Open the heavy glass door, take six steps across the foyer to the next glass door, open it, and you're in the Beverly J. Brown Library in Byram, a branch of the Jackson-Hinds Library System. Half a dozen steps to your right, and you're across the counter from Henrietta Martin, 54, who waits to help you make the best of your visit to this tiny library on Siwell Road.
Born and raised on Siwell, it's fitting that Martin, 54, who loves to read—"I could sit outside and read for days"—ended up working in the library. She got the job after answering a newspaper ad her oldest daughter had found back in 1996. "She said to me, 'Mama, that would be the perfect job for you. You've been sitting around long enough, Mama, since the company closed,'" Martin explained. The company that had closed was Jostens, formerly School Pictures, Inc.—Martin had been there since 1970.
Martin and her husband of 38 years, Oscar Martin Jr., together raised five children and now have 11 grandchildren. "It was always important to us to make sure our children had what they needed," Martin explained, her face lighting up, her smile widening. Supporting her children comes naturally. She knew the importance of their finding what they were best at and doing it—"If you go to a job everyday and hate it, it makes you ill," Martin said, going on to point out: "I sit now and listen to them talking and realize that they did hear me, thank goodness."
Martin's job at the library involves helping, whether it's finding the latest novel by their favorite author, the right children's book, or reference books for research. The library serves several nearby Jackson, Hinds County and private schools, and stays busy. There's only one request she can't help with—opening earlier than 10 a.m.
It's especially heart-warming when a child comes back to tell her that the book she had recommended was great. One little boy brought her a hand puppet of a librarian. "He told his grandmother that he couldn't wait to get it to me because it was for the librarian," Martin related, chuckling at the memory as she walked to her desk drawer and got it out, putting it on her left hand and holding it up for me to see.
Surely this little boy was one of the many who heard Martin's reading credo: "I always tell everybody, children especially, you can go anywhere, be anything, do anything if you will only do books."