Book sale helps library in Port Aransas recover from Harvey ruins
By Tim Acosta
Feb. 4, 2018 at 12:31 a.m.
PORT ARANSAS — Rows of books lined tables at the Port Aransas Municipal Complex this past week, volunteers moving around as they added novels to each one.
A short distance away, the William R. "Bill" Ellis Memorial Library sits vacant, its entrance boarded up to visitors. The building, constructed in 1995, was damaged Aug. 25 by Hurricane Harvey when the storm made landfall in nearby Aransas County as a Category 4 storm with winds in excess of 130 mph.
Harvey ruined the library's book collection, which is having to be rebuilt pretty much from scratch. But book donations have poured into Port Aransas to help with that effort, so much that library staff are having to put new donations on hold while they catch up on what has already been pledged.
"We want to try to keep the collection up to date as much as possible," said Jenny Dailey, director for the Ellis Memorial Library. "It's a slow process — a very slow process."
The Ellis Memorial Library was in the midst of an expansion project when Harvey struck, and that work is nearing completion. The original library space was gutted, though, and repair work is pending, Dailey said. It's unclear when the library will reopen, she said, but city officials and library staff are working toward that goal.
In the meantime, the book collection is being rebuilt and monetary donations are being sought. On Saturday and today, the Ellis Memorial Library is having its annual book sale, though it will be slightly smaller than in years past. Still, rows of tables were lined with books in all categories, from nonfiction and biography to cookbooks and vintage classics.
"The library has hosted the book sale for many years and everyone has always enjoyed the book sale," she said. "So we wanted to still have something."
Sue Miles, with Trinity by the Sea Episcopal Church in Port Aransas, said the church created a lending library made up of book donations to serve the community while the Ellis Memorial Library undergoes repairs. The lending library even has a story time and allows children to take a book home once it's over. Once the public library is open, the church will donate its books to Ellis Memorial's collection.
"The library had been destroyed, essentially, and people had nowhere to get books," Miles said. "So, we just thought that's something people need to have — they need to be able to read."
The church and Ellis Memorial Library have received book donations from all over, including as far away as Arizona, Dailey said. A group of cheerleaders in nearby Portland collected books for the Ellis Memorial Library, she said.
The book sale this weekend is comprised of books that were, in part, duplicate donations or not suitable for the rigors of constant checking out and handling by multiple people. For example, hardcovers are generally more sought after from public libraries because of their durability — paperbacks are more susceptible to damage, like tearing or folding.
Money raised from this weekend's sale will go toward the purchase of furnishings, shelving and other supplies, Dailey said. And while book donations are on hold, the library is still seeking money that will go toward the Ellis Memorial Library's reopening, she said.
"We're excited — we're moving forward and we're trying to do what we can," she said.