Today - Thursday, February 8 th - marks the first day towards the grand reopening of Kent Memorial Library. Over 60,000 books are scheduled to be removed from the building so that PCB ( polychlorinated biphenyl)abatement of the waffle ceilings can begin. In regard to the future of the books, a number of options were carefully considered with safety to residents and cost-efficiency as the primary goals.
At this point, there is no specific knowledge that the books contain PCBs. That being said, it is the recommendation of the Town's environmental consultant as well as good practice and risk management to assume the books have been impacted and proceed accordingly. As one might imagine, removing, thoroughly cleaning, re-packing, storing and re-shelving each book is costly. Additionally, a third of the books are non-fiction, and therefore somewhat obsolete. At the request of the Library Director and library staff, the First Selectman, Library Commission, Facilities Manager and other stakeholders were consulted and collaboratively decided that the most cost-efficient way to proceed was to dispose of the majority of the books. While all agreed that this was the most practicable solution, it was a difficult decision nonetheless. Both donation and recycling was also investigated, but dismissed to avoid liability exposure to the Town. Approximately 6,000 current DVDs will, however, be cleaned and salvaged because plastic does not absorb PCBs.
National Library Relocations (NLR), the firm selected for the work, specializes in moving libraries and offers clients an atypical blend of professionals from the fields of library science, architecture and transportation. The company has the distinct reputation as the #1 Library Mover in North America. To further stretch taxpayer dollars, Town departments will help with this undertaking. The Highway Department will coordinate the dumpsters while library staff will oversee re-shelving of the DVD collection, both tasks typically handled by the movers. The fee to NLR totals $23,707, accounted for in the Town's 2017 capital budget. Beginning at 8 AM today, USA Hauling will drop two 30-yard open top containers in front of the library to begin work. The adjacent road will be reduced to one lane. Project completion is anticipated at five days. RFPs (Request For Proposals) for the ceiling abatement are scheduled for release on February 15th with work to commence shortly thereafter.
It bears repeating that the public's patience and understanding as the abatement of Kent Memorial Library moves forward is greatly appreciated.
Progress at Kent Memorial Library
Additional Information Regarding Books
On February 8, 2018, the First Selectman's Office provided an update for Kent Memorial Library, specifically regarding books housed in the building. Based on questions received from residents, the following provides additional clarification.
The books were not separately tested to confirm the presence of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl). PCBs readily permeate porous materials such as books. The exposed books are assumed to be contaminated without the expense and delay of testing. The Town considered the potential liability involved in handling, keeping, donating or recycling books - regardless of testing outcome - that were exposed to PCBs. The PCB liability concern was shared by others. Potential outlets for donation/recycling of the books declined the offers. Professionals were hired for this project instead of volunteers or staff for the same concerns.
Cost was another factor in the decision making. Initially, the cost to professionally clean and store all the books left in the library totaled $60,000 (approx. $1 per book). Discarding the exposed collection (approx. 42,300 books) reduced overall costs substantially to approx. $23,700.
Additional information regarding this effort and the books belonging to Kent Memorial Library:
- The Historical Collection moved and safely stored since January 2015
- 41,700 books remain in KML Collection
- Approx. 20,000 currently at Ffyler Place
- Approx. 21,700 "Older" new books stored due to space restrictions at Ffyler
- Books discarded included:
- Older bestsellers
- Outdated non-fiction/research books
- Children's books - of particular concern relative to PCB contamination
- Professional movers hired (National Library Relocators) led by former librarian
- NLR scanned books first to determine if any should be saved
- Space now available for current/updated books and potentially one (1) study room
- Town proposes adding $30,000 to library's 2018/19 book budget to replenish collection
- Gaps in collection met via:
- Interlibrary loan
- Neighboring libraries
- Friends of the Library book sale
- "Wish List"
- 6,000 current DVDs salvaged
To reiterate, the discarding of books was an enormously difficult decision of which many stakeholders - the environmental consultant, Board of Selectmen, Public Works Department, Library Director, Library staff, Library Commission - agreed. For the Library Director in particular, discarding one book, let alone 42,300 was no easy task. In the end, the potential risk to residents far outweighed the value of the outdated books. The Town is now one step closer to reopening KML as a safe and inviting space for the community.