By Claire Byun
The last storm-damaged public library in the city is finally undergoing reconstruction more than a decade since it was flooded.
The Nora Navra Library was severely damaged during Katrina and left shuttered for more than a decade. Now, as part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s renovations to public city assets, the vandalized library is getting a $3.3 million facelift.
Landrieu and a host of other city officials broke ground Tuesday afternoon to mark the beginning of the end – Nora Navra is the last library in the city to be rebuilt under Landrieu’s plan. The library originally opened in 1954 and served Seventh Ward communities, including Joyel Schroeder.
Schroeder grew up in Nora Navra when librarians had to teach students how to use the Dewey Decimal System, she said. She spent hours searching through encyclopedias for homework help and reading whatever books were available.
Schroeder remembers the library as an anchor for the community; something “really, really good” for the neighborhood’s children.
“We have a lot of fond memories of this place,” she said.
The library, located at 1209 St. Bernard St., serves the Seventh Ward and parts of Mid-City.
The new center will have adult and child reading areas, staff offices and the latest technology, Landrieu said. The 7,800 square-foot building will also feature modern safety solutions, such as hurricane proofing, ADA accessibility and LED lighting.
Jared Brossett, City Councilmember representing District D, said the project has been a priority for the district since public funding became available. Brossett said his mother used to visit Nora Navra Library and passed down the idea that “literacy is everything.”
“We’re committed to bringing the Seventh Ward back strong,” Brossett said.
The new building was designed by Manning Architects and demolition contracted to Big Yellow Construction, LLC. The City Planning Commission approved a conditional-use permit last year for the library and the reconstructed center should be open by Spring 2018.
Schroeder said that, even though she’s in her 70s, she plans to use the revamped center as much as she can.
“Because we’re old ladies, and not great with technology, we’re going to use it,” she said.
In 2015, New Orleans voters approved a 25-year, 2.5-mill tax that was projected to raise $8.25 million a year for the cash-strapped library system.
The new tax was in addition to the 3.14 mills already dedicated to the library. That tax, which runs through 2021, provides about $9.5 million to the library system each year.
“It’s not just a great day for the community,” Landrieu said. “It’s a great day for the city as well.”