Patrons react to anticipated library and community center closures - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Patrons react to anticipated library and community center closures

A budget battle is putting libraries and community centers in Memphis on the chopping block, closing the book on resources some people consider safe havens.

The four walls of the Highland Branch Library are not just about books, internet access, and free DVDs.  For the people it serves, the library has a special purpose.

"(I) Just escape to a different world," one patron said Wednesday. "If something's wrong at the house, just open a book."

But Memphis' new efficiency study puts five libraries and four community centers on the chopping block.
Wednesday, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said the Cossitt, Gaston, Highland, Levi and Poplar-White Station Libraries are slated to be closed, along with the Bethel-Labelle, Greenlawn, Hamilton and Simon/Boyd Community Centers.

Trisha Taylor visits the Highland Branch of the library system regularly.

"It's within walking distance for me, and a lot of the elderly people where I live," she said. "A lot of us don't have transportation. I've even seen people come up here in their wheelchairs."

The Highland Branch has been open nearly 60 years.  It still has all the original shelves, and people from four area communities call it a home away from home.

Wednesday, 15-year-old Chris Kretzschmar said the Highland library keeps him out of trouble.

"It's been someplace to go," he said. "When there's nothing to do at the house, I come here instead of hanging out in the streets."

Workers say the city has guaranteed they will not be laid off.  While the closures will save the city up to two million dollars, library lovers said the haven they had for decades was priceless.

The Benjamin Hooks Library is located nearly two miles from the Highland branch.  All the materials will be shared between the remaining libraries.

Libraries scheduled to close July 1:

  • Cossitt - 33 South Front
  • Gaston - 1040 South Third
  • Highland - 460 South Highland
  • Levi - 3676 U.S. 61
  • Poplar-White Station - 5094 Poplar

Community Centers schedule to close July 1:

  • Bethel Labelle - 2698 Larose
  • Greenlaw - 190 Mill
  • Hamilton - 1363 East Person
  • Simon/Boyd-Magnolia - 2130 Wabash

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