Eudora Welty Library closed for the summer, director says
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The flagship branch of the Jackson/Hinds Library System is closed until further notice.
The JHLS Board of Directors recently voted to close the Eudora Welty Library at least until the end of the summer, or until further notice from the board, said JHLS Executive Director Floyd Council.
“The board looked at temperature studies through the summer and we recommended following OSHA. If it’s colder than 65 or hotter than 78, we have to close out of an abundance of caution for our staff and patrons.”
Welty, which is located at 300 North State St., was closed multiple times in the summer of 2022 for the same reason. At that time, officials with the city said they were looking to get the building’s air conditioning units repaired.
However, no HVAC repairs have been completed.
“The public knows now the city has committed to not doing additional repairs on the building,” Council said. “We just can’t have staff and patrons in a building that’s too hot every day.”
Council said some IT and technology services staffers remain in the building. Their offices are served by a separate air conditioning unit.
Other library staffers have been moved to other locations.
Council said JHLS is also working to reach out to patrons who are served by the branch, to let them know about programming at other libraries.
“One thing everybody needed [was] some consistency. It’s not a good experience to show up at a building to hear we’re closing because it’s already up to 85 degrees in the building,” he added.
Other branches also are facing structural issues. The Richard Wright Library remains closed, while just one of the two air conditioning units at the Medgar Evers Library is operational.
The Willie Morris Library recently reopened after repairs but has just one bathroom, and patrons have to ask for a key to access it.
JHLS has 14 branches, including seven in Jackson. The buildings in Jackson are owned and maintained by the city.
In April, the Jackson City Council authorized the Department of Planning and Development to apply for a $5 million federal grant on behalf of JHLS, which, if approved, would go toward a new downtown library.
The city applied for the grant last month and likely won’t receive notification until later this year.
Director of Planning and Development Chloe Dotson said the mayor is looking at potential alternatives for housing Welty.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History, meanwhile, are eying Welty as a potential site for a green space in front of the Two Mississippi Museums.
As for materials in the library, Council says the books and computers are safe. However, some artwork has been moved out to protect it from heat and potential humidity.
The Walter Anderson prints housed there have been “uninstalled” and the library is in talks to have them stored. Other art already has been moved to other library branches for safekeeping.
“When it heats up at Welty, it doesn’t cool down,” said Council. “It’s unfair to patrons and it’s unfair for staff to wait until minutes before we [are supposed to open] to find out whether we’re opened or closed.”
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