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Flin Flon Public Library reopens following wall, roof repairs

After two months with its doors closed, the Flin Flon Public Library is back open to the public.

After two months with its doors closed, the Flin Flon Public Library is back open to the public.

The Main Street mainstay reopened at 10 a.m. Jan. 4 after a series of repairs and remediations to its home building, the Centennial Building. Programs will soon be back and running, the bookshelves are full and staff are eager to welcome readers back.

"It's amazing. We are so happy to be back. The patrons are happy," said library administrator Lisa Slugoski.

The library was first closed due to the public Nov. 4, with workers moved out of the building and programs abruptly postponed.

Some Flin Flonners got eerie flashbacks to the closure of the Flin Flon Aqua Centre, which also closed suddenly - and at first, on a temporary basis - in January 2020, only to be fully shut down and demolished later in the year. That was not in the cards for the library, but repairs would be needed to allow it to open back up.

"Every time I left my house, people would ask me, 'When is the library opening?' I think a lot of people were afraid that this was going to be the pool all over again - it was a lot of reassuring people that no, that wasn't going to happen," said Slugoski.

Most of the work done on the building was centred around the library's north wall, where structural problems were found late last year. Other problems were later found in part of the building's roof. When one issue came up, another came to take its place, causing the closure to continue longer than expected.

"When we originally had the fix done in the library, the engineers put together a program that would keep the wall up. What's happened is there's a main beam that runs along the north wall that supports the roof all the way along - the wall had broken and water had been getting in for years. The main beam was rotted away," said city councillor Bill Hanson, the chair of the City's engineering services committee.

"The engineers came up with a plan to support the roof all the way along, using steel on the inside. When we were done that and we were planning on opening a couple days later, our maintenance manager went in there, did an inspection and found some deficiencies. He pointed them out to the engineer, the engineer wanted them fixed - that's just due diligence. That's why it took a little longer than normal."

Cost estimates for the work were not available from the City as of January 4.

The uncertainty about the closure weighed heavy on staff, Slugoski said, with people unsure if the closure would be temporary or not early on. Eventually, news came that the library would reopen - just after the fixes were finished.

"At first, we were worried because we didn't know. For the first week we were closed, we were waiting for the engineer to come in and do the inspection. We didn't know what was going to happen," said Slugoski. 

"Once he came, he said the building needed to be closed to the public. We did that right away. The staff wasn't even allowed in here without a worker with us. We came in and grabbed what we needed to work from home and do what we could from there."

There are still visible signs of the work that took place inside the library. The drywall on the north wall, including the mural that had been painted on the wall, has been removed. The wall's studs and brickwork are visible, but blocked off with plastic. Toys in the children's section have not been put back out for play yet - with the wall still open, staff decided against having items that could put children near the exposed brick or wood while playing.

More work will be needed - the City has committed to doing another set of larger repairs for the library and the wall, likely this spring or summer, to cover the brick and studs again and to finish up the work. Exactly when that work will take place and whether that work will require a second closure is currently not known.

"This isn't the permanent fix. The permanent fix will happen later in spring or early summer. We're hoping that'll be quick, but we don't really know right now. We'll know more as that comes to be, as we get closer to that time," Slugoski said.

"We want to make sure that everyone's safe here, the staff and also all the patrons that come in here."

Along with reopening, the library is restarting its two main programs for children's literacy, the Read to Me program and its 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten promotion for young readers.

"Read to Me is starting a new session Jan. 18 - they're taking registrations now," said Slugoski.

"The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten just continues, that's an ongoing program - we had a kid that came in today and he was saying, 'Lisa, I read four hundred books!' and he was so excited. We celebrated that - he reached that a little while ago, but we weren't open."

Hanson said the library is one of the City's most important cultural services.

"It's a very important building in Flin Flon, way more important than a lot of people realize. I'm excited that it's opening and I know there's a number of children in town who are excited it's opening again too," he said.

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