Historic Cossitt Library to undergo $3M renovation

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Packing is underway all week at the historic Cossitt Library in Downtown Memphis in preparation for a big face lift in the new year.

The library will close Saturday, and its reopen date is aimed for sometime in late spring or early summer of 2018.

"This is really an amazing time for this particular part of downtown," said Shamichael Hallman, Cossitt branch manager.

Hallman and other staff members started Tuesday packing books and removing shelves to go into storage in a back portion of the library for the coming months.

"This particular location is so rich with history, such an amazing place," said Hallman.

The Cossitt branch in Downtown Memphis was the city's first public library, opening in 1893. Lemoyne-Owen students staged a sit-in there during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Older portions of the building will remain untouched but the newer front areas added on in the 1950s are the ones set to be modernized, with the renovation costing at least $3 million.

The end result may look more like a neighborhood coffee shop, with new book collections combined with a cafe, courtyard, co-working space, and even a performance area.

"It's kind of a new era of what it means to be a library, to be a community hub, to be a space where all people are welcome," said Hallman.

Hallman added that tourists have even mistaken the library for a disco club with its multi colored exterior lights.

But have no fear, they aren't dimming.

"The lights will definitely stay there," he said, "We hear so many positive things from tourists and citizens as they drive by Front Street."

The staff is asking anyone who wants to volunteer for the rest of the week to stop by the library from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. or 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to pack books or move shelves.

The library does serve as a warming area for many homeless. Staff said they're working on a temporary location while construction is ongoing, but the Crenshaw Branch on Vance is about a mile and a half from the Cossitt location.

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