Yazoo native named new children's librarian at Ricks Memorial Library

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

Ricks Memorial Library welcomes a new employee into its children's department.

Harriet Smith was named the new children's librarian and began working on March 14.

Smith is the daughter of Derrick and Beverly Young of Yazoo City, and she is the great-granddaughter of the late Harry Young, who she was named after.

Smith originally grew up in Yazoo City but moved to Jackson in the third grade.

After graduating from Ridgeland High School, she joined the Air Force Reserves and trained on the weekends while attending classes during the week for her Associate's Degree at Hinds Community College. Smith later attended Jackson State University, where she earned a Bachelor's Degree in English with a concentration in Education in 2015.

As a teacher, Smith trained at Murrah High School, learning from the teachers who educated her while she was a student there. She also taught in Memphis before realizing that there was another calling in her life; to promote community literacy with library programs.

"The library used to be a staple in the community where kids could come and enjoy books and discover a love for reading," she said. "That's where it started with me, right here in this library. My love of literature and literacy extends beyond the classrooms and the school systems. I think that we just need to get it back to the community level."

Smith said that most children who are old enough to begin school will enter a classroom with a vocabulary gap, and that literacy begins at home.

"The amount of words being heard at home and the amount of books that are in the home, makes a big difference," she said. "If you start behind in school, then you will stay behind."

Smith said that children often fall behind in school because of crowded classrooms, low funding and a lack of tools and equipment needed to promote literacy.

"There is a lack of school readiness and I think that the library can do more to improve literacy in the community," she said.

While this is Smith's first year in working in a library setting, she plans to use her knowledge and techniques from the classroom to pursue her dream.

Some of her goals this year are to make reading a priority at home for children in the community, to enable more students to borrow books from the library and to collaborate with classroom teachers on how to improve literacy among their students.

Smith has already established new reading programs at Ricks Library for the month of March, such as pre-school reading times in the mornings, and story times and other children's activities in the afternoon.  She is also planning to make visits to many child care centers and schools in the community very soon.