Popular Coquitlam Public Library book bus will be hard to replace

Coquitlam Public Library is looking to have a temporary replacement of a mobile book bus to serve Burke Mountain and Cottonwood neighbourhoosd this week after the regular bus was destroyed by fire on Saturday. - COQUITLAM PUBLIC LIBRARY
Coquitlam Public Library is looking to have a temporary replacement of a mobile book bus to serve Burke Mountain and Cottonwood neighbourhoosd this week after the regular bus was destroyed by fire on Saturday.

Its burned-out, waterlogged shell is sitting in an ICBC holding area awaiting an insurance settlement.

But for many children and adults, Coquitlam Public Library’s book bus is a memory of happy summer days reading in a city park.

On Saturday, the bus that logged many kilometres and loaned out many books in the Cottonwood and Burke Mountain neighbourhoods as well as city parks over the last five years, burned when a fire started in the engine compartment.

Library director Todd Gnissios said the cause of the blaze is unknown but it was quickly doused when sprinklers in the City Centre branch’s bus bay let loose and the Coquitlam Fire/Rescue responded to finish the job and employ fans to re-direct smoke from the library.

“We are grateful for the quick response of the fire department,” Gnissios said, adding that the prompt reaction by firefighters to pressurize the building so smoke wouldn’t infiltrate the rooms and book stands seemed to pay off because, by Sunday, the smoke had dissipated and there was no smell or smoke damage to books.

The library had to be evacuated, though, Gnissios said. “It was a full fledged fire,” he said, adding that he was at the branch just as smoke started began billowing from the converted 1992 Ford Econoline van that had been purchased from West Vancouver Public Memorial Library in 2008.

Coquitlam Public Library Book Bus


Gnissios believes the book bus — which hosted 4,579 patron visits and circulated 13,649 items last year alone — was the last in the Lower Mainland and, possibly, the end of an era.

It’s his goal, however, to have a temporary mobile book bus running by this week and he will be settling insurance claims and speaking with the library board to figure out next steps, although any future plans would require government and community support.

“We’re going to try and do as much as we can,” Gnissios said.

Over the years, many children and adults visited the book bus, which would visit city parks in the summer plus Tri-City Family Place to provide patrons in these areas with library services. Librarians, with Class 3 driver’s licenses, would check out books and read stories to children.

In the Cottonwood area, refugees and new immigrants could learn about library services through the book bus while residents in the newly established area of Burke Mountain could access services without driving or walking far.

According to the Coquitlam Fire/Rescue, the blaze started in the engine or electrical area and quickly spread but was contained to the bus. The call was received at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Assistant Chief Rod Gill said, and the fire started after the bus had just returned to its storage area from a trip to Cottonwood Park. Nobody was hurt.

The parking garage below sustained some water damage, Gnissios said, but he has been assured it is safe.

“As of right now, the library is open, the loading bay is disabled since the garage door was open and the motor was destroyed. But we lost some equipment and supplies, and there was lots of smoke and water damage.”


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