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Park Mall

Tribune photo by Megan Christensen

Guelph firefighters attended an underground blaze at Park Mall apartments Friday morning.Evacuated residents found a safe haven at the library across the street.

People, cats and find safe haven in library

By Megan Christensen
Special to The Tribune

More than 50 Quebec  Street apartment dwellers would have been left out in the cold Friday morning if not for the quick thinking of Guelph Public Library staff.
The library was closed when their Park Mall neighbours from across the street were evacuated due to a vehicle fire in the underground parkade of the building.
When Guelph Public Library CEO Kitty Pope saw the police and fire trucks starting to arrive from her corner office window, she didn’t think much of it.
That was until she saw even more emergency vehicles show up, and people started to come out of the building in their pyjamas, wrapped in blankets.
Pope quickly spoke with the police, flicked on the lights and unlocked the doors to the library’s shivering neighbours.
It was not only neighbours of the human variety that Pope and library staff invited in.
“If it wasn’t for the library, many people and pets would have been left standing in the cold,” apartment resident Ruth Rustige said in an interview after people were allowed to return to their homes.
“It isn’t the duty of the head librarian to take all those people in,” said Rustige. “And her staff came out to help too.”
“It was the staff that stepped up,” Pope said in an interview later in the day.
One staff member put on a pot of coffee.
Another passed around water bottles and juice boxes as Park Mall residents and pets waited for emergency services to douse the flames.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had cats in the library before,” Pope said with a chuckle.
There were three dogs in the newspaper section, as well as three cats in crates and one wrapped in a blanket in an owner’s arms.
All of the upstairs seats were full, and a movie was put on for the kids downstairs, Pope said.
About 50 people and close to 10 animals came in, she continued.
“We were thrilled to be able to help,” said Pope.

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