Safety concerns shutter Bishop's Falls library, mayor says town 'caught off guard'

The Bishop's Falls library was shut down Friday, because of a five-year-old fire-safety inspection, according to the mayor.

Basement library closed because of fire safety concerns

A notice on the front door of the Bishop's Falls town hall says the library will be closed until further notice. (Martin Jones/CBC)

The mayor of Bishop's Falls says there was no need for the provincial library in his town hall to be shut down suddenly on Friday morning.

Newfoundland and Labrador's Provincial Information and Library Resources Board said the library had been closed temporarily, to "address fire and life-safety concerns."

Mayor Bryan King told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show that he believes the board was reacting to a 2013 inspection.

"What was found was some minor things of emergency lighting, emergency exit lights, and some ceiling tiles and an exit door they wanted to have installed," he said.

"Nothing that would give the province any pressure where they'd have to come in and say, 'My goodness you guys are in serious infraction, we have to close this building immediately.' If that was the case, that would have happened in 2013."

The public library in Bishop's Falls is located in the basement of the town hall. Mayor Bryan King says a fire inspection in 2013 said there wasn't an adequate emergency exit door. (Submitted by the Town of Bishop's Falls)

The Bishop's Falls public library is located in the basement of the town hall.

In a statement, Andrew Hunt, the executive director of the library board, said the primary concern is having a safe exit route from the public library in case of emergency.

"This action has been taken to ensure the personal safety of library patrons and staff. The Provincial Board has a legal responsibility to ensure the personal safety of the public and its employees," he wrote in an email.

King said the town council has been negotiating with the library board since 2014, in an effort to address the issues raised in the fire inspection report. He said in 2015, the two sides had come close to a deal that would provide funding for the repairs.

But that was shelved the next year, after the provincial government announced its intention to cut funds to the library system, and 54 libraries were slated to close.

Mayor Bryan King says even a temporary closure will hurt students, seniors and other library users. (Facebook/Bryan King, Mayor-Town Of Bishop's Falls)

"Up until Friday, there was a lot of conversation that went back and forth …We were taken off guard, to say the least," King said.

He said even a temporary closure will have a big impact on the community.

"There's a lot of programs that are happening there, so any delay in the programming, it affects a lot of people. We've got a lot of primary kids that use that for studies, for programs that our librarians put off. High school kids use it, seniors use it for a bunch of social programs they have."

With files from the Central Morning Show