Collegedale Public Library reopens after months of closure


The Collegedale Public Library reopened Aug. 31 after months of being closed due to tornado damage and COVID-19.

 On April 13, a tornado ripped through East Hamilton County, causing roof and building damage throughout the area. 

According to Collegedale Public Library Director Natalie Wright, the library lost about one-fourth of its roof at the front of the building. After a damage assessment, it was determined that the entire roof had to be replaced. 

At the May 4 Collegedale Commission meeting, commissioners voted to accept a bid from Tri State Roofing for $107,124 to replace the roof. 

“In addition to the water damage, the ceiling tiles all broke apart and covered the area with wet crumbles,” Wright said. “It was kind of like mud. The carpet was so soaked with water that it splashed when I tried to walk across it.” 

According to Wright, the books at the front of the building that were soaked with rainwater had to be thrown away after they were inventoried. The affected sections include Young Adult Fiction, New Fiction, New Nonfiction and Audiobooks.

  “We had to inspect each one for water damage and mold,” Wright said. “There is no stopping mold once it has taken hold in a book. And all of the books sat in a very humid environment (without air conditioning) for a week while the building was assessed. In the end, we lost 535 volumes, which was roughly $10,000 in value.”

The audiobooks themselves were not damaged, but those with cardboard cases and paper inserts had to be replaced, Wright said. The library replaced about 200 cases and 651 paper inserts, according to Wright. 

“We still have not replaced all of the books due to both cost and the fact that COVID-19 shut down our vendors for several months,” Wright said. “The Friends of the Collegedale Public Library have set up a recovery fund if anyone is interested in donating.”

Due to safety reasons, the library could not open while the roof was being replaced and the damage was being fixed. Otherwise, Wright believes the library would have opened earlier with COVID-19 precautions. 

“We are providing essential services: computers, printing/copying, fax and notary,” Wright said. “But we do not have the ability to maintain social distancing for people browsing the books. We spaced our computers out all over the building to help keep people safe, but the shelves are very close together and they have open backs.”

The Curbside Pick-Up program started in March before the library closed to allow immunocompromised or high-risk individuals to still check out books and materials without having to come inside, according to Wright. 

As stated on the Collegedale Library website, an individual may place a hold online or over the phone. Once the books are ready to be picked up, the patron can come during curbside pick-up hours. Based on a person’s preference, a staff member will either bring the books to his or her car or place them on a picnic table to be picked up. 

There are guidelines set in place for anyone wanting to use the library.

“We do require masks to be worn in the building, and we ask everyone to maintain a 6-feet distance from staff and other patrons,” Wright said. “We want everyone to feel safe at the library. People can call and reserve a computer in advance. We take walk-ins as well, but reservations will take precedence.”

  She added, “Children’s computers are not available…since all of them are touch screens and we can’t use harsh disinfectant chemicals on the touch screens without damaging them.”

According to Wright, all available computers are disinfected between each use, and all tables and study carrels are blocked off. 

For more information on the Curbside Pick-Up programs and other services, visit Library services are free to all Collegedale residents and current Southern Adventist University students. Proof of residency is required.

One fourth of the Collegedale Public Library roof was destroyed in the aftermath of the April tornado. Photo courtesy of Natalie Wright.
Cart full of books destroyed by water damage. An estimated $10,000 worth of books were damaged. Photo courtesy of Natalie Wright.
Cart full of books destroyed by water damage. $10,000 worth of books were damaged. Photo courtesy of Natalie Wright.

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