Wickham’s tenure ends, Berryhill hired as interim directorBy DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,
After presiding over several key achievements for the Kemper-Newton Regional Library System during the past two years, system director Meredith Wickham has resigned from the post to take a similar position in northwest Mississippi. Newton County native Hannah Berryhill, who has worked with the system since August 2016, will take over as the interim director.
Wickham, a Georgia native, was hired to head the five-library KNRLS in September 2015, and will be the new director for the First Regional Library System which covers DeSoto, Lafayette, Panola, Tate and Tunica counties.
“I’m definitely going to miss everyone that I’ve worked with, all the patrons in our two counties and the Friends of the Libraries group,” Wickham said. “ I love these libraries and I love the communities and I want the libraries to continue to thrive which I feel like they are doing. And I feel very fortunate to have been a part of some positive changes for them and to help them weather a really tough time with the state cuts that happened during my stay here.”
Among the improvements the system experienced during Wickham’s tenure was receiving a grant from the Young Adult Library Services Association to create an educational program for middle school students, another grant that enabled the system to build a DVD section, and starting young adult sections at all the five locations The system also started a partnership with streaming service Hoopla digital in 2016 and upgraded its internet service at all five branches thanks to a partnership with telecommunications company MaxxSouth.
After struggling with state budget cuts during the past two years, Wickham said she was pleased that all of the local funding agencies increased their funding for the system for fiscal year 2018.
“I don’t think that’s my legacy, I think that’s the community’s legacy,” Wickham said. “They wanted their libraries to do well, and they told their representatives that their representatives know how important those libraries are to them.”
Berryhill is a Newton County High School graduate and has a solid musical background, having played trombone as a member of the Newton County Middle and High School bands and the Southern Miss Pride of Mississippi Marching Band.
Berryhill is currently finishing graduate school this spring at the University of Southern Mississippi and will earn her Masters of Library Science in May.
Berryhill said her interest in pursuing a librarian career started at NCHS where school librarian at that time offered her the opportunity to be a volunteer.
“Of course I accepted and did that for about three and a half years. and I just loved the environment there,” Berryhill said. “I will admit, I never had the opportunity to be that active of a reader, but even so, I found that the library had a lot more value to it than just checking out books.”
While an undergrad at Southern Miss, Berryhill gained experience while working at the university’s Joseph Anderson Cook Library and was hired by the KNRLS as a circulation assistant at the Newton branch.
Berryhill’s studies at USM emphasized K-12 libraries but she said that during the past 16 months, she has realized the excitement of community libraries.
“I absolutely loved my job and I loved talking about it even as a circulation assistant. With my studies coming to a close it made me realize that I may not be ready for school libraries just yet so I felt like with this opportunity it was just serendipity,” Berryhill said.
The KNRLS board will still accept applications through their March meeting and then they will set up interview times for candidates for the permanent director’s position.