Lack of Bids Stalls Renovations at Elaine Ione Sprauve Library

The Elaine Ione Sprauve Library will have to continue to wait for some much-needed major renovations.

No bids were submitted for the project, and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources is in the process of putting the project out to bid for a second time, according to DPNR spokesperson Jamal Nielsen.

“Construction hasn’t started yet because this is a Public Finance Authority-funded project, and the first time we went out to bid, there were no bidders,” said Nielsen. “We are in the process of putting it back out to bid. We’re preparing a package now.”

Renovations at the open-air library are badly needed — the exposure of the library’s computers, books and paintings to the hot, humid climate of the Virgin Islands is deteriorating these resources, according to Elaine I. Sprauve Librarian Carol McGuinness.

Sole Sourcing Possible
DPNR recognizes the need to complete the renovations, including closing in and air conditioning the building, and is exploring other possibilities, explained Nielsen.

“There may be some other avenues that we’re exploring,” he said. “One of those is to sole source it — sourcing it to one contractor. There is nothing definite.”

Staying true to the historic nature of the building, which dates back to 1750, according to the library’s Web site,, will be important during the renovations, explained Nielsen.

“The renovations are extensive, and this is a historic building,” he said. “Whatever is done has to be done with integrity, keeping in mind that it’s a historic building.”

Without air conditioning, the building gets extremely hot. The heat index in the library on Wednesday afternoon, February 28, was 92 degrees, according to Sprauve Librarian McGuinness.

Concern for Library Resources
The heat and humidity are causes for concern when it comes to the library’s resources, explained Friends of the Library President Vernon Lake.

“It does get very hot and humid, so that’s why we’re trying to get it air conditioned,” said Lake. “We stand a good chance of losing our Caribbean collection of books. That’s the reality until we can get the situation resolved.”

The museum was moved out of the library, saving precious historical resources, explained Lake.

“The one good thing is they moved the museum out,” he said. “Otherwise, we stood to lose the items in the museum also.”
In addition to the books, the library’s videotapes and computers are suffering from the open-air environment as well, explained Lake.

“The videotapes get hot, and when the building cools, the moisture condenses and they begin to get moldy and musty,” said the friends president. “The dust is a computer’s worst enemy. We stand to lose the drives that we have installed now.”

Patrons, Employees Suffer
The library’s patrons and employees also suffer, according to Lake.

“No one’s going to want to come into a hot musty library, and the attendants have to deal with that as well,” he said. “The environment is also not good for people with allergies.”

The Elaine I. Sprauve Library, which was “one of the first substantial buildings on St. John,” according to the library’s Web site, was destroyed by fire in the early 1900s.

The building was uninhabited until the 1970s, and was admitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Renovations to the building were completed in 1980, when the V.I. Legislature named the building for Elaine Ione Sprauve.

The renovations to the library will be extensive, territorial librarian Wallace Williams previously told St. John Tradewinds.

Extensive Renovations
The electrical wiring will be examined to determine that it’s safe; shelving capacity will be increased; the flooring will be redone; the outside of the building will be sealed for waterproofing; the exterior will be painted; and perimeter fencing will be installed to make the area safer, according to Williams.

A generator will be installed, and the building will be made adaptable to air conditioning, Williams added.

“It’s an historic building, so the idea is to upgrade the building,” he said.