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Simi Valley Library Reopens for First Time Since Quake : Recovery: Work to repair shattered windows and re-shelve books will continue for several weeks. Automated checkout system makes its debut.

March 22, 1994|SARA CATANIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There were garbage bags over the windows and mounds of rubble piled by the door, but that didn't stop the reopening of the Simi Valley Library on Monday.

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After two months of repair work and several delays, the library opened at noon sharp for the first time since the Northridge earthquake.

The ongoing repairs include reinforcing patio pillars, replacing shattered windows and re-shelving more than 70,000 books that were shaken to the floor.

Repairs will continue for several more weeks, said Alan Langville, a manager with the Ventura County Library Services Agency.

"We didn't want to delay the opening any longer," he said. "I think we'll be able to work around the patrons."

To help celebrate the reopening, the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise presented the library with a $2,500 check to buy books.

The money will go for new books to be added to the branch's 140,000-volume collection, library supervisor Dale Redfield said.

Insurance money will pay to replace the 1,500 books irreparably damaged in the Jan. 17 quake.

"We have a wish list and this is a big help," Redfield said. "We're getting a smattering of fiction, health, self-help and children's books."

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The Thousand Oaks Library, also severely damaged in the quake, could be closed for at least two more weeks, Redfield said.

"We're glad to be open now, so people from Thousand Oaks have a place to go until their library reopens," she said.

Since the earthquake, the Simi Valley library's 65,000 card holders have had to make do with a tiny bus-like bookmobile parked outside. Many of them greeted the library's reopening with enthusiasm, waiting at the door to be among the first inside.

For Rena Morrissey, the reopening offered welcome relief. "I have two small children, so it's really hard to study," she said, cracking open a thick textbook on management. "It's so quiet here, it's great."

Five-year-old Chelsea Peterson ran to the children's section and immediately pulled two furry baby seal puppets over her hands.

"I like the puppets," she said. "The bookmobile was too small to play."

Matthew Freeman, 4, quickly selected half a dozen storybooks. "I like to read," he said. His favorite story?

"David and Goliath, where the little man hits the big, bad man in the head and knocks him down," he said.

The library will hold a reopening celebration April 4, when it will extend its hours and formally present two newly installed automated checkout machines--the first in the county.

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By then, the bugs should be worked out of the computerized system, allowing the library to extend its hours because fewer workers will be needed to check out books by hand, Langville said.

"We wanted to give ourselves a couple weeks to test it out before extending the hours and having the formal celebration," he said.

Until April 4, library hours are noon to 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

New hours, scheduled to go into effect April 4, are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

County Supervisor Vicky Howard, on hand for the reopening, tested the new automated system to check out "Lasher," a novel by Anne Rice.

She placed her plastic library card on a slot at the base of the computer's screen and slid the book along a special track. Then, after a quiet clunk, a receipt slid out the side.

"It's that simple? Is that ever wonderful," Howard said, marveling at the ease of the procedure. "Now I only need one thing--time to read the book."

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