Asbestos Surprise Keeps Library Doors Closed

Considering that asbestos was used profusely in building construction for over a century, it should come as no surprise that asbestos pops up in the darnedest places when old buildings are renovated.
Nonetheless, it came as a surprise to everyone concerned when, in December of 2007, renovation workers who were involved in the installation of new carpet for the West Springfield (Massachusetts) Public Library discovered asbestos under the old floor tiles. The New Year started out with the discovery of even more asbestos, which has delayed the re-opening of the library. The asbestos problem has also added substantially to the cost of the project, which has now skyrocketed from the $79,500 originally budgeted to over $128,000.

Fortunately, the city will not have to come up with the difference; the library’s trustees elected to use some state funding received by the library to cover the cost of the asbestos abatement and disposal. The original plan for the carpet installation called for the library to be closed from 26 December to 6 January. However, on 7 January, Director Antonia Golinsky-Foisy announced that the library would not be able to re-open its doors to the public until 19 January.

At the time of the announcement “about three-quarters of the building is sealed in plastic,” she said. Just because asbestos kept the public out of the building didn’t mean library business could stop, however. The staff had several projects to deal with, and patrons were still able to drop off books and could reserve materials via the Internet, although such materials had to be picked up at other branches. However, the disposal of old magazines and other journals that have not been in circulation for decades was delayed. The archive was part of the building that has been off-limits during the asbestos abatement project. The West Springfield Library first opened in its present location in 1916. Major additions to the facility were built in the late 1950s and late 1970s.