On February 8, 2018, the First Selectman’s Office provided an update for Kent Memorial Library, specifically regarding books housed in the building. Based on questions received from residents, the following provides additional clarification.
The books were not separately tested to confirm the presence of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl). PCBs readily permeate porous materials such as books. The exposed books are assumed to be contaminated without the expense and delay of testing. The Town considered the potential liability involved in handling, keeping, donating or recycling books – regardless of testing outcome – that were exposed to PCBs. The PCB liability concern was shared by others. Potential outlets for donation/recycling of the books declined our offers. Professionals were hired for this project instead of volunteers or staff for the same concerns.
Cost was another factor in the decision making. Initially, the cost to professionally clean and store all the books left in the library totaled $60,000 (approx. $1 per book). Discarding the exposed collection (approx. 42,300 books) reduced overall costs substantially to $23,700.
Additional information regarding this effort and the books belonging to Kent Memorial Library:
- The Historical Collection moved and safely stored since January 2015
- 41,700 books remain in KML Collection
- 20,000 currently at Ffyler Place
- 21,700 “Older” new books stored due to space restrictions at Ffyler
- Books discarded included:
- Older bestsellers
- Outdated non-fiction/research books
- Children’s books – of particular concern relative to PCB contamination
- Professional movers hired (National Library Relocators) led by former librarian
- NLR scanned books first to determine if any should be saved
- Space now available for current/updated books and potentially one (1) study room
- Town proposes adding $30,000 to library’s 2018/19 book budget to replenish collection
- Gaps in collection met via:
- Interlibrary loan
- Neighboring libraries
- Friends of the Library book sale
- “Wish List”
- 6,000 current DVDs salvaged
To reiterate, the discarding of books was an enormously difficult decision of which many stakeholders – the environmental consultant, Board of Selectmen, Public Works Department, Library Director, Library staff, Library Commission – agreed. For the Library Director in particular, destroying one book, let alone 42,300 was no easy task. In the end, the potential risk to residents far outweighed the value of the outdated books. We are now one step closer to reopening KML as a safe and inviting space for the community.