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Library board exploring options to find new home for Nechako branch

Weekend flood that damaged library collection not the first time that's happened in Hart Centre Mall location

Saturday’s heavy rainfall found a way through the roof of the Prince George Public Library’s Nechako branch and dumped a large amount of water onto the collection shelves, damaging books, ceiling tiles and flooring.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it happened again early Monday when a thunderstorm rolled through the city.

As a result, the Nechako branch in the Hart Centre Mall at 3831 Austin Rd., remains closed to the public. Library officials hope to have it reopened by the end of the week.

“They were fixing a problem on the roof that was causing slow leaking and we’ve had a number of issues with that over the years,” said library director Paul Burry, who gave an update to the flood situation at Monday’s city council meeting. “They had identified what to do to fix the repair long-term and had begun work on that project.

“On Sunday we tarped as much of the areas as we could but you can’t predict where the failures are going to occur. When we came in Monday the damage was more than we had seen Sunday because it rained overnight. We need to ensure we don’t reopen until we’re sure it’s not going to happen the next time there’s more rain.”

Burry said about 10 per cent of the entire floor space of the library was hit by water from the leak.

The owners of the mall started repairs of the roof on June 17 but had not fixed a problem that has plagued the Nechako branch in recent years.

The library has been forced to close seven times since 2023 for unplanned issues, four of which were due to the leaky roof, including three closures this year alone. A faulty furnace and broken window also led to forced closures in that same time period.

Burry said the library board would consider moving to a different location but there is a shortage of comparable space big enough to house the Nechako collection.

“One of things we’re doing now is working with the city to try to figure out how to move forward with that,” said Burry. “We’re very pleased we have partners in city administration that are having those discussions with us now trying to make sure there’s a presence in the Hart that provides a safe and attractive facility.

“Our staff (of eight) care about the residents and the patrons who use the branch  and they want that service to the collections to be available to community members. It hurts them when we have to close.”

The Prince George Public Library board delivered its annual report at Monday’s council meeting which showed total revenue in 2023 reached $4,502,725, including $3,708,398 provided by city taxpayers, $418,654 from the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and $213,987 from the province.

Board chair Anna Duff said the library raised $89,137 from internally generated revenue and $72,549 from fundraising/donations, both double the amounts received in 2022.

More than 700 people visit the library downtown branch daily, while the Nechako branch averages 125 visitors per day. Library programs attracted 33,613 visitors in 2023, more than any other year.