While Central Library is closed, where did books go? – Tulsa World

Posted: Sunday, January 17, 2016 1:00 am

While Central Library is closed, where did books go?

World Scene Writer



Thousands of cars zip past a building near Sheridan Road every day.

Drivers probably have no idea they’re cruising by a hidden refuge.


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What kind of hidden refuge?

If you’re a book lover, it’s paradise. It’s Candyland.

“Oh my gosh. It is.”

The words came from Suanne Wymer, deputy director at Tulsa City-County Library. She wasn’t talking about a library, at least in the conventional sense. She was giving a tour in the aftermath of being asked this question: What happened to all those books which used to be at Central Library?

The downtown library is getting an extreme makeover. The library’s “collection” was removed. Books were relocated in August and September of 2013. They’re scheduled to go back “home” this summer.

But where are they in the meanwhile?

Said Wymer: “I had a friend of a friend say ‘I just miss all the books at Central.’ I said, ‘Call me. I’ll let you come over and you can pet them’.”

You, the public, can get your mitts on those books. Among the books is a copy of “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” If you want to read about the goats’ encounter with a pre-Internet troll, you can request the book and it will be delivered to a branch library.

The books from Central Library are being warehoused at an administrative facility. Wymer said there are maybe 200,000 materials – books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, etc. – from Central Library at the facility.

Books aren’t stacked in random piles. They’re shelved and organized just like a “real” library.

Aisles of books seem to go on forever. But people are scarce. Remember that “Twilight Zone” episode where Burgess Meredith wanted only to read? The character he played would love to be locked in the hidden refuge.

But, to be clear, the temp library isn’t a place for milling around and browsing. Instead, customers can browse online (TulsaLibrary.org) and place holds on materials they want routed to another library.

Wymer said she knows of libraries in other cities which faced similar issues. What do you do with a collection when a library becomes unavailable to the public? In some cases, collections were out of circulation for two or three years.

“We don’t want to do that,” she said.

In addition to keeping Central Library’s collection in circulation, a research station was established inside the temp library. Though the facility is closed to the public, exceptions are made for those who make appointments to do research. Scholars can make appointments to utilize research materials by calling 918-549-7323.

“They let us know ahead of time what kinds of things they are looking for and the staff can have things prepared,” Wymer said. “Or we just work with them when they get here.”

There is an advantage to a browser-free facility. Library workers, granted unfettered access to the inventory, are able to take their time in evaluating materials. If a book is worn out, a replacement copy might be acquired. “Board” books – thick-paged books for children – tend to get chewed and otherwise abused, so Central Library will have a completely new collection of board books when the doors re-open.

Central Library also will be stocked with new books which weren’t on shelves before the face lift. And that means somebody (sound like fun?) gets to pick out a bunch of new books.

“That’s our department. It’s a great job,” Sue Anderson, collection management manager, said.

“We look a lot at stuff that is coming out in the next three to six months. We get a lot of pre-pub alerts from publishers. We get advance reader copies mailed to us from the publishers for us to have a look at and see is this exactly what we need? It’s hard to know what a book is like when you are ordering it blind, so we read a lot of reviews and look for. … things that are probably going to wind up on the bestseller lists.”

The library will always need new books by established authors like James Patterson and John Grisham. But it gets more challenging when trying to figure out which up-and-comer books should be ordered.

New books ordered for Central Library are suppressed. Translation: They’re not available to be farmed out to branch libraries for immediate use.

“These will all go nice and pretty on the shelves when we open,” Wymer said.

Late in a tour of the warehouse facility, Wymer directed visitors to shelves full of bound periodicals. The aroma screamed library.

A rest area for workers was populated with life-size cardboard cutouts of James Dean (with a Groucho Marx mustache) and John Wayne (with Sean Connery’s face). Are James Dean and the Duke going downtown when Central Library re-opens?

Near the exit, staffers manned phones at a library call center.

Central Library still has a heartbeat, if you know where to look.