Hattiesburg American Library always part of volunteer's life

by Jeannie Peng
June 5, 2004

Dee Tatum
GEORGE CLARK Hattiesburg American
Dee Tatum, a volunteer at the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County since it opened in 1996, likes to show the mural of the history of South Mississippi when giving tours to visitors.
One of Dee Tatum's favorite hobbies has always been reading.

Throughout her childhood in Amarillo, Texas, she would spend most of her free time in the summers at the local library.

"My family has always been big readers," Tatum said.

So when the staff of the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal and Forrest County needed volunteers to help them move into the new Hardy Street location in 1996, Tatum and her husband, Toddy, jumped at the opportunity.

Dee Tatum said that volunteering helped her and Toddy meet new people after moving from Louisiana in 1995.

"Volunteers are essential to the operation of a library," said Pamela Pridgen, director of the Hattiesburg library.

Owner of Seraphim Studios, LLC, Dee Tatum finds time to volunteer with her husband every Tuesday and Thursday. Their duties vary depending on what is currently happening at the library.

Tatum said that she mainly helps with special exhibits, prepares books for display, sets up meeting rooms and coordinates and guides tours for visitors such as local students or businessmen from other countries. She knows the library's mural, "The Spirit that Builds" by William Baggett very well and is always happy to explain what the pictures mean to visitors.

Volunteering her time at the library has also brought the Tatums some recognition.

Dee Tatum served as president of Friends of the Library for two years and was appointed to the Library Board of Trustees by the Forrest County Board of Supervisors.

Pridgen said that the Tatums are instrumental to the community.

"They are like ambassadors to the library and Hattiesburg. They love what they do and represent the community," Pridgen said.

Pridgen said that the couple also helps out with the summer reading program.

Recently, they contributed and helped coordinate the library's Smithsonian exhibition, "Key Ingredients."

Dee Tatum has volunteered at other libraries throughout her life, but says there is something special about Hattiesburg.

"The Hattiesburg library has always made the us feel useful and that we are doing things that are needed," Tatum said.