I remember standing there looking at the thousands of books that lined the University of Memphis library. French literature, Biblical history, new theories in neurology, African American authors, North American archeology; all of these and much more laid before my eyes. I was truly overwhelmed. Thankfully, I am not the only one to feel the very existential tingle that shoots through my mind when I think of a good book.
There is some strange power in a book. We say we do not need them any more, use them as decoration pieces, and slowly move everything to an electronic format. Yet, the book thrives in stores like Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, or any number of online sites. Why? Because there is some overwhelming, ever-present power in a book. However, books can be expensive. This is where the wonderful libraries that we have at our fingertips come into play. In Jackson, I’ve found that many people do not know that they have access to academic libraries, as well as the public ones. So, here is your quick reference guide to all the libraries in the Jackson-Madison County area that allow public access in some way. Read well, and read often. Enjoy!
The Jackson-Madison County Library
433 East Lafayette Street | 731.425.8609
The Jackson-Madison County Library is the only public library in the area, aside from its branch in the north of town. Truthfully, this library holds a low standard in the minds of Jacksonians, but for what reason I am not sure. Do not let the outside of the building fool you. This library, along with its many books, has many resources that make it a hidden gem. Inside you will find Internet access, Wifi, copiers, fax machines, computer classes, and thousands of books for your taking. All you will need is one of their library cards, which takes only minutes to sign up for.
Look for: The Tennessee Room | Have you ever wondered about your family heritage? Do you want to know if any of your family served in the Civil War? Well, you have a free service in the city of Jackson that will aid your search. Visit Jack Wood in the Tennessee Room to review court documents, newspapers, census reports, and many other types of materials that can shed some light on your ancestry. Aside from their amazing genealogical research, there is a small cache of history books on Jackson and the other surrounding counties. If you’re truly interested in finding out who Uncle Joe really was, or if you’re curious as to how Jackson started out, begin your search in the Tennessee Room.
Monday - Thursday 10:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M., Friday & Saturday 10:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M,, Closed Sunday
Lane College Library
545 Lane Avenue | 731.426.7500
Housed in the top floor of the Chambers-McClure Academic Center, the Lane College Library houses some 154,000 volumes of print and non-print resources. Inside you can find access to thousands of materials that could help any kind of research you are doing, family documents you are trying to find, or general reading you want to fulfill. Wifi and Internet access are included. And you simply cannot beat the historic buildings that surround the Academic Center. They will inspire you to the utmost!
Look for: The Special Collections Section | You’ll find the Negro Heritage Collection, the Teacher Education Curriculum Collection, the Art Collection, and the Lane College Archival Selection. Don't let the size fool you; there's endless material.
Jackson State Community College Library
2046 North Parkway | 731.425.2609
I must make one disclaimer: I am an alumni of Jackson State, so my comments might be somewhat biased. However, the JSCC Library is another hidden gem in Jackson. For what seems like a small library, there is a vast assortment of books that will appeal to any reader. The library houses over 50,000 print materials that span fiction, biographies, history, religious texts, a large assortment of Shakespeare reference materials, and many periodicals. And no, you do not have to be a student to get any of these materials. Visit the reference desk inside of the library and pick up a “Community Patron Card.”
Look for: The Displays, Films, & Literature Section | Throughout the year, the library sets up several different kinds of displays to bring awareness to certain themes. For instance, right now there is a “banned book” display, which shows a copy of all the books that have been banned throughout history. Don't have enough money for a Redbox? Try the JSCC library! They usually have a decent assortment of movies that you can rent out. Finally—and this is for my literature people out there—the library has a very good assortment of literature resources. As noted above, they have a large section of Shakespeare’s works. But they also have the other Renaissance writers, commentaries on those writers, and even a small section that deal directly with ancient literature. Though some of it might be out of date, it is still worth the read.
Monday - Thursday 7:30 A.M. - 8:15 P.M., Friday 7:30 A.M. - 4:15 P.M., Saturday 10:00 A.M. - 1:30 P.M,, Closed Sunday
University of Memphis at Lambuth: Luther L. Gobbel Library
705 Lambuth Boulevard | 731.425.3290
Built in 1961, the Luther L. Gobbel Library was an important fixture of Lambuth University. Now, it is a part of the University of Memphis, and it is still just as important. Though it is smaller than most of the other libraries, it still houses some 145,000 items which include books, periodicals, magazines, microfilms, and reference books. The staff are very kind and are willing to help you with anything you might need. Once again, you do not have to be a University of Memphis student to gain access to the library’s resources. You will only need a patron card from the front desk.
Look for: The Religious Books | If you are a pastor or church leader of any kind, you should visit this library. If you are someone who has a deep interest in learning more about Scripture, you should visit this library as well. There is an overwhelming amount of information on all things related to the Bible: history, theology, philosophy, and Greek and Hebrew Bibles.
When Seth Harden is not working at the Registration Center at Jackson State Community College or pastoring the greatest children on earth at Lighthouse Church, you can find him deep in a good history book, throwing down a Starbucks coffee, or hanging out with the most beautiful woman in the world, Abbigail Young. He also currently holds a B.A. in History from the University of Memphis and is pursuing graduate work in the field.