City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Keenon McCloy, Director of Memphis Public Libraries.

Featured Article

Leading Library

Creating A More Literate Memphis

Article by Margaret Ledbetter

Photography by Sarah Bell, Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

While you can still find your favorite books and a quiet place to read, The Memphis Public Libraries (MPL) have so much more to offer. The perfect summer destination for all ages, MPL runs 500 camps and programs, all entirely free. With 18 locations and multiple outreach initiatives, the libraries serve and inspire millions of Memphians under the direction of Keenon McCloy.

A Greenville, MS native, Keenon has worked for the City of Memphis for 31 years. When she was appointed director of MPL, she took a deep dive into library innovation and began to reimagine what a library can offer. “Books are incredibly inspirational,” Keenon says, but she had a vision of the library as the ultimate “civic commons.” She adds, “we are changing lives through exposure and creating conversations that generate empathy in our diverse community.” With an exceptional team and support from Friends of the Library and The Library Foundation, MPL was awarded the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to libraries and museums that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.

This summer’s headliner program, Explore Memphis 2022, is designed to keep students reading and exploring “Oceans of Possibility” in the libraries and beyond. Participants are motivated to read and learn through a reading challenge with incentives and prizes. There are multiple events and programming for toddlers through adults. 

Teenagers 13-18 have access to Cloud901 at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Cloud901 is an 8,300-square-foot facility that includes a state-of-the-art recording studio, a robotics lab and a video lab where local teens have made award-winning films. Cloud901 also features a fully equipped maker space, a performance stage and an art studio. The space is staffed by professionals from all over the country.

Older teens will soon have a similar resource at the newly renovated Cossitt branch downtown. The re-configured branch will be a place to meet, eat, learn, exercise, run a business, make art and learn invaluable 21st- century skills.

There is truly an activity for everyone, so get into the library this summer. But like the sign says in Cloud901, “This is not your Grandparent’s Library.”

  • Keenon McCloy, Director of Memphis Public Libraries.
  • Cloud901 at Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (Photo courtesy of MPL)  “The library is the ideal place to get out of your comfort zone,” says Keenon.