Librarian: Stelle Ivy
Asst. Librarian: Carol Crouch
Location: 321 West Main Street
P.O. Box 126
Okolona, MS 38860
Phone: 662-447-2401, Fax: 662-447-2401
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday - 9:00am-5:00pm
Wednesday - CLOSED
Saturday - 9:00am-12:00 noon
Sunday - CLOSED
In February 1914, Mr. A.T. Stovall, a prominent Okolona attorney, wrote to the Carnegie Corporation requesting funds to build a library building in Okolona. The city of Okolona purchased the lot on Main Street for $4,000. The Carnegie Corporation agreed to furnish $7,500 to construct the library building. The City Council of Okolona agreed to provide no less than $4,750 a year to support the library.
The architect was John Gaisford of Memphis. When completed in May of 1915, the library consisted of one large room and a full basement. The basement, which is uncommon in this area, has four small rooms and two baths. At one time the library grounds included a small park with a wading pool.
In the fall of 1977, the Okolona Carnegie Library became part of the Dixie Regional System. The new addition was completed in October 1986 and increased shelf space by 300% as well as providing a spacious conference room.
Located on Main Street in Okolona in front of the Carnegie Library, is the Story Labyrinth. The Labyrinth Project was begun as a part of a Key Arts Grant given to the town through the Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of collecting stories from the elders in the community and telling them to the children. A portion of the grant money was allotted for a visual monument/document of the event. Patsy Gregory, the Director of the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce, met with town leaders and faculty from Mississippi State to discuss concepts and ideas for the piece. The group felt it important to document not only the stories, but the meaning of the project. The labyrinth seemed to depict metaphorically the project's intentions.
The labyrinth has been used for hundreds of years as a tool for concentration, meditation, and purification. There seems to be something eternal about the path. Though it has an end, it does not provide choices. Movement along the path involves concentration on the path, rather that the decision of one person. The Story Telling was important for the community on many levels. It was a chance to bring together young and old, black and white by comparing the past and the future; providing an opportunity for the townspeople to meditate, through the act of sharing, on the history of the town.
Two professional storytellers collected memories from the elders in the community. The stories were catalogued and told to the children on three Storytelling occasions at the Carnegie Library. "Dylan" and "Wes", a couple Okolona residents, worked with the children at these events to attempt to produce drawings related to the stories. The children's drawings depict the stories in a very different level than a traditional rendering would. The drawings vary significantly with the age of the children, thus the stories are told in very different ways. It would be easy enough for an 'artist' to produce a rendering of the old man who used to live in a well in the town, or the man who went crazy and rode down Main Street on a horse shooting into the air, but these renderings would be no better representations than the stories themselves. In fact, the artist would have to add fictional information to the drawings in order to make them 'understandable.' The second grader's cowboy or the preschooler's blob is not necessarily 'accurate' but is a wonderfully honest portrayal of their particular understanding of the story. Their drawings, combined with the documented stories, provide a valuable landmark in the history of the town.
Dylan and Wes, working for the Small Town Center at MSU, were involved in making the final portion of the project which became the Story Labyrinth in front of the Carnegie Library. Shannon Criss, John Poros, and Nils Gore from the STC, and Robert Long, a ceramics professor in the Art Department worked with us in the design stage. Shannon, and daughter Ella, helped pour and finish concrete.
The labyrinth is intended to be a spot for meditation within the city as well as a monument to the story telling project. It contains the children's drawings and provides benches for meditation. The site is also the location of the Okolona "Christmas Tree of Memories." The Labyrinth project provides a stand for the large tree as well as electrical outlets for the tree's lights. The project will hopefully be seen by the community as a landmark of not only something that happened in the past, but of a positive step taken by the townspeople towards an openness concerning the town's history and the possibility of a united future.