Flagship Library flagging

Eudora Welty Library front view. Photos by Chris Young

By Chris Young,

Contributing Writer,

Eudora Welty Library front view. Photos by Chris Young

Long considered the Flagship Library in the Jackson-Hinds County Library System, the Eudora Welty Library at 300 North State Street in Jackson, is flagging mightily. The library has been closed now for over 42 days, only opened on one day, June 7th for primary elections. Today, for the primary election runoffs, a trailer has been brought in with the help of Credell Calhoun, president of the Board of Supervisors. 

So, what is the delay in repairs all about? Well, apparently that’s where the rub is. There are many slices in the library pie.

This quest began with an email to Jackson City Council President Virgi Lindsay, asking what is getting in the way of getting the water to stop coming through the ceilings, addressing mold issues and getting the air conditioning fixed? 

Her office’s response was: “While the issues that exist with the libraries are (and have been) a real concern for Councilwoman Lindsay, she obviously has no authority to remedy the ongoing problems or to appoint additional members. The City of Jackson appointments are made by the mayor and the authority to improve the libraries lies with his office as well. The appropriate individuals to contact for more information are Mayor Lumumba, Chief of Staff Safiya Omari and/or CAO Mr. Louis Wright.” This writer forwarded her response to the Chief of Staff and Chief Administrative Officer.

Eudora Welty Library with boarded windows and closure signs. Photos by Chris Young

Floyd Council indicates that state law prohibits him from using any of his funds for maintenance. His funding is exclusively to provide library services, not maintenance. He indicates that the City of Jackson is well aware of this, as they have provided maintenance at numerous libraries throughout the city, and as recently as May 2022, had performed maintenance at the Eudora Welty Library. However, now, everything is at all-stop.

Council, executive director of the Library System, is a native of Shelby, Mississippi. He is no stranger to Library Administration, having served as executive director of The Birmingham Public Library System from 2017-2020. Prior, he was the Central Library Administrator for the Atlanta Fulton Public Library System. In 2021 he served briefly as executive director of the Carnegie Public Library of Clarksdale. His tenure as Jackson/Hinds Library System Executive Director began in March of this year.

In an interview with WLBT in April, he shared the following, “I think one thing to understand is that our governing library board has the responsibility for governing the library system, but the buildings either belong to the City of Jackson or they belong to a city within the county,” he added. “This means that the state law in the State of Mississippi prohibits library systems from owning the buildings and making substantial repairs to them. So the buildings have to be maintained by the owners for the benefit of the taxpaying citizens.”

Library people know what they are talking about. In fact, a PEW Research Study indicates that 78% of Americans have a favorable impression of information they receive at libraries, and also rank them at the top of the list of institutions that they trust.

Trailer at Eudora Welty Library for primary runoff voters on June 28.

Apart from the maintenance issues, Council emphasized the high level of resources that libraries provide. He makes a strong case that these resources, especially for students, provide a free opportunity for afterschool and summer learning, free computer access, and a host of other things. He mentioned recently hearing that up to 40% of Jackson Public Schools students are failing math and that it is part of Jackson-Hinds Library System service model to gear programming to assist in areas like this.

Rickey Jones, chairman of the Jackson-Hinds Library Board, said, “Our role is to make library services available and robust, and that capital improvements are the responsibility of the city – the building owner.” He also indicated that the city is updated regularly on on-going maintenance needs.

Stanley Arnold, the City of Jackson Public Works Facilities manager, promises to get the needed work done, but cannot proceed without the funding connected to putting out the bids for the work.

The quest for information comes to an end with Tracy Carr, deputy director for Library Services at the Mississippi Library Commission. She confirmed that Mississippi Code §39-3-3 is the pertinent reference in determining who is responsible for infrastructure. The code states: “Where any public library or public library system is established under this article, either by the county board of supervisors or the governing body of a municipality, the cost of purchasing land, erecting buildings and equipping and maintaining such public library or public library system shall be paid for in whole out of the general funds of the county or municipality.”

Let’s hope that that City of Jackson administration does what is necessary to shift this flagship library from flagging to unflagging. We’re counting on you.

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