The bottom floor of the shuttered Enid M. Baa library may be leased out for a gift shop or other commercial outlet, with proceeds to help finance a territorial archive in its upper floor, if a bill approved in committee Wednesday becomes law.
The library was closed to the public and its collections moved to the new Charles W. Turnbull Regional Library in late December 2012.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Myron Jackson and Shawn-Michael Malone, says the second and third floors must be used for archives. It originally specified that space on the first floor must be leased for a gift shop for the sale of books, maps and such.
When the committee considered the bill in July, several senators raised concerns about the plan, preferring to reopen the Baa Library as a library or a reading room or library annex.
On Wednesday, the Culture, Historic Preservation, Youth and Recreation Committee amended it to say "commercial outlet, research center and reading room."
The bill [Bill 30-0155] also gives the territorial librarian or archivist power to "direct and effect the return to the Territorial Archives of any historical materials, records and archives that were transferred to any other depository before the effective date of this act."
The Planning and Natural Resources Department’s director of the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, Ingrid Bough, testified that funding and staffing were major hurdles to reopening Baa as an archive or a library. Bough said the building needed major retrofits and renovations for any of these uses or for commercial space.
Bough said DPNR supported the legislation as a step in the right direction "but also recognizes that this proposed exclusive use would require substantial funding and staffing that currently is unavailable."
But with the legislation, Bough said she would explore partnerships with the Tourism Department, St. Thomas Historical Trust, the Chamber of Commerce and others agencies.
Jackson, along with Sens. Donald Cole, Tregenza Roach and others, shared personal memories of the Baa library and emphasized their preference for the building to be used as some sort of community library or children’s reading room.
Bough said reopening part of the library would still require electrical, plumbing, air conditioning and Americans With Disabilities Act retrofits and renovations.
Several senators pressed Bough on whether there was space at the new Turnbull Library for archives, where they might be better preserved in a newer, better facility.
Bough said the entire Von Scholten collection was moved there because of mold and is safe. But plans for archival space at Turnbull Library were eliminated because of money issues, and that there was no more space for archives at Turnbull.
Jackson, the committee chairman, said he appreciated the concerns of those who feel the Baa Library is not the perfect location for archives but that, until a better solution comes along, retrofitting Baa is a viable option.
"The fact is, there is no plan now to move the archives to any other place,” Jackson said. “Is there?" he asked.
"That’s correct," Bough said.
Voting to send the bill out of committee for consideration in the Rules Committee were
Jackson, Malone, Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Janette Millin Young. Cole, Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly were absent.
In the afternoon, the committee heard from agency officials and others for a wide ranging discussion of reducing youthful violent crime.