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Sue Cowan Williams Library will be closed for renovations for a while



Little Rock, Arkansas – At the end of this week, a well-liked Little Rock library will close so that renovations can help update it.

Starting on November 3, the Sue Cowan Williams Library will be closed for a period of four to six months.

However, there will be some significant enhancements and changes when it reopens.

Many individuals in Little Rock’s Dunbar Historic Neighborhood rely on the library not only as a resource but also as a venue to access essential materials and enjoy the arts.

“People in this neighborhood come to our library for the wi-fi, for printing, for faxing, for scanning, books, DVDs, and we have a very large population of individuals who come to hang out because of the feel that the library has, a sense of community,” said Latina Sheard, library manage.

For the past 22 years, Sheard has entered Williams Library, serving as manager for 16 of those years.

According to her, Williams is a neighborhood library that is typically filled even when it looks like the parking lot is vacant.

“We have several kids who walk. We have adult patrons walk. It’s going to be a disruption,” Sheard said. “Fletcher, Children’s, Main [libraries] are not necessarily walkable from this neighborhood. So, it will be a disruption but it’s a good disruption.”

The structure was built in 1997, and now that a Little Rock 2022 referendum was approved, it will receive some much-needed upgrades. As of right now, the project has a total budget of $1,872,645.

Kate East works as a partner in the women’s and minority-owned company AMR Architects, INC. They have, in her words, “created something really exciting for the community.”

She added that community input played a part in the Williams Library renovation process.

“They love the idea of a community kitchen, but they also brought up simple things like adding an all-gender restroom, they brought up the need for more private study rooms,” East said. “Another big change you’ll see is the front entrance of the building is moving from the north side of the building over to the west side of the building.”

East even verified that a special area reserved for teenagers will exist.
“I want to shout out our team, AMR architects. James Sullivan is the architect. I’m the interior designer on the project. But we also have Crystal C. Mercer Watson now on our team,” East said. “We have really splashed it with color. We want this to say welcome, everybody come in. We’re fun. We’re inclusive.”

Additionally, the Little Rock School District is granting Williams the free use of three vacant classrooms at Dunbar Middle School for after-school programs, enabling him to carry on his work with local kids.

“The library is named for Sue Cowan Williams, who taught at Dunbar and she fought for African-American teachers to be paid the same as their white counterparts. She loved learning. She loves students,” Sheard said. “I hear from several people that the question she asked people was ‘What did you learn today?’ And that fits perfectly with the library. We have people who say, ‘Why are all these kids in the library’ and I say where else would you want them to be, if not in the library.”

In the end, they want the library to remain a safe place, according to Sheard.

“I hope our legacy is a welcoming place for the community, but especially for children, to have a place to go to feel comfortable to feel loved,” Sheard said.

In order to assist individuals who would be impacted by the closure but still need to visit the other branches, the library system has an agreement with Rock Region Metro.

Caregivers and young people may be eligible for a free monthly bus pass through that program, which allows them to visit other CALS offices that are inaccessible.


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