Belhaven resident Vicki Swayze enjoys checking books out of the Eudora Welty Library in downtown Jackson.
On a recent trip to the Welty Library, she was unable to do so because it was closed due to air conditioning trouble.
“It seems outrageous,” she said, frustrated that the building at 300 N. State St. hasn’t been better maintained by the city of Jackson, which owns it.
Swayze said she prefers to check out books from the library rather than buy new ones at a bookstore and that could wait, but she really felt for patrons who needed to use the computers at the Welty Library but couldn’t because it was closed
Air conditioning problems are nothing new for the Jackson Hinds Library System. The system’s homepage (Jhlibrary.org) has a button to click on for information about closures and outage updates.
Both the Willie Morris Library at 4912 Old Canton Road and the Medgar Evers Library at 4215 Medgar Evers Blvd. have required seasonal air conditioning repairs, which the city of Jackson provided.
The Richard Wright Library at 515 W. McDowell Road is closed and lacks air conditioning because its AC system was stolen
Floyd Council, executive director of the Jackson/Hinds Library System, said public works employees from the city of Jackson and contractors conducted a two-day assessment of the AC unit at the Welty Library and the parts needed to repair it are on order.
Formerly a Sears & Roebuck department store, the Welty Library has more than eight AC units.
Until the repairs are made, the library will close when the building’s interior temperature exceeds a healthy temperature for the patrons and staff, he said.
“The current projected weather patterns indicate that temperatures are expected to be from 88 to 93 degrees from June until August,” Council said. “To this end, without repairs to our AC units we could be closed for several days as determined on a daily basis.”
The Welty Library staff members will work at other library branches where they are needed when the temperature doesn’t allow them to be inside the Welty Library, he said.
Air conditioning problems are common at many public libraries across the country, Council said.
“For example, in Washington D.C. where I once served as assistant director, they were having problems with about nine brand new buildings where the HVAC would recurrently go out and there was a need to close for public service,” he said.
The best practice has become to close the buildings for public service when the interior temperature reaches 82 degrees, he said. Such decisions should be made in consultation with a library board’s leadership, he said.
The Jackson/Hinds Library system operates 14 library locations in the city of Jackson and Hinds County, and patrons are welcome to use any of them during normal operating hours, Council said, or they may visit the system’s digital library 24/7.
The deferred maintenance of city buildings is a subject Ashby Foote, who represents Ward 1 on the Jackson City Council, feels strongly about.
He contends the city owns too many buildings and doesn’t have the resources to maintain them, naming the Welty Library, which has its second floor closed to patrons because of black mold that developed after roof leaks, along with the defunct Tisdale Library and the closed Richard Wright Library in south Jackson.
“It’s outrageous for us to have a library in disrepair within a shadow of the Old Capitol Museum, close to the High Street gateway for the city and across from the $90 million Two Mississippi Museums,” he said.
He believes the library serves as need for residents without personal libraries, provides computers and internet access for those without and a meeting place for organizations, but wonders if the city should sell the building that houses the Welty Library and find another location for it.
It’s not a new idea. Jackson leaders and the Hinds County Board of Supervisors discussed that but four years later, nothing has come of it.