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Ferndale

December 9, 2010

Library to remain closed for 10 weeks due to flooding

FERNDALE — Because of the extensive water damage that occurred late last month, the Ferndale Public Library will be closed until mid-February or later.

According to Ann Warner, president of the library Board of Trustees, it will take at least 10 weeks to finish all the recovery work on the library and get it ready to reopen to the public. She estimated that more than 15,000 gallons of water entered the library — located at 222 E. Nine Mile Road — when the water recycling system on the building’s mezzanine level somehow failed.

For Warner and others, news of the flooding was made “all the more heartbreaking” because of its timing: The damage occurred only four months after the expanded and renovated 21,000-square-foot library opened its doors.

“It would have been disheartening no matter when it occurred,” Warner said, “but this certainly makes it a lot more difficult to take.”

Library Director Doug Raber agreed. “It happened right after we felt like we were getting some momentum going and had started to become a real destination in the community,” he said. “To be deprived of the possibility of serving the public, that’s the most disappointing part.”

Officials do not yet know the cause of the flooding, but the city’s insurance company is conducting an investigation on the matter, Warner said.

Librarian Pat Lind discovered the damage on the morning of Nov. 26, when she entered the library to find the floors covered in water. The disaster recovery and restoration company Belfor arrived within 90 minutes and spent the next four days pumping water out of the building and dehumidifying the air.

The carpeting was soaked throughout the building and will have to be replaced. A number of ceiling tiles and walls were also damaged, and some office furniture, computers, file cabinets and copy machines were drenched, as well. In addition, about 25 percent of the used books in the Friends of the Ferndale Library’s bookstore were destroyed.

However, officials were thankful that there was no harm done to any of the library’s books, CDs, DVDs, public computers or public furniture, nor to its children’s library or its quiet reading room.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Raber said. “Nothing that’s mission-critical to providing service in the library was damaged. All the materials that we need are still in good shape.”

Added Warner, “I think we’re very fortunate, all things considered. The devastation would have been so much worse had we lost part of our collection.”

Warner also pointed out that because Lind came into the library on her day off on Nov. 26 — the library was closed for four days during Thanksgiving weekend — to empty the book return bin, the flooding was discovered much sooner than it otherwise would have been.

Officials do not know yet how much it will cost to repair the damages to the library. Warner indicated that “the vast majority” of all expenses would be covered by the city’s insurance plan. Still, she said that it has not yet been determined who would pay for any additional costs should insurance not cover everything.

In the meantime, the nine-member library staff has been placed on paid administrative leave. Raber stressed, however, that they will continue working on some major projects over the next 10 weeks, and some staff members may even spend time working at other local libraries. They will also keep patrons informed about the library repairs and provide other important updates via the library’s website and Facebook page.

In addition, library users will not have to go without their usual library services. Because of Ferndale’s membership in The Library Network cooperative, residents can use other nearby TLN-affiliated libraries — including those in Royal Oak, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Oak Park and Berkley — while their home library is closed. Raber pointed out that library items can still be returned in the drop boxes on the east side of the building, and the library will not be charging any late fees at this time.

Raber also urged Ferndale residents to be patient during the recovery process. “Our main goal right now is to reopen as quickly as possible,” he said. “We want to be prepared so that as soon as we’re ready to open our doors again, we can hit the ground running.”