Thousands of donated books were damaged by a leak in the basement of the Deschutes Public Library system’s administrative building, temporarily canceling a quarterly nonprofit book sale.
According to local nonprofit Friends of the Bend Libraries, which hosts quarterly book sales with some proceeds supporting the Deschutes Public Library system, a black mold and mildew outbreak caused by the basement leak resulted in 5,000 to 6,000 used books being sent to the Knott Landfill’s recycling center this week. These books were intended to be sold in the nonprofit’s now-canceled book sale in April.
Not only do local readers buy books from these sales, but bookstore owners use them to stock their shelves. “As a bookstore owner and as anyone who loves books, it’s heartbreaking,” said Tom Beans, the owner of Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe.
According to Todd Dunkelberg, the library director for Deschutes Public Library system, melted snow traveled down the administrative building’s walls and flooded the basement, soaking the carpet and creating a musky, moldy atmosphere. He said although on first glance, most of the books didn’t show damage, it was still necessary to get rid of them because mold and mildew can show up later. He said the library noticed the flooding March 8.
Toby Baird, the co-chair of Friends of the Bend Libraries’ book sale committee, agreed getting rid of the books was a smart decision. “Even if a book isn’t wet, if it’s been a place with black mold or mildew spores, it’s basically Typhoid Mary,” she said. “It might not look bad, but if you put it with other books, you’ve lost a whole library.”
Baird said her nonprofit’s quarterly book sales typically generate about $4,000 each, and about $2,500 of the proceeds each year have gone to the Deschutes library system to help fund programs and buy books. Friends of the Bend Libraries only sold donated books, so no books owned by Deschutes Public Library system were destroyed due to mold, Dunkelberg said.
Dunkelberg said because most of the library system’s funds come from property taxes — in Deschutes County, 55 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value funds the library district — a pause in the book sales won’t harm the organization much. “There’s no immediate threat to any existing program because of this,” he said.
Beans said the bulk of the used books available at Dudley’s come from Friends of the Bend Libraries’ book sales, and now, he’ll have to travel to other cities, such as Eugene, to buy used books for his store.
According to Baird, the next step for her nonprofit is to find a new location to sell books and accept donations. The 80-year-old administration building basement is not only unsuitable because of the mold, she said, but also because the elevator shaft was flooded, making the basement inaccessible to those with disabilities. “If we get better parking, and we’re on street level, we’re going to get way more people,” Baird said. “We are going to look for those two characteristics, or we’re not going to take it.”
Beans said he didn’t think Friends of the Bend Libraries would be able to host another book sale before the end of the year. But Baird said she was hopeful the nonprofit would find a new location soon and begin accepting donations again. “It’s a really cool thing for the community to have these book sales,” she said. “It’s really well-attended, especially by people with kids.”
Friends of the Bend Library still operates small retail spaces inside both Bend libraries.
Written by Jackson Hogan for The Bulletin