Valdosta Daily Times

September 23, 2013

A library in shambles

SPLOST funds would only fix immediate needs of an old building with outdated equipment

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA —  The Valdosta-Lowndes County Public Library building is old and the equipment is extremely outdated. The building’s roof is leaking, the A/C unit is from 1966, the newest computer is one from 2008, the Internet access is limited to a sluggish 6 megabytes, the building is very inefficient when it comes to its energy consumption, and most importantly, the building is a breeding ground for mold spores because of its high humidity.

Patrick Spurlock, community relations, and Sean Strickland, systems administrator for the library system, said the library in a community is important because it’s the first place people go to look for jobs, take online classes, do research for school, and to read. Furthermore, when new businesses are considering moving into an area, they tend to examine two things: the local school system and the local library.

Last Friday morning at the SPLOST (Special Local Option Sales Tax) committee kick-off meeting, Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter said, “I believe fully that the library in your community says a tremendous amount about your community.”

If this is the case, then Lowndes County is dated and falling apart.

Fortunately, funds from SPLOST VII are allocated to update the Valdosta -Lowndes County Public Library. The library hired independent contractors to conduct inspections, and the funds from SPLOST will only go towards the immediate and necessary repairs to keep the old building usable for a few more years.

SPLOST, if it passes in November, will pay for the library to have new flooring and new lighting, as both are original to the building and nearly 50 years old. It would fix the leaky roof, update the computers, and turn the existing T1 Internet lines into fiber cables.

Library condition today

The roof of the Valdosta – Lowndes County Public Library is one of the main causes of the library’s mold issues. During heavy rains, the water pools on the roof, then leaks through to the ceiling, causing multiple mold stains to appear on the ceiling.

Most modern A/C units run by using freon. This system actually pulls humidity from the building it is cooling. The library’s A/C unit runs by pulling air from the outside and blowing the air over cold water. This technology is very outdated, and is only 1 of 6 still functioning in U.S.. The unit is original to the building, and only runs at half of its potential because finding the necessary parts to fix it is difficult, if not impossible.

Since the library is the first place to go for people looking for jobs or taking online classes, it is vital that the computers and Internet access are the best that can possibly be provided. The problem is that the newest computer runs on outdated Random Access Memory (RAM) and a sluggish processor, demonstrating how far behind the library is in technology.

Another technological issue the library faces is the slow Internet connection. The library is connected to four T1 lines. A T1 line is a copper cable connection. This type of connection is to new fiber cables as a Ford Focus is to a Ferrari. The library is an open network, meaning anyone could connect with their laptop or smartphone without a password, but the library is only capable of six megabytes. This Internet connection is shared with 90 computers in the facility, along with anyone connected to the network by their laptop or smartphone.

The library was built in 1966, and it was built without consideration for making the structure energy compliant — it was built without insulation, making the cost of energy for the library skyrocket, which is paid for by Lowndes County. Lack of insulation also means that water has, over time, found a way to trickle down into the walls through the outside brick face and the inside sheetrock. This along with the outdated A/C unit causes the building to be excessively humid, and is the ideal environment for mold to grow. The humidity throughout the building averages 78 percent while all public facilities are supposed to be below 50 percent. This makes people who enter the facility uncomfortable and it is a bad environment to store books. In 2009, the library had to throw away over 1,000 books because they were damaged by mold.

Mold is by far the greatest issue the library faces. The Folsom Room is in the worst shape because mold has been growing behind the walls for years. The humidity in the room is over 80 percent. During this interview, Strickland had to dump over a gallon of water from one of the three dehumidifiers in the Folsom Room; he turned it on one hour before the interview.