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Water damage closes library in Powell River; chief librarian provides update

Leak connected to roof replacement work causes disruption
RESULTING DAMAGE: Powell River Public Library is currently closed because of flooding that occurred during a roof replacement project at the facility.

Powell River Public Library (PRPL) is closed to the public after a flooding accident related to roof replacement work being done on the building.

The accident occurred on March 29 and there was a significant flow of water into the library area.

“It was immediate and quite dramatic,” said chief librarian Rebecca Burbank. “I was not on site but we’ve seen some videos of what felt very much like a waterfall.”

Once the water started leaking, the library team, the roofing team and City of Powell River acted quickly to get the water shut off, according to Burbank.

“I was absolutely floored,” she said. “The city came in and put plastic all over the place and we had the restoration team in within an hour and a half. They were immediately onsite.

“I know that the hard work of our library staff with those two other teams really did prevent a lot of significant damage that could have happened. We have avoided some significant losses to technology and the collection because of that work.”

Crews are now working to clean up and restore operations at the library. Burbank said the water came through the ceiling so there is significant damage to the ceiling and carpeting below.

Burbank said she is happy to say the physical collection – books, DVDs, music and games – was largely spared, but will be inaccessible to the public and staff during at least the first steps in the clean-up process.

At this moment, the library is closed to the public and cannot accept returned materials, according to Burbank. All return dates have been extended until April 26 and there are no late fees. The exterior returns chutes at the library have been closed until further notice.

“It has definitely been a whirlwind week,” said Burbank. “A lot of things we’ve put effort into over the past year are really going to benefit us now that we are closed again. I would anticipate that we will have a gradual reopening. We won’t be able to just throw the front doors open and welcome people back into the library. It’s definitely going to be business as possible.”

Burbank said she is hoping in the near term to use the hold locker in the library foyer and provide access to materials through that.

She said she is thankful a large number of the library’s staff are working remotely so programs are not going to miss a beat. The library offers virtual programs and the in-person outdoor story time, which has been hosted at Willingdon Beach.

“It’s gorgeous,” said Burbank. “We’ve had full support from Vancouver Coastal Health and we have a great health and safety plan in place. It’s just like our story time in the library, but it’s outdoors and distanced, and these days, a little bit chillier.”

Burbank said at the beginning of the pandemic, the library shifted to digital collections, so the library is happy to have those readily accessible, 24 hours a day. This would include digital books and access to services such as LinkedIn Learning, which was formerly Burbank said that has been a great benefit to people in town who are looking at skill building.

Burbank said the library hopes to open in a limited capacity as soon as it is safe to do so, but in the meantime, they appreciate their clients’ patience. 

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