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Hale Library Blog

Category: Interviews

We’re just getting started

A few short weeks ago, we opened the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons on the first floor of Hale Library. As we watched students walk through the doors for the first time we saw lots of jaws dropping, many audible gasps, and we even witnessed a few tears of happiness.

Students walking into Hale Library
Students walk through the Sunflower Entrance doors for the first time on August 28, 2019. Prior to the renovation, this was a wall with windows which caused many a student great confusion about how you actually got into the library.

Since the opening, Hale Library has been bustling with students thankful for the new space to study and collaborate. These spaces wouldn’t be possible without the 2,400 donors that have given to the project so far.

Photo of two students smiling, standing next to a whiteborad in Hale Library.
Blanca (left) a senior in kinesiology and Emireth a junior in biology say they are grateful to have the first portion of their library back. “It really does affect our grades and schoolwork,” said Blanca. Emireth added that a lot of students find it distracting to study at home, so they turn to Hale Library.
A digital sign in Hale Library thanks Dave and Ellie Everitt.
A sign at the entrance of Hale Library thanks Dave and Ellie Everitt for their generous contribution. The Everitts provided the lead gift for the first floor renovation.

Now that the first floor has opened, the Libraries must turn their attention to the remaining four floors which still require philanthropic support to create spaces as impactful as the first floor. Donations can be made online to support the renovation and restoration of the rest of the building.

An infographic show future updates and plans for the renovation
Plans for the next phases of the renovation include restoring the Great Room, creating new graduate student study rooms, and improved infrastructure throughout the building. The project will also turn the first and second floors of Historic Farrell Library into beautiful reading rooms with unique collections and tons of natural light. Previously these spaces were taken up by office cubicles and tall bookshelves with minimal seating.
A student sits in a chair smiling
Kevin, a sophomore studying architecture said he feels that buildings like Hale Library can make a difference for students. “I believe buildings and places have an impact on student psychology and their emotions,” he said.

The Friends of the K-State Libraries have also been strong supporters of the renovation efforts with $250,000 dedicated to the project to date. Since 1984 the Friends have advocated for a strong library system that enriches the student and faculty experience. The Friends have dedicated their efforts over the past several years towards raising funds for improvements to Hale Library. The Libraries and K-State students are grateful for their efforts.

A student smiles at the camera in a busy Hale Library
Taylee just finished her B.A. in English at K-State and is now in her first year of graduate school. She describes Hale Library like a community and a home. “There’s always somebody here that I can come and talk to and cry, or take a nap, or do homework, or eat lunch. I can do anything here, which is nice. Away from my actual home where I get distracted.”

 

Does this rusty stapler spark joy?

It isn’t often you get to make a fresh start, but this week my fellow K-State Libraries employees and I cast off the old in a Marie Kondo ritual of sorts.

After the fire, everything salvageable in our sodden and soot-stained offices was boxed up and moved into storage. We were all assigned new offices in one of ten different buildings across campus and—each according to our unique circumstances and job changes—began navigating a post-fire existence.

We all reacted and adapted in our own ways.

The same held true this week as we took turns visiting a storage facility near the Manhattan Regional Airport to sift through the boxes from our Hale Library offices that have been packed away for almost a year.

At left, Kay Rieder, a restoration specialist with Belfor Property Restoration, meets with K-State Libraries employees Robin Brown, Kendra Spahr, Jesica Sellers and Sara Kearns in the staging area where they opened their boxes. April 29, 2019. 

Staff members had to decide which work-related possessions they wanted to have cleaned and which items weren’t worth saving.

Some employees found the process liberating. “Man, I should have gotten rid of that paper a long time ago,” academic services librarian Sara K. Kearns said, after offloading arm loads of files destined for the shredder.

Others—especially those who have worked in Hale Library for decades—felt a renewed sense of loss.

Most librarians I spoke with said that they had already retrieved the possessions that were most important to them when we were allowed in the building for the first time on May 30, 2018.

Just a week after the fire, we signed in with security, donned hardhats and solemnly filed through the dark, hot library carrying our flashlights. While we navigated puddles, sagging ceiling tiles and random debris, I was in disbelief at the amount of damage we found around every corner.

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 to retrieve personal belongings. May 30, 2018. 

In my third floor office cubicle, I grabbed framed photos, artwork, and a two-drawer wooden card catalog that sat on my desk. At the last minute, I stacked a potted plant on top of my armload.

Those few belongings went home with me. The plant—now thriving—sits on my refrigerator, where it gets a lot more sun than it ever did in 313 Hale Library.

A office cubicle is strewn with binders, cords, technology, and office supplies; plastic sheeting meant to protect the space from water damage sits wadded in a puddle on the floor.
Office cubicles in the information technology area on second floor were especially hard-hit with water damage. June 11, 2018.

Some offices were in much worse condition than mine, and those library employees salvaged very little.

“It was pretty surreal visiting the office for the first time after the fire,” librarian Melia Fritch said. “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.”

Memories of that first post-fire visit came into focus this week as I watched my coworkers open their boxes.

Kearns recovered dozens of books that will be treated in the ozone chamber to eliminate the smell of smoke before she reclaims them. After making quick work of her paper files, she opened several long, flat packages wrapped in cardboard.

Two of them turned out to be prints she bought in Japan while visiting her brother.

A woman wearing a blue jacket holds a long framed red, black and white print.
Kearns smiles as she shows us art she hadn’t expected to recover. April 29, 2019.

“These were on the wall that water absolutely poured down when it drained from third floor to our offices on the second floor,” she said. “I can’t believe they aren’t covered in mold. They’re grimy and they need to be cleaned, but they’re totally fine.”

Senior graphic designer Tara Marintzer approached the process wondering if she’d have similar surprises. “It’s a mystery. I have no idea what I’ll find or whether there’s anything even worth saving.”

A women in a blue jacket stands at left and a women in a black hoodie kneels at right as they
Kearns and Kendra Spahr sift through boxes of paperwork. “There’s something in here called a ‘facsimile,'” Spahr joked. April 29, 2018. 

“After the fire, my new plan was to be more digital,” Marintzer added. “No more paper files.”

In all, nearly 1,000 boxes of office contents were packed out of Hale Library. The recovery crews that boxed up employee belongings didn’t always know what belonged to whom, so there has been some confusion along the way.

Kearns opened up one box marked with her name and said, “I have no idea who anyone is in these photos. This isn’t mine.”

A coworker glanced over and recognized that the images were of Kristin Hersh, lead singer of Throwing Muses, so then we knew that the box must belong to librarian Thomas Bell, who writes about the history of rock and roll. Gradually, the boxes that remain will make their way back to their rightful owners.

For employees who had a lot to sort through, decision fatigue set in.

At left, a man in a brown hoodie reaches into a cardboard box sitting on a table in front of him. At right, a woman in a purple polo shirt holds a clipboard.
Jason Bengtson, head of information technology services, sorts through a box while Sellers waits to check it off of the inventory list. May 1, 2019. 

“I had 80 boxes to open,” Kathryn Talbot, preservation coordinator, said. “By the end, I was throwing things out a lot faster.”

As I write this, I haven’t had my turn yet to open the boxes. I don’t know what I’ll find, but I can’t think of anything that I miss.

It’s a good reminder of the most important things about the fire, though: There were no lives lost. There weren’t any injuries. Everyone came out safe.

Most things can be replaced, or—in the case of Hale Library’s interior—rebuilt so they’re even better than they were before.

When it’s time for the K-State Libraries employees to move back into our offices a few years from now, we’ll be traveling a little bit lighter. A lot of us will be working more digitally, less physically.

And, in a place of honor, my future Hale Library space will feature a healthy spider plant survivor.

Two women carrying boxes walk on a concrete driveway in front of a red brick building.
Darchelle Martin and Sarah McGreer Hoyt walk out of the storage facility each carrying a single box of things they wanted to keep. May 1, 2019. 

Postscript: I went through my boxes a few days after I initially wrote this post. It felt good to offload “stuff” and think instead about the ways in which  working at K-State Libraries still sparks joy.

On the job site with Hutton Construction

The Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons opens in fall 2019. We’re so excited, we’ve done everything we can short of scaling Anderson Hall to shout it from the rooftop spire. This week we talked to the Hutton Construction superintendents in charge of making it happen.

At center left, two men wearing hard hats stand in a construction site next to a concrete pillar.
Mike Watkins and Curt Miller, Hutton Construction superintendents, on Hale Library’s first floor. April 23, 2019. 

Mike Watkins has been in construction for 17 years, including a stints working for a general contractor and as an iron worker. This isn’t his first time on the K-State campus: He worked on the Justin Hall renovation and addition in 2011.

A large group of students wearing white hardhats gather around a long table to look at construction plans and listen to the site superintendent.
Watkins speaks to the Illuminating Engineering Society about the Hale Library renovation project. The group took a tour of the building this week. April 23, 2019.

Curt Miller has been working in the construction field a bit longer.

“I started parking cars when I was 16 for $1.60 an hour,” Miller said. “Then I got a job working on a bridge deck wielding a 90 pound jackhammer. That paid $3.20 an hour.”

One day while he was on the job, Miller said he saw the man on the job site sitting in a pickup and told his coworkers, “I want that guy’s job.”

A man wearing glasses and a white hardhat stands on a construction site next to a stack of red metal pipes leaning on a concrete pillar.
Miller says the historical preservation elements of the Hale Library project appeal to him. At one time, he owned a contracting business specializing in historic renovations. April 23, 2019. 

He was superintendent on a small project by the time he was 21.

Both say that most of the jobs they work on are new construction and remodels; they don’t often work on buildings after a disaster. Because of the fire, the Hale Library project has required them to deal with a lot more remediation than they normally would. They’re used to dealing with asbestos, but in Hale Library they’ve had to remediate old lead paint, plus smoke and soot contaminants, too.

Of course, not all jobs are this large, either. In order to manage work throughout the 400,000-plus square feet, they have a third short-term superintendent, plus five foremen who report directly to them. Additionally, there are approximately seven or eight sub-contractors and as many as 100 workers in Hale Library on any given day.

A construction worker wearing a red hardhat and yellow t-shirt stands behind a yellow mini excavator in a large rectangular doorway. A construction worker uses a remote-controlled mini excavator with a jackhammer attachment to tear out concrete on the first floor. April 23, 2019. 

“It’s a big job,” Miller said. “But I think we have a pretty good team dynamic.”

They say that the penthouse that covers the new roof-top HVAC units has been the biggest challenge so far.

“We had to build a roof over the old roof to protect the library’s fourth floor from the weather,” Watkins said. “Then we removed the old roof and installed the floor. In a normal job, you’d start from the ground up.”

While Hale Library’s users might not find the mechanical room an exciting part of the renovation, the process of watching it come together has been fascinating.

The timeline to get the first floor done by fall 2019 is also challenging.

A typical remodel would have more time built into the front-end for the design process. With the Hale Library renovation, the schedule is compressed, and plans are evolving constantly. It requires the superintendents and their teams to remain flexible and patient.

Watkins also said it will be critical to get the “smarts and parts” in time in order to get them installed and meet the deadline.

“Those are the things like technology—and there’s going to be a lot of it on the first floor—or door handles and other fixtures that don’t get manufactured until the order is placed,” he said.

What are some of the things coming up that Watkins and Miller say we should be looking forward to?

In the distance, a construction worker in a blue hard hat and white t-shirt operates a jackhammer. A worker jackhammers out damaged tile in the first floor sunflower entryway. April 15, 2019. 

They’re almost done with the first floor demolition, and then the framing will get underway.

They’re also working hard to get the rooftop air handlers online by May 1. Once they’re in the penthouse and functioning, they’ll help keep Farrell Library cool this summer. It will also help with air flow through the oldest parts of the building where they are working to lower the humidity and dry out the plaster.

While we were visiting with Watkins and Miller, we ran into K-State Student Ambassadors Tel Wittmer and Maddy Mash taking their own Hale Library tour, and we asked them what they thought.

A woman with long dark hair and a tall blond man wear white hardhats and pose on a flat rooftop.
Maddy Mash and Tel Wittmer on the roof of Hale Library withe the spire of Anderson Hall in the background. April 23, 2019.

“I think students are going to love all of the different types of study spaces,” Mash said. “And it will be great to have more natural light. That’s really exciting, too.”

Mash and Wittmer will be traveling across Kansas this year to talk about everything K-State, and now they’re prepared to answer questions about Hale Library.

If our readers have any questions for us or for Hutton Construction superintendents Mike Watson and Curt Miller, leave them in the comments!

 

See plans for the new Hale Library!

You want of-the-moment updates? You know you can find them here on the blog!

Looking for something more? Don’t miss the latest issue of K-State Libraries Magazine.

A white hard hat, a sledge hammer, and a copy of K-State Libraries Magazine sit on a concrete background.

Our spring 2019 issue is online and in mailboxes now!

We’ve got a big-picture update on the future of Hale Library, including a sneak peek of the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons, opening fall 2019. You’ll also find dramatic renderings of the Innovation Center and working designs for new study spaces, meeting rooms and more.

 

A gray watercolor-style portrait of a woman with short hair and glasses sits next to a graphic reading "Q&A with Dean Goetsch."

Want the latest news about insurance reimbursements? In our Q&A with Dean Lori Goetsch, she shares all there is to know about insurance and the cost of renovating Hale Library.

“I never realized how complicated it would be to negotiate an insurance settlement of this magnitude,” Dean Goetsch said. “Hale Library is so large, and it was packed with furniture and technology. The insurance adjustors and all of the various parties have been working for months to estimate the costs.”

A purple and white graphic reads "Hale Library Renovation Timeline: Fall 2019, Portions of first floor complete ... etc."

And when will all of this happen? The building will reopen in phases, with the Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons opening up first, in fall 2019.

At left, tall bar chairs line a cafe counter. The ceiling is covered with dark wood paneling in geometric shapes. At right, low lounge chairs flank a contemporary-style fireplace.
Old meets new in a renovated first floor café space named for the Hale Family. Additional naming opportunities exist throughout the renovated building.

Of course, Hale Library won’t live its best new life without our friends and supporters. If you like what you see in the magazine preview, visit Help for Hale to join in our effort to create a next-generation library.

An illustrated graphic of cardboard boxes and a man lifting seven blue whales reads, "Hale move-out: We moved 1105 tons of books, the equivalent of seven blue whales."

What about the books? Thanks to hundreds of workers who put in thousands of hours, more than 1.5 million collection items were packed out in less than 17 weeks. Until Hale Library is renovated, the entire collection will be stored in multiple air-conditioned warehouses across the region.

We estimate that all 1.5 million items could be clean by July 2019. Even better news: We anticipate that more than 99 percent of the materials will be saved.

Read more about the process of cleaning and storing more than 147,700 boxes of materials!

Two blonde, smiling women stand in an aisle with packed bookshelves on both sides.
Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan: professors, office mates, collaborators.

Even without the building, K-State’s librarians are working hard to elevate research on the K-State campus.

Visit the magazine to read about two librarians who have forged a unique partnership with K-State’s athletic training program. Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan don’t just help students complete assignments, they equip them to excel in their chosen professions.

A black-and-white photo of a castle-style building engulfed in flames is overlaid with text reading "50 years ago"For K-Staters of a certain age, the big campus fire isn’t Hale Library but rather Nichols Gymnasium. Did you know that after a major conflagration 50 years ago, the limestone skeleton of Nichols Gym stood unrestored for almost two decades before it became Nichols Hall? Learn more from the latest installment of K-State Keepsakes in—where else?!—our magazine!

Be the first to learn about great stories like these! Don’t miss an issue of K-State Libraries Magazine. Click here to receive a copy in your mailbox.

Giving thanks for the Manhattan Fire Department and all first responders

This month we took some time out for expressions of gratitude. One of the highlights? A very special visit to the Manhattan Fire Department Headquarters.

Librarians and firefighters gather for a photo in front of a firetruck.
Left to right: Mike Haddock, A.J. Mueller, Battalion Chief Jason Hudson, Rebekah Branch, Carol Sevin, Brenna Leahy, Jesica Sellers, Robin Brown, Nick Clark, Captain Micah Hydeman, Darchelle Martin, Sarah McGreer Hoyt, and Captain Lou Kaylor. November 16, 2018.

On November 16, a group of K-State Libraries employees met at Station 1 on the corner of Denison and Kimball. We were greeted by Battalion Chief Jason Hudson and his team. Hudson, who was a K-State freshman during Hale Library’s construction, was in charge of the scene on May 22.

Hudson started off echoing what many of us thought on the day the MFD responded to the fire: “We’re there all the time. How could it be that bad?”

Yellow crime scene tape stretches across the foreground. A red fire truck with a metal ladder extends onto the roof of a limestone building.
A fire engine extends its ladder onto the northwest corner of Historic Farrell Library. May 22, 2018.

“So I get out of my vehicle and I talked to some folks that are outside already, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, there’s some smoke on the fourth floor.’ I was thinking cooking smoke, or something like that.

“I was walking … between Willard and Hale on the north side of the building … and I could smell it. You can’t mistake that smell. I look up and I see just a little wisp come off the roof, and then … I had a driver come up Mid Campus Drive from the south and he said ‘Hey, there’s smoke on this side of the building.’

A firefighter stationed at the southwest corner of Hale Library sprays water onto the rooftop fire. May 22, 2018.

“And I said, ‘Oh. We have a big fire.’ I actually thought the roof was going to come off the building. In fact, I moved trucks back thinking that the roof was going to burn off. That was my first impression of it.

More than 70 firefighters and a dozen emergency vehicles responded to the scene. May 22, 2018. 

“I actually ended up going inside with my crews and I couldn’t believe… It was almost like, ‘This building’s taken a kill shot.’ I knew it immediately when there was zero visibility… we were fortunate that everybody made it out of there when they did, because it could have been bad. Had anyone stayed in that building thinking it was nothing they would have been overcome by smoke ….

Firefighter Nate Hollenbeck rests after a shift inside of Hale Library. May 22, 2018. 

Hudson also talked about challenges the building presented.

“[T]ypically we don’t like to be on top of fire. We’d rather be under it, pull the ceiling down and then putting water on. [In Hale Library] you can’t! There’s concrete [between the floors]. We spent a lot of time trying to pull ceiling, and we couldn’t do it, so we had to get on top of it and go down.

“[The sprinkler system] saved the building. It did a lot of water damage, but there wouldn’t be a roof on that building … It could have been like Nichols Hall, back in the ’60s when it burned and all that was left was a shell. I mean,  it could have done something similar to that.”

Captain Dan Newton tells Sarah McGreer Hoyt about his team’s experience fighting the Hale Library fire. November 16, 2018. 

We also spoke with Captain Dan Newton, who is currently with Station 4 by the Manhattan Regional Airport. He started out his career at Station 2, which  covers Hale Library. So like Chief Hudson, when Captain Newton heard that there was smoke in the building at Hale, he said his first thought was, “Just another burnt bagel.”

Initially his crew didn’t go … but when they started getting radio traffic that smoke was coming from the eaves, they came to the scene. After an assignment clearing the Great Room, they went to the roof.

Two side-by-side photos show firefighters climbing to the roof to fight the fire.
At left: Crews access the roof via scaffolding that was erected as part of a roofing project. At right: A firefighter climbs an extension ladder to access the roof at the northwest corner of Historic Farrell Library. May 22, 2018.

“[W]e did multiple revolutions on the roof, which was the best place to be. We spent several revolutions cutting holes, using special nozzles that you can stick in a hole and get water to confined spaces. It was a very tough operation. It’s always a great team-building experience when you have something big like that.

Two firefighters in full protective gear and oxygen masks stand at the top of a metal extension ladder while accessing a small window in the peak of a limestone building.
Firefighters cut through wood to access the attic via a small window on the east end of Historic Farrell Library.

“I can just remember my whole entire crew cramping up … and getting to that point where knowing okay, we’ve pushed to our limit here … and you know so we did that multiple times, not just once ….

“It was a really, really hot day. And for me it was good to see my guys kind of step up. I had a very new firefighter getting to see him push through limits he didn’t know he had, and a very young driver that hadn’t been a decision-maker on scene but came up with the idea to use the special nozzle to put out the fire. So getting to see these guys grow and learn right there right in the middle of the scene isn’t something you always get to do.”

Five firefighters in full gear on the scene of the Hale Library fire.
MFD firefighters, from left to right: An unidentified firefighter, Nate Hollenbeck, Captain Clint Castor, Kody Songs and Louie Disney.

We don’t always get to hear about the fire from those who experienced it first-hand, so we’d like to extend a huge thank you to Chief Hudson and Captain Newton. Thanks, too, go out to Captain Micah Hydeman and Captain Lou Kaylor, as well as Scott Helberg, Nick Clark, A.J. Mueller, Lawilson Horne and the rest of the crew.

Thanksgiving, November 22, marks six months since the Hale Library fire, so it’s a fitting time to give thanks for the MFD and all of the other emergency personnel who were there that day, including the crews from Fort Riley, Blue Township, Riley County EMS and more.

We’re deeply grateful for these and for all first responders this holiday season, and we’re wishing them health and safety today and always!

***

Photos of the May 22 Hale Library fire courtesy K-State University Photo Services.

 

Catching up with K-State Librarians

As we walk across campus, we’re often stopped by fellow K-Staters and asked, “So how are you all doing?” Truly, we’ve appreciated the expressions of concern for the 100+ displaced Hale Library folks.

On that note, we thought we’d catch up with four of our co-workers who share a combined 80 years of experience with K-State Libraries.

Renee Gates, IT coordinator for Libraries’ Information Services & Technology (LIST), in her new Seaton Hall office. She has worked for K-State Libraries for 27 years.

After all of the computers and printers were lost in the fire, Renee Gates was responsible for getting more than 90 employees set up with new technology. She and her team also travel between a dozen different buildings on campus to make sure everything continues to work smoothly.

Renee, two of the four staff members on your team left Manhattan to pursue new job opportunities this summer. How are you doing?

“Everybody has been really nice and patient with us. They understand we are short-staffed.

In addition to getting everyone set up on new technology, we’re doing a lot of inventory of the tech that was in an area of Hale Library that was declared clean or cleanable. Everything has to be plugged in and tested to make sure it works. Some things don’t because of internal issues like the effects of condensation.

After the fire, I think in many ways our department had it a lot easier than other people. We had the most to do initially, but we were connected, we knew what was going on, and we had purpose. I think there was a lot more anxiety for people who weren’t as busy as we were. So that busyness helped get us through.

I love that we have space in Seaton Hall that is just our LIST staff and we can easily talk to each other without disturbing anyone else. I miss everybody from the library, though.”

Dan Ireton, academic services librarian, is an associate professor who works primarily with faculty and students in philosophy, political science, and theater and dance. He’s been with the Libraries for 13 years.

Dan, what do you remember about the day of the fire? 

“I was in my office, and my 15-year-old son was with me because he was out early that day and doing homework on a computer. We had this history in Hale Library that the fire alarms were sensitive to dust. One summer it seemed like a fire alarm went off every week. So the alarm goes off and it’s like, ‘Eh, okay, well… it’s the end of the day.’ So I scooped up my stuff. And I remember thinking so clearly, ‘Do I need my laptop tonight? Nah, I’ll get it in the morning,’ and I left it and we went home.

An hour later, I’m hearing from people, ‘Did you see the fire?’ And I was like, ‘There was an actual fire?!’ I went back, and people were hanging around outside. Somebody had ordered pizza, and we watched sheets of water cascade down the side of the building and into Mid-Campus Drive.”

What’s different about your job since you aren’t working out of Hale Library?

“A couple of librarians and I have gotten office spaces within our respective disciplines, so I am in in Nichols Hall with the Theater Department. I’ve tried to become more entrenched with their faculty and students, and that’s been great. I see them every day, and it’s very easy for them to find me and for me to be a resource for them because I’m physically there right now.

The thing I miss most are the collections, though. For example, theater is very practice-based. A lot of it is producing creative works based off of scripts and physical materials. While there are some fantastic online resources, it’s left a hole for my students when they go looking for scripts. You really want something physical in your hands for that, even when you’re trying to select scenes.”

Mary Bailey is the continuing resource librarian. Her career in military, public, school, and higher education librarianship has spanned 40 years. She’s currently in the Unger Complex.

How has your job changed?

“Part of our work is to make sure that when a K-Stater is off-campus that they can access all of the databases and online resources that the Libraries pay for by simply signing in with their K-State username and password.

The proxy system that makes that happen seamlessly was lost when the servers had to be taken offline after the fire. Fortunately, the Libraries’ IT department had been preparing to move the system to the cloud, so they were able to have up a new version within just a few days. Once it was rebuilt, our team spent the summer making sure that the new proxy system was working for hundreds of online resources. These materials are especially important now since the physical collection isn’t available. We’ve been very, very busy.”

This isn’t your first time working out of the Unger Complex, is it?

“Three of us were located in this exact same office when Hale Library was being built in the ’90s. Everyone here has been really friendly and helpful, and whatever we need they try to make it happen. It’s just kind of weird déjà vu!”

Carolyn Hodgson has worked for K-State Libraries for 22 years. Currently, she’s in charge of the reserves materials collection and works out of Seaton Hall.

What do you remember from the day of the fire?

“The fire alarm went off at 3:58, and we just thought it was a normal fire alarm, so I picked up my purse and went to my exercise class. When we got out, we could smell smoke and hear the sirens. People were going ‘Yeah, the library is on fire.’ Then I got home and had all these messages on my answering machine, asking if I was okay.

After the fire, I emailed each patron that had anything checked out. What was great was that a lot of people emailed back, and they were so supportive. That was the really nice thing: I had a lot of personal contact with patrons on email.”

How is life different now?

“I miss seeing all of the people that I worked with on a daily basis. I mean, I still go over to the union and see people but it’s different. I miss walking around in the stacks, seeing the actual books and seeing the students. I am excited about seeing the new Hale Library, though! I’m close to retiring, so this gives me a new reason to work long enough to see what the new Hale is going to look like.”

Like Carolyn, we are all excited to see what the future of Hale Library holds. We’re reminded, too, that libraries aren’t just about buildings—they’re about the people who work there, the people who use them and the people who believe in their value.

We know our blog readers fall into one or all of those categories. Thank you!

Interviews were conducted and transcribed by communication student employee Rebekah Branch. Transcriptions were edited for clarity and brevity.

Cleaning house: Week eighteen update

We’ve witnessed a lot of things go down on the fourth floor of Hale Library over the years: students camping under tables with blankets and pillows during finals week; physical anthropology study sessions that featured skeletons and piles of bones; and, well, let’s be honest, we’ve seen some fourth-floor stacks activities we wish we hadn’t.

But we’ve never seen fourth floor as a woodworking shop … until now. A lot of materials — like the entire physical library collection and one of the murals — have been packed out so they can be cleaned and stored until Hale Library renovations are complete.

Dozens of unvarnished, clean wooden beams of different shapes are arrayed on the floor.
Clean wooden beams from the Great Room ceiling fill Hale Library’s fourth floor. 

The Great Room woodwork is staying, though. Crews are cleaning and stripping the beams. Eventually, they’ll be refinished, and when the roof and ceiling are repaired and the space is ready for renovation, the beams will be reinstalled.

The fourth floor woodworking space is walled off with plastic.

Two workers wearing white t-shirts and hard hats stand next to heavy pieces of wood resting on sawhorses.Crew members from John Canning Co. clean and remove varnish from two decorative arch braces that hung in the Great Room. 

A dark-haired man in a white t-shirt and hardhat uses a cloth to wipe a heavy piece of wood sitting on sawhorses.
A worker from John Canning Co. cleans a piece of Great Room woodwork.
Another worker applies stripper to remove coats of old varnish.

Meanwhile, back in the Great Room, conservators continue to monitor and stabilize the David Hicks Overmyer murals.

At left, a worker in a white hard hat stands elevated on a rough wood floor supported by scaffolding. An allegorical mural depicting the arts is to his right.
John Canning staff members have cleaned the murals, removed the damaged layer of varnish, stabilized areas of paint and applied a new layer of varnish.
In a close-up, shadowy view, a woman in a white hard hat and yellow construction best holds an iPad. The handle of a mallet is visible tucked under her right arm.
Julia Manglitz, an architect from TreanorHL Historic Preservation, stands on one of the ledges supported by scaffolding in the Great Room. She explained to us how she tests the condition of the plaster by “sounding,” or tapping the wall with a mallet and listening for how hollow it seems.
A woman's torso and arms are visible; she holds an iPad with a line drawing of the Great Room wall on it in her left hand and points at it with a stylus in her right hand.
Once she’s tested the plaster through sounding, Manglitz creates a visual map of the condition of the wall on her iPad. She reports that many sections are still very wet. (In fact, on the two floors below the Great Room, the moisture level in some of the plaster and stone walls is as high as 80 percent.)
An art deco style painting of a figure with curling brown hair
A figure from the “Arts” mural is covered in white spots of thermoplastic adhesive, which is used to stabilize flaking paint. 

Additional mural restoration is on hold until two things happen: First, the plaster walls need to be more thoroughly dried out, and second, the rest of the Great Room restoration needs to be more advanced so that the murals aren’t re-damaged during that process.

In a room filled with scaffolding, large rectangles of gray fabric cover the murals on the wall. To prevent the murals from getting damaged while the rest of the Great Room is renovated, conservators have covered them with a felt-like fabric that’s attached to a tack strip that runs around the perimeter of each painting.

In the temporary “dance floor” space above the murals (which are barely visible at right), the roof joists are exposed. 

Up above the murals, the Great Room’s decorative woodwork has been removed, and the ceiling has been completely torn out. Crews from Hutton Construction are moving in to start replacing the roof and ceiling in the 1927 building.

Elsewhere in Hale Library, most of the recent action has centered on cleaning toxic soot from all surfaces and scraping up the carpet glue. Since that process is nearly complete, the size of the Belfor Property Restoration crew has been scaled down.

Metal scaffolding extends down a four-story stairwell.
Your daily dose of vertigo is brought to you by the scaffolding in Hale Library’s southeast stairwell, where they recently cleaned walls, railings, light fixtures and the ceilings.
Eight workers in hard hats and yellow construction vests are stationed across the entire length of the floor wielding long-handled scraping tools.
The process of scraping carpet glue on Hale Library’s third floor was a lot labor intensive and a little gross and sticky.  
Library or roller rink? After the glue was scraped off, the concrete and tile floors were cleaned and polished.

Even though the Belfor folks are starting to leave Manhattan, they aren’t taking a break: As organizations across the Carolinas assess the devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence, Belfor will be on the ground with their massive semi-truck command center and their amazing people. We wish them a safe assignment as they begin recovery efforts there.

It’s been eighteen weeks of damage assessment and drying out, packing collections and planning. The space is a clean slate, and in forthcoming posts we’ll be able share a lot more about the Hale Library of the future.

Saving the Great Room murals

The Great Room murals, painted in 1934 by David Hicks Overmyer, are the most iconic works of art on the K-State campus

During the fire, some of the most serious damage occurred in the Great Room ceiling immediately above the murals. Water from both the sprinkler system and from the firefighting efforts on the roof saturated the wall and dripped over the surface of the paintings. Then, in the following days, the plaster and masonry wall behind the mural absorbed a large amount of water that was still flowing through the building.

Hale Library Great Room – 07/20/2018 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Early June

Since early June, the future of the Great Room and its murals have been in the hands of Julia Mathias Manglitz, preservation architect with TreanorHL.

Manglitz examined the murals post-fire. At that time, she worked from a lift to document soiling and streaking on the paintings that resulted from sap running from wood trim directly above. The murals were also stained by dirty water that came from the attic. Additionally, Manglitz discovered areas where paint was cracking and areas that were already exhibiting very small areas of paint loss.

A woman with one hand resting on red metal scaffolding wears a white construction hat and a yellow safety vest. She stands in the foreground of the Great Room while workers in the background examine the murals on the walls.
Manglitz, a preservation architect with two decades of experience, majored in aeronautical engineering in undergrad. “My bosses at TreanorHL like to joke with people: ‘And this is Julia, our resident rocket scientist.’” July 20, 2018. 

When public information officer Darchelle Martin spoke with Manglitz in late July, Manglitz explained that the murals are painted directly on plaster that is attached directly to the masonry walls. In other words, the paint needs to adhere to the plaster, and the plaster needs to adhere to the walls.

“If we lose the plaster, we’ve lost the paintings as well,” Manglitz said. “So I inspected the murals as closely as I could by doing what’s called ‘sounding.’ When we work with materials like plaster and stone, we tap on them with a rubber mallet, and depending on what sound comes back to us, we can tell if something is well-bonded. Hollow sounding plaster is an indication that layers of plaster are starting to delaminate from each other or from the masonry. On my initial evaluation, even though I wasn’t seeing plaster coming away from the walls except in small areas, what I found were large areas that sounded hollow.”

A line drawing of cross sections of the library building indicates where the fire occurred on the roof, the directions from which water entered the building, and how water flow impacted the murals.
“That hollow area was worse once I got near and below the fourth floor line,” she said. “The Great Room is a two-story space, and the fourth floor meets on the back side of this wall. So the water that hit the fourth floor was then funneled back into the plaster and masonry. The entire thickness got wet; it’s not just where it ran down the face of the wall.” 

Late June

Between concerns for paint loss and the potential for plaster loss, Manglitz decided to contact a conservation contractor as quickly as possible. Based on her experience working with John Canning Company on the extensive renovation and restoration of the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, she recommended they be brought onto the project.

Rachel Gilberti, chief conservator at John Canning, has been working in Hale Library since June 22.

Once Gilberti joined the project, more intensive mapping of the mural damage began. By this time, scaffolding had been erected so they could finally make a thorough, up-close examination. They discovered small areas of plaster deformation where it was starting to delaminate from the wall. Other areas of the paint were marked by a fine pattern of dense cracking called craquelure.

At right, a woman wearing a white hard hat scans the surface of a mural with a hand-held black light device.
A black light allows Gilberti to see damage not visible under normal lighting conditions. July 20, 2018. 

“Water escapes through the cracks, which is a good thing, but sometimes the paint can come off, too,” Manglitz said.

Gilberti also noted that it’s important that the wall needs to dry at a stable rate. “If it starts to dry too quickly, the layers begin to separate from one another,” she said. “It’s also important to have the wall dry from both sides and meet in the middle. If it dries just from the back, all of the salts in the stone get pulled into the front and the material on the surface of the stone will come out.”

It could be a long time before the walls are thoroughly dry.

“The walls are fourteen inches thick, and the general rule of thumb for drying mass masonry is one inch per month,” Manglitz said. “That said, it doesn’t have to be perfectly dry before we start the conservation process to visually restore the appearance, but we needed to get it to the point where we feel like it’s safe.”

A woman with one hand resting on red metal scaffolding wears a white construction hat and a yellow safety vest. She stands in the foreground of the Great Room while workers in the background examine the murals on the walls.
We work with sculpture, murals, paintings, anything that’s in the architectural art realm all over the United States. I’ve been doing this almost 14 years in Europe and the United States. It’s a lot of travel, but you go where the art is, and it’s a great pleasure to see all of this beauty that’s spread throughout the country.

Late July

When the wall started to dry, additional small areas of paint began to flake off. Gilberti and her team began a triage campaign to repair small areas of damage and prevent others from worsening.

They used syringes to insert thermoplastic adhesive where they found paint cracking and peeling. Once the adhesive seeped in, they placed a clear piece of mylar over it and heated it with a small iron to get it to set. The process helped them keep the paint layer in place and on the wall.

In the foreground at right, a woman wearing a white hard hat and yellow safety vest applies a white substance onto the wall at left, while in the background, another woman observes the process.
Gilberti oversees conservation specialist Grace Moran administering the thermoplastic adhesive. July 20, 2018. 

As they monitored the drying-out process and addressed the paint delamination, they noted that different colors of paint reacted differently.

“Each color, each pigment in itself has unique traits,” Gilberti said. “Some pigments have less binding in them. All the reds in general are more sensitive pigments, so they react differently, especially to water. Greens are also very sensitive. White is a very stable pigment, so paints mixed with white did very well. The ones that don’t have that extra binding power are what we tried to stop from flaking with the thermoplastic adhesive.”

August

Since the beginning of their efforts to preserve the murals, Manglitz and her team have been collecting data regarding how wet the walls are. Initially, they could only take measurements at the surface, but since then, they’ve inserted probes seven inches or eight inches into the masonry to determine the moisture levels inside the walls.

In a detail from the art deco style "Arts" mural, an actor in flowing maroon robes extends one arm while the other hand is wrapped around his torso in a dramatic gesture.
Metered moisture readings indicate that the surface of the art mural is around 30%, but the in-wall moisture content at the floor level is at 90%, which is very wet for masonry. “This is the most fragile mural, the one we’re most concerned about,” Manglitz said. “We can’t remove the varnish until we’re more confident that it’s stable.” July 20, 2018. 

“Once we determined that the easternmost mural, Industry, was dry and stable enough, we were able to do a surface cleaning to remove the drips from the wood trim above without having paint actively flake off,” Gilberti said. “After that we began removing the varnish coating.”

The protective varnish was applied the last time the murals were cleaned and restored in 2011. Stripping that layer will increase the breathability of the wall.

As the process of stabilizing, drying, cleaning and stripping the murals of varnish continues, Manglitz and her team have several important questions to weigh regarding next steps.

Close-up of the streaking on the surface of the "Arts" Great Room mural which features a female violinist with shoulder-length brown hair.
Detail of the Arts mural. July 20, 2018.

“We need to decide when it’s appropriate to do the conservation work on the murals given amount of repair that has to be completed in the rest of the space and above this space,” she said. “Roof repairs come with the risk of water infiltration, so we’ll be asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to protect the murals? When do we think it’s appropriate to move forward with conservation? What should the sequence be?’”

Even though those questions haven’t been fully answered yet, Gilberti is confident that they will find a way forward to ensure the future of the Great Room murals.

“Every piece of art is salvageable,” she said. “Conservators are here for exactly that reason, to salvage the artwork and preserve what the original artist’s intent is. It’s not one of those situations where they’re going to disappear: They will be saved. We’ve just got to assess as we go. The murals will have damage, but we are here to mitigate that.”

 

Camila Alire: The library world’s “disaster queen”

The Hale Library fire was unprecedented. Even after the smoke cleared and K-State Libraries’ employees went back to work, it can still be difficult to comprehend the scale of the damage.

“We’ve got 1.2 million volumes that need to be restored and we’ve taken the interior of the library down to the studs,” Lori Goetsch, Dean of K-State Libraries, said. “It’s very significant. That we know of, there is not an academic library in the United States that has experienced devastation at this scale.

At the July 18 K-State Libraries all-staff meeting in Leadership Studies’ Forum Hall, we turned to Camila Alire, a retired library Dean from Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of New Mexico (UNM), for perspective. Alire is known as “the disaster queen,” having been through not one, but three library crises. She has literally written a book on disaster, “Library Disaster Planning and Recovery Handbook.” In her retirement, she acts as a consultant for libraries who experience similar setbacks.

A headshot of a women with short brown hair, brown round glasses and a green button up shirt.
Dr. Camila Alire was the Dean of Libraries at Colorado State University and University of New Mexico. Courtesy of American Library Association.

“Your disaster is extremely hard,” Alire said. “Not only did you have fire, but also you had the water damage. It is going to take you a long time to be back whole again, but I would tell you that this, too, shall pass.”

Goetsch asked Alire to talk to the K-State Libraries’ staff as we consider our future as a library and think about what we can expect during the recovery process. Her hope was that talking about the disasters she has experienced would help give staff members perspective on how to act and react.

A red book cover that reads Library Disaster Planning and Recovery.
Library Disaster Planning and Recovery Handbook written and edited by Alire.

“We have all been through a stressful ordeal and there is a lot of uncertainty with that,” Goetsch said. “I invited Camila to our staff meeting to help them understand what we might go through in the next few years.”

On July 28, 1997, just nine days after Alire started her job as Dean of CSU Libraries, Fort Collins experienced major flooding from the Cache La Poudre River. The entire city was affected, but the library was the campus building that was hit the worst.

In only four hours, they received six inches of rain. The water flowed quickly at 5,000 cubic feet per minute and put extreme pressure on the outside library wall. This pressure broke an eight-foot hole in the wall and flooded the entire basement, damaging and submerging over half a million volumes.

A giant hole is in the side of a tan building.
The pressure of the water up against the building caused a hole in the wall of the library.

While students were locking up the library that night, they went down to the lowest level to check for any remaining patrons, and that was when they heard a crack. They were aware enough to know that the sound was out of place, so they ran back up the stairs. Seconds later thousands of gallons of water poured into the basement, just as they reached the landing. It was the violent flow of the rushing water that did the most damage to the basement. If the water had been stagnant, the flood would not have been as destructive.

“Every bound volume that was down there [was] damaged,” Alire said. “The UFOs (unidentified floating objects) were entirely thrown out.”

A dark room with orange book shelves tipped over.
The rushing water caused a lot of damage to the basement of CSU Library.

A few years later, Alire became Dean of Libraries at UNM. During winter break, on Dec. 24, 2004, a pipe burst in the Science and Engineering Library. There was water damage throughout the entire building and all 300,000 volumes had to be packed out. Luckily, they got to the damage quickly and were up and running a few months later.

“The engineering library was the easiest,” Alire said. “Everything went smoothly, the consultant that they hired to come in was easy to work with, everyone got along, and it was excellent.”

She also commented that it was fortuitous that the flooding happened during a semester break: “Luckily for us—and I think this is probably an advantage when it happened [at Hale]—is you don’t have … a majority of the students and faculty here on campus in the summer,” Alire said.

Finally, on April 30, 2006, Alire faced her last crisis: A major fire in UNM’s Zimmerman Library. This was an entirely different disaster for her to deal with and most similar to what Hale Library experienced. In this case, arson destroyed 28,000 volumes and 60,000 square feet of the building. In total, soot and smoke damage covered 242,752 square feet. The heat was so intense that it melted metal on the bookshelves, but fortunately, a lot of books were salvaged.

Brown bookshelves lean to the right with books still in them.
The heat of the fire was so intense that it melted the metal on the bookshelves.

The difference between her three disasters and the fire at Hale was the magnitude. In every event Alire experienced, the libraries were open to the public within a matter of months. Hale Library’s recovery and renovation process might take up to two years to be completely functioning.

“Dean Alire really gave some sage advice on how to get through a major crisis,” Laurel Littrell, planning and assessment librarian, said. “At the same time, it also put our situation in perspective. Even though she’s the country’s foremost expert on library disasters, none of her institutions’ experiences compare to the scope of what happened in Hale Library, especially in terms of how long the building will be closed.”

Alire preached the message that, although this disaster is difficult now, there are silver linings. In our case, Hale was going to be under renovation for the first floor, but now we have the opportunity to renovate all four floors, making the entire building better for students, staff, and faculty

Kathryn Talbot: Master of disaster

Kathryn Talbot, K-State Libraries’ preservation coordinator, was at home when she received the call about the Hale Library fire on May 22.

“This person kept saying, ‘There was a fire, blah, blah,’” Talbot said. “I literally almost went, ‘I think you have the wrong number,’ before it dawned on me: This is Michelle from work.”

After that call from Michelle Turvey-Welch, the Libraries’ head of metadata and preservation, Talbot came back to campus feeling relatively calm.

“Driving up you didn’t see smoke, so I thought, ‘It can’t be that bad.’”

But when the firefighters were still working four hours later, Talbot knew that she needed to ask Turvey-Welch for permission to call companies that manage large-scale emergency recovery and restoration.

An aerial view of Hale Library surrounded by electric generators and three Belfor semi trailers.
More than 200 BELFOR Property Restoration employees have been working on the Hale Library recovery effort for almost eight weeks. June 21.

“We were preregistered with two companies that specialize in cleaning up after emergencies like hurricanes and tornadoes,” Talbot said. “So I called to say, ‘I think we might need your assistance.’ After four hours I knew it really was that bad.”

As K-State Libraries’ disaster team lead, it’s Talbot’s job to prepare the organization’s employees for the unexpected and to know whom to call in an emergency. By preregistering with disaster recovery companies, Talbot insured that K-State Libraries would be a priority client in case of a large-scale crisis. For example, in the instance of a tornado that affects multiple organizations, the disaster recovery company helps preregistered clients first.

That was only one element of the team’s preparation, though. Every office was supplied with one of the team’s red “disaster plan” binders, and they stocked strategic points throughout the building with emergency bins and supplies.

In a dimly lit room, the reflection of large leaded glass windows is visible in water pooled on the carpet.
Hale Library’s Great Room. May 24.

“The disaster plan is any library’s bible for how to care for the collection during a time of crisis,” Lori Goetsch, Dean of Libraries, said. “I’m confident that the damage in Hale Library would have been so much more extreme if it weren’t for Kathryn, Michelle, and a really excellent disaster plan.”

Once Talbot had made contact with BELFOR Property Restoration, she also called the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), which has a round-the-clock response line.

“I wanted their help in thinking through the situation and knowing which questions to ask the next day,” Talbot said.

Seeing the aftermath
In the following hours, as the extent of the damage became apparent, Talbot had plenty of questions, but answers were in short supply. She described her experience as she walked into Hale Library for the first time post-fire on Friday, May 25.

Woman wearing white hard hat, ventilation mask and neon orange emergency vest works by flashlight and pulls a large red book off of a bookshelf.
Talbot at work in the stacks. July 5.

“It was really super dark, and I couldn’t believe at the time they had you put on boots,” she said. “I was like, ‘Why am I putting on galoshes?’ Then, as you walked in the back door, you instantly step into water. It’s like, ‘Why is there water in the mail room? That’s kind of weird.’ … And it was dark and intensely smoky. I figured [water and smoke would be] in the Great Room, but not everywhere.”

“We went up all five floors and four of them had water. I knew most of the collection would have to be moved. There was no way that our staff could do that on our own. There was no electricity and … we had tiny LED lights. It was way creepy.”

Talbot went through the building with Belfor staff members who specialize in handling collections and documents after an emergency. They helped prioritize which areas of Hale Library would be addressed first: Room 117 on Hale Library’s first floor suffered the most water damage and the books had to be packed out right away.

By this point, it was Memorial Day weekend, and it became increasingly difficult to contact vendors and arrange supplies. In order to have enough boxes on hand, Belfor’s team bought all of the boxes in stock at Home Depot, Menards, U-Haul and Lowe’s in Manhattan, Topeka and Salina. [Read more about how they recovered wet books.]

Large cardboard boxes marked with call number ranges, shelf rows and ranges are stacked three high and four across.
Talbot, Turvey-Welch and other employees worked to capture the call number ranges on every shelf of every book case in Hale Library. They were written on corresponding boxes and entered into spreadsheets so there is a controlling guide that will help her team keep the 1.2 million volumes in order.

Today, a little more than eight weeks post-fire, Talbot cites Turvey-Welch’s constant support and non-stop work ethic for helping her get past each new unexpected challenge. She also praises the Belfor crew for helping her wrap her head around the massive scale of the project

“They’ve been through this before,” she said. “I’m like, ‘What am I not thinking of? … What do you need in order to do what you need to do?’ My dealings with their team have been highly collaborative.”

Past experience
When the Libraries aren’t in crisis, Talbot’s job looks much different. Typically, her main job duties include managing digital preservation and supervising all staff that handle aspects of physically moving books: shifting the collections from one part of the library to another, reshelving books returned by patrons, and storing and circulating books that are located offsite at the Library Annex. She also supervises the care of general circulating collections, including binding and preservation lab activities.

These days, Talbot has a desk in Unger Tower, but she doesn’t spend much time there.

“Every morning I visit Hale at about 7:40 and I do my rounds with my environmental control, I take pictures or I go, ‘Huh. I wonder why that’s like that,’” Talbot said. “I come out, upload the environmental data and send that on, maybe do some troubleshooting. It just depends on the day. It’s not like the early panicky weeks where you’ve got to react right away with some decision. It’s more like, ‘Okay, let’s think this through, because we’ve got 24 minutes to live in the situation.’”

Woman wearing white hard hat, ventilation mask and neon orange emergency vest works by flashlight and pulls a large red book off of a bookshelf.
Talbot at work in the stacks. July 5. 

“I would say about a couple weeks ago I stopped waking up in the middle of the night, so I’m either letting it go or I’m just dealing with it better. I think we’re in a better place. It sounds like by the end of August we’ll have everything out of the building. Even if it’s not cleaned, it will be in a better environment than what it is now.”

“I think another anxiety will be when we’re ready to go back,” Talbot said. “The integration … really, I haven’t mentally wrapped my brain around that. There will be a lot of collection decisions that need to be made.”

And is she considering a career change after everything she’s been through in the last two months and the many challenges ahead for renovating Hale Library?

“No,” she said, laughing. “I’m not.”

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.”