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Rising from the ashes: the two-year anniversary of the Hale Library fire

A graphic that says "Hale Library 2 Years After the Fire"

Two years ago, on May 22, 2018 at 4 p.m., things at Hale Library changed forever.

The fire and the resulting damage from water and smoke impacted several sections of the library, including Historic Farrell Library and the Great Room. As a result, nearly 130 employees found themselves out of their regular workspace and into more than 13 temporary work spaces throughout campus.

As a way of recognizing the immense progress that has been made in the two years since the fire, we wanted to share photos that show the tremendous progress we’ve made. As we get closer and closer to completing the renovation and restoration of the library, we hope you find as much inspiration from these photos as we do.

A picture of the Great Room, damaged, with water on the floor.
The West end of the Great Room, two days after the fire on May 22, 2018. Most of the damage to the library was a result of the heavy smoke that traveled throughout the building and the water used to extinguish the fire.
A picture of the Great Room currently, under renovation.
The West end of the Great Room today, after significant restoration efforts. All the wood beams from the ceiling were taken down, repaired, restored and then put back in the exact same spot.
A picture of a damaged acorn finial.
The acorns in the Great Room were in strong need of repair following the fire.
A picture of repaired acorn finials hanging from the ceiling.
The acorn finials were repaired and varnished to get them in shape for being reattached to the ceiling.

The catastrophic damage to the library was a hit to the entire K-State community, as Hale Library is often viewed as the heart of campus, and a place where everyone is welcome to share a quiet moment of reflection or study. At the time, it seemed that the incredible task of restoring the 550,000-square-foot building would be the greatest challenge the library and its staff have ever faced.

Two pictures side by side of the murals and holes in the ceiling following the fire.
On the left, a hole in the Great Room ceiling is shown where the fire broke through into the room, taken June 28, 2018. Today, boxes cover the Great Room murals to protect them during construction. The murals are stable and will be restored after all construction is complete.

But now, two years later, the challenge lies not in finishing the restoration of Hale Library, but in preparing for what comes next.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, construction continues on Hale Library at a rapid pace. Every week, the changes at the library become more and more visible—we would say that the library is starting to look like its old self again, but that wouldn’t be true. Instead, Hale Library is beginning to look like its new best self, a mix of the historic and the future.

On the first and second floors, the Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab begins to take shape, introducing a creative space that will open new doors for students and patrons as they tackle projects with the latest technologies. On the third floor, the historic Great Room is being restored to its former glory, but the acorn finials hanging from the ceiling are newly varnished, the murals are being repaired with the latest restoration techniques and desperately needed electrical updates flow throughout the space. Similarly, the first and second floors of Historic Farrell Library will also be restored to showcase their beautiful architectural details, but the spaces will have new purpose as they house distinctive collections and comfortable study space with plenty of natural light.

A picture of the first floor, full of damaged furniture.
This was what the first floor looked like on June 11, 2018; much of the furniture was temporarily stored on the first floor.
A picture of student studying on the renovated first floor.
Students were able to experience the new first floor which opened last fall. The Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons is a collaborative space with technology enabled group study rooms, open seating and so many whiteboards.

It’s these changes and more, that are beginning to reveal a next generation library.

A picture of covered furniture on the second floor.
The state of the second floor on June 14, 2018; furniture is covered with plastic wrap and being removed.
A picture of the renovated second floor.
The new second floor was completed this spring, and holds 99 computer stations for community use.
A side by side shot of the second floor sunflower window overlook; one is full of drainage tubes, the other with soft seating.
In June 2018, the second floor entrance was swarmed with white tubes that helped circulate air and dehumidify the building. Today, this second floor space has been repurposed into a “living room” area, complete with soft seating where students can enjoy this beautiful arched window.

We want to say a huge thank you to the library and IT staff for their patience throughout this journey, as well as their unwavering dedication to continuing to provide quality service to the community. We also want to extend our gratitude to the entire K-State community for their endless support.

In a year from now, on the third anniversary, it’s exciting to think about what it will be like in Hale Library. By then, the full library is expected to be open to the public and students and staff will once again have a place on campus to call home. The ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel is keeping our staff, in particular, positive and resilient. We also hope that by then, life will have returned to some kind of normalcy for us all.

It hasn’t been an easy road to restore Hale Library, nor has it been a short one. But we’re confident that the results will be well worth the wait.

3 thoughts on “Rising from the ashes: the two-year anniversary of the Hale Library fire
  1. Many of us at KSU have been displace due to COVID-19. The Library staff have had much more to deal with as they had a fire prior to COVID. I take pride in knowing the staff members I do there and applaud them for their resiliency, their professionalism, and their fortitude. They truly are a reflection of what it means to be part of K-State. I look forward to being back on campus soon with my library friends.

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