The Banned Library is located in Bannville, Mississippi, the county seat of Banned County with about 15,000 people living just between Gulfport and Tupelo. The average circulation for the library is right around 85,000 per year as we service all of Banned County with no branches. We have three separate floors housing about 15,000 materials, one for every man, woman (as of 1948) and child (as of 1981).
As you walk up to the building from Second Street in downtown Banville, you can see the post office to the left. On the right, just past the 1976 Yellow Fever Epidemic Memorial Fountain, is the home of the Bannville Sentinel. You remember when the paper made national news with the groundbreaking investigation into the mosquito black water scandal in 1977. The air is strong with bleach.
Putting your hands into your pockets you feel nothing but pocket lint.
The building itself is nothing special: a two-story, red brick affair with small windows and columns framing the entrance. Over the doors reads a red and yellow sign: Geraldine Godson Banned Memorial Library and Farmer’s Market. Another sign names this building as a fallout shelter and has the symbol for radiation in bright yellow. A book return box sits at the left of the door.
Bars cover the windows, a long since remnant of it’s old usage as the Banville Home for the Criminally Insane. Let’s go inside!
The wooden front door opens with a creak into the foyer where you are greeted by a friendly clerk at the circulation desk. Because the building was once a
wacko hut secure hospital, the desk is set into the wall with a re-purposed item return as a book drop. The clerk, a small squat woman, is standing in the circulation workroom, which you will soon get to see.
As you walk through another set of double doors you enter the main room of the library. Lit primarily by a skylight, the room is open with a seating area centering the expansive room. Prize-winning quilts from the Daughters of the Revolution have been hung from the second floor balcony and display a plethora of colors from brown to grey. The openness and warmth of this area is due to its use as a visitation area when the hospital was not on lock down.
Along the wall to the right of the door, shelving has been placed to display new materials. Continuing along the wall, you find the newest periodicals and journals. A staircase leading to the second floor is in the far corner, but you do not use it quite yet.
Next to the staircase is the children’s librarian’s desk. Small shelves containing the children’s collection line the back wall and fill in the space beyond the seating area in the middle of the room. Buckets filled with easy books, crayons and coloring sheets are within easy reach for when little hands are hungry.
Inside one of the buckets you see a golden coin and pocket lint. You take the golden coin and pocket lint.
At her desk, the children’s librarian smiles at you. You smile back. She holds out her hand to you. You give her the gold coin, she smiles wider and nods. A crazy glint is in her eye.
Past the children’s department lie the back door and the bathrooms. The bathrooms have been serving the Banned Library and every race (circa. 1964), creed (circa. 1943), gender (circa. 1932) and religion (circa. 1981) of Banned County since the building opened with their original batshit crazy plumbing. The bathrooms are linoleum and tile housing two evacuating facilities in each room: two toilets for the ladies and a urinal and toilet for the men. Our bathroom sinks were voted cleanest in the “Bannville Bathroom Challenge” for the past five years running.
Moving away from the bathrooms, you near a pair of doors. Above them in gilded letters are the words: Circulation Workroom and Technical Services. You open the doors and walk through.
Three people look up as you enter. A small, squat woman is to your left behind the circulation desk, a tall man with glasses is at one of the pair of desks in front of you, and a lanky man with flies buzzing around his head is in the corner.
The room is cluttered with items. Near the circulation desk are two bins for catching returned materials. Behind the squat woman, Betty, is a row of carts which are half filled with items ready to be shelved. Dave, the tall man at the desk, is surrounded by items in various states of cataloging and repair as well as the tapes, glues and computers made for the tasks. The homeless man burps.
Beyond the disarray is a closed office with the word “Director” stenciled on the door. You might go in there, but the sound of a head slowly being pounded on a desk deters you.
As Betty and Dave go back to their duties, the homeless man approaches you.
“Have you seen my gold coin?” he asks.
You tell him you gave one to the children’s librarian. He jumps up and runs through the double doors. You hear a scream, a guttural yell, a chair breaking, glass breaking, and then nothing. The homeless man has left pocket lint behind on the floor. You take the pocket lint.
Exiting the workroom, you see nothing changed about the main room except the absence of the children’s librarian. Let’s head up the stairs and check out the second floor!
Banned Library Building Tour: