Mark Twain Library patrons will get to select new books to read by this weekend, once a new boiler is installed in the building.
The library has been closed since Tuesday, Jan. 2, because of the explosion of the 18-year-old cast iron boiler, which needed to be replaced.
There has been no heat in the building since that time.
“The situation became far more grave, however, because of the frigid temps and the potential of frozen pipes,” library board President Jen Wastrom said.
Director Beth Dominianni said the library plans to be up and fully running immediately after heat is restored and the water can safely be turned back on.
“We are hopeful that we can begin normal operations by this weekend,” Dominianni said.
Mike Rigby of Redding, co-chairman of the Mark Twain Library Building and Grounds Committee, said the new boiler uses completely different technology from the one that is being replaced.
“It is a German high-efficiency boiler. There are two boilers that work together,” he said. “They are propane, whereas the old was oil, so these represent a state-of-the-art heating upgrade.”
The new boiler will cost tens of thousands of dollars, Wastrom said.
“The furnace, along with all capital items — such as new carpeting, air conditioning and cooling systems, electricity and plumbing — is scheduled for replacement in our long-term capital plan,” library Treasurer Betsy Higgins said. “This emergency has required us to accelerate the purchase of the new boiler.”
Higgins further explained that the town of Redding supports a portion of the operating budget of the Mark Twain Library every year.
“This year, it’s 58%,” she said.
However, she added, the town of Redding does not contribute to any of the library’s annual capital expenses.
“These are funds that we need to generate ourselves through generous donations from our community,” Higgins said. “That being said, we are in close communication with the first selectman, and she is committed to making certain the library is safe during this emergency and supports us as we navigate through this process.”
Additional costs as a result of the boiler failure
The library rents out a small apartment upstairs in the old part of the building, and the tenant has had to vacate to a hotel.
“The library is paying for her hotel,” Wastrom said. “She has been uprooted from her home for two weeks.”
The Mark Twain Library will post information about when it will reopen on its website and Facebook page and on Redding’s townwide alert service. It will also email those on its list of library patrons. In addition, library users may call 203-838-2545 for a recorded message. The library’s downloadable services are currently up and running.
The Mark Twain Library has canceled programs for children, teens and adults planned for this week and will resume regular programs next week.
“The library staff has crafted a working plan for getting back to normal as quickly as possible. We ask our patrons to please hold on to all material until we open. We will forgive all overdue fees and have extended due dates,” Dominianni said.
She said the library is grateful to the First Church of Christ, Congregational, in Redding for offering its fellowship hall to hold an already scheduled musical performance on Sunday, Jan. 7.
“We are very grateful to the community for their patience and words of kind encouragement,” Dominianni said. “We also thank our neighboring libraries for their support.”
Wastrom said everyone who is involved with the library is working as hard as they can to get the library reopened.
“Beth Dominianni, the library director, Betsy Higgins, the treasurer, Eric Rubury, the chair of the Finance Committee, Mike Rigby, the chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, and myself have been dedicated to protecting the building during the extremely cold temperatures last week, and determining the most prudent choice in a new heating system,” Wastrom said.
“I am extremely grateful to those who have been in the sub-zero trenches with me to protect our beloved institution, and look forward to warmly welcoming back our friends and neighbors as soon as possible,” she added.