Jefferson School a No-Go for JMRL

The Jefferson School Task Force, searching for some organizations to occupy the Jefferson School, recently settled on the central branch of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library as a potential occupant, despite the library’s lack of need to move or interest in doing so. However, an engineering report has shown that the school simply isn’t constructed in a manner that would permit it to hold the many tons of books that are housed in the library, making it a no-go without extensive structural modifications. What hasn’t been discussed publicly thus far is the possibility of moving JMRL’s administrative offices to the Jefferson School, given that they are in need of a centralized location for coordination of the branches, in order to free up space at the central branch. Elizabeth Nelson has the story in today’s Progress.

2 Responses to “Jefferson School a No-Go for JMRL”

  • Waldo: The tone of this is different than the progress article. I seem to recall reading recent progress interviews with JMRL personnel that indicated that the library is interested in a potential relocation to jefferson School, because their current space prevents them from expanding. Also that an engineering fix is not unreasonable, and not a hindrance to relocation. Did I misremember all of this? Today’s progress doesn’t mention lack of need, interest or engineering barriers. Are you suggesting that the progress did not completely report, or that the task force’s recommendation is a bad one?

  • I should start off by saying that I served on the JMRL board, representing Charlottesville, until I moved last August, so I have some preexisting biases (if I may stretch the word :) and interest in the matter.

    A longtime interest of JMRL has been to obtain administrative offices for the library. Each branch has their own offices, but the central branch houses, in addition to the library and its offices, the offices for the whole of the JMRL. This occupies a good bit of space that, if freed up, would provide some expansion space that would be, if not essential, helpful. (Also problematic is that the fantastic head of JMRL, whose pay is split up between the member localities, also serves as the head of Central, which is neither a fair use of the localities’ funding nor his time. But that’s another discussion.) Also, Central has been in use for nearly 25 years, and is much in need of an overhaul — repairs to the HVAC system, misc. repairs to the walls, floors, doors and the like. Doing so means needing to have some extra space, such that the books can be shuffled around while the repairs occur to one patch of the library at a time. That space doesn’t exist right now. It’s fair to say, though, that central is a much beloved location and a fantastic building. I’d be quite surprised if any of the board members were particularly interested in seeing central abandoned. However, it would be wonderful to have space made available for the administrative offices. The Jefferson School seems like an excellent choice for this purpose, IMHO.

    Regarding structural problems, The Progress article today quote Bill Letteri as saying "We found that while the building is structurally appropriate for school operation, it’s quite inadequate structurally to support a library operation. That’s not to say we can’t upgrade the facility. That can be done, and it may be in order to do that." Now, you’re an expert on this topic and I’m certainly not, but I suspect that just about any building could be modified to support the weight of tons and tons of books, with enough floor-ripping, cement-pouring, and steel-beam-laying. The fact that it’s possible to upgrade the facility does not mean that it’s best to do so. If JMRL were desperately in need of a new location, then I would certainly feel otherwise (far better to use the Jefferson School than build anew, I think), but since that’s not the case, I can’t see the justification for such expensive modifications.

    I appreciate that the task force wants to see the Jefferson School used for something good and useful. I don’t think that the task force was incorrect in concluding that they want JMRL there — there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, but that doesn’t make it a good idea for JMRL. And I don’t think that the Progress reported incorrectly, I just think that it’s missing the more interesting bit, that JMRL is not, in fact, in need of a new location for Central.

    I, too, want for the Jefferson School to return to being a useful, functional part of the community, and I look forward to seeing that happen. But the idea of moving JMRL to the Jefferson School is a solution in search of a problem.

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