The Peggy May Award was created to memorialize Peggy’s professional accomplishments and to recognize individuals who exemplify her outstanding achievement in library development and/or recruitment of personnel to the library field. Nominations are submitted to the MLA Awards Committee and the award is presented during the Association’s annual conference.
NominationsNomination form (PDF)
Nomination Form (Word File)
Nominations should be mailed or emailed by September 1 to the MLA Executive Office.
What made Peggy Jane May so special and why does the Mississippi Library Association recognize her with both an award and a scholarship in her name? She was a dreamer who worked hard to make her dreams reality. Graduating as valedictorian of her 1956 class at Collinsville, MS, she didn’t let her family’s limited income stop her from pursuing a dream of becoming a librarian. She enrolled at East Mississippi Junior College and paid her tuition by working as a student assistant in the English Department, an office worker for Lamar Franklin, and as Business Manager of Meridian Public Schools. She finished her associate’s degree in two years and somehow found time to be the editor of the yearbook, President of the Baptist Student Union, Chairwoman of the Women’s Student Government, a member of Delta Psi Omega and Phi Theta Kappa. Well-liked by classmates, Peggy was voted Miss EMJC.
Peggy was among the first recipients of a scholarship from the Mississippi Library Association. In 1959, she was awarded $300 to study library science at Mississippi Southern College, now known as the University of Southern Mississippi. She worked as a student assistant in the library during the school year and for Meridian Public Schools in the summer.
Following her graduation from USM, Peggy returned to EMJC, this time as the director of the Tubb Library, now known as the Tubb-May Library in her honor.
She quickly became involved in the Mississippi Library Association and in 1960 was elected secretary of the College Libraries Section. She went on to join the Southeastern Library Association and the American Library Association and served on committees in all three organizations. Jeannine Laughlin tells us that Peggy would have been the MLA Vice-President/President-Elect in 1975 except for her untimely death.
Peggy worked at EMJC for 8 years. Mary Lee Nelson Beal who worked with her during 3 of those years says “she gave 150% to those kids and that library. She made the library as good as it could possibly be with the funding that was available and even got a new library built.” Janice Irby who also worked with Peggy says, “She had a vivacious personality and was well-liked by everyone who knew her.
The EMJC students apparently adored her. They dedicated the 1965 yearbook to her with these words, “The impetus behind the success of the library is our dedicated librarian, Miss Peggy May. . . . with patience and dedication [she] has helped countless students . . . find information, . . . enjoy the library. . ., and . . . enrich themselves through leisure reading.”
During those years she spent her summers satisfying the requirements for a master’s degree in education from the University of Mississippi and working for the Mississippi Library Commission. I met her during the summer of 1967 when I worked as a summer intern for MLC. Peggy was the best part of that experience and she’s the reason I became a librarian. I remember vividly how we interns would gather in her motel room and talk for hours about all kinds of stuff, including our dreams and goals. She had a way of suggesting the questions we should be asking ourselves and a way of looking at you that made you know she really cared about what you decided. She was a great communicator.
On June 1, 1968, Peggy joined the staff of MLC in a permanent position as Coordinator of Field Services. As an MLC consultant, Peggy traveled all over, from Iuka to Woodville, from Gulfport to Hernando. One day she would be helping a librarian in Kemper County defend a budget before the Board of Supervisors; the next suggesting a bookmobile schedule in Neshoba County and the next developing a program of special services for the handicapped in Jones County. She was constantly on the move: giving support, encouragement and creative suggestions to librarians all over the State.
One librarian wrote “I remember the Saturday so well that she worked all day with me putting the finishing touches before we had the dedication of our new library.” Esther Pippen wrote, “Peggy May brought to our profession a love of life, a love for people and a desire to bring the best in library service to all Mississippians.”
Jim Anderson e-mailed, “I …remember an upbeat feeling about public libraries in Mississippi…There was an atmosphere of change and excitement and much of this feeling could be traced to Peggy. She was excited about libraries, and we all were inspired by her excitement and positive attitude. We were greatly influenced by her sense of cooperation and professionalism.”
Anice Powell sent an amusing anecdote about an MLC workshop in which she and Peggy and Jack Mulkey and Mary Love and other participated. The story exemplied Peggy’s good humor and easy diplomacy. Anice also shared this description, “Peggy was always enthusiastic, open to new ideas, and most importantly, could see the “big picture,” and envision a wonderful future for Mississippi libraries. Although she had clear goals for herself and libraries, she was able to relax and enjoy being with friends and colleagues.”
The administration of the Mississippi Library Commission was quick to recognize Peggy’s diligence, intellect, leadership abilities, and interpersonal skills. Elizabeth Long of MLC wrote, “When the current Library Services and Construction Act was amended by the Congress, the legislation included the requirement for the submission by the state agency of a Long-Range Program for Library Development. Peggy was given the assignment of producing the document and once again she gave a winning performance.” The minutes of the meeting of the MLC Board of Commissioners of May 25, 1972 commended Peggy and Margaret Elder for their work on the plan, as well as proposing that Peggy be promoted to the Assistant Director in charge of Library Development.
This personal achievement was the basis for a Citation of Merit awarded by the Mississippi Library Association in 1973 which stated: ‘To Miss Peggy May for outstanding work on behalf of library development and recruitment throughout the State…” In a 1974 resolution passed by the Council of the American Library Association, Madel Morgan wrote that Peggy “won national acclaim for the document Long Range Program of Library Development in Mississippi, 1972″ and was recognized for her contributions to the profession.
It could be considered that Peggy had already met her goals but she was always eager for a new challenge. She decided a doctoral degree in library science would better equip her to serve the librarians and people of Mississippi. So, late in the summer of 1973 she applied to Florida State University for the fall term. Not only was she accepted, she was also awarded a fellowship. I understand from George Lewis that she excelled in the library program there and was admired and respected by faculty and students as well.
She returned to work at the Commission in 1974 with all requirements but her dissertation completed and plunged back into the work of library development with her characteristic zeal. She achieved a new level of leadership and service and was reaching for that next challenge . . . when all that brightness and sparkle we so dearly loved was snuffed out.
Peggy would not want us to dwell on the kidnapping and murder that ended her life at 36 years. Instead she would want us to remember the laughter, the dreams fulfilled, and the challenges still before us. Mary Love said of Peggy that her life and work seemed to epitomize a quote from the book, The Art of Living, “go to work as you go to worship, with a prayer of thankfulness, and the aspiration to serve.”
She would want us to continue to recruit the brightest and best young people we know to the library profession, as she did. As one of the first recipients of a scholarship from the Mississippi Library Association, Peggy was deeply grateful for the assistance and the honor of being recognized. She would want us to continue that tradition and to provide as much help as we can for those seeking their library degrees.
Excerpted from an article published in Mississippi Libraries, v. 62, no. 4 (Winter 1998); p.75-76
Sarah Mangrum, Cook Library, The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries
2014 – Nicole Lawrence, Mississippi Digital Library
2012 – Kaileen Thieling, Director, Central MS Regional Library System and Catherine Nathan, Director, First Regional Library System
2011 – Kathy Buntin, Senior Library Consultant, Mississippi Library Commission
2010 – Sharman Bridges Smith, MS Library Commission
2009 – No nominations, no award given
2008 – Lynn Shurden
2007 – Prima Plauché
2006 – Jane Smith
2004 – David Woodburn
2003 – Ann Branton
2002 – Peter Psikogois
2001 – Chebie Gaines Bateman
2000 – Richard O. Greene
1999 – Stephen Cunetto
1998 – No award given
1997 – Glenda Segars
1996 – Frances Coleman
1995 – Jo Wilson
1994 – John Gaboury
1993 – Kathryn Merkle
1992 – Rhonda Tynes
1991 – Flora Scholtes
1990 – Ruby Assaf
1989 – Jeannine Laughlin Porter
1988 – Lora Long
1987 – Mary Emma Smith
1986 – Simmie Roberts
1985 – Lepoint Smith
1984 – Lelia Rhodes
1983 – Jane C. Bryan
1982 – Jim Meredith
1981 – Anice Powell
1980 – No award given
1979 – Jim Anderson
1978 – George Lewis
1977 – No award given
1976 – Mary Love
1975 – Howard Langfitt