstanding foundations (Phil Hardin and Riley), we are going to have not only this library but a beautiful facility downtown to house the other Phil Hardin Foundation Library," Keenum said.
Keenum said the addition of the library is another step in the university's plans to grow its presence in Meridian by adding more graduate programs.
"Having a library of our own is very important from an accreditation standpoint, especially when we are talking about graduate programs," Keenum said. "Our graduate students have to have access to university research materials and information."
While MSU-Meridian students have not had a library on campus, they have been allowed full access to Meridian Community College's L.O. Todd Library, thanks to a long-running partnership between the two higher education facilities.
"Meridian Community College has for the past 40 years provided library services to MSU-Meridian, including the time when the inaugural MSU-Meridian facility was located in Hardin Hall," Meridian Community College President Dr. Scott Elliott said. "It has always been a wonderful partnership, which involved the sharing of learning resources to the mutual benefit of our respective students. I am proud for MSU-Meridian in that it now offers its own on-campus library. "Nonetheless, I would expect that our partnership will continue on many fronts to include the development of two-plus-two educational programs, the sharing of learning resources, and even the sharing of parking facilities. We have a truly rare opportunity in Meridian for a student to start his or her educational experience in kindergarten and very nearly achieve a doctoral degree without ever having to leave town. MCC's commitment is to continue to work with our partners in the K-12 and university theaters to make that journey as seamless as possible."
Keenum said the library at MSU-Meridian will be open to students at MCC and to students at schools in Meridian, Lauderdale County and surrounding communities.
Philadelphia resident Holly Wade, an MSU-Meridian student majoring in psychology, said the library "is a lot more convenient and we don't have to walk across the street (to the library at MCC)."
MSU-Meridian student MIchael Dover, a Meridian resident majoring in criminology, was waiting for the dedication to end Tuesday.
"I can't wait until they get done so I can go in there and work on my paper," Dover said. "The library here is going to make it much easier to order books and periodicals since you can do it now without having to go through Starkville."
By Michael Stewart / The Meridian Star
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