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Central Arkansas Library System’s galleries, bookstore closed ahead of Main Library overhaul

by Joseph Flaherty | June 1, 2023 at 3:20 a.m.
Cindy Kopack (left) performs inventory with the help of her friend, Jackie Cossey, as she collects her jewelry for sale at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square in Little Rock on Tuesday. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

The Central Arkansas Library System's bookstore and gallery space in downtown Little Rock closed its doors permanently Wednesday, a casualty of the coming overhaul of the nearby Main Library.

The Main Library, located at 100 S. Rock Street, is expected to close this fall for renovations and remain closed to the public for 14-16 months, meaning a reopening likely will occur in 2025.

The Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square was housed within the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art at 401 President Clinton Avenue, along with the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

It sold a collection of mostly gently used books as well as pieces by local artists and craftsmen.

"New books were more of the exception than the rule because the store has traditionally sold books that were donated to the library," Tameka Lee, a library system spokeswoman, said in an email Wednesday.

During the period when the Main Library is closed to the public for renovations, floor space within the Roberts Library will be repurposed to keep some of the same services available to downtown Little Rock patrons. Library system officials have taken to calling the setup "Mini Main."

What the space inside the Roberts Library that was previously occupied by the galleries and bookstore might look like after the Main Library reopens remains a mystery. Library system officials are still discussing the best use of the space, according to Lee.

The galleries and bookstore have operated in the red over the recent past, according to Jo Spencer, the library system's director of finance.

Spencer told attendees at a board meeting in late January the combined operations of the galleries and bookstore resulted in a net loss of more than $1 million from 2016 through 2022.

The closure Wednesday is the latest change to happen in the downtown plaza known as Library Square. Library system officials in January 2021 moved the bookstore from its longtime location in the nearby Cox Building to the Roberts Library, merging it with the galleries there.

The renovations to the Main Library could cost some $20 million. Earlier this year, library system officials began weighing whether to pursue a capital campaign to supplement the allocated budget for the project with donations.

Twelve members of a library system committee on May 15 met with consultants from Library Strategies Consulting Group to review the process of conducting a feasibility study tied to a potential capital campaign, the library system's executive director, Nate Coulter, told board members in a written report prepared for a board meeting last week.

Consultants also heard suggestions of "local individuals and institutional donors who are believed to (1) have the capacity to make gifts in excess of $50,000 and (2) an interest in supporting the revitalization of the Main Library," Coulter wrote. "Our experienced consultants will meet privately with potential donors identified by the committee. The point of these sessions is NOT to ask them for any gift but to explore their openness to considering a gift and gather feedback on what might inspire them to donate."

The final decision on whether to pursue a capital campaign will be up to the board, according to Coulter.

Print Headline: CALS bookstore, gallery space close


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