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Hale Library Blog

Author: Rebekah Lynne Branch

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. 

 

 

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!

Hale Library: Week five update

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.

Ceilings

Ceiling grid and tiles are caving in after suffering water damage.
Second floor, Media Development Center, May 31, before ceiling removal.
Ceiling tiles and grids are removed from a hallway, exposing pipes and electric wiring.
Second floor after ceiling tiles were removed, June 14.
A room with ceiling grids up without ceiling tiles, leaving the tubes and electric exposed, while the furniture is covered in white plastic.
Second floor after ceiling tiles were removed, June 8.
Ceiling grids have been removed from the library and tubes and wiring are even more exposed, while furniture is covered in white plastic.
Second floor of Hale Library with all ceiling grids removed, June 14.

Walls

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.

Yellow wall with spray paint marking two feet of wall needing to be removed, while two feet of the wall has been removed, exposing metal studs.
Second floor, June 14. Two feet of the wall was removed since only the lower portion was damaged
Dry wall has been removed, leaving only metal studs in its wake and exposing a wall sign for the Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship.
First floor, June 8. In the Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship (CADS), half to all of the drywall was removed.
A hallway has all of the carpet, ceiling tiles, and try wall removed, leaving only metal studs and cement flooring.
First floor, northwest corner, looking east down the hallway that runs between Room 117 and Stack A, June 14. The majority of the drywall was removed from this portion of the building.
A room with debris over the floor and a single light in the middle of the room shows a wall with only metal studs and no dry wall.
Fourth floor, Academic Learning Center, June 14. The ALC is the on-campus tutoring facility for student athletes; this space experienced extensive damage and will be gutted.
A stairwell is caution taped off with the side wall exposing metal studs and electric wiring.
Fourth floor, north stairwell, June 14.
Dry wall has been removed showing a limestone wall behind metal studs.
Second floor, June 14. When drywall was removed, limestone from the exterior of the 1955 Farrell Library addition was exposed.
Looking through a metal chainlink fence lays brown baseboards next to purple dumpsters.
Baseboards were water damaged and will be disposed of along with the drywall and drop ceiling system.

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.

Blue topped tables sitting in a row next to each other.
The tables sustained a significant amount of smoke damage. Most have been disposed of.
A mouse has been moved on a blue desk to reveal a light blue outline of the mouse.
When loose items that were left on the tables were picked up and moved, it was easy to see how much soot coated all surfaces throughout the building.

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.

A grey capital has fallen on a water damaged table.
The Great Room tables sustained a significant amount of water damage.
Brown wood tables are warped and wavy after severe water damage.
Both the veneer and the underlying wood was cracked and warped from prolonged exposure to water.

Book Retrieval

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.

Rows of colorful book carts are lined up against the wall.
Book carts, fifth floor, June 14.
Rows of deconstructed cardboard boxes are lined up against the wall from floor to ceiling.
This is just a small percentage of the boxes that are ready to be assembled and packed with books that will be relocated relocated offsite for cleaning and storage.
On the right are cleared off white bookshelves and on the left the wall is lined with brown cardboard boxes.
The entirety of the Music and Art collection has been boxed and moved off of the fourth floor.

Technology

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.

Dozens of computer screens sit on a concrete floor.
Damaged computers waiting for 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.

 

 

What happens to wet books?

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.

The floor between white metal shelves and the compact shelving units is covered in debris from white ceiling tiles. 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.

A row of wet books expands as the water soaks in begins to press against the ends of the shelving unit and form an arc.
In some places, shelves of wet books started expanding so much that the pressure lifted them off of the shelves.

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.

A women in an orange vest and a white hard hat is inspecting the brown compact shelves.
Michelle Turvey-Welch surveys the compact shelving after the fire.

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.

A large cardboard box lined with heavy black plastic is ready to be filled with wet books.
Boxes that the wet books go into are lined with contractor-grade trash bags to prevent moisture from destroying the cardboard during transportation.

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.

Boxes are stacked on palettes in a giant industrial freezer.
Wet books sit in the Housing and Dining Services freezer before they are transported to Ft. Worth, Texas.

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.