After years of roaming, the New Orleans Public Library’s Mid-City branch is finally home.
The new location, at 4140 Canal St., just off Carrollton Avenue, opened Tuesday with much fanfare, as city officials and library patrons gathered to praise what had been a long time in coming.
“This library was an orphan for a while,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, as he stood at the entrance of the mid-20th century modernist building. “But it landed in a beautiful place. And I’m very thankful for all of the folks who are with us today, who made this a reality.”
The branch, one of the library system’s newest, opened in 2007 on North Carrollton Avenue to fill a temporary need as the Lakeview and Broadmoor branches remained closed after Hurricane Katrina. But when it proved increasingly popular, library officials enshrined it into the system permanently.
The Mid-City branch of the New Orleans Public Library system, now housed in the American Can…
In 2011, the branch moved to the American Can Co. complex on Orleans Avenue, where officials thought they would stay. But their landlord, a Georgia company called ACV VII LLC, told them last year that a new prospective tenant wanted the space.
The library also hadn’t paid its rent in a year, though the landlord didn’t cite the missed payments as a reason for the eviction. City officials, who were supposed to pay the landlord on the library’s behalf, said the nonpayment was due to a misunderstanding about the lease terms.
The city paid ACV for the full year on Sept. 15, 2015, two weeks after the landlord asked the library to get out. After City Councilwoman Susan Guidry and others got involved, the owner put the library on a month-to-month lease when the deal with the other prospective tenant fell through.
In May, the library system's executive director, Charles Brown, announced that the system had secured the Canal Street space. He said officials would keep the American Can site open as they prepared to move to the new branch, though he stopped short then of announcing an opening day.
That day was Tuesday.
“We now, I believe, have two iconic locations ... the Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue and, today, the Mid-City Library on fabled Canal Street,” Brown said.
The New Orleans Public Library’s Mid-City branch is finally getting a new home after months …
Brown and others hope patrons will be drawn in part by the building itself. The 1963 structure was designed by Curtis & Davis Architects, the firm that also designed the Superdome, the former Rivergate exhibition hall and the main library on Loyola Avenue.
Recognized as a New Orleans historic landmark in 2010, the 9,200-square-foot, two-story building features narrow carports, dramatic arches and an exterior made largely of glass.
It has been vacant since Katrina, said Barry Katz, who manages the firm that owns the space.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries about different types of use, but nothing really worked well,” Katz said. Having the public library use a building designed by the same men who crafted the main library “felt destined to be,” he added.
Guidry, who represents the area, was so enamored with the former Automotive Life Insurance Co. building that for years she dreamed of opening a business there, she said.
"It’s going to be an incredible community space," she said.
Although Brown said he would try to lease the building's second floor to tenants, none have yet signed up. That space is now used for staff offices and as a community meeting room.
The Mid-City library houses more than 14,800 books, audiobooks, CDs and DVDs. It is open six days a week: Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.