Full recovery ahead for Aurora library

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The newly restored interior of the Hazel W. Guilford Library in Aurora was the site of a grand re-opening ceremony last week. The library was severely damaged by Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. Inset top: Main Street view of Guilford Library; inset bottom: a reception was held last Friday to celebrate the event. (Contributed photos/Hazel W. Guilford Library)

Twenty-three inches of water took out 1,673 books. Their spines cracked, pages soaked and bloated, shelves of books lay ruined the day after Hurricane Irene. Now, final recovery is in sight for the Hazel W. Guilford Library in Aurora.
Library and town staff, along with many guests, gathered last week to jointly celebrate the reopening of the library and town offices over a year after the Category 1 storm devastated much of the small town. According to Susan Benning, BHM Regional Library director, it was standing room only as the town honored those who went “above and beyond the call of duty” to restore the town’s facilities. Terry Groome, Charles Bonner and Shannon Miller, Aurora Public Works Department employees at the time, were awarded a plaque for the instrumental role each played in first relocating, then rebuilding, the library. But it was the work of her staff and many volunteers that made the job more bearable for Guilford Library Director Robina Norman.
“We, along with volunteers, packed everything that was salvageable and moved it,” Norman said. “We had a lot of volunteers — it wasn’t as overwhelming as if it had just been us.”
Norman and library employees Jean Ives and Denise Toler walked into a scene of destruction the day after the hurricane: soaked carpet, waterlogged shelves, piles of mud left behind by almost two feet of river water, but, by far, the worse damage was to the books, she said.
“I really have no words to describe it. It was unbelievable,” said Norman. “We were just overwhelmed by how much water damage there was to the books and everything … When you can take a hardback book and just wring the water out of them, it’s just amazing. It’s a sight I hope we never see again.”
The hardest loss, however, was in the destruction of historical newspaper articles about Aurora and transcriptions of oral histories told by people long deceased, said Norman.
“Those cannot be replaced,” she said.
While the damage total came to $44,699.95, the library received only half that amount from its flood insurance company, said Benning — one of the reasons for the slower recovery. Since the return of the library to its original location in April, a new circulation desk and shelving have been added when possible.
“Some people didn’t realize the library had reopened, so it was nice to get the word out that the library is back in business,” Benning said.
Improvements to the library will continue to be made gradually: a small technology center, installation of a videophone for the deaf and hard of hearing, the addition of two more public access computers. Friday, staff was notified the library will receive a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation for $23,256.92, which will be used to round out repairs to the facility.
Guilford Library is currently seeking donations for replacement books. Anyone wishing to assist may make a tax–deductible donation to the Friends of the Hazel W. Guilford Library, P.O. Box 489, Aurora, NC 27806. Guilford Library hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.