Library director: ‘We must open up correctly

Published 1:26 pm Monday, June 4, 2018

By Ken Stickney

When it comes to rebuilding Port Arthur Public Library, Director Steven Williams, elevated from assistant director this spring, said he would rather do it right than do it quickly.

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Williams said the roof has been completed and drywall work is underway

Engineers have designed a sprinkler system — it’s up for bid — and a new lighting system. Framing the new walls will give the layout a new look and there’s furniture to order; it must arrive just on time.

“There’s a lot more involved than just opening up,” said Williams, who is overseeing the work from the vantage point of a nearby trailer on the grounds, where he and his staff — at full staff, there are 12 full-time workers, eight part-timers — have been working. “We must open up correctly.”

Library work has been moving more slowly because the city’s emphasis was on rebuilding and reopening the Bob Bowers Civic Center across the parking lot. It served the first two events last month.

The tick list for the library list, though, goes on: shelving, electronic equipment, servers, computers, plumbing. It’s a more complex job than the civic center.

There are about 50,000 pieces and there will be some 80,000 pieces in what will be a new and up-to-date library collection.

“The timeline has changed because there are so many variables,” Williams said. “But we will be a better library. I’m highly confident we will be.”

In fact, Williams conceded, while Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey were terrifying to many, discouraging to most, the massive storms have given the public library a chance to renew and revitalize itself.

“We’re starting over,” he said. “We get to ID what can be improved. We get to pick out the things we want.”

What patrons will find when the library reopens — perhaps in late autumn, but Williams said that’s an optimistic projection — is a more open and spacious concept.

The four meeting rooms will be replaced with four meeting rooms and a fifth public room that’s for meeting and for classroom.

The children’s section will be more walled off both to keep more subdued the noise from children’s programs and activities and to enhance security. Right now, though, the library is largely a shell.

“We’ll be coming back to a brand new library,” he said — someday.

But on Friday, it was back to the trailer for Williams. There was so much to plan.