Flooding, black mold forces library closure

Heavy flooding and black mold has forced the closure of one of the Northside’s oldest libraries, but officials hope to reopen it in a new location before school starts.

The Charles Tisdale Library has been shuttered for more than two months, after a deluge flooded the basement and caused its small black mold problem to grow out of control.

Officials with the Jackson-Hinds Library System are looking for a new building to house the library and making plans to relocate the more than 39,000 books and other printed materials still inside the facility.

“We had two feet of water in the parking lot and 18 inches in the basement, which caused the black mold to grow,” said Jackson-Hinds Executive Director Patty Furr. “It’s in the HVAC system. It’s behind the sheetrock … it’s only a matter of time before it gets upstairs and into the books.”

Black mold growth occurs “where there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation” and the like, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s Web site. The mold can lead to a number of health problems, such as upper respiratory infection symptoms, and can aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases, the CDC states.

Furr said officials have brought on EnviroCare, a disaster management and archive recovery firm, out of Covington, La., which tests the books and other equipment to make sure the items can be relocated to storage or other libraries.

Furr used the firm after Hurricane Katrina, when she headed up the library system on the Gulf Coast.

“We want to get things out of there to a safe storage area immediately,” she said. “We (hope) to do that in the next two weeks.”

Jackson-Hinds is also looking at several sites to relocate the library, including one site that would be within “walking distance” of the current branch. Tisdale is located at 807 E. Northside Dr. It serves residents living around McWillie Elementary and Chastain Middle schools.

Furr declined to say where the proposed location is, citing ongoing talks with the facility’s owner. “We are in the process of negotiating to see if we can get the price down. That’s still up in the air. If it doesn’t happen, we’ll have another possibility.”

She wouldn’t say how much a new facility would cost, and said that any moving expenses would have to be approved by the Jackson City Council and Hinds County Board of Supervisors.

 

The current Tisdale building was constructed in 1971, and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the Jackson-Hinds system.

Flooding has been a problem at the facility for years, at least according to a 20-year strategic plan completed by Jackson-Hinds in 1998, years before Furr was executive director.

“It said even then the Tisdale branch needed to be closed and demolished because of flooding in the basement. The problem is we had four sump pumps that take away the water, but it’s not unusual just at the beginning of a thunderstorm (for the power to go out), so the pumps can’t operate.”

“In the last couple of years, the basement has been flooded six to eight times.”

Usually, storms resulted in an inch or two of water, which could be cleaned up and dried out with the use of large electric fans.

Furr said those most hurt by the library’s closure are the children and teens who use the branch during the summer and after school.

Children who participate in the branch’s summer reading program are taking part in ones at the Medgar Evers Boulevard and Willie Morris branches, she said.

The Willie Morris branch is located at 4912 Old Canton Rd., about 1.1 miles from the Tisdale location. The Medgar Evers branch is on Medgar Evers Boulevard, about 4.6 miles away. 

She doesn’t want to close the Tisdale branch, in part, because it would force patrons and children who come to the library on foot to traverse traffic along the I-55 frontage road.

However, being forced to find a new location couldn’t have come at a worse time. The system is already having to deal with a black mold problem at the Eudora Welty branch downtown, as well as make up for a $100,000 cut in state funding.

Despite the setbacks, she said kids who live in the Northside Drive area need the branch, and are eager to see it reopen. “I visited (it) the other day and kids were sitting on the steps saying, ‘this is our library. When is it going to open?’ It breaks my heart.”

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