Born again!

Published 11:26 am Thursday, November 30, 2017

WINDSOR – Four separate incidents of storm damage couldn’t wipe it out.

Fourteen months since Hurricane Matthew closed it down due to flooding at its former Dundee Street location, the Bertie County Public (nee Lawrence Memorial) Library has re-opened in the Windsor Square Shopping Center located just off the US-13 Bypass near Food Lion.

With library personnel, Albemarle Regional Library (ARL) board members and staffers on hand, a special ribbon-cutting – done by Windsor branch head librarian Nancy Hughes – was held Monday evening as part of the grand re-opening.

Irene Walker thumbs through one of the numerous books available at the Bertie County Public Library.

“It looks great, and I know the community is happy for it to be here,” said Bertie County Commissioner Tammy Lee, who was joined by fellow Commissioner Ernestine Bazemore, Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer, and other members of county personnel at the event.

Lee spoke after a special blessing was made over the library by Rev. Fr. Aaron Wesserman, the new rector of Windsor’s Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Also present were members of the County Maintenance staff which did much of the restoration in moving books and shelving from downtown, as well as installing the rows of new computer desks.

“We’re just excited and delighted to be here,” said an emotional Hughes. “We’ve got the same number of computers; it just looks like we have a whole lot more.”

For those attending, there were refreshments as a part of the ‘welcome home’.

“They worked miracles in here,” said ARL Director Jennifer Patterson. “They turned a small space into a really great library for this community.”

Hughes said the library would have the same things as the former Dundee Street location with the addition of quite a few new books replacing the damaged ones. In September, Patterson said a $50,000 grant that was received from the Library Services and Technology Act helped to replace some damaged computers and other items from both Tropical Storm Julia and Hurricane Matthew.

“Because we’ve been closed so long we have lots of new books,” Hughes said.

Both librarians said the community was especially happy with the return of the computer system and internet access.

“Nowadays, you can’t apply for a job without doing it online and lots of people in different communities like this just don’t have access to that in their homes,” she said. “The computers here will be a huge help.”

Alan Basden, a Windsor resident and library patron, said the new facility exceeded his expectation. He said the 14-month wait was worth it.

“To be honest, it’s somewhere to go to read where it’s quiet and I can be with my friends,” Basden remarked. “I was one of the hardest hit with the closing because I don’t drive and it’s one of my favorite places to be other than church.”

Everything from the books to the shelving had been in storage for more than a year. There’s a children’s section, a teen section, adult fiction and non-fiction,

“They had to bring everything in and configure it for a facility for which it had not been intended,” said Sauer. “The library staff preserved so much of the most important pieces of the various collections; and the computers are wonderful.”

Bertie County Maintenance Director Anthony Rascoe said staffers from CADA, and some who were temporary workers hired following Hurricane Matthew, joined together with his workers to complete the restoration on time; turning the former State Employees Credit Union office into a library.

“I didn’t think we would make it this far,” said maintenance worker Demetrius Jordan. “Everybody pitched in together to get it done. Every bookshelf, every computer table, we put them all back together. If we hadn’t been such a good team we wouldn’t have made it.”

Nancy Hughes, head librarian at the Bertie County Public Library, chats with two patrons attending Monday’s grand re-opening.

“We had all local contractors,” said Rascoe. “Dunlow Carpeting from Askewville, Michael Bond Painting, Williamston Glass, Comfort Masters Heating and Air in Windsor; everything you see was pretty much done by local people.”

There will be some new hours of operation for the library: 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and additional hours on Monday, 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.; and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Sauer said the county hopes to eventually move the library to a permanent location, and Camden Street has been mentioned as a possible location on higher ground in Windsor. So far, six firms have submitted proposals for the design, planning, and construction drawings for a joint facility that will house the Bertie Cooperative Extension Office as well as the library. They will make their presentations before the Commissioners at an upcoming meeting.

Meanwhile, the grand re-opening festivities continued with Patterson doing a presentation in the children’s section called, “Let’s Celebrate Books”.  She also read aloud a book, “The Library”, to the children that paralleled what had occurred with the current library: a library’s being relocated from one home to another. While some of the kids listened to the story, others were doing artwork in coloring booklets. They were joined in their activity by several adults.

The evening closed with a live jazz performance by Elizabeth City quartet, “Connected”, playing original music as well as jazz standards by Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Ramsey Lewis.