Repairs for a better library still to come

Published 4:16 pm Monday, February 19, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


The City of Port Arthur continues to rebuild after Harvey; though, some institutions recover faster than others.

As the city starts to get back to some semblance of order and cleanliness six months later, its library remains closed to the public.

Steven Williams, assistant director, would like to assure residents that the library will reopen and that the staff is hard at work in preparation of that moment.

“The library has been cleaned, sanitized, gutted and dehumidified,” he said. “Basically it’s all been cleaned out.”

Williams said the Port Arthur Public Library is focused on not only coming back but coming back stronger than before.

“We want to make sure we do our due diligence; we want to come back better than ever,” Williams said.

Williams could not give a timeline for when repairs would start or for when the library would reopen. He did say repairs would start some time in the upcoming months.

Williams also could not comment on the cost for repairs — namely because they are still in negotiations for pricing.

“Some of the items like shelving cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “Not thousands of dollars — hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Williams explained that items like shelving are considered a niche field and therefore have no real selection in terms of competitive products because only a few companies dominate the market. Shelving could be expensive.

Fortunately, the library seems to have no shortage of kind donors.

“We did get monetary donations, multiple donations from groups far and near ranging from $20 to $5,000,” Williams said.

The Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation in Alabama, for instance, donated $5,000.

“We’re still getting calls and donations from libraries,” Williams said. “It has definitely been humbling.”

Some of those donations could also come in the form of books; though Williams cautioned against carrying any at the moment.

“We know everybody wants to donate. The problem is we have no building to store the books in,” he said.

However, Williams made special mention of the Kent District Library System in Kent County, Michigan.

“They have thousands of books ready to come on trailer,” he said. “We’re definitely interested in them. These are only slightly-used, brand-new books…

“I told them to hold off on bringing them because we want them to come to a brand new library.”

Williams said the Kent System’s generous donation would save them millions of dollars.

“Books are expensive. You’re basically talking about $20 to $25 a book; and that’s just paperbacks. It gets even pricier when you get into hardcovers and encyclopedia volumes.”

In addition, there are further costs to consider when purchasing a book. Procedures like processing, Dewey Decimal System, bar codes and security tags must be followed for each book the library takes in.

While the library has been closed since Harvey, that does not mean the staff has been out of work; nor does it mean any members have been laid off as a result of the flood.

Williams proudly said the library has retained its entire staff and is looking toward the future for when the library reopens.

“The library staff is trying to work on inventorying the collection that was saved. It’s a meticulous process,” Williams said. “It’ll take weeks to complete to know what we have and what we don’t have. Thankfully, the library staff is fully intact.”

Library employees are currently working out of the Robert Bowers Civic Center.

When it comes to getting back into the community, Williams said he and the staff couldn’t wait.

“We miss all the patrons. We want to open up, but we want to do our due diligence,” he said. “We want to not only offer the services we all had before the storm; but we also want to offer more and better services.”