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Hale Library Blog

Month: July 2018

What happens to smoke damaged books?

A few weeks ago we talked about what happened to the wet library books after the fire in Hale Library, but there were also over a million books in the library that suffered smoke damage and require treatment.  

The soot from the smoke damaged every inch of the library, and it has proven very difficult to remove from surfaces. A combination of the smoke, water, heat, and non-climate controlled building left most surfaces stained. Typically soot can be wiped away, but in this case, it is almost baked on.  

This resistant soot is an anomaly that Belfor, an international disaster relief organization, has not experienced before. Because this is such a strange occurrence, we sent a few books from different parts of the library to the preservationists at the Library of Congress where they will be tested and researched.  

Books lined up behind a white shelf that shows a brown outline of where the books used to be.
Soot stains outline where books were shelved.

“This soot was different from what I typically dealt with in the past because [it] causes a stain,” Kirk Lively, director of technical services at Belfor, said. “It’s not something that you wipe your finger through and you come up with a black smudge on your finger. It’s actually stained onto the surfaces.”  

While we wait to hear from the Library of Congress, we continue to move books out of Hale Library over to Executive Court, a process Belfor has been working on since May 25.   

K-State leased Executive Court, an office space near the airport that was most recently occupied by the College of Architecture, Planning and Design during the renovation of their Seaton Hall Complex. As of now, books from rooms 117 and 222 have been moved to Executive Court as well as most of 3rd and 4th floors. We estimate 500,000 books are currently at Executive Court waiting to be cleaned.  

A side by side photo shows a giant empty room and the same room filled with boxes.
Executive Court before and after boxes of books were transported.

To clean a soot-covered book, a HEPA vacuum is used on the book’s exterior to remove most of the dirt and soot. Next, the cover, the back, and the spine of the book are wiped down with a dry chemical sponge. After the outside is clean, the book is opened and the fore edge of the pages is fanned in both directions and wiped down. It takes about 20 minutes to complete this process on a box that holds 12 to 15 books.  

Kay Rieder, Belfor project manager, demonstrates how smoke damaged books are cleaned.

After they go through this manual cleaning process, all of the books will go into an ozone chamber in order to neutralize the smell and draw out the carbon. Belfor has built two ozone containment centers in Executive Court.  

A white tent in the a large room with cardboard boxes.
One of the ozone chambers that neutralizes odors on books.

After the books are out of the ozone chamber, they go through a “white glove” quality control check. If any soot comes off the book or a smell still lingers from the fire, that book goes through the cleaning process again. Ozoning books can accelerate deterioration of items, so they will not ozone a book more than needed.  

 

A women holds a pink book up to her nose and smells it.
Kathryn Talbot, preservation coordinator, checks for any lingering odor from smoke on clean books.

The cleaning process of some of the books has begun, but the crew cannot begin cleaning them in earnest until more warehouse space is acquired to store the clean materials. It is important not to put clean books near the carbon-covered books because the clean books would absorb those chemicals again.  

Blue tape lines the floor in grids and brown boxes are stacked in the boxes.
To keep the books in order, Belfor put grids on the floor with tape. Each shelf in the library has a corresponding grid in Executive Court.

One of the challenges with Executive Court is the inability to move books on pallets, because they don’t fit through the doorways, which slows down the cleaning process considerably.  Pallets allow dozens of books to be moved at the same time but instead the boxes are managed by hand and small carts.  

Currently, the few hundred boxes that have been cleaned were moved to the Library Annex. The annex is an offsite location near Executive Court that holds part of the Libraries’ collection. Patrons are able to request books from the annex, and then they are delivered to an on-campus library help desk.  

After the books are cleaned, some of the books will be ingested into the annex and will be available for check out upon request. The annex is unable to hold the entire library collection, so hundreds of thousands of additional books will be sent to additional warehouse space, once it is acquired.  

At Executive Court, boxes are stacked seven boxes high and fill the entire building. 

The Libraries have received many questions as to why we don’t claim the books as a loss to insurance. For us, its not just about how much it would cost to replace them.  

“Many of our books and other materials are out of print,” Roberta Johnson, director of administrative and IT services, said. “K-State’s resources are the result of years of collecting and carefully managing materials that provide the most relevant information to the faculty, staff and students.” 

Not only are some of the books out of print, but it would take an exorbitant amount of time for the acquisitions and collection development department to search for and purchase the material. It would be a major undertaking to replace approximately 1.2 million volumes.  

There is no set time frame for the books to be cleaned. As of right now, Belfor estimates it could take between six to twelve months. 

 

 

Week seven update: Special collections, the Great Room and more

Welcome to our week seven Hale Library update!

Now that most floors of the building are emptied and we’re starting to work with a blank slate, truly dramatic changes are less visible. Nonetheless, surprises crop up on a regular basis—some less welcome than others.

Near a Great Room sign on Hale Library's third floor, yellow construction lights are strung across the ceiling.
Since this photo of the third floor was taken, the rest of the books have been boxed up and moved to Executive Court. June 28, 2018. 

Special Collections

The vast majority of the materials from the Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections are located on Stack G and Stack H. For weeks, our plan was to clean those materials on the premises.

“We really hoped we could set up cleaning stations in the building and go through the process of vacuuming them and wiping them down to remove soot right here on site,” Roberta Johnson, director of administrative and IT services, said.

Unfortunately, Stack G is getting hotter: A water line that provides cool water to the chilling system was damaged in the fire. It needs to be fixed, but that water line is an area of the Great Room that is currently inaccessible.

This week, we received the news that temperatures in Stack H are rising, too.

Rows of metal shelving draped in plastic are lit up by a flashlight.
There aren’t any lights in Stack H, and temperatures are rising; materials there will be boxed up and moved offsite soon. July 6, 2018.

“All of the building except the data center in the basement and a few elevators are still powered by generators,” she added. “The cooling system for Stack H isn’t getting reliable power, and until good commercial power is available, and the unit’s electrical issues are resolved, these problems will continue.”

So the materials in both Stack H and Stack G will be packed out soon and transferred to Executive Court, the storage and cleaning facility near the airport.

“In some places, the building conditions are getting worse instead of better,” Johnson said. “We just can’t risk leaving valuable materials in non-climate controlled space.”

The Great Room

A construction worker kneels on a platform at the top of the scaffolding.
A worker erects scaffolding near the ceiling along the south wall of the Great Room. June 28, 2018.

Additional scaffolding has been constructed in the Great Room. Once complete, crews will build a floor across the top; from that floor they will be able to reach the ceiling and start the restoration process.

Large plastic tubes and metal scaffolding are back lit by a leaded glass window in the Great Room.
The dehumidifer tubes are still removing moisture from the Great Room, and a second set of tubes is pumping chilled air in. July 2, 2018.

Julia Manglitz, a professional art restorer, is on-site to oversee efforts to preserve the Great Room murals, which were painted by David Hicks Overmyer in 1934.

“Her goal is to dry the plaster out very slowly in order to cause the least possible damage to the murals,” Haddock said.

An agricultural worker holding a scythe is framed by metal scaffolding in the foreground.
A detail of the agriculture mural. June 28, 2108.

He also explained that she is using a large black light to examine and photograph the murals because the UV light can make damage on the painting’s surface readily visible.

The “We are the Dream” mural is in the Academic Learning Center, which is on the opposite side of the wall from the Great Room Mural. Manglitz hopes to remove the “We are the Dream” canvas from the wall as the plaster dries, but that painting is in less-than-ideal condition and the outcome is uncertain.

“We are the Dream.” July 2, 2018.

In a related effort, there is a full painting crew in the Academic Learning Center, but they are actually “unpainting,” or removing the paint from the walls, thereby erasing a barrier that is preventing the plaster from drying out.

The next step will be to remove the ceiling in the Academic Learning Center, another part of the effort to eliminate moisture from the environment.

One building challenge and one bit of trivia

Meanwhile, up on the roof, there are three very large, non-functioning air conditioning units that will have to come off. (Well, two very large ones, and one very, very large one.)

Three rectangular gray metal boxes sit on the library roof.
Three air conditioner units are nonfunctioning. The unit at right is approximately 10 feet high by 18 feet long. July 2, 2018.

“It’s a challenge we haven’t quite managed to come up with a workable solution for yet,” Mike Haddock, associate dean, said. “There’s been talk of everything from dismantling them and bringing them down in pieces to airlifting them off with a helicopter.”

Stay tuned for those photos, right?

About a month ago, we shared photos of the dehumidification tubes that prompted references to science fiction pop culture.

Well, sci fi fans, meet the hydroxyl generator.

A large box with a circle at its center is lit by four smaller glowing blue lights inside.
A hydroxyl generator casts an eerie glow. July 2, 2018.

There are multiple boxes emitting an eerie blue glow across fifth floor. These hydroxyl generators use a phenomenon that occurs in nature to neutralize odor left by the fire.

Hydroxyls are molecules that are created when sun’s ultraviolet rays react with water vapor in the air; however, they don’t occur indoors. The generator creates atmospheric hydroxyls that neutralize smells by breaking down the chemical bonds in the odor-causing bacteria molecules. Hydroxyls also neutralize some molecules in mildew and in mold spores. The machines are safe for use in occupied areas.

Making an insurance claim? First, count everything.

If you were told to inventory the contents of your house, apartment, office or dorm room, where would you start? How many total items would be on your list?

In order to file an insurance claim after the May 22 fire, the K-State Libraries administration has been managing that overwhelming task. Roberta Johnson, director of administrative and IT services, walked us through the process of inventorying a building that’s bigger than nine football fields.

Goetsch, Mason, and Johnson, all wearing orange emergency vests and hardhats, stand in a partially demo'd doorway.
From left, Lori Goetsch, dean of Libraries, April Mason, then-provost, and Roberta Johnson, director of administrative and IT services, in Hale Library. June 11, 2018.

Johnson explained a series of steps have to be completed before the insurance company will provide financial compensation. Several tasks have been finalized.

First, K-State’s insurance company subcontracted with an insurance adjuster (in this case, Crawford & Company). Crawford & Company will work closely with Belfor, the recovery and restoration company, in determining the extent of the damage that was a result of the fire and the subsequent water exposure.

Before that happens, though, the entire contents of the building had to be inventoried and a determination made as to what was or was not salvageable, so Crawford & Company subcontracted with two more organizations. RCF Salvage inventoried all fixtures, furniture, and equipment (FFE) in the building, and Envista Forensics inventoried technology, which included everything from computers to the digital displays and checkout machines.

A long row of white metal lighting fixtures lies on the concrete floor.
Crews removed and inventoried lighting fixtures. June 28, 2018.

“I feel like I have nine million people to deal with,” she joked. “At one point there were 15 different agencies in the building, companies that have come from all over the country, Georgia, Indiana, Texas … to work on this project.”

The whole inventory process started on May 28, just six days after the fire. The bulk of the work was completed in about three weeks.

Either Johnson or K-State Libraries’ building manager, Robin Brown, walked through Hale Library with RCF Salvage’s staff to verify every single item that was inventoried. They signed what Johnson said felt like reams of carbon paper in the process, and the resulting 367 page FFE inventory included 7,749 line items. In many cases, just one of those lines represented more than one thing; for example, one entry might be a record of 35 wooden chairs.

Chairs on Hale Library’s first floor. June 11, 2018.

Envista Forensics produced a second inventory report that included approximately 1,970 pieces of technology.

“Keep in mind that almost all of this was done by flashlight because there was no power in the building,” Johnson said. “We did have temporary lighting toward the end, but I just thought these were the world’s worst conditions for the work. They sifted through the contents of every office, cubicle and storage space. And yet they were still so professional. I’ve been amazed.”

An employee's personal belongings, plastic sheeting, and debris litter an office cubicle.
Office cubicles in the information technology area on second floor were especially hard-hit with water damage. June 11, 2018. 

So what happens next?

“This is a 550,000-square-foot building; there are a lot of nooks and crannies,” Johnson said. “We’re still coming across items, and occasionally we have to go back to the inventory to make sure they’ve been accounted for. It will take time to clear up any discrepancies.”

Only once the loose ends are tied up can the adjuster valuate the inventory and provide a dollar amount to the insurance company.

“Even once the inventory process is finalized, we still don’t have estimates about the structural damage itself,” Johnson said. “That’s an entirely separate process. And until we have that piece in addition to the inventory of the building’s contents, there won’t be a total damage estimate.”

In the meantime, Johnson says she does have some idea of what the largest losses will be in terms of expense.

“The servers in the basement are among the most expensive single items,” Johnson said.

Other big ticket items include the fixtures: cubicle walls, desks and workstations.

Soft seating, wooden chairs, and office chairs stretch out in long lines. During the inventorying process, first floor was used as a holding area for furniture and boxes of books. June 11, 2018. 

“Right now they’ve carted out more than 100 industrial-sized dumpsters full of fixtures and furniture, and they’re not done yet,” Johnson said. “The loss is massive.”

Johnson is highly pragmatic about the whole process, though.

“We had no injuries,” she said. “When you think about the extent of what happened, that’s the most important thing. No injuries. I’m so grateful for that.”

Employee Possessions

Of course, there are more than 100 K-State Libraries and IT Services employees who had offices and workstations in Hale Library, and most had personal items at their desks – everything from art to clothes to their own technology. An inventory of those items was compiled separately, and employees will make claims to the insurance agency at a later date.

Among some staff members, there’s a running bet as to whose office held the most personal items. Two of the academic services librarians, Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan, are the odds-on-favorites, so we asked them about their experience.

“There was such a sense of disbelief when we learned our office was a loss,” Logan said. “We have had so many fire alarm situations where nothing was damaged, I just thought they had to be wrong … there was no way there was that much damage. It took probably a week before the news really set in.”

A group of twelve people dons orange emergency vests, hard hats and respirators.
K-State Libraries faculty and staff members prepare to enter Hale Library. May 30.

On May 30, Fritch, Logan and their Hale Library co-workers were allowed in the building for the first time to retrieve any personal belongings that were salvageable.

“It was pretty surreal visiting the office for the first time after the fire,” Fritch said. “We walked through with all the safety gear on and carrying flashlights, and it was so hot. The most disturbing thing was going into to our office and feeling like FEMA had been through since there were these orange spray-painted words like “demo” all over the walls. That was weird.”

Orange spray paint on a yellow wall reads "Demo to top" and "DMO"
Belfor crews indicated with spray paint which sections of drywall had to be removed. May 30. 

Fritch and Logan’s second floor office was packed with art, books, photos and objects. They both say they surround themselves with things that remind them of people they love, books about subjects they’re passionate about or quotes that express core beliefs.

“What I really miss is the artwork that my son had done throughout the years that I had hanging up,” Fritch said. “I was super happy that some of Tyler’s artwork was safe and I could take it, along with some photos I really wanted. Of course, I miss the Keurig, too—ha!—but the material objects, the decorations, the computer, the chair, books … those can be replaced.”

A video of Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan’s office taken shortly before the fire. 

The ceiling, carpet and part of the drywall have been removed from this empty office space.
All offices on the west end of the second floor, including Fritch and Logan’s, have been demoed. June 26, 2018. 

Logan, who laughingly admits to something of an office supply addiction, agreed, and added that she looks forward to the day when they get to move into a new space.

“For now, I miss having my 20 million different markers, highlighters, pens, notebooks and types of Post-it notes,” she said. “But I look forward to our new bright and shiny offices and making them feel like home once the building has been renovated. My office reflects me, and I will continue to fill it with things I love and from the people who love me.”

Hale Library: Week six update

Today marks six weeks since the fire at Hale Library. Since last week, carpet has been completely removed from several floors, more of the drop ceiling system has been taken out, scaffolding has started going up in the Great Room and crews have begun the labor-intensive process of wiping soot from every surface in every room.

As you’ll see here, the some of the changes are quite obvious!

The Great Room

The Great Room was the area that received the most damage from the fire, and it will take the longest to restore. In perhaps the most visually dramatic change, scaffolding is being constructed throughout so that crews can access the walls and ceiling and start the cleaning and restoration process.

Workers constructing scaffolding in the Great Room.
In these photos, the scaffolding lines the walls, but eventually it will fill the entire space so workers can access the ceiling, too. June 28, 2018. (Click photo to enlarge.)

The murals are on plaster walls that are still drying out, and we are working with preservationists in order to save them.

Workers construcing scaffolding along the murals in the Great Room.
Scaffolding on the south wall against the murals. June 28, 2018.
The Great Room ceiling: At left, a wooden beam that extends across the space has split lengthwise. At right, green mold spreading across the white plaster.
Scaffolding will allow workers to access the Great Room ceiling, which warped and split one of the wood beams and caused mold on the ceiling. June 28, 2018.

The First and Second Floors

If you read our five-week update, you know that most of floors have been cleared of furniture, carpet and drop ceilings.

As of this week, the first and second floors are completely empty. It’s exciting to see a blank canvas emerging. Now the area can be cleaned, and we can start thinking about its future.

Dozens of students on the second floor of Hale Library study and use the computers and printers.
The second floor before the fire.
Second floor of Hale Library after the carpet and ceiling tiles were torn out.
The second floor on June 6 before the furniture, technology, ceiling grid and lights were removed.
The second floor on June 28, 2018, after the carpet, furniture, technology, drop ceiling system and some areas of drywall were removed.
Hundreds of cardboard boxes sitting on the concrete floor are stacked four high.
During the initial push to remove furniture and books from Hale Library, the first floor was used for storage. June 11, 2018. 
First floor of Hale Library with ceiling, carpet and furniture removed.
Now, first floor has been cleared of all furniture and boxes. It is empty and ready for thorough cleaning. June 28, 2018.

Isolated Mold Outbreak in the Stacks

The library is a 550,000-square-foot building, and most of it is still without commercial power, which means that many of our inspections have been conducted with flashlights.

Of course, we are always looking for emerging problems throughout the building, even in places where we initially thought the damage was minimal. However, we now know that lack of light prevented us from identifying one area of concern.

In the last week, we found mold in a small, isolated section of the stacks.

A close-up of mold blooming across the tops of several books.
A small section of books has been affected by a mold outbreak. June 26, 2018.
Mold blooms across the fore-edge of several books sitting on metal shelving.
A small section of books has been affected by a mold outbreak. June 26, 2018.

So what happened? As the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that permeated the building during the fire drained from the top floors to the bottom, it flowed along any unrestricted path available. Initially, the stacks were dry, but some of that water drained down the edges of a pipe. Since there is a gap around the pipe where it passed through each floor, water seeped through to the levels below. As the water progressed down the exterior surface of the pipe, books in the immediate vicinity got wet.

Red pipe passes through a hole cut in the drywall ceiling.
Pipe that passes through several levels of the stacks. June 26, 2018.

Since this discovery, we have removed the affected books. We remain vigilant for similar leaks and pockets of moisture throughout the stacks.

Packing and Removing Books

Since the last update, we continue to remove books from the library for cleaning at an offsite location. Currently, crews are boxing and moving books on the third and fourth floors.

As of July 2, crews have packed more than 38,000 boxes of books and library materials.

Until June 28, the elevators were operating thanks to power from generators, but the elevators still didn’t have lights, so crews were moving books from the upper floors to the ground floor in the dark.

Rows of empty white metal shelving units.
Empty shelves on the third floor that were once filled with books. June 28, 2018.
Boxes of books are pushed on carts to be removed from Hale for cleaning.
Belfor workers help load out boxes of books from Hale’s fourth floor for cleaning. June 28, 2018.

Cleaning Fifth Floor

The fifth floor was relatively unscathed, but it still needs to be professionally cleaned to remediate soot and smoke damage. Even ductwork will be cleaned throughout the entire building.

On fifth, crews are cleaning every accessible surface that was exposed to soot and smoke. It’s a very labor-intensive process. First they vacuum all surfaces—walls, windows, doors, everything—with a HEPA vacuum, which is a vacuum affixed with a filter that can capture particles of 0.3 microns with 99.97% efficiency. Next, the crew goes over everything again with dry chemical sponges. And finally, they wipe the surfaces down with clean washrags.

This process will be repeated on every surface throughout the entire building.

A circular room without ceiling tiles with only ceiling grids and duct work exposed.
The fifth floor hemisphere room with ceiling tiles gone, exposing duct work in the ceiling. 

In the fifth floor, ceiling tiles have been removed, which makes the ductwork accessible for the cleaning crew.

A women with a yellow vest stands on a ladder vacuuming the metal grids on the ceiling.
A crew member HEPA vacuums near the ceiling before sponge cleaning.

All surfaces are cleaned with HEPA vacuums before they are wiped down with chemical sponges.

A women in a yellow vest holds a long pole with a chemical sponge to clean the inside of the ceiling and duct work.
A crew member uses a chemical sponge to wipe down the ceiling and duct work.

In order to reach every inch of the soot with a chemical sponge, the crews put them on long poles.

Two black trash bags sit next to each other. In the left bag are dirty yellow chemical sponges and in the right bag are brown dirty wash rags.
Used chemical sponges and rags have to be disposed of.

Emptying damaged furniture, construction materials and books from the library is part of the process of creating a clean slate. Day-to-day, sometimes it feels like a slow process that requires an overwhelming amount of labor. When we think about the big picture, though, it’s an exciting first step toward renovating Hale Library and creating a new, vibrant research environment that will serve the entire K-State community.

We’re taking a break for the rest of the week, but check back early next week for the latest Hale Library news! Have a fantastic Independence Day, all!