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After Sewage Disaster, Luther Library to Reopen Soon

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The Elizabeth Threatt Luther Library is expected to reopen in as little as two weeks. A sewage disaster in the building forced an abrupt closure, rendering much of the 5,500-piece collection of books and other library materials, plus carpet, furniture, walls, and equipment ruined.

It was a shocking odorous Monday morning discovery on May 22, when the doors were unlocked at the Metropolitan Library System location. Sewage, inches deep, had seeped into the building at 310 NE 3rd Street.

What happened

The day before, on Mother’s Day, a reported residential sewage problem brought Luther Public Works Authority staff out to the area to jet the line. An unfortunate series of circumstances followed. The high-powered jetter forced sewage through a 50-plus-year-old eight-inch clay pipe that erupted like a fetid geyser through the library’s toilet and spread like lava.

A dumpster outside of the Luther library

Turns out there was not a sewer-line backflow preventer installed when the building was constructed in 1992. The location had been a video rental store and other shops before the Town of Luther acquired it in 2003 as part of a community effort to bring a library to town. Book lovers remember visiting the bookmobile at its parking spot on Main Street near the Morgan and Hayes store sight, now “Veterans Park,” and lobbied for a branch. Named for longtime educator and operator of the historic Route 66 Threatt Filling Station, the Elizabeth Threat Luther Library opened in 2004, with a parade and ribbon cutting. The Metropolitan Library System rents the facility from the Town of Luther for $1 a year.

Indeed, the backflow valve was installed on the property line at the library last week (as is required now for all construction), while cleanup began inside the building, insurance companies processed claims, and a significant sewer line repair ensued. The sewer line blockage culprits were two hard-as-rock grapefruit-sized tree root balls plus a soft drink bottle, a Capri Sun package, and other items that should not be flushed or pushed down a drain.

The library will be back

Metropolitan Library System Executive Director Larry Nash White, PhD., MSLS, said the Town of Luther has been cooperative in getting the situation resolved quickly. “The Luther library will reopen. We are hoping to have it open in the next 1-2 weeks. There will be a small collection in the library when we reopen but it might take some time to get the collection fully replaced. We will be expediting that process as quickly as we can.”

Luther Library employees are temporarily dispersed to other locations but will return to a refreshed location ready to resume services, and the summer reading program. For now, library card holders are visiting other MLS locations, including Jones, Choctaw or Edmond. “We are more than books and offer so many other services to every aspect of the community. We encourage all of the community to take advantage of the services and programming of the Luther location,” said Dr. White.

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