JONESVILLE — Staff and volunteers of the Jonesville Public Library have been hard at work for weeks going through the stacks of books one by one to check for mold as they prepare to move to a new temporary home.
Each book is scanned for visible signs of water and mold damage before it is either put in a “keep” pile or discarded, explained Branch Librarian Barbara Gilpin as she pointed out damage on a paperback western from the library’s collection. Some books were even found with mushrooms growing.
“Our goal is to be open by the middle of December,” Gilpin said of the temporary home donated by Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in a building just east of the HCMH Urgent Care facility on N.C. 67.
“Everything coming out of here has to be cleaned before it goes in the new building,” she said. “We have to throw everything that can’t be cleaned, and it is amazing what we’ve had to throw away.”
Just before Thanksgiving, 2,800 books already had been added to the discarded pile and taken to the dumpster, reported Gilpin. Collections remaining to be sorted through include adult nonfiction, adult fiction, Christian/inspirational, and the majority of the children’s room.
“It’s like an onion. The more you peel away the layers the more you find you didn’t know was damaged,” said Gilpin. “[The water] was apparently running down the walls and we didn’t know. It keeps raining and it keeps making it worse.”
All of the library’s reference books were a loss, she said, and the majority of the history room. “We’ve been through adult biographies, mysteries, westerns and large print, and we’ve lost a significant amount in all of those.
“It’s been a slower process than we first thought it would be,” she said. “We are keeping a log of what we are having to get rid of, with our circulation system we can keep a record of what we’re losing. Then we’ll make Walmart and Amazon wish lists, and a lot of people have come to us ready to give when we have a place to put them.
“The westerns, we have a large amount of patrons who like those, especially the older westerns, and we’ve lost a lot we’d like to replace for sure,” said Gilpin.
“The children’s books, I think we’re going to lose a lot of them,” she said noting a majority of the water damage is in that room.
In addition to books, Gilpin said all of the wooden and fabric furniture had to be disposed of, so the only thing left are a few metal chairs and the children’s room plastic chairs that will need to be cleaned. This leaves no tables or work stations, no adult seating and no desk chairs for the staff.
“We have had some people donate some desks and chairs. We’ll need area rugs because the new location has cement floors, so we’ll need some cover for that,” she said.
While looking for content to replace the damaged books, Gilpin said she’d also love to have donations of anything local, including yearbooks and local history items. “We would really like to build that part of our collection. We would love family genealogy books too,” she said.
She estimated losses, based on an average of $15 a book, at $40,500. “We’re trying to save everything we can,” she said. “We had a collection of Sears catalogs donated by a local patron years ago, and they were unsalvageable because of the moisture and mold damage.
“It has been heartbreaking because it has taken years to build this collection up. We are very serious as we look at each book to determine if it is salvageable, because we have to think about the public’s health.”
The future of the library is still up in the air. The temporary location is available for just six months, and the town-owned building they are leaving could cost several thousand dollars to repair and clean.
Gilpin said the Friends of the Jonesville Public Library are working some fundraising ideas, including a letter campaign soliciting funds from people in the area. In the past, silent auctions have been held and, she said, other ideas are being talked about but haven’t been finalized. There will be some grant writing as well.
Anyone who is willing to volunteer at either the new location or the old location can call the library at 336-835-7604 or visit the Jonesville Public Library Facebook page.
“It’s a big project,” Gilpin said of the work being done.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.