Board Member of the Jackson-Madison County Public Library Foundation and President of the Jackson-Madison County Board of Trustees
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography by Woody Woodard.
Elaine Christian is a native West Tennessean. She grew up in Obion County and has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration and an MBA, both from the University of Tennessee at Martin.
After graduation, Elaine began her career as an accountant at Porter Cable Corporation in Jackson, now Black & Decker. Her work there led her to a position as Senior Vice President and Director of Finance for the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, and later the President and CEO of the Dyersburg Chamber of Commerce. Prior to her retirement in 2004, she was President and CEO of The Work Place, a workforce development and training organization in Memphis. Elaine is also a Certified Public Accountant.
She is a graduate of several West Tennessee leadership organizations including Leadership Jackson, WestStar, Leadership Dyer County and Leadership Memphis.
With two sons and four grandchildren all living in the area, Elaine’s professional and civic life has centered around one thing: working to make the community a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
VIP: Tell our readers about some of the community organizations to which you have given your time and talents over the years.
Elaine Christian: Like many parents, much of my early volunteerism started when my sons were young. Our family was very involved in Scouting, which led to 18 years of working with the Boy Scouts of America Council of West Tennessee. I served on the Executive Board as vice president of administration and as vice president of marketing. I was honored to have been awarded the Silver Beaver Award and the James E. West Fellow by the Council. Around the same time, I also got involved with the Jackson Symphony Association and served on its Board of Directors as well as chair of the Finance Committee. For my alma mater, UT Martin, I was on the Alumni Board and the School of Business Advisory Board, where I also served as Chairman. Currently I’m a member of the Board of the Kirkland Cancer Center, and I am on both the Jackson-Madison County Library Foundation Board, and I serve as President of the Jackson-Madison County Library Board of Trustees.
VIP: You have dedicated much time to our public library. Why is the library so important to you?
EC: Having grown up in rural Obion County, the highlight of my week was getting to go to the public library. Many of my current hobbies were inspired by those early years, and I am passionate about the impact simply opening a book can make on the life of a young person. Early literacy is so important to a child’s overall development. Some of my fondest memories are from taking my boys to the library. Now as a grandmother of four, my work will ensure that our library is a place that will continue to inspire future generations of learners. But our library should also encourage life-long learning for adults. I like to say that our library is for the 100%. Everyone who walks into our doors is welcome, and our library is a place to connect people to literacy, technology and community.
VIP: You mentioned the importance of being a life-long learner. What do you enjoy learning?
EC: I’ve always had a fascination with ancient civilization, learning about their culture, history and arts. Later in Life, I experienced those things first hand through travel. To date, I’ve been to nearly 70 countries, including a visit to all Seven Wonders of the World. I always started my planning at the library to research the places I would visit, and I have given numerous presentations on my visits to the Seven Wonders for various groups in the community including the library.
VIP: What has been your focus as President of the Library Board of Trustees?
EC: When I joined the Board of Trustees in 2012, the library was still under the management of LSSI. Shortly after, the Board reversed that decision and hired Dinah Harris as our director. The positive improvements we’ve seen in our library have been tremendous, and I am grateful to both the City of Jackson and the Madison County Commission for their ongoing support and cooperative working relationship with the library. As chair of the Board, relationship building is very important to me, along with setting the highest standards of professionalism for our governance. Those who serve with me on the library board are equally as committed to the library’s ongoing success, and it’s such a pleasure to work with a diverse group of people who bring a wealth of experience to the table.
VIP: You started the annual Books of Madison County fundraising event. How did that come about?
EC: Eight years ago, the Library Foundation wanted to organize a fundraiser for the library, so a group of us conceived of a cocktail party that also featured local authors. We were thrilled to have about 70 attendees that first year. Since then, the event has grown in scope and attendance to include a catered dinner and a presentation by a featured author. The year we invited Frances Mayes, author of the novel “Under the Tuscan Sun,” we had a crowd of 270. Through this event, we can showcase the library in a different way than our traditional free library events. It’s always encouraging to see how many individuals, businesses and organizations here that are willing to support our library in this way. Over the past eight years, our group of volunteers working on this annual project has come to be known as the “Dream Team” because working with them has truly been a dream. They are a well-oiled machine, each carrying out an important role to ensure the event is a success.
VIP: Who is your featured author for this year’s event?
EC: We are delighted to have Dr. Niles Reddick, Vice Provost of the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus and published author as our speaker on Tuesday, August 21 at 6:00 p.m. at the Jackson Fairgrounds. The theme of the event is “A Night of Southern Humor,” and if you have read his work or heard him speak, then you know you are in for an entertaining evening of storytelling. More than a celebration of a specific author, The Books of Madison County is a celebration of literacy and the joy of reading and is a wonderful way to support the ongoing mission for our library.
The event will also feature a gourmet dinner catered by The Old Country Store, a wine pairing, and silent auction.
For more information regarding sponsorship opportunities or additional details of the event, please contact the library at 731.425.8600.
VIP: Speaking of celebration, what milestone will the library be celebrating soon?
EC: In September, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our building in downtown Jackson on East Lafayette. Prior to that time, the library was located in the Carnegie building on College Street, what is now The Legends of Tennessee Music Museum. On Sept. 15 we will have several special events for all ages to commemorate and celebrate our history in this space.
What To Know
Jackson-Madison County Library
433 East Lafayette Street, Jackson, TN 38301
(731) 425-8600; www.jmclibrary.org
Open Monday–Thursday: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.;
Friday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Closed Sunday