From the outside, the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library in Crosby looks relatively unchanged. On the inside though, staff members and movers are busy picking up the pieces after a partial roof collapse at the end of January.

Books are on their way to either storage facilities or the Abbey House on Main Street in downtown Crosby, which will serve as a temporary library until the roof is fixed in the original building.

The stroke of bad luck happened about 10 p.m. Jan. 25, when a passerby heard a loud boom while walking their dog by the library and called the police.

Authorities later determined the back half of the roof collapsed. The ceiling, however, stayed put, saving the building from a bigger disaster. Head Librarian Abby Smith said they still aren’t quite sure what the cause was though.

“They think it's kind of accumulation over time and different winters and they don't know for sure and it would take a lot more looking at it,” she said, noting the library was built in 1978 with an addition in 1992.

A couple shelves of books on the kids’ side of the building had water damage, Smith said, but otherwise the library’s prized collection stayed remarkably intact.

Elsewhere, vertical support bars punctured through portions of the ceiling, and in the weeks after, cracks formed in the ceiling as well. When temperatures then hit the 40s, water started leaking in, too, so the staff covered everything with tarps to prevent further damage.

Crews from Rice Lake Construction came in last week to shovel any remaining snow off the roof, remove debris and build a temporary structure to protect from snow and water.

As the next step, Smith said engineers will assess the damage and determine the scope of work that needs to be done. Construction likely won’t start for another month or two. When it does, Smith isn’t sure how long the process will take, but said she has heard it could be anywhere from 6-9 months before the Hallett Library is ready to hold books and welcome patrons again. Luckily, insurance should cover the damage.

In the meantime, about half of the library’s 44,000 books will be available in the new location starting in early March, as the Abbey House is a mere 2,800 square feet compared to the Hallett Library’s 6,000 square feet space.

Abby Smith, head librarian at the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library in Crosby, talks Tuesday, Feb. 11, about the process the staff is going through to remove the contents of the building and store books in two storage containers. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Abby Smith, head librarian at the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library in Crosby, talks Tuesday, Feb. 11, about the process the staff is going through to remove the contents of the building and store books in two storage containers. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“So right now, we're kind of going through what books are going to be in a temporary location, what books are going to storage and keeping an inventory because we won't be able to access any of the books in storage,” Smith said.

Most of the nonfiction books were boxed up for storage, leaving primarily the most popularly circulated books, like the fiction, western and inspirational genres.

The other half are now packed in climate-controlled storage facilities and will not be accessible until the Hallett Library reopens.

There is no meeting room to rent out at the Abbey House, and parking may be a challenge on Main Street, but Smith said she plans to continue offering as many of the library’s regular programs and activities as she can.

The new temporary location of the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library is 27 West Main Street in Crosby. The space is not big enough to display the library's 44,000 books, so the excess will be kept in two storage containers. Staff and volunteers have been moving the books over the past week. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
The new temporary location of the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library is 27 West Main Street in Crosby. The space is not big enough to display the library's 44,000 books, so the excess will be kept in two storage containers. Staff and volunteers have been moving the books over the past week. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

About four or five computers will be available for public use, and a small kids area will still be able to host story time. This summer’s kids camp, though, may take place at the Hallett Community Center.

Likewise, book club meetings are taking place at Cuyuna Brewing Company, and cribbage will be at Mixed Company.

“People have been very supportive and offering any help they can, which has been great,” Smith said.

Patrons with checked-out library books can return them to city hall, and up until this past week when the moving began, Smith took requests for books and grabbed them herself for those who wanted them.

The temporary location will likely start with limited hours the first or second week of March, as the staff members ease their way into regular operations.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.