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Book it: When library reopens, it will be fully restored

 

By Ken Stickney

ken.stickney@panews.com

Port Arthur Public Library Director Steven Williams says progress continues at the facility, which sustained heavy damage during Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey in August 2017.

Williams said the sprinkler system is installed, light fixtures complete and electricity working at the 24,500-square-foot facility. Tiles are going up, the first coat of paint is complete and glass is up “all around.”

The opening date: Tentatively, if all goes well, mid-January.

“Optimistically, mid-January,” he added, “but not before it is ready.”

“We’re doing our due diligence,” he said. “It’s not about how quickly work is done but about the quality that the public deserves.”

The taxpayers, he said, will get a “modern library” with an updated collection and new look. The cost: about $6 million.

“This will look like a 2018 library rather than the 1980 library they had,” he said. That’s when the present library was built.

“We’re getting lots of calls and it is gratifying to know how much citizens want the library,” he said. “We will pass their expectations when we reopen.”

For now, Williams and his staff of about a dozen are operating out of a trailer next to the library.

A year ago, Harvey left some 3-4 feet of floodwater in the building with damages that former library director Jose Martinez described as “incalculable.” Not only was the roof and facility in disrepair, but the collection — books, electronics, magazines and DVDs — were destroyed.

That included genealogy records, microfilm and historical photos and collections, many of which were reclaimed by the painstaking process of freeze-drying.

Carpet will be laid down by late September, Williams said, and he hopes construction will be complete by late October. Then comes shelving and organizing the 80,000 pieces that will become part of the updated collection.

“The storm took out a lot of the collection,” he said. “There was no way to come back with the old collection.”

That meant weeding through damaged or obsolete materials.

“We don’t want to put up a book that has do come down,” he said.

There are other tasks, too, including networking and installing furniture and servers.

But, he said, the end is near.

So is the beginning: The day the library reopens.