Repairs are commencing at the Fraser Public Library following a car crash that significantly damaged the building on May 21.

Repairs are commencing at the Fraser Public Library following a car crash that significantly damaged the building on May 21.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Fraser library commences repairs, opening temporary location

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published June 19, 2023


FRASER — The Fraser Public Library is in the process of repairing its building and moving its collection after a car crashed through several of its walls on May 21.

As a result, the library board has authorized plans to rent a temporary space for library services in Fraser while its building is repaired. The temporary location is expected to open by July 1.

“The library will be moving to a temporary location. We have found a place that we will have ready to occupy by July 1,” said Marlene Hoeft, president of the Fraser Public Library Board of Trustees. “We will be able to offer full library services there, but some of our selection will need to be put into storage since it is a smaller space, but we will have our most popular materials and technology services. Our interloan system from other libraries also will still be available.”

The use of a different space was considered necessary due to the extensive damage caused by the crash.

“The gentleman in question jumped the curb, ran across the grass, took out a handicapped sign, took out the planter box we had made to put stuff in,” said Lorena McDowell, the library director. “Then he hit the building, went through the brick wall and the cement wall on the outside and then went through all of the employee desks in the backroom. They were totaled. He even took out our brand-new printer that we had just gotten a few weeks before the incident.

“He made it to the drywall behind the circulation desk, so everything in the circulation area was destroyed or ruined. Pretty much all of our employee functioning areas are gone,” McDowell said.

The temporary space will be located in the shopping center at the corner of 15 Mile and Hayes roads, on the Fraser side.

“There are two units separated by a different store, which was the best we could do, but one will house the collection and circulation and one will be where our staff will work and where we can host programs. We also have permission to use the outdoor space for our programs. Our movie nights, for instance, which are very popular, will be going on at the temporary location,” said McDowell. “Patrons can still call us on our library main line. Luckily, two or three weeks before the incident, we changed phone systems so our employees can use it remotely. Our staff is answering our phones.”

McDowell said the goal was for the library to still offer all of its services to patrons. However, the one caveat is that the temporary space will not have room for the library’s entire collection. Finding a location to house it all would have required significant retrofitting, meaning a longer time before the temporary space is ready and likely an additional cost that would not be covered by insurance.

“It is a smaller space. We won’t have our entire collection there. We are only going to take about 10-15% of our items, but we are trying to take the things that get used the most. We will keep adding items along the way, too,” she said. “We tried to find a location that we could get into quickly so we could open as quickly as possible, and we wanted to ensure it would let us have most of the functions that we ordinarily do. So we will have our patron computers and printers there and we will be able to host programs there. We even got someplace with enough parking so we can do our Truck-or-Treat program there for Halloween.”

She added that the temporary move was agreed upon due to the expected length of the repair work on the library building.

“We didn’t want to be closed for six months or a year and just be gone. The board and I felt the best thing was to be open and functional as quickly as possible,” McDowell said. “The city and their people are saying we will be closed for three-to-six months (at our main building), but we all know how construction projects can go. It always seems to take two or three times as long because of supply chain shortages and worker shortages.”

She added that they are already seeing unexpected issues with the repairs.

“Everything always seems to have something unexpected come up. Even today, they were trying to get the HVAC system working to some extent and they found one of the thermostats was completely annihilated. Some of our electrical system is off, so that all has to be fixed.”

Hoeft said there are a lot of moving parts to the repair process.

“There are so many aspects of this process that have to be considered,” she said. “There is the hole in our wall and AAA and the city’s administration is trying to coordinate. We are trying to work with the city manager’s office. Most issues are communication related. There’s a lot of people to communicate with.”

“There are three insurances involved,” added McDowell. “The building is insured by the city, the library contents and property is covered by the library’s insurance, and then there is the car insurance of the individual involved in the crash. Everybody has to work together so everyone is still working out the details about who is paying for what.”

Another factor related to the issue was that, just prior to the incident, the city of Fraser was negotiating selling the library building to the Fraser Library for a symbolic cost of $1.

“Five-and-a-half days before the library was driven through, we received a purchase agreement from the city,” said Hoeft. “At our library board meeting, we reviewed it and, after making some modifications to it, sent it back to the city for approval. The city council accepted our modifications so now at our board meeting on June 19, since the library building is not usable right now, it brings a lot of questions as to how this whole process will proceed.”

Hoeft said the deal is still very much a possibility but that the crash has caused those involved to want to make sure they are proceeding with caution.

“The library board wants to explore some options,” she said. “We want to go for the best deal we can for the library. The purchase agreement we are talking about right now is not a bad deal, but we have other options and considerations to look at and since the building can’t be occupied at this time, we are going to use that time to look at it all.”

McDowell said the silver lining is that Fraser residents will still have a library and that, eventually, things should return to normal.

“The good news was no one was hurt since it happened at 5 a.m.,” said McDowell. “The only part of our collection that was damaged were the items we had in the back room at the time, so it was mostly new things we had just gotten. Most of our collection is fine.

“What was important to us was that the public can still go to the library,” McDowell said.