An interior shot of the new Williams Library CALS

The Sue Cowan Williams Library, a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System, is reopening Friday.

Located at 1800 S. Chester St., the library has been closed since early November, when it shuttered for renovations, which include reimagined areas for teens, studying and podcasting; a more robust makerspace; and the addition of a community kitchen. Also, a new mezzanine has been constructed, which will provide extra space for staff. Everything’s received a fresh coat of colorful paint and the floors have been redone as well. Details on the progression of the project can be found on the CALS blog.

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Perhaps the most noticeable change is that the library’s entrance has been moved to the west side of the building, facilitating easier access for the students of Dunbar Magnet Middle School, which is right across the street.

CALS
The entrance to Williams Library, now located on the west side of the building.

To celebrate the reopening, Williams Library is offering three events: 1) Family Dinner Night, a ticketed ($75 for adults; $15 for kids 5-12; and free for children under five) fundraiser held tonight from 6:30-9 p.m. that will feature musical performances from Bijoux and the Central High Jazz Band as well as food from Afrobites, Community Bakery, El Sur Street Food Co., H.O.M.E. Vegan, Mockingbird Bar & Tacos, and K. Hall & Sons; 2) a ribbon cutting on Friday morning at 9 a.m.; 3) and a free neighborhood block party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 with yet-to-be-announced entertainment and food provided by H.O.M.E. Vegan and Mr. Keith’s Kettlecorn.

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Williams Library first opened in 1997, four years after the passing of namesake Sue Cowan Williams, a Black educator at Dunbar High School (now the site of Dunbar Magnet Middle School) who was the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit advocating for equal salaries for Black and white teachers in the 1940s. You can read more about her work here.