University Libraries at USM receiving Big Read Grant


Jennifer Brannock and Sarah Mangrum of University Libraries at The University of Southern Mississippi are recipients of a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Brannock and Mangrum received $10,000.

University Libraries was one of 75 organizations to receive the grant, which total more than $1 million according to the NEA.

A program of the NEA, The Big Read is meant to help broaden our understanding of the world through sharing books. Managed by Arts Midwest, this initiative offers grants to support community reading programs designed around a single book.

“It’s really exciting and a wonderful opportunity to not only bring the campus community, but the Hattiesburg community together to encourage literacy,” Mangrum said.

Through The Big Read, selected communities come together to read, discuss and celebrate one of 37 selections from U.S. and world literature. In addition, The Big Read provides comprehensive information about the authors and their works in the Books & Guides section of its website.

The application and guidelines for The Big Read, developed by the NEA and Arts Midwest, are distributed nationwide to arts, cultural, literary and civic organizations, such as libraries, museums and local arts agencies.

Organizations chosen to receive a Big Read grant are selected by a panel of experts who review the proposed project for artistic excellence and merit. Competitive applications demonstrate strong literary programming, experience in building effective local partnerships, reaching and engaging new and diverse audiences, working with educators and working with media.

Brannock and Mangrum collaborated and planned for The Big Read grant for over a year, and this May they were awarded along with 75 other participating universities.  

“Southern Miss has a tradition of receiving this grant to benefit the campus and the local community,” Brannock said. “With assistance from the Department of English, Department of Theatre, Department of History, Department of Art & Design, School of Mass Communications & Journalism and the Hattiesburg Public Library, we will be able to host the amazing events we have planned.”

Big Read grantees comprise a variety of nonprofit organizations, including but not limited to arts, culture and science organizations.

Each community’s Big Read includes a kick-off event to launch the program, activities devoted specifically to its Big Read selection, events using the book as a point of departure and book discussions.

University Libraries at USM have several events lined up this Fall for the Big Read Event that coincides with several departments on campus, getting the students involved in every aspect.

The finale of the Big Read event will be a live theatrical radio play performed by the Department of Theatre on Dec. 3.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, that students haven’t had the chance to have yet, which is to make a product out of the things they are actually doing in class,” Mangrum said. “It’s providing great active learning.” 

Mangrum expressed her joy in witnessing all the preparation finally coming together.

“So much work was put into the front end, it’s hard to believe that it starts Tuesday,” Mangrum said. “You get so involved, and now, really, the hard work is done. Now it’s time for the University Libraries to kind of sit back and enjoy the better part of the year.”     

“The Big Read is a powerful example of how the arts can bring communities together and help us to connect with one another,” said Jane Chu, chairman of the NEA. “These 75 organizations are creating valuable opportunities for their communities to share wonderful stories and characters and to have meaningful conversations.”

The event dates are listed on the USM library website.