New library, civic center project will soon break ground in Biloxi

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The City of Biloxi is finalizing plans for a $24 million library and civic center project on Howard Avenue. A request for bids will go out in the next few weeks and construction should be underway by early summer.

The head librarian and city leaders are anxious to get the long awaited project underway. Thanks to ongoing roadwork, it now takes determination to find the temporary downtown Biloxi library.

"It's been a little interesting, people trying to find this trailer. They're getting here. But the easy way is Highway 90, up Bellman. And Bellman has kind of been blocked off since, oh, last October," said Head Librarian Charline Longino.

She's thankful for the temporary trailer that was donated by the Gates foundation. Libraries are experiencing a renewal in popularity.

"We certainly have seen nationwide, particularly in these tougher times, libraries become even more popular. Everybody is seeing large percentage increases in their use of books and obviously the computers as well," Longino said.

The new library will be built right next to the trailer, at the old Dukate school site. The project includes a 21,000 square foot library and an adjoining civic center more than twice that size.

"We're going to be able to hold more than one event there. We'll have break out rooms where we can go into different kinds of meetings all over in there. We'll also have a larger place for carnival balls, which a lot of them had left the old community center 'cause we didn't have enough room," said Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway.

For years, the downtown library was located at a site across the street from Biloxi City Hall in a building it shared with the George Ohr Museum. It was a building plagued with problems over the years, including a persistent, leaking roof. Its final chapter was written by Hurricane Katrina, which dumped several feet of mud and muck inside the library.

The promise of a new library is almost overwhelming.

"We've been waiting for this. We are very excited! Also excited because we think it's going to fit in downtown Biloxi," said a smiling Longino.

The new library-civic center project plan must still be approved by FEMA. The city plans on advertising for construction bids within the next month, with work getting started by this summer.

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