“It’s not home, but it’s certainly nice to have it,” said Kitty Coppock, describing the Stowe Free Library’s satellite location in Memorial Hall at the Akeley Memorial Building.
The library took up temporary residence there after its home at 90 Pond St., which also houses the Helen Day Art Center, was flooded by a burst sprinkler in the attic Dec. 10, destroying the library’s collection of adult fiction and nonfiction and rendering the building unusable.
Almost $400,000 worth of library materials was destroyed, estimated the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which provides the Stowe town government’s insurance.
For two weeks after the flooding, ServPro, a restoration company based in Stowe and Williston, worked to dry out the building, and in the process removed the insulation and much of the interior walls.
Now, the building is ready for reconstruction to begin.
Stowe has contracted with Williston-based construction company J.A. Morrissey, and Jeanne Morrissey, president of the company, says work could be finished by the end of March.
“I just hope we can do well by the town, as quickly as we can,” Morrissey said.
Last week, she and some of her staff members toured the now-dry building.
“I was quite impressed with how quickly the town and ServPro responded,” Morrissey said. “I think they mitigated a lot by getting in there and getting things dried up as quick as they did. We walked around the building with the town and we’re looking at the different areas, what appeared to be the extent and the limit of the damage, and then we brainstormed together the tasks as we collectively see them.”
On Monday, Morrissey was hopeful that insulation work could begin late this week.
Then, electrical systems will be replaced, followed by wallboard, painting, flooring replacement and millwork.
There’s no firm estimate of how much J.A. Morrissey will charge for the project, since the company and town officials are still assessing what needs to be done, and whether improvements are needed to ensure the building still meets safety codes.
The building at 90 Pond St. is insured through Vermont League of Cities and Towns at replacement cost, which will include necessary upgrades to meet code, said Town Manager Charles Safford.
Library materials are insured at about 40 percent of their original cost, so much of that cost will need to be made up.
Friends of the Stowe Free Library, the nonprofit auxiliary that raises money for library materials and initiatives, is accepting donations.
In the meantime, Stowe Free Library patrons are “trickling in,” slowly but surely, to the library’s cozy temporary digs in the Akeley Memorial Building, says Jessica Psaros, interlibrary loan librarian at Stowe Free Library.
The space is much smaller than the library, so it’s been a challenge to make room for books and people to browse and read.
She says 25 to 40 patrons come there on an average day, checking out books, returning ones they took out before the flood, or reading the library’s range of newspapers and magazines in the snug news nook that librarians created, including two burgundy leather chairs.
“We’re getting the word out slow and sure,” Psaros said, and the library’s loyal patrons are coming back, one by one. “People have been finding us, popping their heads in and saying hi.”
Coppock, a library volunteer for 35 years, said that because the satellite location isn’t as close to Stowe Elementary School as the library building, it has lost some of the groups of children that usually use it as home base, but story hour is still taking place Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the David Gale Recreation Center.
Psaros praised the Vermont Department of Libraries for providing interlibrary loans to the Stowe Free Library. Usually, libraries give as many books as they receive, but since Stowe Free Library has no adult collection right now, the department has waived that requirement and is allowing Stowe Free Library patrons to check out books from other libraries as needed.
Stowe has “a very unique library that has a lot of services and engagement geared to the community, particularly to children and youth,” said Jason Broughton, interim state librarian. “They help with a lot of development of young minds to get them curious about reading and the importance of reading and the joy of reading for lifelong learning.
“It also provided a community hangout of sorts for a variety of different people to come in and have respite or leisure or check out what’s new, not to mention the art gallery upstairs. What a library really helps to do is be a community builder in some cases, or an anchor,” Broughton said.
Other area libraries are pitching in.
Waterbury Public Library director Almy Landauer said so far, 15 Stowe Free Library cardholders have signed up for temporary library cards at the Waterbury library, which is waiving fees for Stowe patrons until their home collection is back online.
Amy Olsen, director of Lanpher Memorial Library in Hyde Park, said she’s seen an increase in patrons from Stowe Free Library, too, and Lanpher regularly collaborates with Stowe Free Library.
Libraries are a “third place” for people, Landauer said.
“It’s crucial, and oftentimes, especially in our smaller towns, there really isn’t any other place besides a restaurant that you can go and meet people,” she said.
People use her library for conference calls, meetings with friends, tutoring and reading the news.
“Libraries are now community centers. Places where people meet, attend programs and visit with neighbors. We have free internet and WiFi access. People come in to print documents, get something notarized. ... People come in for a free, public, warm place to sit for a while,” Olsen said.
Gizelle Guyette, director of Morristown Centennial Library, says many Stowe patrons have wended their way there, too.
“Many tell us that they are eager to return to their library (Stowe Free is their home library, and where their hearts are) but are willing to branch out and visit us while Stowe Free Library recovers,” Guyette said.
“We all feel terrible about the damage Stowe Free Library is dealing with. It brings into focus how fragile our buildings can be. The books and materials will eventually be replaced and the damage fixed, but the SFL patrons miss their place,” Olsen said.
“We’re getting there,” Psaros said. “It’s not the same. Day to day, we’re getting in the swing of things.”