Library opening a milestone for Seabrook's Ike recovery
The Evelyn Meador Branch Library will re-open Tuesday in a new building, marking an essential step in Seabrook's prolonged effort to clean up after Hurricane Ike.
The Harris County Public Library system already had plans to construct a new building in September 2008, when Hurricane Ike flooded the old one. The damage meant the old building couldn't stay open while the new one was being built, and the branch's collection, mostly salvageable, had to be stored for nearly three years.
Greg Burns, who is now back at Meador in his old job as a branch librarian, spent part of that time working at other library branches.
"The whole time I was at Freeman and Kingwood, I had customers coming in asking about when we were going to re-open the Evelyn Meador Library," Burns said.
Burns, his library staff, and construction workers are now making their final preparations. A grand opening will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m., featuring Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman, Seabrook Mayor Glenn Royal and Harris County Public Library director Rhoda Goldberg.
The new building measures about 21,000 square feet, nearly three times as large as the old library, and stands on the old building's site.
"Everything is bigger and better than it was before," Burns says. "We still have a lot of books, but we have a lot more computers that we ever had before."
Other new features include a drive-up window where people can pick up holds without getting out of their cars; bigger meeting and conference rooms; a video-game room for teens; a "quiet" room for mothers with babies; a children's activity room; and a computer lab that can accommodate up to 12 people at a time.
Seabrook City Manager Chuck Pinto says the city's residents, officials, and civic groups have made it clear since Ike that they wanted their library back.
"The community just felt a huge void," Pinto says. "The county has one of their branch libraries right dead in the center of our city, and it's been a focus point for a long time."
While the branch was closed, Pinto says, the city provided a space for the library's summer-reading program for children. Members of the local Rotary Club would take a donation at every single meeting to help fund that program, he says.
"You can have bad times and want to cut things out, but there's some certain things where people say, 'Enough's enough,'" he says.
Pinto says that in post-Ike recovery terms, getting back the library is about as important as the impending re-opening of popular local restaurant Tookie's.
"It's probably one of the strongest pressures I've ever seen from a community," he says. "Everybody's just been saying, 'This has to go up.'"
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