Staff Prepares to Reopen Library : Quake: Thousand Oaks facility had $2.5 million in damage and has been temporarily housed at Newbury Park branch.


April's Vogue is displayed on the magazine shelves, many reference books are neatly filed away and the computers are all plugged in, back where they belong in the Thousand Oaks Library.

No matter that most of the ceiling is missing, the carpets are all gone and the fountain near the entrance is dry.

On Wednesday, nearly three months after the Northridge quake caused $2.5 million in damage to the main library at Janss Road, the staff left their temporary home in the Newbury Park branch and began moving back in.

Both libraries will be closed through the weekend so that the staff can finish restoring order. In the meantime, books can still be returned through door slots, and employees are directing anyone desperate for a library to the one in Westlake Village until Monday at 9 a.m., when the two Thousand Oaks libraries will reopen.

"It's going really smoothly," said Susan Odencrantz, head of circulation, as she directed a moving man carrying a plastic garbage bag full of furry puppets toward the children's section. "It's not going to be pretty for a while, but it's going to be organized."

The core reference books, most of the periodicals, videos and many computers were moved to Newbury Park gradually after the quake. Staffers used their cars and borrowed vans to move things bit by bit. On Wednesday, two large moving trucks and a moving crew arrived for the move back.

"This is luxury," Odencrantz said, watching as workers rolled carts of books into the building. "After the quake we took everything over in our cars."

As 75 staffers and volunteers began the task of putting everything back, the atmosphere at the library alternated between bustling activity and joyful reaction to the sight of old objects returning to their rightful homes.

"Oh good, the garden is here," one staffer joked as another walked by with two trays of potted plants.

"Oxygen, oxygen!" said Brad Miller, who oversees the library's special collections and also functions as informal computer guru.

"I unplugged yesterday, I'm plugging in today," he said, leaning on a cart full of computer screens.

Although the roof remained intact, the metal ceiling beneath it was completely torn out by the force of the quake, carrying the lighting system with it. On the way down, the sheets of metal sheared off sprinkler heads, starting a deluge that destroyed 10,000 volumes in the children's section alone.

"We call it avant-garde industrial," said Steve Brogden, the library's deputy director, looking up at the exposed pipes and gray roof speckled with white repair patches. "The lights are kind of like basketball court lights."

Library officials said the most urgent repairs include replacing the ceiling and installing new lighting. Installing new wall-to-wall carpet throughout will probably have to wait until fall.


Meanwhile, library staffers are putting on rubber-soled shoes before they go to work in preparation for standing all day on bare concrete floors.

Many of the water-damaged volumes have already been replaced. One publisher donated 41 boxes of children's books. The only ones that haven't been replaced are out-of-print volumes, which staffers hope to find in second-hand stores.

The federal government and insurance payments should cover most of the earthquake damage, with the city chipping in an estimated $250,000. To meet those costs, the Library Restoration Committee has been holding fund-raisers, including bake sales and "mock-stock sales," where shareholders receive stock certificates and get their name printed on any book in the library.

Maintenance worker Jose Murillo, the only person who was in the library at the time of the Jan. 17 quake, on Wednesday returned to the reference section where he had been at work wiping tables when disaster struck. Windows broke around him and metal sections of the ceiling rained down on his head as he ran for the exit.

Other staffers were amazed that he made it out of the building in one piece.

"I was thinking, 'What happened, what happened?' " Murillo said Wednesday as he dusted off books in the reference section. He waved at the crews around him getting the building into shape. "This is much better now."

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