Harrison County

Woolmarket celebrates new library and more to come

Four year olds from the Caterpillar day care center across the street already were sprawled on the colorful rug and turning pages when city and county leaders finished with the ribbon cutting Friday at the new Woolmarket Library.

The building is centrally located in the community at 13034 Kayleigh Cove, off Woolmarket Road and Lorraine Road, a location Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said city officials searched for more than a year to find. It’s in a former fitness center and at what would be the “epicenter” of Woolmarket if that area of Biloxi were more commercially developed.

Biloxi spent about $250,000 to purchase the building and Harrison County another $90,000 to furnish and equip the library.

Gilich announced at the ribbon cutting that the adjacent community center is about to double in size and get a vaulted ceiling, an expanding parking lot and a courtyard as Biloxi invests another $250,000 or so to give Woolmarket a meeting place.

“It’s long overdue here in Woolmarket,” said Mike Leonard, the city’s chief administrative officer.

One of the first things Biloxi will do after closing on a $14 million bond next week is to go out to bid on the expansion that will take the building out another 25 feet, he said. The duties and cost of the project are being shared by Biloxi and Harrison County and Cheryl Bell, Biloxi’s parks and recreation director says she already has a booking for a baby shower at the new community center.

Woolmarket didn’t have a library until after Hurricane Katrina, when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided funds and a trailer as part of the Gulf Coast Libraries Project. The foundation also paid for furniture, computers, internet service and staff for two years, said Harrison County Supervisor Connie Rockco.

That first library ribbon cutting was held June 14, 2007. When the foundation funds ran out, the county bought the building and the Woolmarket Library became part of the Harrison County Library System in 2010.

The city started looking for a building in 2016. “That little trailer was falling in,” said Biloxi Councilman Nathan Barrett, who represents Woolmarket. The library trailer was so well used, it couldn’t even be insured the last few months.

Biloxi bought the new building for about $250,000 and the county spent an additional $90,000 getting the library furnished and equipped.

Woolmarket Library is one of nine in the county, said Sarah Crisler-Ruskey, director of the Harrison County Library System. The bigger space means the library is better able to serve the community, she said.

The library has 7,000 books and other items, desktop computers and four Chromebook computers that were paid for with a grant..

In fiscal year 2018, more than 12,000 people visited the Woolmarket Library and checked out 12,000 items — “And that was just out of that littler trailer,” Rockco said. She called that first library “a little seed” and Councilman Barrett said, “This proves that working together is better than working by yourself.”

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.