City to help library cover funding decrease

By ANTHONY WARREN,

At least one of the Jackson-Hinds Library System’s major challenges will be addressed as part of Jackson’s 2018 budget.

The city is giving the library an extra $50,000, which will make up for half of what the system is expected to lose next year in the form of state allocations from the Mississippi Library Commission.

The funding will mean the system will not have to cut hours or employees at the city’s eight branches.

“It’s definitely good news. It’s an indication the city believes libraries are key to moving Jackson forward,” said Executive Director Patty Furr.

However, hours at the seven branches in Hinds County could still be cut because the library’s funding request to the county will likely not be met.

Library officials were seeking an extra $50,000 in funding each from the county and capital city to help offset the drop in state allocations.

The county notified Furr two weeks ago that it could only dedicate an extra $10,000 in funding.

Each year, the Mississippi Library Commission provides systems across the state with “personnel incentive grants” to help cover the costs of staffing.

“When I came here four years ago, we were receiving $340,000, an amount that has dropped precipitously,” Furr said.

Because of state budget cuts, Jackson-Hinds is expected to receive $100,000 less in the next fiscal year, she said.

Without the additional $40,000 from the county, Furr said hours will likely be cut at the seven branches outside the Jackson city limits.

The fiscal year begins October 1. It was not known when any hour cuts would go into effect.

Even with the additional funding from Jackson, several questions for the system remain unanswered.

The future of the Charles Tisdale Library, a longtime branch on Northside Drive, remains up in the air.

The branch closed earlier this year because of black mold and water damage.

Furr had asked the city to purchase or lease a new location for the branch, but the council had not made a decision at press time.

The proposed location is on Chastain Drive, a short distance from the Northside Drive location, and within walking distance of several schools.

Whether the city attempts to purchase or lease a new facility, or whether it will attempt to restore the Tisdale location depends on how much insurance is willing to pay on the facility.

The city has a $700,000 policy on the Tisdale branch, which also includes a $200,000 deductible.

“We need to see how we want to utilize that and address the issues at Tisdale,” Lumumba said at the meeting.

It was not known if a claim on the insurance had not been filed at press time.

 

The asking price for the new location is $975,000. The facility includes 10,000 square feet of library space and additional 5,000 feet of space that would be used for offices, Furr said.

The building previously was used by Virginia College, which relocated to a new location on I-55 North years ago.

In other news, the administrative offices at the Eudora Welty Library, the system’s flagship, are officially being abandoned.

The offices have been overrun by black mold and are now unsafe for human use, Furr said.

“Breathing black mold makes you feel like you have the Flu. I have six employees with similar symptoms,” Furr said.

Furr herself has been to an infectious disease specialist, who said the only way to get better is to no longer work in the environment.

The library’s board of directors last week was expected to vote to relocate the offices to the Chastain Drive facility, and to enter into a lease with owners beginning September 1.

The lease would cost $1,900 a month, and be on a month-to-month basis, Furr told the council.

The amount would be paid for with savings the library has realized elsewhere. “We had some databases we cut out and were able to renegotiate some contracts,” she said.

“We hope to move in as soon as possible.”

While the administrative offices are being shuttered, Furr said the Welty Library is still safe for patrons and front desk staffers, and will continue to remain open to the public.

“We’re testing the building on a regular basis to make sure it’s safe.”