FAIRBANKS — With the extended cold snap, patrons and employees of the Noel Wien Library are happy to no longer have a waterlogged roof over their heads.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough completed a much-needed replacement of the leaky, drafty roof this summer by installing a new state-of-the-art roof that will not only keep books dry but warm.

Noel Wien Administrative Manager Renee Van Nort said the new roof has been a dramatic change from the previous roof, which leaked so badly it threatened to ruin loads of books.

“For about the last four years, they had just been chasing leaks. Every day was a new exciting development,” she said. “Now we’re not always worrying if we’re going to come in and put garbage cans and Visqueen up.”

Previously, employees had donned garbage-bag ponchos and umbrellas to stock books and inspect an elaborate system of Visqueen funnels to divert water from the fiction section into garbage cans.

The roof cost about $2.4 million and was paid for almost entirely through the Special Library Revenue Fund from the Bentley Trust. 

“It’s made a big impact in how the library feels,” she said. “The staff feel more relaxed because they’re not constantly watching for leaks, and we seem to be warmer.” 

In addition to the comfort of putting away umbrellas and breathing easy about the safety of the books, Van Nort said she believes the new roof will help cut down on heating bills because it will provide a boost in insulation.

“We expect it to be fairly significant to go from a water-soaked roof to an (insulated one),” she said, “but we won’t know until spring when we can do some comparison.”  

Rick Podobnik, the vice president of the contractor Interior Alaska Roofing Inc., said a similar roof replacement for the Bethel Hospital yielded nearly 40 percent reduction in energy use. 

“It makes a heck of a difference,” he said. “The existing roof was 100 percent saturated. ... With the insulation wet, it’s harder to keep it warm or cool.” 

Podobnik said the new roof comes with a 20-year watertight guarantee but that it should last many years longer with good care. 

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.