The Director and Library Trustees had a decision to make. Should they shut off the water? If so, the building temperature would plummet and the pipes would burst, wreaking havoc on building and books. No, they had to keep the heat on and let the water run.
The plumber called everywhere to find parts but had no luck – no one sells parts for a 1965-era pump. Finally, he found a 40-year-old part that could be retrofitted for the antiquated pump. This “solution” took 18 days, and the library is still left with old pumps that could break at any time.
ELECTRICAL & FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS
Last January, dozens of air purifiers were purchased to make the building pandemic-safe; however, the combination of air purifiers, space heaters, scores of computers and printers, and other technology caused the power to fail. Lights and electronics were turned off and then plugged in one at a time to determine the system’s capacity. It took days to find the balance. Today, it remains a juggling act – when the staff plug in one device, they unplug another. The 1965 electrical system is simply inadequate for 2021 needs.
Yet the problem is more than loss of power. If you look carefully, there are surge protectors throughout the building. That’s not to provide more outlets; they prevent the brittle wiring behind the outlets from sparking.
Meanwhile, the fire alarm system is beyond its useful life. Every night, the Library Director confirms that the fire annunciator is still communicating with fire headquarters, an important precautionary measure in a building with outdated systems.
Another nightly checklist item is the elevator – library staff make sure no one is stuck in the elevator overnight. With a history of unreliable service, this is mandatory.
A more disturbing truth, though, is that the elevator is too small for a wheelchair. Patrons in wheelchairs have two choices – stay in the children’s room or find a friend to carry them up the stairs and through the front door.
ROOF LEAKS, HEATING & COOLING
Once every month or two, the Trustees get a call reporting a new roof leak dripping through the ceiling or light fixtures. Look around, and you will see waste baskets hanging from the ceiling to catch water. These leaks have fried computers and destroyed some of the town’s historical documents, in addition to damaging the building.
One reason for the leaks is the air conditioning compressors – six on the roof and four tucked inside the eaves – which were added in 1972 and 1990. The roof was not designed to hold A/C units, and water pools on the roof, finding its way inside.
Most of the A/C units are far past their useful life and fail all summer. The unit ventilators fail throughout the year – leaving the building too hot in summer, too cold in winter, and generally uninhabitable. Sometimes, space heaters and fans provide relief; other times, the building must be closed.
THE FINAL STRAW
On top of everything else, the building is not compliant with current building codes or the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. If we make significant repairs, we are required to bring the entire building into compliance – a massive, expensive job.
These failures are accelerating and cannot wait any longer.
The library building must be replaced.
This article appeared in the Belmont Citizen Herald © 2021, and can be found at this link.