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Editorial: Book it! This library will open

 

For those who’ve waited too long for their public library to reopen — that would be all of us, in the city of Port Arthur — the wait is almost complete.

The Port Arthur Public Library will reopen from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, a day for celebration, ceremony and renewing old relationships. Come Sunday, it’s back to business.

Port Arthur people will find in their revamped, revitalized library an old friend in new clothes, sporting new muscles. Closed due to flooding in August 2017, the library will reopen rebuilt to its very bones — new walls, new ceiling, new carpets, new computers — new, new, new — but in the familiar, 4615 Ninth Ave. location.

Patrons will find a library better than the one they knew the day before Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey unleashed it fury on this city. They’ll find a library better than the one that opened new the first time, in 1980.

“Everything is better because it is fresher,” said Jenniffer Hudson Connors, assistant library director. “There are no lingering dampness issues. Everything is brand new.”

That includes clearer, more “purpose driven” spaces, such as a clearly defined classroom, designated public meeting spaces, a colorful children’s section that embraces young readers, and a bounty of new seating areas, including one outside.

There will be new programs, too, to complement the new look: Family History Fridays, pre-school story time, Throwback Thursday board game nights.

Patrons can “book a librarian”: — spend time with a librarian who can help them for 45 minutes or so to consider their family history, set up social media accounts, learn how to use library databases.

That’s why the library is marketing itself as an old friend with a new skill set, dubbing itself #PAPL2.0 to suggest that something — a lot of somethings, really — have changed. That’s because participation in the Texas Municipal League Insurance Risk Pool has afforded the library the opportunity to reinvent itself in this $6.1 million re-do. It took some time to get to a new era, but here we are.

The library collection is decidedly smaller — 51,436 pieces last week, down from perhaps 120,000, pre storm — with more materials on the way. But the library of 2019 is a different creature than the library of 1980, as the new computers near the front door will suggest.

We encourage Port Arthur people and the city’s neighbors to visit the library Saturday for its reopening, which will be grand. There will be tours and refreshments and special guests.

There is much to see, much to learn within the 24,500 square feet of revamped library space.

We encourage people to reconnect with this library — an old friend, not forgotten — in the days, weeks and years ahead.