Returning to the Coast: Biloxi

For much of this past week I was at the Mississippi Library Association Conference.  Several of us carpooled down with me riding with the Dean of Libraries.  This year it was held in Biloxi.   The Association hadn’t been to the Gulf Coast since before Katrina hit so this year was special in a lot of ways.  The venue itself was the IP Casino, Resort, and Spa.  Having never been to a casino before the conference was a unique experience for me as well.

The first thing that struck me was the location of the IP.  Being the Gulf Coast, I’d expected to be close to the beach and within walking distance of restaurants and shops.  There was none of that.  The casino sits in the part of the city that faces away from the Gulf of Mexico so without a car there was little chance to see much of Biloxi except from my hotel room window.

Fortunately there was a reception held on Wednesday at the local public library.  As you will see in the pictures below, it is a beautiful building with a local history collection, lots of open space, and an attached Civic Center.  Like much of Biloxi, the original building was destroyed when Katrina hit so the current one is brand new.  It has company.  What parts of the city I saw look to have been largely built within the last few years.  At the same time it felt very empty with few people walking about.  Perhaps that reflects post-Katrina population loss or maybe we just weren’t in a busy part of town.

Staying at the IP was an interesting experience.  In order to get to the meeting rooms, one had to walk through part of the gaming area and past the siren song of slot machines and flashing lights.  The whole area smelt of cigarettes and air freshener.   It was all wonderfully seductive and addicting. I can easily see how people get hooked on gambling.  And with 85,000 sq ft of gaming space the IP isn’t even close to being the largest casino in the country.  The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, for example, has more than twice that space.

But this was a business trip.  Since Delta State was paying my way I could not in good conscious use their money for gambling.   Besides, the house always wins.  This stuff looks like it could be fun for a bit, but you rarely walk out of a casino with more money then when you went in.  Perhaps in the future I may make a return journey with some friends.  Or perhaps not.  Tunica after all has bigger casinos and is much closer.

The conference itself was actually a lot of fun.  While those of you who do not work in my field will no doubt find this surprising, librarians know how to party.  The aforementioned reception did not only have good food, but also a DJ (i.e. someone and their MacBook) and a dance floor. And a group of people gathered in one of the bars at the IP every night until closing time.  For the sake of those involve, however, I chose not to take any pictures.    Going to conferences always involves a certain amount of hanging out with people you only see once a year.   For me that social interaction is the main attraction of going to them, along with professional networking and development.

Over all it was a good trip.  I met a lot of very friendly and interesting people and also was able to volunteer to help out with future activities.  It was good to be among people in the same field as myself (as opposed to the SAA conference I wrote about back in August).  Sadly all good things must end.   This will be the last of my professional traveling for 2013.  But fear not!  I have a Halloween party next week.  Something blog worthy may come out of it.



Slot machines at the bar!


Southern Mississippi.








The desk in the local History Section of the Biloxi Public Library.


The reading space of the local history section.





















Excellent barbeque ribs!



Article by Mike

Mike is the Head of Discovery Services for the Delta State University Library. He has lived in Cleveland since May 2013.

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