Several City Council Members Want Changes At The Chattanooga Library; Kelly Administration Says That Is In The Works

  • Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Several City Council members said Tuesday they want to see changes at the Chattanooga Library.

Joda Thongnopnua, the mayor's chief of staff, said that action is underway.

He said it will require some changes in the way the library system currently operates and is set up.

Mr. Thongnopnua said the city has already taken steps to insure that the city is notified of all library purchases.

He said library officials have been instructed not to incur new spending outside of the current budget.   

Councilman Chip Henderson said, "I don't feel like we are making the most of what we have in the downtown location. We need to get all we can out of that building. We are not doing that currently."

Vice Chair Raquetta Dotley said she is supportive of the library, "but not in its current form and with its inequities. These do not weigh out to $7.3 million (in annual spending)."

She said the library "could possibly be reinvented. It's a large building with all that space. They haven't taken the initiatives on helping with all that is going on with our youth, and that is very saddening."

Most outspoken was Councilwoman Marvene Noel who said of the library's earlier budget presentation, "It did not sit well with me when I heard what I heard. How long has this been going on? What does the library provide for the under-served community?"

She said, "I don't see where it fits into the One Chattanooga goals?"

She stated, "We place money there, then they do as they please with it. Is it possible these funds could be transferred (for programs) to the kids." Mr. Thongnopnua said currently the city has little flexibility in what the library does with the allotment.

Councilwoman Noel, referring to her request for information about the library operation, said, "Do I need to be chastised or to have my hand hit?"

She asked if the City Council could leave the library out of the upcoming budget. Mr. Thongnopnua said it could if five council members agreed, but he said the administration would not recommend that.

Councilwoman Jenny Hill said, "I would love to see more robustness in the programming. We have very few library branches. I would like to see the library more prolific in its offerings, not less."

Chairman Darrin Ledford said there are no library branches in his populous district - "zero."

He said, "There is a lot of room for improvement, and I think it is time for changes. We are going to do that." 

Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod was supportive of the library, saying she uses it daily for the child she is raising.

She said residents of the Westside prefer to go to the library over the Westside Center.

"They have a whole floor devoted to children on the second floor," she said.

Councilwoman Coonrod said the library has many other offerings. "You can bring a shirt and print it. They have a way for you to order tools."

She added, "There are all kinds of services it provides. It does a lot."



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