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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 15, 2002

Delays in repairs leave Makiki library in limbo

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The Makiki Community Library in the Makiki District Park has been undergoing repairs. Until construction is completed, the library is open only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Makiki Community Library struggles even in the best of times, operating entirely on donations and volunteers, but things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse since the start of a city construction project that has dragged on well past its projected September completion date.

Almost four months since the library cut its hours by nearly two-thirds to accommodate the work, it remains shut except on weekends, volunteers are drifting away and no one from the city can say when the work will be completed, librarian Nancy Nott said.

"We don't know why there are all these long delays," Nott said. "The first time we were told they didn't have their permits and couldn't start. Then we were told they didn't have the supplies. Then they said supplies will be here on or before Nov. 6. There is nobody working. We go over and see nobody is there."

The contractor didn't even show up at the job site until the last week of September, Nott said.

The library's board of directors was told by city officials over the summer that the facility would have to close while the old Makiki Park building that houses the library was repainted and the roof repaired. Work was supposed to take about two months and be completed by Sept. 30.

According to the city Department of Design and Construction, the delay was caused when the contractor had to stop work during the election so the building could be used as a polling place. Mayor Jeremy Harris wanted the construction to go forward but state elections people insisted this was the only site in Makiki for polling, city spokeswoman Carol Costa said.

The community library was started by Makiki residents in 1978, located in what was the Hawaiian Sugar Planter's Association experiment station. It is not part of the state library system, but is a recreational reading library made up mostly of donated books.

Under normal circumstances, the facility serves about 1,200 people per month. When it is operating at full capacity, it is open just 23 hours per week, compared with about 40 hours at similar-sized state facilities. Makiki's collection includes fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, mystery, romance, children's books, young adults, reference, magazines and periodicals as well as large-print titles, a large Hawaiiana collection and books and magazines in Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

In May, the library also began offering computer and Internet access to the public, thanks to $25,000 from the state Legislature. Nott said the computers sit idle most of the time and the library continues to pay for Internet access even though the facility is closed most of the time.

The library has an operating budget of around $1,000 a month and was supported by the City and County of Honolulu until financing was withdrawn in 1995. Since then, Makiki Library has operated exclusively through private donations of money and books.

Until construction is completed, the library is open only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Those limited hours are not enough to keep the volunteers busy, Nott said.

"The volunteers have drifted away," she said. "They tell us they got involved with something else and are not coming back."

Nott, who spent 30 years with the state library system, is the only paid employee and she worries that when the library finally returns to regular hours, there will not be enough volunteers left to operate it.

"We just can't open the hours that we don't have enough volunteers," she said. "That is our concern now."

Nott hopes the city will tell her when the library will be allowed to reopen completely and then she can work at gathering more volunteers.

"If we just know what the situation is, then we could plan," Nott said.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can call Nott at 528-1473 or stop by the library on weekends.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.