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SUNO kicks off library restoration

25th June 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Zoe Sullivan
Contributing Writer

A crowd of roughly 50 people gathered in front of the shell of Southern University of New Orleans’ (SUNO) library on June 21. They assembled to mark the beginning of restoration work on the beleaguered building. The Leonard S. Washington Memorial Library was one of the casualties of the floodwaters that inundated the city when the levees failed. Although initially the collections on the upper floors were safe, due to damage to the roof and an extended delay in salvage efforts, most of the materials on those floors were also lost. Prior to the flood, the library held a collection with over 300,000 items.

Since the flood, SUNO students have had to access their library materials in a range of locations including the basement of Sophie B. Wright High School, trailers, and its current setting in SUNO’s multipurpose building. A line of officials in suits stood on the library steps ready to greet the crowd and give thanks for the construction about to begin to renovate the building. But the person who stood out most clearly, both thanks to her white suit and her passionate speaking, was also the person perhaps most directly concerned with the day’s event: Shatiqua Mosby-Wilson, SUNO’s Head Librarian.

“Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way you worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow,” Mosby-Wilson told the crowd, quoting an AT&T executive as she affirmed that the new library “will be a 21st-century library” even as it maintains the “historical features of that library.”

Mosby-Wilson compared the library to a “delivery room for the birth of ideas,” and exhorted the crowd to “continue to work together to ensure that this delivery room gives birth to the best that Louisiana has to offer.”

Prior to the ceremony, the university’s Chancellor, Victor Ukpolo, told The Louisiana Weekly that the new library would be a “state of the art facility” including “climate control” that would build on the lessons learned from Katrina. Ukpolo said that the total cost of the restoration efforts would be $4.3 million, which had come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The building should be completed in August, 2013, according to a fact sheet distributed at the ceremony.

Asked how students have managed during the seven intervening years since Katrina, Ukpolo told The Louisiana Weekly that they had been using electronic databases and the “makeshift library” in the multipurpose building. “It’s really a testament to the…patience of our students,” he said.

Arguably the most important group that attended the ceremony were young people participating in a city-sponsored summer youth employment program at SUNO. As prospective SUNO students, the new library offers hope and possibilities for their future studies. Kia Stern, a junior at Cabrini High School, was one of these approximately 30 young people. She told The Louisiana Weekly that she plans on attending SUNO for her undergraduate work as she pursues a path into medicine. “I get to learn about my future classes…I know I get a head start with my learning so that I can do better,” Stern explained, describing her experience working on SUNO’s campus.

This article was originally published in the June 25, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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