In the back corner of the library ceiling, remnants of the water damage can be seen. Photo by Jake Hibbitts

Local library’s leaky roof poses problems

Heather Blevins, Lassen Library’s new director, and its staff have a huge task ahead of them. Since mid-January, the library’s roof, covered in slushy snow, has leaked all throughout the building, leaving the staff to cover areas in tarp.

Taken back in January, this picture was shared on the library’s Facebook page, highlighting the drastic measures the staff had to embark upon during the heavy storms. Photo submitted

All over the library, patrons can clearly see the damage wreaking havoc.

Instead of a background of experience in libraries, Blevins is a former civil engineer with the U.S. Forest Service. The new position and career, while completely different, have a few commonalities with her current one.

If you follow the library’s Facebook page, you have seen the tarp-covered rows of books and computers. To save the library’s materials from a caving ceiling, staff has had to move around heavy bookshelves. For the whole month it seemed a new spot would show up daily.

Blevins recounted the first time the situation became apparent, “In the middle of January we had weather conditions where we had snow and then it rained. There was around four inches of heavy slushy stuff,” said Blevins. “So we came in one Thursday morning and the roof was leaking like crazy.”

Blevins reminded the community, “This is an old building … but the roof, we’ve had maintained about every year for the past 10 years … in trying to patch and do what we can with the limited funds we have.”

However, the library was in some way lucky. The leak occurred on a day where the library was scheduled to open, and had it not been so, it would have caused further destruction. If the roof of the building had more slope, more of the slush would have came right off.

“We have a flat roof,” said Blevins, “It slopes just a little bit toward the back [of the building] just enough for the water to come off, so when we had all that slush on the roof, it just held all that moisture.”

This caused the moisture to seep through all over the building and not in one particular location, making it difficult to plan or anticipate a singular location of focus.

The staff was then tasked with removal of the slush from the roof and keeping the drains clear.

Blevins explained the complications, “We have a vinyl sheet that covers the roof. In order to really repair that kind of system, we have to have warm temperatures … because of the materials and the sealants … so there wasn’t anything we could do immediately.”

As of now, the library is working with and waiting on the results of its insurance company, due to have met on Monday March 18.

“We’re waiting to hear how they can help us,” said Blevins concerning the insurance company. “We don’t have a big budget and that’s why we’re part-time. We have eight people on our staff, and two of those are committed to the literacy program.”

The grants used to fund the literacy program staff is strictly for use of the program and not library facilities, meaning zero dollars to fix the roof.

Depending upon the verdict of the insurance company, the library will look to start its fundraising efforts with a two-week book sale.

Through the nonprofit charitable organization, Friends of the Library, the library receives grants to fund certain programs. Since 2006, the group has contributed more than $50,000 in support of the library. In 2018, they received grants from Ross, WalMart and US Bank.

The group’s mission is to stimulate public awareness of the library through community advocacy activities and to provide financial, material and volunteer support for the library’s programs, services and facility.