More bad news for the Durant Library. Not only do we face the collapse of services, but we may also be in for a collapse of the building itself.

In a recent seismic assessment of the branch at 211 Main St., city engineers assigned the building their most serious hazard rating, saying it was subject to “partial or total collapse” in the event of a major earthquake (of magnitude 7.4 or greater).

“I almost fell off my chair”, said Branch Librarian Lisa Hines upon hearing of the new rating in March. “I’m concerned for the safety of the patrons, and the safety of the staff.”

The summary of the evaluation, conducted in late 2016 by the Department of Public Works as part of the city’s Earthquake Safety Program, concludes that “there is a high potential for partial collapse and that seismic strengthening is required to mitigate the substantial risk to life safety” at the library building, a 1993 structure with classical terra cotta detail on the front.

“We assign a Seismic Hazard Rating of 3”, the report continues. (The scale runs from 1 to 3). “This is due in large part to the high potential for the south wing roof to collapse, given the failure of the unreinforced masonry walls. The building’s general lack of capacity to resist lateral loads, coupled with the complete lack of connections between the roof diaphragm and the resisting walls, support this rating”.

According to the Project Manager Todd Fowler, “A number of criteria are used to decide which buildings to assess: the age of the building, the high occupancy and public use rate, and whether they’re unreinforced masonry buildings.”

White acknowledged that the Durant Library received a better grade — a rating of 4 — in a pre-2017 assessment, “but this new evaluation employed a more stringent methodology,” he said.

Therefore, the assessment should be more accurate. The Durant Branch is among 80 city structures being assessed as part of the latest phase of the Earthquake Safety Program. Following the seismic ratings, the structures will be evaluated for disabled access, asbestos removal, and facility preservation — the nuts and bolts of upkeep. The final report, including estimates for the cost of repairs, will wend its way through the city bureaucracy and eventually end up before the voters as a bond measure. If passed, the city will begin renovation of the buildings.