Northeast Regional Library Director's Page
THE NORTHEAST REGIONAL LIBRARY HAS A NEW DIRECTOR
Dee Hare was playing librarian long before doing the real thing.
When I was little, I used to make little notepaper cards and paper clip them to my books in case any of my friends ever wanted to check one out,” she said. The assistant director for the Northeast Regional Library is now preparing to take on the role of director upon the retirement of William McMullin, who will leave at the end of April. “I really hope to continue the great service that William has done as director,” she said. “All of our libraries have a good solid foundation because of his leadership, and I hope to continue that.” McMullin is optimistic about leaving the Corinth headquarters and 12 other branches in her hands. “Dee Hare has a complete understanding of the way the Northeast Regional Library works,” he said. “She’s intelligent and inquisitive. As she begins her term as director, I know that she will do her utmost to provide quality library service to the four counties in our region.” The Booneville native and Booneville High School graduate began her library career with a part-time job at the city’s George E. Allen Library, where she moved up to assistant librarian and then served as head librarian for about 12 years. The next step up was assistant director for the regional system, a post she has held for the past three years. “I loved my time in Booneville. I’m very proud of that library there,” she said. Her main duty as the regional system’s assistant director is supervising the branches. “I love getting out and driving to the branches and helping them with their issues and advising them,” said Hare. “That will still continue when I am director.” She also had responsibility for the library’s technology, which is now being put in the hands of a new technology coordinator. “With all of our branches now, we have 150 to 200 computers, staff and public, that have to be maintained,” said Hare. “We hope to be able to deal with technology changes a lot quicker now.” As assistant director, she is proud to have developed some literacy initiatives, including a workshop for the librarians to help them plan the annual summer reading program for their branches. At the request of local schools, she developed an early literacy parent-training workshop which is to be presented in Corinth and Alcorn County schools. Hare has observed the changing role of libraries in the internet age. “Libraries aren’t just about books — we’re about information access in all of its forms,” she said. “We have our free public computers for people to use. We try to help and assist with free workshops as much as possible for resumé writing and job hunting. We field a lot of everyday questions about that.” Outside of work, Hare enjoys reading all genres and adding to her extensive Winnie the Pooh collection. With husband Mike, she has a four-year-old son, Cole. With an English degree in hand from Delta State University, she recently added a master’s degree in library science from the University of Southern Mississippi to her credentials. Between the studies and the family’s recent move from Tupelo to Corinth, she has seen some hectic times in the last few years. “I really like living in Corinth,” she said. “Now that I’m finally finished with my master’s degree, which I was doing online while working full-time and started when Cole was four months old, I’ll have a lot more free time to get involved in the community.”
The Great Cotton Ball Debacle
Those of you who have children may be familiar with the children’s packets that the branches of the Northeast Regional Library System have been handing out via curbside delivery these last few months. If you do not have children, here is what we are doing: Each month we have available a seasonally themed packet of coloring sheets and other activity sheets for children to do. We also include instructions and supplies to do anywhere from 2 – 5 craft projects. The packets average around 25-30 pages. (Oh, and we are also switching out packets of teen and adult coloring sheets each month – these have anywhere from 10 – 20 pages in them as well.)
So, here’s a Behind the Scenes look at how our packets come together. Please stay with me because this gets really funny at the end!
We are constantly working at least two months ahead. For December’s packets, our staff had been on the lookout since October for possible ideas to include. NERL Branch Services Coordinator Leigh Hood and I decide what makes the final cut. Which takes time, as we must be careful to only include things that the creators have provided copyright permission for us to use. Libraries do not fall in the same category as schools – the Supreme Court says that the educational exemption for copyright does not apply to us. So, we must be extremely careful that we are usually only materials that we are legally allowed to use. As we are deciding on sheets, we are also deciding on which craft projects that we can offer, while still being mindful of our budget.
Once we have decided on everything, the next step is to purchase the number of supplies that are needed for the craft projects. Currently, the branches of the Northeast Regional Library System are averaging handing out 800 – 1000 packets each month! In the case of our December craft supplies, that was a lot of googly eyes, pom poms and craft sticks! After the supplies have arrived, using December’s packets as an example, it took us over two days to set up assembly lines of all the individual pieces of the craft projects and put together all the craft pouches for the packets. Imagine two huge tables filled with containers and we go around and pick up two pieces of black paper and two pieces of orange paper and three popsicle sticks and two pieces of brown yarn and two piece of white yarn and three pieces of multi-color yarn and so on… December’s craft portion had fifteen separate components!
After we get the craft packets assembled, they and the rest of the packet sheets (sometimes we make all the photocopies for all the branches of NERL here at Corinth and sometimes we have our branches make their own photocopies) were then sent out to our branches to be put into paper bags for our children.
Which brings us to January …
The Great Cotton Ball Debacle of 2021, as I now call it, began innocently enough the week of January 4th when Leigh and I were narrowing down the craft projects for our winter January/February packet. We decided on simple projects that mostly only needed colored paper that we had on hand so the only thing we needed to purchase was a mass quantity of cotton balls. She researched the best price, and we made our order. Fast forward to late Tuesday afternoon of the following week, when I realized that we had still not received our cotton balls, even though the company we order from usually has a one to two-day delivery time. She checked and found out that the cotton balls were out for delivery via UPS and not anticipated to be delivered until the 14th or 15th.
This caused a great deal of consternation with us as we were planning to begin handing out the packets the following week after MLK Day but we had to get everything to our branches first. Pre-COVID, our courier went out every day to run a system of deliveries to all our branches. But currently, he only runs deliveries on Wednesdays and Thursdays. As the next day was Wednesday but we did not have any cotton balls, he and I went back and forth discussing alternate plans.
I have heard regional library systems described as “big ships” and once you get our big ships going in one direction, it is hard to turn them in another direction. That is a great analogy because, as it turns out, it REALLY disrupts the NERL ship to reschedule deliveries. I ask our courier about changing up the days he goes to branches but to make everything flow correctly between branches, he tells me, we need to pick up deliveries in a certain order. He says there is no point going to Tippah county branches until he has been to Tishomingo county branches to pick items up. Who knew? Even to change the date of deliveries and cancel some outright makes some people a little … agitated. The disruption of The Schedule is a big deal, but we don’t have much choice. It was eventually decided that the new plan was that there could not be a plan until the cotton balls arrived. (And also, that there could not be any deliveries until they get here.)
The cotton balls arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday (via FedEx!) and it turns out when you buy them in bulk, they do not come in nice, pre-packaged bags of 100 count. They come in two humongous bags of 2000 cotton balls each. And the only person available to count them out and get them ready to go to the branches is … ME. So, I start doing the math – we need 10 cotton balls per packet and the smaller branches are handing out 50-60 packets, but the bigger branches are handing out 200 – 250 packets so that translates to anywhere from 500 to 2500 cotton balls per branch. And I have 4000. And 10 branches participating in this project. It is NOT going to be enough.
Somewhere along the line, we mis-calculated when we ordered. So, I count out as many as I could and figure out how many more I need. By this time, it is almost 4:00 on Thursday and we’ve already missed deliveries for a second day and are hoping to get everyone their deliveries all in one day on Friday, which is no mean feat. (Remember, we cover all of Tishomingo, Alcorn, Prentiss and Tippah counties.)
I gather all my things and tell everyone here at Headquarters that I have to leave to go try to find where in Corinth I can buy 4,100 cotton balls. If I am successful, I tell them, I am going to take them home to count and I will see them in the morning. Every one of them looks at me with such pity – all they can say is “Good luck” like I am going off to Mordor on an impossible mission. And that is how I feel too because I am anticipating having to go to every store in Corinth that sells cotton balls to purchase a few bags here and a few bags there until I get the 41 bags I need.
Thankfully, though, we have a Dollar Tree in Corinth, where you can walk in and purchase 41 bags of 100 count cotton balls without anyone blinking an eye. Which was a little disappointing because I wanted someone to ask me what I was doing with all those cotton balls so I could put in some PR about our packets! It turned out to be SO much easier to count out that way. This experience has taught us a good lesson – sometimes it is not worth the $12 you will save by purchasing cotton balls in bulk if the Regional Director ends up being the one having to take the time to count them out, two by two.
After The Great Cotton Ball Debacle of 2021, I have decided that my new analogy for trying to run a multi-county, multi-branch library system is this: It’s like putting together a giant puzzle. But once a week, someone comes along, jumbles up all the pieces you have patiently put together, takes some of the pieces away, gives you new pieces to work in and tells you, “Do your best”. If you are lucky, it might only happen every other week or so. But sometimes it happens every day!!!! And sometimes, all it takes are cotton balls (or lack thereof) to throw your whole puzzle out of whack!
Postscript: I am plagued by cotton balls! On Tuesday, January 19, a box of 4000 cotton balls arrived at the library. It turns out we did not miscount after all. The company split our order into two boxes, and they arrived five days apart! So stay tuned, children’s packet fans, for more cotton ball crafts in the near future!