It’s not exactly good public relations.

Since Feb. 11, Okanagan Regional Library’s Vernon branch has largely been inaccessible to the public because of a broken pipe that sent a torrent of water throughout the main floor.

While patrons have been able to return books or pick up holds, they can’t search the aisles for new reading material. Moms and tots have been forced to abandon the always popular story time and anyone who booked the meeting room has had to go elsewhere.

That’s unfortunate as there was so much optimism when the branch was officially unveiled in May 2012.

“We know that our customers are going to be very excited about this space,” said Maureen Curry, then-head librarian, as she showed off the 30,000 square-foot facility.

“This new library provides a space for people to come enjoy the library, even if they’re not checking out books. That’s what a library should be.”

And Curry’s prediction was essentially bang on as the community has not only embraced the 30th Avenue location, but taken complete ownership.

It’s not unusual during any typical day to find toddlers balancing a stack of books as they find their parental unit or teens sitting quietly in a corner working on their latest school assignment. The public-access computers are generally full as people catch up on e-mail with loved ones or cruise the net to find work or housing.

Occasionally, if I am between meetings but don’t have enough time to go home, I will find a comfy chair on the upper floor and catch up on my latest novel.

For anyone who thinks libraries have become obsolete in our technological age, they should pop down to the Vernon branch. It has the highest circulation rate in the entire Okanagan (In January, it circulated 55,455 items not counting ebooks or online magazines and music).

So it’s no surprise the interruption in service over the past week is personal for many residents. Their normal routines have been thrown off course.

As soon as the news of the flood spread around town, some people were saying, “How did that happen, that building’s new?” or “We spent a fortune on that place.”

Now the infamous pipe that burst is in a room where the book return is located. From outside, patrons can drop books through a slot and they slide into giant bins, where staff collect the books and then reshelve them for others to use.

Apparently when the building was designed and constructed, it was decided that the book return room would be considered as an exterior feature. That means there is absolutely no heat there.

Of course, we all remember what was going on leading up to Feb. 11.

A cold front had descended on the region, bringing bitterly frigid temperatures that forced residents to dig out their toques, gloves and dress in layers.

It usually doesn’t get chilly enough for water pipes to freeze but consider that this particular pipe is in an unheated room and has been at the mercy of the elements since 2012. How much pressure can one pipe take when the thermometer dips?

Of course you can make every effort possible and things still happen. Equipment fails.

But this prolonged closure will certainly have some residents questioning if there was room in the $12 million construction budget for more insulation or a baseboard heater?



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