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Pop-up library in Powell River continues to operate during closure after flood

Facility still facing challenges while restoration project moves forward

More work needs to be done before Powell River Public Library can fully reopen to the public.

According to a media release from chief librarian Rebecca Burbank, the main library space remains closed following a flood on March 29. While the restoration project is moving forward, there are weeks of work left before the public will be able to come through the front doors, stated Burbank.

“We are fortunate that so much of our work is virtual and off-site at the moment; most of our programming has not missed a beat,” stated Burbank. “The separate entrance to the meeting rooms provided us with a unique opportunity to open a pop-up library within our own space. Currently, our staff are able to make some material available for pickup and browsing, and they have set up one public computer, which can be booked in advance. We have added a scanner to that space to enhance the computing services available at the pop-up.”

Burbank stated that following the flood, the library closed to the public and staff lost access to the collection and the majority of the space. Significant portions of the ceiling and carpeting needed to be taken out, according to Burbank. Shelves and all furnishings, including the service desk, had to be moved out of the restoration area.

“Thankfully, the desk was not damaged,” stated Burbank.

The main area of the library that patrons used to see day-to-day is not fully accessible, even to staff.

“We are working from the First Credit Union community room and back offices only and have access to new and returned materials,” stated Burbank. “The book you have on hold might be on a shelf in the library, but we may not be able to lend it to you if it is wrapped up tight to keep it clean during the restoration.” 

Staff have been further limited by a lack of access to shelving as they have no space to store returned materials. Typically, library staff rely on a large percentage of its items being checked out and stored on the community’s shelves. At the end of March there were nearly 7,800 items circulating in the community – that is nearly 260 shelves of books, according to Burbank.

Without items being checked out at the normal rate, available shelving can be quickly overrun, she added.

“Want to help the library during the restoration?” stated Burbank. “Come to the pop-up and borrow some books.”

She said while it was fortunate there were no injuries or significant losses to the collection due to the flood, the need for restoration work has completely disrupted the ability to use the space. The library’s work area has been isolated to contain construction debris. The collections and rooms outside of that space have been fully wrapped in plastic.

Following the restoration work, the space will be cleaned and shelving, furnishings, lighting and collections will be reinstalled, stated Burbank.

“While we are all anxiously waiting for the work to be done, come in and borrow something new or try a digital audiobook,” added Burbank. “If the hours of the pop-up do not work for your schedule, try the holds locker for after hours pickup of materials.”

Library board chair Rod Wiebe stated it has been a challenging year for the library staff, navigating COVID-19 and a flood, but what they have demonstrated throughout is a true passion to deliver this essential service to the public regardless of the obstacles thrown at them.

“As chair of the library board, and I am sure I speak on behalf of all the trustees, I couldn’t be more proud of the work they have done,” stated Wiebe, “and I look forward to the reopening of the entire library space in the near future.”