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Port Neches Library remains closed: Repairs will be done; no reopening date set

PORT NECHES — The doors to the Effie and Wilton Hebert Public Library in Port Neches remain shuttered more than six weeks after the explosion at TPC Group, and pinpointing a date for reopening is difficult, library director Mark Durham said.

The library suffered a variety of damages from the Nov. 27 explosion at the nearby refinery — six full-frame windows shattered, two outer doors blew loose, window frames pulled ajar, interior windows and doors knocked off mountings and more.

Port Neches City Manager Andre Wimer said the city’s insurance provider has had an adjuster evaluate the library as well as TPC having their adjuster also evaluate the building.

“We are awaiting final reports in order to determine how we proceed in accomplishing the various repairs that are necessary,” Wimer said.

The city’s fire station and service center also saw damages from the explosion and have undergone the same evaluations, though they both remain operational.

Durham said the current plan is to start taking everything out of the two outer wings of the library because both will need to be renovated, meaning books to be removed and cleaned and carpets taken out. The children’s materials will be brought to the community room at the front of the library, which will help them be in a position to renovate.

Partial services could be restored, but the decision on whether to open the main building or just use the foyer is up in the air at this time.

“We haven’t figured it out yet,” Durham said. “Whether we will be able to offer computing services and allow the public to browse the adult selection, or come in and request items and we will need to go pull them.”

But there are a lot of other things going on at the same time.

Busy time

Durham and staff also need to host a book sale and are searching for the best possible dates.

“In order to bring the children’s and reference section ready for renovations, we have to make space so we are withdrawing the least used items out of the collection to be able to make space,” he said. “This has to take place before we can move things out and condense the selection. Once that happens we can open to limited services.”

Before the blast, the library was collecting books for a Hamshire-Fannett school library that was damaged during Tropical Storm Imelda.

The Hebert library staff will also use this time to restructure how the space in the library is utilized. For example, the reference section has diminished through the years, and people tend to go online for quick facts and statistics. So, the extra space could go to extra seating.

It’s been said that there’s never a good time for a disaster. This rings true with the Port Neches library that was in the process of exiting from the Houston Area Library Automated Network, or HALAN, which is a consortium of libraries using the same system.

There is a process for taking down HALAN and changing up electronic services.

“We are trying to take care of all of these things while it is being shut down,” officials said.

The Hebert Public Library Board meets at 2 p.m. today at Port Neches City Hall to discuss damages, recovery and more.

Help from friends

While the Port Neches library remains closed, its programs continue at other local libraries.

Louella Doucet, director of the Groves Public Library, said it’s what libraries do — they share resources.

“When Port Neches had this happen, of course we opened our doors,” Doucet said. “They had many programs scheduled, and we didn’t want to interrupt events such as their children’s Christmas party and Spanish classes.”

Port Arthur and Nederland libraries have also helped by hosting events and opening their doors to patrons.

For more information, call the Port Neches Library at 409-722-4554 or visit their Facebook page.