From the Director's Desk

Shortly after the printing of our last newsletter, the Keiser Public Library was struck by a tornado. Though the building was heavily damaged, the library’s collection of materials experienced little loss. This is due in large part to the citizens of the community (both young and not-so-young) pulling together about sixteen hours after the storm hit, loading books into a school bus, and transporting them to Blytheville for further inspection and temporary housing. Keiser residents are to be commended for the focused and fast work that they did that Sunday to preserve the library’s assets. On behalf of all taxpayers of Mississippi County, thank you!


I have been in touch with Keiser’s Mayor, Sandra Smith, regarding the repair of the building. Our goal is to have the building reopened before fall.


But even as the Keiser building is being repaired, the major, necessary renovations at both the Blytheville and Osceola locations remain a concern. Though I mentioned the need in general terms in the last newsletter, I can now offer more specifics.


The Blytheville building needs both a new roof and new HVAC units. If you visit the building during a heavy rain, you may find several buckets and waste cans scattered throughout the facility to catch dripping water. The original, manufactured shingles are of a 20% asbestos composite material. They have aged to the point that they are coming off of the roof and breaking apart. Roofers who have offered non-binding, initial bids to address the situation do not think that there is enough integrity in the original surface to allow a long-term, warranty-backed renovation by overlaying the current surface. The original shingles need to be removed.


Fortunately, the removal of the asbestos shingles will not be as expensive as initially anticipated. The shingles will need to be kept separate from all other construction waste and “bagged” in a special manner, but the exterior materials abatement process is not viewed as an extremely expensive endeavor, when compared to processes needed for building interiors.


The original fiberglass skylight in the Blytheville roof also needs to be addressed. Ultraviolet light has had its way with the fiberglass over the past forty years, and it has become brittle. Though the seams of the skylight have been resealed several times, the feature now leaks at three of its four corners. Roofing over the skylight is a seemingly cost-saving option that is currently under investigation, but, since some interior refinishing work may be required, figures for this option are still being collected. Water from the leaking roof has also been damaging the exterior soffit in numerous areas; temporary repairs have been made using Mississippi County Library System funds.


Though the Mississippi County Library System maintains insurance on the Blytheville building, the structure is owned by the City of Blytheville. In October 2017, I received notification from the insurance company that, during my first week as director, they had made an unannounced inspection at both the Blytheville and Osceola locations. They stated that, unless a list of issues was addressed in prompt fashion, the buildings were no longer going to be insured. All of the cited issues were able to be addressed rather quickly and with minimal expense, except for the roof at Blytheville. The Blytheville Library has been able to remain open due to the fact that the local agent and I were able to negotiate a stay in the situation, if the System were to make repairs to the worst areas of the roof. These was completed in December 2017. Nevertheless, the vulnerability of losing insurability of the building still looms large.


Further, the original Heating and Air Conditioning units in the Blytheville Library are unable to continue to be maintained. The manner in which the units were originally installed in the rafters of the building no longer meets safety standards for maintenance workers to access them. The only reason that the current units are running is that particular private technicians have been willing to take risks until a necessary update happens.


The units are at the age when parts cannot be located for them. Of the five units that currently exist, one cannot offer heat due to a part which is no longer available, and another does not offer air-conditioning, due to an evident removal of that capacity at a point some years ago. The condensation collection pan of a third unit has rusted through and needs to be replaced. A temporary patch was installed last summer, and some ceilings and interior walls that were damaged by the leaking pan have been repaired. The up-to date installation of four new units is currently being proposed.


The roofing renovation at Blytheville has been estimated at $208,000. The HVAC systems renewal has been estimated at $92,000, but I have since been informed that the increasing price of metals is likely to drive up this cost over the summer as the effect of new tariffs scatters through the supply chain.


The Osceola building is owned by the Mississippi County Library System. Its roof has been leaking for some time although the situation was not cited by our insurance company. A new flat roof membrane needs to be installed along with a new, slightly pitched underlayment. The metal mansard of the roof needs to be cleaned and repainted. Finally, all of the exterior wood trim, door frames, and window frames need to be repaired as necessary and repainted before irreparable damage takes place. The cost for these Osceola issues is estimated at $50,000.

In summary, $350,000 is needed to make some immediate repairs on the Blytheville and Osceola buildings this summer. Over the next few weeks I will continue to spread word of the need and seek sources of funds. Grants are being explored, but I am concerned that time is not on our side and that the grants may not even come through in the end. I know that my immediate predecessor, Kevin Barron, started to pursue grant funding for the Blytheville roof at least two years ago and things did not work out.


Another complication is that the Library System has never had a non-profit foundation to receive contributions. I have been told that a Friends of the Library group existed in times past but it just slowly faded away. If you know of business-minded people in the County who are willing to serve on a non-profit foundation and/or if you know people who would be willing to help establish a Friends of the Library at any of our locations (Blytheville, Keiser, Leachville, Manila, Osceola, and Wilson) please send me an email with your referral or even your willingness.

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Mississippi County Library System

200 North 5th Street

Blytheville AR 72315

870-762-2431