After the Hale Library fire, more than 80 K-State Libraries faculty and staff members plus 37 Information Technology Services staff members and several dozen student employees were left without office space. After the first few days of assessing damage to the library, it became clear that Hale wouldn’t reopen for some time.
Thanks to the generosity, assistance and compassion of our K-State community, we have been able to find temporary office locations across campus. We are so appreciative to the Alumni Center, Bluemont Hall, Business Building, Dykstra Hall, Seaton Hall, Unger Complex and Welcome/Career Center for their generosity in welcoming us into their spaces.
Our employees may be spread across campus, but they are ready to provide their help and services to campus and community once again.
(Please note, these photos represent only about half of the K-State Libraries and IT Services employees. Dozens of library staff members have worked shifts in Hale Library helping to pack damaged books and remove them from the building. Some were in meetings when we visited, and still others refuse to let us get within 50 yards when we have a camera out.)
Today marks five weeks since the May 22 fire at Hale Library. In this update, we have a lot to share about our demolition progress.
A huge amount of damaged drop ceiling, drywall and carpet has been removed.
There was also extensive water damage to the drywall. In some areas, only a few feet needed to be removed, but in other parts, the entire wall had to be demolished and only metal studs remain.
Furniture and technology: Soot damage
Most of the furniture in the building was damaged beyond repair and will need to be thrown away. The tables that were located across all five floors of the building suffered so much smoke damage that the toxic soot cannot be cleaned off of them.
Already, the majority of the furniture from the first through the third floors has been disposed of. All told, it filled a large industrial dumpster 65 times.
Because the soot from the smoke is so toxic, every inch of ductwork in the 550,000-square-foot building will need to be taken down and professionally cleaned.
In addition to the ductwork, all surfaces of every room will have to be professionally cleaned to eliminate the soot. Cleaning the first through fourth floors could take about ten weeks.
Furniture: Water damage
The original Farrell library tables suffered intense water damage that stripped and warped the wood beyond repair. These photos were taken two days after the May 22 fire.
Luckily, not everything was completely unsalvageable. While removing books, the crew and staff were in desperate need of book carts and were able to salvage 30 book carts from the fifth floor.
Progress continues on the book retrieval process. At this point, 30,000 full boxes of books have been removed.
In the last week, the data center, which had been operating off of generators, was returned to commercial power.
Additionally, the electronics in the building have been assessed, and about 70 percent of what was deemed a loss has been prepared for disposal through the e-waste process.
Obviously, there are many moving parts to the recovery process. Before we can implement our plans for K-State’s future Hale Library, the damaged portions of the building must cleared out. We are making strides forward every day.
We’d like to extend our deep appreciation to our K-State Libraries and Information Technology coworkers and the Belfor team for everything they’ve accomplished thus far.
After the fire it was critical to address the issue of damaged books, especially those that were wet. Hundreds of thousands gallons of water were used in the rescue effort, and that water drained down into different parts of the library like Room 117, which was full of books stored on compact shelving.
Room 117 covered in ceiling tile debris from water damage.
In order to preserve wet books it is best to freeze them. The process of freezing the book turns the water into a solid and stops further damage and mold growth. The majority of wet books were part of the circulating collection housed in Room 117. At this point, 3,357 boxes of wet books have been transported out of Hale Library.
Packing and gathering books is a long process that has been complicated by the fact that library personnel could not enter the building for several days. When they finally could start working, the water damage had left the building with no power.
Since the books were stored on compact shelves powered by electricity, at first they couldn’t move the shelves to access the books. Compact shelving moves on chain-link rails, which allows for libraries to provide more books in less space.
“We were unable to initially power up the shelving in Hale 117 with battery back-ups, so our wet materials stayed in un-airconditioned, nonclimate-controlled conditions for a number of days,” said Michelle Turvey-Welch, Head of Metadata, Preservation, and Digital Initiatives.
Once a professional came in to remove the chains on the rails of the compact shelving units, the process of moving wet books became easier.
There is an established protocol that preservationists use when freeze drying books. First, they need to be packed in a specific way: They must be placed spine down in a box that has been thoroughly lined with heavy plastic. Then, those boxes need to be tightly packed in order to help the books maintain their shape.
Next the boxes are sent to the freezers where they sit for anywhere from several days to several weeks depending on how wet the book is. Housing and Dining Services at K-State was kind enough to loan us the use of their industrial freezer, which is located in the Pittman Building. The freezer is anywhere between negative ten and negative fifteen degrees.
The books that were in the freezer have been loaded into refrigerated trucks and shipped to a Belfor regional technical service center that specializes in water damaged documents and books in Ft. Worth, Texas. The wet books will be put into vacuum freeze dryers that will draw out the rest of the moisture and turn it to water vapor. Then the books will undergo the final restoration and cleaning process.
It started shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22.
Alarms went off in Hale Library. Employees reported smoke.
The building was safely evacuated, and emergency personnel from the Manhattan Fire Department, Riley County EMS, Fort Riley, Blue Township and others responded.
In order to save the structure, several hundred thousands of gallons of water flooded the building.
Outside of the library, the entire K-State community experienced system outages. To protect the university’s data center, which is located in Hale Library’s basement, online tools such as Webmail, HRIS, KSIS and others were taken offline. By June 4 —thanks to efforts from staff from multiple units across the university who worked round-the-clock—vital services were restored due to generator power.
Additionally, since the majority of the university’s library materials were unavailable, the Libraries made it a priority to restore interlibrary loan services as soon as possible. They were up and working again by June 1.
This is what K-State’s faculty, staff, and students experienced outside of Hale Library.
Inside of Hale Library, the damage was much, much worse than initially hoped. On May 24, President Richard Myers and Dean of K-State Libraries Lori Goetsch saw the destruction for the first time.
“To be honest it was pretty devastating,” Dean Goetsch told Brady Baumann of KMAN. “It was heartbreaking to see the amount of damage. In order to enter the library, we of course put on hard hats. We had to put boots on because the water was up to our ankles. … It was really sad. You know, I’ve been here for 14 years, and Hale … feels like home. … And it was like seeing your home damaged.”
Historic Farrell Library bore the worst of the destruction. Holes for the firefighting efforts were cut in the roof, and a lot of the water poured through that part of the building.
Many K-Staters are familiar with Farrell Library’s iconic Great Room, but most are probably not aware that the 1927 building also houses the Academic Learning Center (ALC), K-State’s athletic tutoring facility. The ALC is an essential study location that provides vital tutoring services for student athletes.
The “We Have a Dream” mural, which was created 1978-80 by several multicultural student organizations, covers one large wall of the facility. The ALC will have to be gutted, and it is uncertain if the mural can be saved.
Below the ALC and Great Room, on Farrell Library’s second floor, the IT Help Desk, multiple iTAC offices and the Media Development Center were extensively damaged, as was the technology in those spaces.
Nevertheless, even as K-State Libraries administrators were absorbing the scope of the disaster, they were also launching the recovery process.
Within 48 hours, Belfor, an international disaster recovery and property restoration company, was on site to assess the damage.
On May 27, more than 75 Belfor workers began removing wet carpet and ceiling tiles from the library. By June 1, their ranks had grown to nearly 200 workers from eight states. They swarmed the site, performing assessment, cleaning and determining what could and could not be salvaged.
Most of the carpet and ceiling tiles in the building have been removed, and it’s estimated that about half of the drywall will need to come out.
Two weeks following the fire, all of Hale Library’s occupants—87 K-State Libraries faculty and staff members, 38 IT Services staff members, 2 Academic Learning Center employees and dozens of student employees— were generously welcomed into 13 temporary locations across the university.
Many, many challenges lie ahead for the recovery effort. Even today, there is very little lighting since electricity has not been restored. The generators on the lawn power dehumidifiers and air cooling units in an attempt to keep the temperature and humidity more manageable. On hot days, it reaches 90 degrees inside the building. Workers have to wear hardhats, vests, and respirator masks, so that combination makes the heat even more oppressive. The sheer scale of the recovery for the 550,000-square-foot Hale Library is immense, and there are new problems to be solved at every turn.
This blog will be our place to share our journey, and we hope you’ll follow along as we plan for the future.
The outpouring of support from faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and other libraries around the country has been overwhelming. We are profoundly grateful for their generosity and kind words, and we know that with the K-State Family behind us, the long chapter ahead of us has a very, very bright ending for an exciting, new Hale Library.