‘It was mission barely possible’

Boxing Day came late for the Kaslo and District Public Library.

The Kaslo library is in a new location on Front Street during restoration to the village office. “Boxing Day usually falls December 26

The Kaslo library is in a new location on Front Street during restoration to the village office. “Boxing Day usually falls December 26

Boxing Day came late for the Kaslo and District Public Library.

Over the last few weeks, an army of volunteers helped the library move to a Front Street storefront expected to be its home for the next eight months — the result of ongoing restoration work to the 113-year-old village office, where the library occupies the basement.

While it was initially thought the library might only have to close for two weeks and the collection could be draped during that time, it became apparent the ceiling had to be torn out for duct work and wiring, so they would need to pack up.

“It was a very big project,” says library director Eva Kelemen. “It was mission barely possible.”

They learned just before Christmas they had to move, but due to the holidays weren’t able to secure a temporary location in the former Fern’s Flowers until January 6.

Kelemen measured the 1,200 square foot space four days later and spent all night drafting a floor plan, “because there was no time to lose… We had 25 days total to get it done.”

She figured out how many books would fit the industrial shelving the village was buying — only about half the collection, it turned out. The rest would go into storage in the basement of the village-owned Kemball building.

The collection was split both physically and in the computer system, so they could track what went where. Packing of items bound for storage began January 14, while the weather was dry. The library stayed open until the 24th and then closed for one week.

“We had a work party build the shelves when the library was still open, and then Wednesday the 26th was our boxing day,” Kelemen says. “We had 16 volunteers, but didn’t have enough boxes.”

Two people went around town, grabbing every box in sight. They finally ran out with 30 to 40 shelves left and had to stop, deciding to return once other boxes were unpacked.

In the next few days, people brought trucks and a trailer to move furniture and prepared the new space. Then Saturday was the big moving day.

“We had 25 volunteers that day, including all the Katimivik crew,” Kelemen says. “By noon we had 300 boxes moved in, coming in the front and back doors.”

The boxes were numbered, colour coded, and labelled by sections. They were piled approximately where they were supposed to go, sorted, and then shelvers went to work.

At one point, however, it looked like they were running out of space.

“I had to run home and empty an ugly kitchen shelf unit,” Kelemen laughs.

“I threw all my jars on the floor and came back with it so the adult fiction could fit.”

Everything was on the shelves the same day.

The library reopened Wed-nesday and, although smaller, it will maintain the same hours, programs, and services — including story time, interlibrary loans, and public computer terminals. The books in storage, however, will be inaccessible.

Kelemen expects the move home in a few months to be much easier, in part because they mapped the collection and know exactly where everything goes.

In the meantime, she’s letting out a well-deserved sigh of relief.

“It was fabulous to see people come out and make it happen in this amount of time,” she says.

The village covered the relocation costs and loaned staff to help.