The state of Jackson Hinds Library System exposed as Charles Tisdale Library tumbles

Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The once vibrant Charles Tisdale Library is no more.

Its demolition is leading some residents to ask what the future holds for Hinds County’s Library System.

The closure and now, demolition, of the once vibrant library brings the city of Jackson down to a total of 7 libraries and Hinds County to 14.

“We can’t just go from 15 to 14, 14 to 13, and we just one day look up and don’t have libraries at all,” Paul Forster said. “We’ve got to dig in. We’ve got to stop the loss now.”

Forster said Tisdale’s state of disrepair is actually what prompted him to get involved with the Jackson-Hinds library system.

He said Tisdale won’t be the last to get torn down if repairs aren’t soon made to some of the city’s other libraries.

“I know we’ve got a dire situation at Eudora Welty on State Street, which is our flagship library as well as our largest library,” Forster said. “That’s been closed for probably 120, maybe 150 days now due to some roof leaks and an HVAC issue that may or may not be resolvable.”

Forster said the Richard Wright Library in Jackson is also closed to the public, meaning there are only 5 functioning libraries in a city of well over 100,000 people.

That’s why he said the board of trustees’ number one priority right now is stabilizing its facilities.

Once that happens, he said the long-term goal is making libraries valuable to a community that’s living in a digital age.

“Digital age? Sure, absolutely. But that doesn’t mean libraries are irrelevant. It means libraries need to pivot,” he said. “It means they need to have computer access with high-speed internet, they need to have job training programs, job application programs, help folks with their taxes, and help folks with medical benefits.”

A prior 3 On Your Side investigation into the library system reported the fact that state law prohibits library systems from owning or making substantial repairs to library buildings.

I asked Forster if the board will try to get the legislature to change this, and as far as revitalizing the library system goes, he said, “no avenue is going to go unexplored.”

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