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.
The murals are on plaster walls that are still drying out, and we are working with preservationists in order to save them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the fifth floor, ceiling tiles have been removed, which makes the ductwork accessible for the cleaning crew.
All surfaces are cleaned with HEPA vacuums before they are wiped down with chemical sponges.
In order to reach every inch of the soot with a chemical sponge, the crews put them on long poles.
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!