This article was written by Journalism student Isa Moustakas
Carolyn Picazio, Kellogg-Hubbard’s library director, made her way to the back doors of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library at 3pm on the Tuesday after the flood. The doors were opened for the first time by Picazio and her co-workers Jason Cass, the facilities coordinator, and Dan Groberg, the Executive Director. Picazio said, “We have this video of Jason opening the door for the first time and water was just pouring out of the building.”
For Dan Grober, the flooding couldn’t come at a worse time. “I started my job here in June, it was my third week. I think it was my 13th day,” said Groberg.
The basement of the nearly 130-year-old old building experienced the most damage. Picazio said the state of the building was “so much worse than we expected.”
All of the library’s mechanical systems were located in the basement, including the fire safety and heating operations, which are very expensive and difficult to replace. Groberg expects the total cost to amount to 1.5 million dollars. The building cannot be reopened to the public until the fire safety system is back in place.
These expensive mechanical systems need to be paid for, but receiving financial aid from FEMA isn’t a simple solution. “You have to apply for a Small Business Administration loan before you talk to FEMA at all. Then FEMA takes the results of that loan and starts their whole process.” said Dan Groberg. The road ahead isn’t going to be simple and easy.
The community’s reaction was quick and effective. “Immediately we were getting emails and messages, ‘how can we help?’” says Groberg. More than 100 volunteers showed up to help with the gross, difficult work. “The books were covered in floodwater mud and oil…they were so heavy that you could only put five in a bucket before the bucket was too heavy to carry. And we spent all day doing a bucket brigade up the stairs.”
Volunteers came from all over Central Vermont to help with the cleanup. “People really came together because we were all affected and we all had a common goal,” said Aida Coffey, a sophomore at U-32. The community came together in a time of disaster.
This is the second time in recent history the library has been closed to the public. The COVID-19 pandemic diminished the library’s business. However, the pandemic had a silver lining: the transition to curbside pickup was smooth and efficient. The community and staff were familiar with the library’s curbside pickup service. “We know how curbside service works. All the community knows how that works,” said Carolyn Picazio, the library’s director.
Groberg hopes to be re-opened by mid-October. However, for some Montpelier residents, the re-opening couldn’t come fast enough. To Nick Holquist, an English teacher at U-32, nothing replaces in-person browsing. “online browsing is not browsing,” said Nick. The library holds lots of special memories for him and his family.
The emotional impact of the flood has affected many residents. “A lot of the things that make the place [Montpelier] wonderful are gone,” Nick said, “it still feels like a ghost town…it was like a heavy feeling just being there.”
As the mother of two small children, U-32 art teacher Adrian Wade-Keeney felt the loss of the library space this summer, “There’s tons of stuff to do, it’s free and you just take [the kids] and because it’s a children’s space you don’t have to be super quiet.”
Losing the library was like losing a valuable resource, especially for people who don’t have access to a quiet study space. “A lot of people don’t have a warm or cool place to go…what are they going to do with their kids?” said Adrian.
Carolyn Picazio says that some resources can be found online. “We also have two apps that offer eBooks and audiobooks called ‘palace’ and ‘Libby’.” said Picazio.
However, Picazio acknowledges that online resources cannot replace the library, “I don’t think that there is a substitute for holding a book in your hands.”