This photo was taken in April of last year when the basement of the Jesup Memorial Library flooded, resulting in an inch of standing water in some places. Last week, the basement flooded again. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JESUP

Volunteers save collections as library floods a second time

BAR HARBOR — The basement flooded at Jesup Memorial Library last Thursday night for the second time in a year. According to library director Ruth Eveland, library staff were prepared for the second flood.

“We learned our lessons well,” she said. “This was not as bad as last year.”

The last basement flooding occurred on April 26, 2018, in a period of heavy rain. Since that time, Eveland said, library staff have been storing most of the collections off the ground or in plastic tubs.

The cause was the same both times, Eveland said.

“The drain failed… When the ground is frozen, the water has no place to go. It backs into the library.”

With this recent flood, the water was mostly cleaned up before it reached the collections. This, according to Eveland, was due to the diligence of staff and volunteers, and support from the community.

“The first thing we did was to look at what was not already into a plastic tub or off the ground. We moved books out of the way of the reach of water.”

Luckily the water was discovered early, and the response was immediate. “We got the shop vac and pump working almost immediately,” she said. Volunteers and staff worked late into the night on Thursday, Eveland said, moving books, working equipment, and generally “slogging away in the basement.”

The Jackson Laboratory loaned a pump and volunteers brought towels.

The only collections damage was some water damage on historic maps, which were spread out to dry at the neighboring Abbe Museum, Eveland reported. There was some damage to the floor paint job and carpeting in the staff room.

The drain will be updated this year after the ground thaws, Eveland said. The library has a plan for the drain repair, and has to go through the permitting process with the town this winter, she said. “We expect to be able to do the work the minute we can get into the ground,” she said.

The library is also in the midst of a major capital campaign, launched in 2017, to fund a new addition to the library campus. Director of Development Lee Bonta wrote in a statement that the goal of the capital campaign is “to prepare [the library] for its second hundred years of serving our community.”

The drain repair, Eveland said, is “work that we were going to do regardless [of the capital campaign]. This has to do with upgrading the historic building.”

But more broadly, library leaders said, the floods highlight the need for a better facility for the Jesup’s extensive collections and many programs. The 108-year-old building has served its purpose well, but extensive renovations and more room are needed so the staff can focus on their work rather than managing facility crises.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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