Lack of action results in loss of 34,000 library books

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Inaction by library officials has resulted in the loss of approximately 34,000 books at the now defunct Charles Tisdale Library. The books were destroyed by black mold.

Meanwhile, any hopes of cleaning the collection were dashed recently, when an insurance claim filed to cover the books’ restoration costs was denied.

The Northside Drive branch was closed in April 2017, after storm-related flooding caused a black mold problem there to grow out of control.

The books were never relocated and last October, inspectors learned that many hardcover volumes had been contaminated by the toxic substance.

Further inspections earlier this year determined that even more books had been infected. 

Moving the books was not an option, largely because the system didn’t have the money or space to do so, said Jackson-Hinds Library System (JHLS) Executive Director Patty Furr.

Furr was afraid of moving the books to other branches for fear the mold would spread to those collections.

A couple of free storage options were offered to the system but none worked out.

In 2018, owners of the Metrocenter Mall offered temporary storage space but closed before the library could act on it.

 “They (the mall owners) even showed us where we would be able to move them. We were about two or three weeks from moving them and the Metrocenter closed,” Furr told the Sun previously.

Another patron donated temporary storage space, but officials rejected it because it wasn’t air conditioned.

“There has to be an air-conditioned place to put them,” she said.

To prevent black mold from spreading, books have to be stored in well-ventilated areas on open shelves.

Furr said she couldn’t store the collection at Welty, because the floors at the system’s flagship branch weren’t strong enough to support the additional weight.

Tests revealed that the books had not been contaminated at least six months after the branch’s closure. Library officials learned the insurance claim was denied in March..

“The decision was based on the basis of flooding in the building,” she said. “We had to have flood insurance.”

The policy is with State Auto and was supposed to cover damage to books, computers, shelves and other library content.

Costs for cleaning the books was expected to run between $40,000 and $50,000.

Furr said it’s up to the library’s board of trustees to decide the next move. Options include removing and disposing the books at the system’s expense or leaving the titles there for the building’s next owner to deal with.

The system had not gotten estimates on disposal costs at press time.

The building itself could have a new owner sooner than later.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at a recent city council meeting that a potential buyer was interested in the purchasing the 6,800-square-foot facility at 807 E. Northside Dr.

RePublic Schools is considering purchasing the facility to expand Smilow Prep charter school, also on East Northside.

However, no deal between the city and school had been worked out at press time.

Tisdale was closed in April 2017 after heavy rains caused flooding in the basement, exacerbating an already existing mold problem. 

Mold growth occurs “where there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks (and) condensation,” according to the Center for Disease Control’s Web site.

While the building still has electricity, the main air conditioning unit was shut down last spring after black mold infiltrated it. Later, the upstairs unit also went out, creating a perfect environment for the mold to expand.

In October 2018, inspectors noticed numerous hardcover books were covered in mold. Earlier this year, inspectors discovered that the mold had expanded to other titles.

 

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